NeoGAF is a popular and influential game discussion forum, notable for being one of the few online communities where industry insiders dare to out themselves. Accordingly they’ve got a comprehensive set of rules and etiquette guidelines, but this is a games forum and flame wars are likely and frequent occurrences. It’s vital to have moderators with their heads screwed on but one in every thousand profanity-filled, Godwin’s Law-invoking riots manages to produce something remarkable.
Recently, member “cuyahoga” started a thread to tell the forum about how surprised he was to be enjoying Imagine: Babyz Fashion – an E rated game designed for young children. Naturally the community couldn’t resist the opportunity to tell someone that their taste in games was wrong, nor miss out on a chance to call someone a paedophile, so that’s the direction the thread took. cuyahoga fought back, alluding to the strong language and violence in more conventional video games:
“So, I’m a pedophile because I don’t want to play Dudebro, My **** is ****** Up So I Got to Shoot/Slice You II: It’s Straight-Up Dawg Time? To throw around these sort of accusations at someone who seeks to do something different suggests quite the insecurity on your part.”
From here things could have gone one of three ways. The thread could have been deleted or locked to prevent the argument escalating further. Alternatively cuyahoga’s comment could have been the seed for a spirited debate on the morality of adult content in games. The most likely scenario was the continuation of the flame war but what actually happened was quite surprising.
cuyahoga’s fictional title struck a chord with posters who began to discuss what a game called “Dudebro, My **** is ****** Up So I Got to Shoot/Slice You II: It’s Straight-Up Dawg Time?” might be like. It took just one hour for someone to mock up an image of the game’s box art and that was the first of many imaginings of character design and marketing material.
On the next day a 3D model of the titular “Dudebro” was created in ZBrush, a professional digital sculpting tool, and all of a sudden “D:MSIFUSIHTS/SY2” started to look like a real game. Programmers, sound designers, artists, and writers came forward volunteering to work on a community project to design, build, and release a PC game.
Three months later, the game is some way into development and is getting coverage in respected magazines like PC Gamer. Something that will interest the – dare I say – nerdiest of eModeration Blog readers is the recent acquisition of professional voice actor Jon St. John, best known as the voice of Duke Nukem. (If that means nothing to you, you have either passed or failed the test, depending on your perspective).
This may all have started from a flame war and a fairly juvenile joke, but what a fantastic example it is of what online communities can achieve, even without any significant influence from community managers. If you’re a community manager, perhaps you could be asking yourself what you could have done to turn the situation around if the members themselves hadn’t done so? What have you done in similar situations?
NeoGAF are now proudly displaying their members’ work and they’re responding in kind with affectionate references to the community within the game and on its own dedicated website.
That’s gaming communities in a nutshell; extremely volatile but wildly creative, highly motivated, and fiercely supportive of the community name and culture. Managing one is a very high maintenance job but if there’s a more rewarding role in the industry I’m yet to hear of it.