Community vs. Stage Management?

I’ve come realize why it is that I’m so attracted to the community management field of work. It’s because I love stage managing, and there’s a lot of overlap.

So, I’ve written a devlog on my experiences at Flying Lab this summer, and the things I learned from being on the inside of a game company. That’ll be online at http://www.burningsea.com fairly soon. But one thing I wanted to include and didn’t have time/space to was what community management is, and why I wanted to be a community intern.

So, community management is a bit difficult to describe. The way I see it, the CM is the communications hub and relay between the developers and the players. All information from both ends need to be fed through him/her (for the sake of this post I’ll just use “him” from now on), in order to make sure that the proper information is being passed both ways.

Imagine a developer posting on the forum that they want to add in some new feature, say, pet monkeys. Now, as is usual, the post gets blown out of proportion simply by word of mouth, so that in a few weeks, everyone’s claiming they were promised flying monkeys that fling bananas a week ago, and where the hell are those damn monkeys already? This is a slap in the face to the people who pay $15 a month, and goddamnit, they deserve 24/7 attention.

Well, you can see how crazy that gets just from a dev posting something they’d like to see. This is why CM’s are needed to funnel that information. I like seeing developers post on the forums, of course, but the CM needs to be aware of things that they’re saying (in case those features do not happen) as well as what the public now believes will happen (in order to calm them down, and let them know that banana-flinging flying monkeys probably would NOT fit in a game set in medieval China, for example).

Now how is this related to Stage Management? Simple. Conflict resolution. Both through courses and experience, I’ve learned that SMing is all about avoiding conflict, and resolving it quickly if it does occur. They need to be great at compromising, but firm in decisions, and need to be constantly aware of everything that’s happening around them. Everything that happens in the theater needs to be filtered through them, so that they are aware of every design decision that was made, any changes that are going on, etc. If there are any Community Managers reading this post (I’m looking at you, Troy), you’re probably nodding along, because I just described exactly what a Community Manager does. The difference is that the CM has an entire community of players to report to. Thousands, or, in the case of a game like World of Warcraft, millions of players all look to the CM for news and help handling issues. So, it’s Stage managing on a much larger scale. With an invisible audience.

So what makes a CM position seem more rewarding to me than an SM? Well, I can answer that easily. The SM is the most thankless job in the theater business. To an audience, at least. How many of you have gone to a show and read the bio of the stage manager? I didn’t think so. The SM has the toughest job, and yet the only people who actually know that are the actors, crew, and designers of the show. Which is great, but those aren’t the people who appreciate the complexity of a production. The audience does, but they don’t realize who it is that puts it all together.

On the other hand, a CM is seen and heard by the entire playerbase. He is the voice of the game, sometimes. Everyone knows Aether at Pirates of the Burning Sea. And no one hates him, either. He’s a great guy, and is really good at relaying information and making sure people are constructive. And people really appreciate him, both within the company, and outside of it. I hate to admit it, but I do need some sort of recognition. Stage management was great, but I couldn’t do it because I didn’t like the fact that no one realized how much work I put into it. Even my parents couldn’t see the amount of time it took start-to-finish. And that was really rough. So community management seems more like my thing, because it’s more out in the open than any other job I’d want.

Still, it’s interesting that I didn’t even notice the connection until now 😛

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