Joined: 29 Sep 2002
Everything in Moderation!
Okay boys and girls, I feel some more pontification coming on, so you'll please have to forgive me.
New Topic: Moderation
When it comes to Forums/Groups/Boards and ARGs, I'm realizing more and more the absolute importance of having player moderators. I've been watching/lurking with great interest on various forums around the ARG world, and here's my observation: DEAR GOD, PMS! PLEASE HAVE YOUR BOARDS BE MODERATED!!!
Okay, now that I've gotten that off of my chest, here are the whys. In order for any community to grow effectively, there needs to be somebody, anybody, there to facilitate things. That to me is the main purpose for the existence of moderators, to do everything possible to help things run smoothly for the group. Period. It's not about power, it's about focus, direction and facilitation.
Moderators do many necessary things, the very least of which is deleting spam or snuffing out flame wars. That's only the beginning. They also help shape the personality of the community, make sure newbies' questions are answered, coordinate events, set up databases, IRC channels, etc. etc. etc. The list goes on and on.
Now, for the sake of disclosure, I must say that my viewpoint may be a little subjective, having been a moderator for Lockjaw, but hey, what can I do? Before Lockjaw, there was the stellar example set by the Cloudmakers moderators. They did an amazing job of getting things organized and keeping them that way, and setting up simple ground rules in order to help things keep moving in the right direction and be enjoyable. Plus, they took steps that helped the group develop its own character/personality. I think this group personality was a direct result of who they were both individually and corporately. The point is, Cloudmakers, and the resultant success of The Beast, would never have happened had it not been for the work done by the moderators there.
For example, one key to the success and growth of Cloudmakers was their painstaking documentation of the game in the form of the Guide and the Trail. This is a fundamental necessity if an ARG's player-base ever hopes to reach any sort of critical mass. Gotta provide an easy way for newbie players to get up to speed, or you'll never grow beyond your initial group.
Anyway, in my opinion, the importance of having capable, active moderators/facilitators in any ARG group can not be underestimated. They not only help keep the group focused and organized, but also give the players confidence and a feeling of stability, knowing that there's someone there who can address any problems or grievances.
The result of a group not having any kind of moderation should be pretty obvious: anarchy, lack of focus, confusion. Ultimately, players will grow disinterested or frustrated, and leave.
If a group of game PMs just throws open an area for the community to use, but provides no way for anybody to actively moderate/facilitate the community, then they're dooming their player community to failure (my opinion only), and their game will have only limited success.
So please! <soapbox> I call on all PMs and future PMs! No more community free-for-alls!! Find a way for the communities to develop on their own, and then embrace them. Folks are smart/resourceful enough to do it, I promise!</soapbox>
<Disclaimer>Please don't take any of these comments as being an indictment of any particular board, group or individual, because they're not. Just more food for thought/discussion.</Disclaimer>
Joined: 20 Sep 2002
I'll name a prime example. Enochpushdialectic from the Push, NV, game was one of the most chaotic communities I've ever witnessed. Why? Because the PMs set it up and then let it run wild. There was only one moderator, the founder Enoch (a PM). And he didn't touch the board again after throwing it up.
Why do PMs insist on throwing up a board and then playing all "hands off?" It's a completely half-assed method of community building. Either go completely hands-off and let the players build their own communities, or finish the job and guide the discussion like a good moderator should.
Let's face it: if the PMs create a discussion forum, the majority of players are going to feel required to join just in case they might miss something important there. At least when the Search4E PMs created the DotConnectors board, they responded to the player uproar about having in-game characters wandering amongst their meta-thoughts by handing the board moderation off to a player and then walking away. The key is, they handed it off.
My first choice will always be to let the players congregate of their own accord. If, as a PM, you absolutely must run your own discussion area, find a few respectable players and give them the reins. It'll be worth it.
Joined: 26 Sep 2002
I really don't have much to add here except to restate our appreciation to Steve et al for taking the initiative to start the Yahoo group for Lockjaw. He and the crew did a great job of documenting the game and keeping the community on track.
As one of the LJ PMs I can tell you we were very pleased at the job done for "our game," and the group was a valuable resource for us. Heck, I even have a printed hard copy of the Guide that I referred to regularly so I remembered where we were and what we'd done. In a fairly long game, that kind of documentation comes in handy, and it's almost necessary for players to put it together rather than PMs, as that tells us exactly where the players are with plot and such.
Anyway, I agree that it's best if the players form their own community, do their own guides and trails, and don't just start the group and then be all hands off and such. That's not a good formula.