Case #

06.20.12

Researcher

Subject

News, Studio, Team Zed

It Starts With A Lot Of Swearing

I’m pretty sure I’m dreaming. Or, given the ichor and rotting flesh everywhere, I’m probably having a nightmare, but either way I can’t possibly be awake.

How did I get here? How did I wind up with potentially the best community job ever?

Well, it started with a lot of swearing.

Technically, it started with a passion for Golden Age science fiction and fantasy, but I digress. Anyway, at the turn of the century I had a rant site, where I raged about an MMORPG that I loved more than anything. (This is why I never get upset with the screaming guy on a forum. I know exactly where he’s coming from.) From there I moved to writing about games, and from there I moved into community management. I didn’t know what I was doing, but in 2001, neither did anyone else. I figured I’d just treat people the way I as a gamer/sentient adult would like to be treated, and so far it’s worked out pretty well.

All of the great developers are players at heart, and after years of gaming, experienced players have a solid grasp of what makes a good game.I have been managing game communities ever since. There are a lot of ways to do my job, but the way I do it assumes that when it comes to bringing a virtual world to life, players and developers all in this together. It works because there really isn’t much of a difference. All of the great developers are players at heart, and after years of gaming, experienced players have a solid grasp of what makes a good game.

Players and developers working together create something bigger than just a game, and the interaction between them raises a mere product into the realm of art — or magic. It’s why I’m still here doing this job over a decade later. There’s no better buzz to be had.

The development team is building a world, but the players have to live in it.What makes the magic happen is communication. Everyone needs to know what’s going on with each other. Everyone has to be treated with respect, as equals with a vested interest in the success of the project. The team is building a world, but the players have to live in it.

So I’ve always seen my job as the conduit. I’m your representative inside the company, and I’m the company’s ambassador to you. I solve problems, I argue advocate, I bear bad news when I must, and I cheer. I support fansites, wrangle guilds, keep the information flowing, and ensure your voice is heard.

What I’m not is a marketing person. I’m not here to sell you anything. I’m here to make sure you’re never sorry you bought it, and to connect you with thousands of likeminded people.

I’m not alone in holding this non-marketing view of community, but I am decidedly in the minority. That’s why I’m pretty sure I’m dreaming. I have not often gotten to work with a team that shares my philosophy on community building. Undead Labs does to such an extent that I keep looking around my home office for the surveillance camera. I can’t find one, and pinching myself is only resulting in bruises. Ergo, this is really happening.

Many of you reading this have been following Class3 (and drooling over Class4) for much longer than I have, so I’m going to need your help getting up to speed on what has got you excited. The team is highly aware of what you’ve said so far, but there are some mean deadlines looming and everyone’s got to get their nose and every other appendage to the grindstone. No rest for the rotting!

I got to see a kickass demo of Class3, and it gave me the heebie jeebies for three days.Also, because there are no secrets on the internet, I better get this out of the way now: I’m afraid of zombies. They freak me the hell out. If the world we’re building was real, I would be in the fetal position. The first chance I got, I’d fortify some kind of tower, chop down the ladder, and not move until one of you brainiacs built up a compound big enough that I could just stay inside and garden all day. Or assemble explosives. Whatever. Just as long as I didn’t have to look at some shambling, lurching monstrosity liable to rip off its own leg in order to kick my ass.

As such, I haven’t seen any zombie movies. (This is especially awkward on a personal level, because I live with the world’s biggest zombie aficionado, and there are literally thousands of horror movies and splatteriffic games lining the walls of the basement.) I got to see a kickass demo of Class3, and it gave me the heebie jeebies for three days. There’s this thing, with a landmine, and a truck, and the air was just FILLED with zombie parts, and…I think I need to lie down now.

What I mean is that with every game I’ve ever worked on, the community has taught me what really counts. I’m coming to you with no preconceived notions on zombies, or sandbox gaming for that matter, and I am psyched to find out where you want to go.

—Sanya

[Read my introduction post for more about why we think Sanya is awesome. —Jeff]