Behind: Penny Arcade Expo 2011

PAX 2011 came and went and it was a success. Almost all of the logistics I planned went off without a hitch. In cases that they did not go off without a hitch, which is quite normal as anyone who runs conventions knows, they were either solved during the convention or were good learning experiences which we can use to improve upon at our next convention. I’m particularly proud of all the logistics I planned and managed for our fan meet and greet party which was held at our studio. It went amazingly smoothly.

The system of delegation that I utilised at PAX (described in my previous post), wherein I assigned  captains with added responsibilities to manage staff and events, worked very well. It’s something that I’m going to tweak and improve upon at the next convention. One of the things that the captains told me is that they wanted more responsibilities so they could free up my time even more so I could handle those high-level decisions that only I, as the booth manager, can make. This is one of the awesome things about working at my company—there are a lot of people happily willing and able to step up to do more work.  With my captains in charge of certain functions, combined with the shift-based schedule I created, managing all the events for my company at PAX this year was easier than last year.

I still didn’t get to do as much social media work at PAX as I wanted to. My part mainly consisted of timing tweets for certain events and keeping an eye on what colleagues were doing on our social media accounts. Luckily, it’s not just me doing social media work for events, so it’s not as if our fans lacked for updates because I was busy running other aspects of the convention. Still, I was able to do important work in terms of responding to tweets in a timely manner as some fans were looking for information that was time-sensitive.

I spoke on two panels about community management. The first panel focused on the Community Team at ArenaNet, and the other was an NCs0ft-wide community management panel. Both were interesting and the first, in particular, seemed to be well-received by our fans. The first one was well-received because it provided fans with some insight into our team’s philosophy on community management, allowed us each to talk about our various areas of specialisation in the team, and in gave some teasers as to what fans could expect from us as a team in the future in terms of how we would like to approach various Guild Wars 2 communities.

I felt that the second bit was particularly important, because the outside world doesn’t necessarily know that each team member doesn’t focus on every single aspect of community management 100% of the time, that we each focus on certain areas. It’s inefficient for every single person to be the specialist or “expert” for every single project. In a team-based environment, it makes sense for team members to focus on areas of interest and what they are good at. My particular focus is social media.

I mentioned our community on the official Guild Wars 2 page on Facebook a couple of times because the community has grown into space that is generally welcoming and tolerant of newcomers, in no small part because there is a core set of users who exude this welcoming attitude with almost every comment and post they make. I have made a lot of effort to try and lead by  example, to show community members what an enjoyable place it can be. I’m proud of our Facebook community and of how this community has come along since its inception. My hope is that after discussing this success story at the panel, that community members will take this as a aspirational example of what other Guild Wars 2 communities could be like. Obviously, communities don’t get to be a certain way without continuously living that community’s good standards. Communities are necessarily a work in constant progress and the management of communities isn’t something that one can just “fire and forget” once one has reached a stage at which a community is perpetuating a positive culture. Newcomers will always need to be shown how to behave in a way that  contributes to the health of the community.

The NCsoft community management panel had a small crowd because of its 10:00 Sunday time slot, but there was good discussion there. There was at least one subject of contention between the majority if community managers on the panel and a member of the audience, regarding the value of in-game chat events, however I think both sides saw the perspective of the other. The topic definitely showed how being in the thick of things as a community management professional shifts one’s perspective compared to a regular player. Prior to being a community manager, with little to no insight into how things work behind the scenes in the videogame industry, I probably would have agreed with the person in the audience. However, after my experience working in the games industry as a community manager for a few years and having run these chats a bunch of times, it’s quite hard to justify the return-on-investment (ROI) of in-game chat events to The Powers That Be. I do agree with one of my colleagues, though—if in-game chat events are appropriately and very carefully managed with clear goals, oversight, and internal reporting structures and internal feedback processes, they can be a good time-investment that reaps positive returns. I’ll probably bug my colleague at one point to get more insights into how he manages these events in his community.

All told, I had a good PAX.