Behind: Penny Arcade Expo East 2011

It’s been over a month since I returned from PAX East 2011; I also took a week’s holiday right after the convention. I’ve been super busy in the meantime.

The convention was a great success in terms of my company’s activities there, so that makes me happy. I was sick for much of the convention, though, which was a bummer. I caught something at GDC 2011, and it manifested right before PAX. Still, I was able to work my company’s fan meet and greet, participated in all the panels I was scheduled for, and was able to work one shift at our booth on Sunday, as I was feeling significantly better by that point.

The community management panel went fairly well. I think I answered the moderator’s questions well ehough, though I wish I had spent more time preparing. I do think that the panel was geared for fans who know very little about community management, and so we barely scratched the surface of what community managers do during the hour. As a result, I think the audience got a rather limited view of our profession. I’m not sure how that could have been helped, given the audience’s limited knowledge and the time allotted. I think I spent more time talking about the operational, practical, and strategic parts of community management, whereas my colleagues on the panel spent more time talking up all the fun bits of it and trying to make light of the challenges we face. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because it’s good if people perceive community management to be a fun career, which it generally is. Having said that, I believe in keeping things real and providing practical feedback to fans which they can then use when communicating their wants and needs to community managers, so that’s what I focused on.

The second panel I participated in as a speaker was the Guild Wars 2 panel. I was sat there with a few of my colleagues. At the actual event, much as I thought would happen, the audience didn’t ask any questions relevant to community management, so I didn’t talk at all. Our fans got some great answers about the design and lore questions they had from our game designers, and I was still feeling rather ill on that day, so I didn’t feel bad about not having spoken.

My last panel was the one I was most nervous about. It was sponsored by the International Game Developers Association and titled “One of Us”. The premise was to discuss diversity or the lack thereof in games and videogame culture. Apart from me, my fellow Editor from The Border House, Alex Raymond, was there, as was David Edison from and Mark Barlet from AbleGamers. We all discussed inclusivity and community from each of our perspectives and experiences.

It turned out that this panel was the best of the three I participated on. I felt that I articulated myself well on the points I spoke to. The panel as a whole all agreed that representation, that simply showing up and being visible is powerful in terms of increasing diversity in gaming communities, and that leadership is incredibly important in influencing and cultivating inclusive communities. Gamasutra had a great write-up of the panel, and I was quoted a bunch of times.

It was really gratifying to hear from audience members who felt validated by what we were discussing in the panel. Some of them said that they were so happy to have this panel because the unfortunate Penny Arcade Dickwolves controversy made them feel as if they were the only gamers who felt that respect and inclusivity was important, and that the way the Penny Arcade duo responded to criticism was handled poorly. It seemed like the panel served as an important space in which people felt they could speak out against bigotry in gaming, including criticising Penny Arcade’s leadership.

This experience makes me feel a bit more confident in speaking in public, but the main thing that enabled this was talking about topics about which I have a good amount of knowledge and insight.