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Budding Community Manager?

Originally appeared in "The Games Game" column on The IGDA website was massively redesigned in 2013, making old columns unavailable, so select columns are now being reposted here on Sloperama, on an as-needed basis. This column was originally posted in June, 2013.

Dear Tom,
I yearn to work in games. Thing is, I have no illusions about my creative abilities. I don't have a head for programming, much less the patience. I have no artistic ability. I'm not one of those guys who fools himself thinking his ideas are so much greater than everybody else's. I'm not into trying the QA route. Okay, I'm going on too long, so I'll get to the point. I've heard that community management is a role that might be a viable "in" for guys like me. But a few quibbles. I don't know which companies hire community managers, or which games I should play. And for another thing, I feel like I've been pretty helpful to people in the past on forums but that never got much notice. In fact, some people disagreed with what I wrote when I was trying to be helpful, and one forum even banned me for no reason whatsoever.
So what can I do? How can I get a community management job and where should I apply with the greatest chance of success?


Dear Bud,
I don't know very much about you, so I'm going to ask some tough questions. You don't need to write me back with answers; I pose these questions to spark some self-examination and thought.

Are you an active player of a multiplayer online game? If you aren't, you are not suitable for the job of community manager. If you are, then step up the activity, get helpful, get more involved. Start doing the job that you say you want to do. More times than not, that's how you get the job. But realize that it'll take time. Nothing happens overnight.

You say you tried being helpful on forums and didn't have success with that. Well, consider that a learning experience. Having been banned once isn't necessarily a deal-breaker. I wouldn't try to get reinstated on that particular forum; instead, get active in other games and game forums. If folks tell you your advice isn't helpful, then own it, figure out what's wrong with it, and improve. After you've shown yourself to be a valuable community contributor in other games or forums, you can go back to the forum where you were banned and beg forgiveness and a second chance. Moderators and community managers tend to be good listeners who care about the community, which means they can be real softies.

Do you have a college or university degree? I don't know how old you are, or how much of a life challenge it would be for you to get a degree. But I imagine a great candidate for a community management position would have a degree in marketing. You'd need to understand psychology of customers, as well as principles of customer support and customer satisfaction.

I can't tell you which companies to apply to. You need to do research. Find out which companies support MMOs, eSports, and social games. Collect information on where their offices are and what their games are. Then you need to network like crazy. Attend eSports events, watch game casts, go to game industry conferences, expos, and networking events. You might not see any results from being an online activist for years, until one day you run into someone at a networking event, and she recognizes your gamertag on your business card. All of a sudden she sees you have a face and a real name and you're looking to help out in a more meaningful way. Now things can happen.

Good luck, Bud!

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© 2013 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved. May not be re-published without written permission of the author.

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