With the ever-increasing numbers of people playing games, there is an increasing number of players who want to start a discussion in relation to those games, and open discussion forums and social platforms make that easier than ever. In a public forum, you have the ability to connect to thousands upon thousands of other players with the possibility of connecting with developers themselves directly. These discussions can vary from support queries to general comments about the game and its content, although the thing that people dread the most is drama and controversy. An instinctual decision some people like to think about making is to close off these forums and make them private or remove certain posts simply because they cause too much drama. It is actually quite risky to do that, as an open forum is important for consumers to debate.


Importance of a Community Platform

A developer or publisher can intervene with these heated discussions, but it’s best to never take sides of a particular issue. Be as open as possible and always try to find common ground within those issues. Hostility is inevitable, although the smartest thing to do is handle it with no presumptions about an issue and instead embody a calm demeanor.

A constant interchange between you and your community is of paramount importance. Strong connections, and even minor interaction, are good because it will show consumers that you actually care about them. Larger companies normally fail to do this because of a myriad of reasons, from large player bases and no moderation or community leaders to possible language barriers.

Recent drama surrounding microtransaction DLC and DRM implementation are great examples of how a community can jump on a collective bandwagon and increasingly grow annoyed or upset at the way a company manages PR. With many Denuvo DRM games, publishers and developers sometimes are reluctant to say anything in reference to it. With microtransactions, they were added into Deus Ex Mankind Divided and even though they were optional and didn’t affect the player’s experience, people were upset. As of the publishing of this article, Square Enix/Eidos Montreal have not clarified much, except on how to use them.

Before a game’s release, it is wise to never hype aspects of the game if you cannot deliver on said aspects. This can prevent a lot of drama. Bank on marketing your game with things that are guaranteed in your release version or things you have already completed. Raising a customer’s expectations beyond the truth is a risky and somewhat disingenuous road to take.

(As a side note, there isn’t much issue to adding microtransactions into a game, but that is if they don’t affect the gameplay to entice users to spend money)


Interacting with a Community

Steam’s Main Discussion forums sorted into sub forums / categories making it easy for a user to navigate and find relevant information.

There are ongoing and preventative measures you can take before and during your game’s initial release that can help things go a lot smoother. This will mostly be related to Steam although it can still apply to a simple web page where you sell your game. Make sure you supply as much necessary information as possible for the player like specification requirements, information on game security [DRM] with a FAQ section, and any technical support information that can smooth out any possible release issues. Interaction is extremely important with those who own the game and those who do not own the game. This is why it’s good to have an open platform for discussion. If you don’t have a forum you can also have an email for people to contact you with although that might be less efficient.

As I said above in an open discussion, hostility or negative rhetoric is inevitable. Try to answer everything within reason, that includes questions about the game, anything to do with future development or what the game may or may not implement. If drama or a flame war breaks out between consumers, be careful when intervening, try to find common ground and find a way to answer both sides of the argument. Providing information to appease both sides of an argument is the best course of action but it might not be possible every time, in that case, say nothing and let that interaction die down and observe it. Furthermore, moderate the thread and remove any posts that are beyond reason, like when they turn to threats or personal insults.

Sorting your community forum into specific categories will help create some natural order to a discussion, players more than often will take advantage of this and post where necessary. Create categories for bug reports, technical support, general discussion and even a trading section if your game has use for such a feature.

For more ideas, consider this quick checklist:

1. Don’t shy away from interacting with your audience

While working on the game itself is a top-priority, taking the time to respond to the player base’s primary concerns does much more than just answer their questions. When players feel uneasy about a game’s status, just being told that the developers are listening helps ease the skeptical thoughts and builds healthy rapport between you and the player base.

You don’t need to respond to each and every complaint, but a little goes a long way. Even monthly updates with responses to player feedback will quickly earn brownie points with the crowd and also help both parties understand each other in the upcoming updates.


2. Be flexible

It’s incredibly difficult to invest many, tireless hours into a feature of your game only to find out that it’s not well received.  Even worse, it needs to be completely retooled. However, we must always remember that games are made to be enjoyed by the audience. While the audience is not always right, their opinions should be taken into consideration- after all if they’re unable to play your game because it’s too punishing then who are you developing the game for?


3. Work on speaking and typing with clear and concise language

There’s nothing more infuriating for a player than ambiguous responses from developers.  When players are asking about the future of the game they’re investing into, try to be as clear as possible. Using words like, “soon” and “eventually” will leave players excited in the short-term, but frustrated in the long run.

Building a strategy around your language can benefit you to create hype, an anxious roar about future updates, or a red-herring to a surprise update. With the ability to stir emotional reactions from your crowd, it’s also best to be honest and clear with your community.


4. Create a healthy forum environment


Players want to be able to share their opinions without being chastised by the community or the developers. While you don’t need to respond to every suggestion, you should take care to not insult, berate, or overreact in a passionate defense of your game.  It should also be noted that your interactions with the player base aren’t the only things you should be watching; community members also need to be kept in check lest you find unsavory images, racist comments, or insulting content that chase your community away.


In Closing

While there isn’t a foolproof way to interact with a community, these are just basic steps to help guide you when building a relationship with your audience. Don’t make the mistake of believing that the player base isn’t worth listening to; you will be surprised at the knowledge they have.

Many developers and publishers always seem to fail in connecting with the people that buy their games. This article covers some basic steps to get started in making a strong connection with your audience and guarantee in gaining some player confidence with you or your team of developers. It can get extremely frustrating when dealing with a social platform like a forum. Even more so when you have a large userbase but as a gamer myself the most important thing to get a grasp on is to make sure your customers know that you can see and understand what they are saying.


H/T Alex Cicala and Melanie Thomas for writing about this topic on our blog!

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