The Daily Grind: What makes a really great MMO community manager?

When Funcom hired new community managers a few weeks ago, some readers questioned why we’d cover it. Big whoop, community managers are glorified retweeters, right? Yeah, not so much. A talented community manager can work a playerbase and keep everyone happy even in dark times. “Sinking, panicking games dump their CMs overboard first, not realizing their CMs are the best at bailing,” I argued at the time. “Hiring good CMs is a good sign in a lot of ways.”

But as I think more on it, I have a hard time pinpointing a single common-denominator quality for the CMs I think are particularly wonderful. Some of them win affection by seemingly responding to queries around the clock. Others “tell it like it is” or climb down into the trenches of the game with the players themselves. Some will buddy up to vocal gamers, while others stay professional and honest. Personality clearly has a lot to do with it — and so does the nature of the game’s playerbase. I suspect that the community team for LOTRO has it a bit easier than the team for EVE Online (although maybe not much!).

What do you think makes a really great MMO community manager? And whom would you hold up as the ideal CM in the MMO genre?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!
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99 Comments on "The Daily Grind: What makes a really great MMO community manager?"

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Remianen
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Remianen

Gylnne Preach! Sanya was awesome!

DJPsywarrior
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DJPsywarrior

From playing MMOs for a long time, I think what makes a great CM is actually interacting with the player base. We have had some excellent CMs at The Secret World, and they were really there for the players whether there was a community event or actually logging in game to hang out with us and this is on top of their regular duties, but I think maintaining contact with players ultimately makes the CM better.

We just got a new CM, Andy Bennet, and he is replacing two of the best CMs I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. Tell you what, he is getting in there. He is reaching out to players to get a handle of what is going on with the player base and he is already being that important bridge between players and devs. I feel good about Andy.

Odonoptera
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Odonoptera

MrSlow Sometimes we pop in from time to time, simply to say “hi”.  :)

tobascodagama
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tobascodagama

ZenDadaist BritoBruno Sorenthaz IIRC, she’s the CM for ArcheAge. It’s why I cringe so hard every time I see Trion bung up something in that game. Those idiots don’t deserve her. (Though they definitely *need* her.)

Zardoz1972
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Zardoz1972

Looking at your name and avatar your probably a white male…making believe he is an Asian female. Homo much?

Zardoz1972
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Zardoz1972

I’m a PVP’er in my game. I take that to forums as well as the Battlegrounds. CM’s job is to keep the majority happy. My job is to be a villian. I have played spoiler in matches that my team could not win. I have singled some people out. I’ve singled others out knowing they were someone’s GF, etc. I’m far more than your silly assesments. CM’s are my enemy.

ManastuUtakata
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ManastuUtakata

BritoBruno Zardoz1972 
I am not sure the ad hom was necessary here, as his asinine tu quoque wasn’t helping him much. Better to not feed this one further.

ZenDadaist
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ZenDadaist

BritoBruno ZenDadaist Sorenthaz Celestrata appears to be exclusive top another game. I’ve certainly never seen her anywhere near Rift.

BritoBruno
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BritoBruno

Armsbend Eliandal Probably because Blizz forums are so insane that the CM’s themselves can’t develop a immunity to this, so they avoid contact like the plague.
There wasn’t an CM on blizz forums that had a meltdown? Old stuff.

BritoBruno
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BritoBruno

ZenDadaist Sorenthaz We got Celestrata response here in this topic. I would like a comment on that.

BritoBruno
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BritoBruno

mosselyn Leilonii Occasionally is being nice.

BritoBruno
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BritoBruno

Zardoz1972 “The Daily Grind: What makes a really great -MMO- ( emphasis on this word ) community manager?”
It’s a broad question, that can be answered with examples from other games that are not TSW.
And you’re a idiot.

mosselyn
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mosselyn

Leilonii mosselyn I know this won’t be a popular opinion, but I actually like that they police their forums aggressively. For me, it’s like removing an unruly child from a restaurant. Behave and be polite, or be gone. I’m sure people occasionally get unjustly censored, but I still prefer it to the wild west of, say, WoW’s pigsty of a forum.

ManastuUtakata
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ManastuUtakata

Zardoz1972 
….

dewdodu
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dewdodu

Honestly, an emotionless sociopath that feels no pain from being the sacrificial communal punching bag, relishes the tears of whiners, and a wit that subtlety tilts the angry. For our entertainment.

Zardoz1972
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Zardoz1972

This article is about TSW. Yet everyone here decided to have a discussion about other games and other Community Managers. So I commented on how Tera sexualizes children. It is just as off topic as your observations.

ManastuUtakata
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ManastuUtakata

Edit/deleted: Yes, I think I was being way too harsh. :(

ManastuUtakata
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ManastuUtakata

Zardoz1972 
So are populist internet trolls who keep bringing this up as subject matter that has nothing to do with the article.

Nordavind
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Nordavind

Well, I like the purple ones, but I think the orange has more stamina.

blackcat7k
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blackcat7k

If they have the ability and the freedom (encouraged by their company) to talk straight while maintaining the professionalism to understand that they’re talking to customers, not their buddies down the street.

MrSlow
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MrSlow

syberghost
 Ah, explains why I don’t notice them as I keep well away from the game forums these days. 
Thanks for explaining.

syberghost
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syberghost

MrSlow in many games, they manage the GM staff. Also, good ones run in game events. If you do the forums, they general moderate them, or supervise those who do.

Gylnne
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Gylnne

paragonlostinspace Agree Paragon. MassivelyOp’s staff is wonderful.

Gylnne
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Gylnne

In just a few words Sanya Thomas/Weathers.

Old DAOC players will know what I mean.

paragonlostinspace
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paragonlostinspace

A Dad Supreme paragonlostinspace  Agreed, a CM seems a lot like a press secretary for a political official often. Crappy job if you ask me. heh.

MrSlow
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MrSlow

Cannot say that I have ever noticed Community Managers but then again I don’t do facebook or twitter.

What exactly is it that they do and where would I notice them ?

MrEllis
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MrEllis

Is this spin on spin?

A Dad Supreme
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A Dad Supreme

paragonlostinspace Definitely agree with the patience they exhibit. It seems they let most of the ‘bad actor’ posters weed themselves out… after no one pays the desired attention they are seeking.
The only thing I’d say is a magazine isn’t the same as a CM position because a magazine’s writers by/large are able to say what they want without a boss saying “Don’t say that”, especially if something is true.
The vast majority of CMs cannot ever say what ‘they’ want; they have to follow a script and can only lend their own personality to that script, such as being known for being the ‘witty quote guy’, being the ‘overly empathetic gal’ or having the ‘in your face tough guy’ style with trolls.
But they often repeat lies companies tell them and can blissfully say they didn’t know they were lying because they aren’t technical folks. There is a long trail of that even among the ‘nice’ CMs I’ve seen over the years and that’s really up to the company to put those people in positions where they can succeed but a lot don’t.
They intentionally allow them to put out falsehoods and then take the slings and arrows.

Serrenity
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Serrenity

Cartap Serrenity But you go on in your post to imply that they are only of value when they parrot exactly what a developer says, and that ‘usually there’s very little substance to what they say’ and that even what they say personal can’t be trusted.  I mean, that there if nothing else shows that you hold the entire profession in very, very low regard.

Adri Cortesia
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Adri Cortesia

The CM should listen to the com and not only delete unwanted forums threads. He/She (following “he” no disregard to female CMs! Jenesee <3). They should be the conection between the community and the devs. They should deal very carefully with player/fan critique and listen to them. 
The game is the place where the players are (their virtual home) and not so much the dev team. So the CM should express the opinion of the community in a neutral way. Sometimes player are very biased and are not able to formulate their wishes to develop something that fits for the community. 

And the other way ’round as well. They should talk to the community in the name of the dev team.

TLDR: Dear CMs out there, please just listen to us! We know what we want and what we hate in OUR world :)
Ok beside these haterflamer guys ..

TrionCelestrata
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TrionCelestrata

“I suspect that the community team for http://massivelyop.com/tag/lord-of-the-rings-online has it a bit easier than the team for http://massivelyop.com/tag/eve-online (although maybe not much!).”

Hah, probably not. As good and as awesome as the LOTRO community is (something I know from first-hand experience), every community has needs and desires. The communities simply express themselves in different ways, and that’s something that’s consistent across all games.

As to what a community manager really needs? Well, there are a lot of things this job requires. A sharp eye, mastery of the English language, social/communication skills, thick skin, and a good method of organization (being able to remember to revisit threads and provide updates, to hunt down information in all aspects of the company, to handle everything from reported bugs to severe impacting issues, and plenty more.)  In my honest opinion though, the most important thing to have is passion. 
Without passion for your product, almost everything else you may have is diminished. A CM without passion may not hunt as hard, respond as fast, or communicate as well as a co-worker who does. They may know the ins-and-outs of their title through and through, but passion is what gets that knowledge across. Passion is what also keeps you in your own game, playing it and learning everything about it. Being a CM isn’t just reading forums — it’s being immersed in everything your community is doing.
I said to myself a long time ago that I wouldn’t work on a product that I didn’t have a passion for. I had a few offers from other companies that I actually turned down because I did not feel that I may have the passion for their game that was required. ArcheAge though… ArcheAge hooked me in a way I didn’t expect. Is it a challenge? Absolutely — we have a lot to come back from. But when I wake up in the morning I have that passion to keep trying to make things better for everyone playing the game, from PvPers to PvEers to farmer to collectors and beyond. It’s one of the reasons I love the game so much, to be honest. There are just so many different and great ways to play ArcheAge.
My own game aside, I have nothing but love and respect for my fellow CMs across the industry, many of whom I see on a semi-regular basis. I know so many gamers don’t fully understand everything we do, but everyone I keep meeting. We all do this because we love gaming and we love this industry. Almost everyone I know got here because they had that passion and they wanted to do this job. It’s not always easy, but it is important. And know that no matter who your CM is, they really are there for you, even when you may not personally believe it.

paragonlostinspace
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paragonlostinspace

Good communication and consistency. Don’t lie to players and expect them to respect you after. Things change, we get that and though we might not like it we can accept it. So good communication is a must along with mea culpa when needed. No one is coming to mind currently to me for being a great CM at this time. It’s a hard job and I often feel bad for the positions a CM is put into. It’s like a press secretary for a President, you are between a rock and a hard place as a CM.

Zardoz1972
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Zardoz1972

Tera is a game for pedophiles. Full of scantily clad child avatars. Really quite nauseating.

Zardoz1972
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Zardoz1972

TSW promoted a GM to Community Manager because one of their Community Managers is leaving. They had 2 CM’s before and they will have 2 CM’s now. Why is this being spinned as some type of hiring boom by Funcom? I want TSW to get publicized but with real news, not this.

schmidtcapela
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schmidtcapela

syberghost schmidtcapela Corvus Monedula SoMuchMass 
An important segment, but also one that is more prone to see through bullshit, to speak up when they see something they think is wrong (or even sub-optimal), to tell the world about what they see as the failings and qualities of the game. And there’s also reinforcement and echo chamber effects to take into account. I believe this points to that segment being more impervious to market-speech than the community as a whole, and as such trying to deal with them in the same way that the company deals with the silent majority might be ineffective, if not outright counterproductive.

Of course, YMMV. Communities vary wildly with the characteristics of the game. I bet properly managing the EVE community requires very different approaches than managing the LotRO community.

mbbrazen
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mbbrazen

Some interesting responses below. I guess the TSW community is pretty blessed because most of our CMs have been good. It’s true a CM is hired by a company to do a job for it, but that is true of all customer service oriented jobs. Not all CMs are equally competent, mature and ethical. The CMs in TSW have been very energetic. They hold events for the community. They come up with good ideas on ways to get more information from the devs and they run a tight ship with the forum moderators. The civility of our forums is a testament to that. And as far as I have seen, they do not engage in personal attacks. When they express their opinions about the game, it is clear those are their personal opinions and they do it in a way such as not to inflame any segment of the players or to misrepresent what the dev/company position is..

All customer service people need patience, a thick skin, love of the product and hey… they  kind of need to like people!

tobascodagama
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tobascodagama

teppic He was considered an awful CM by assholes who deserved the moderation they got. It’s a fine line between stifling legitimate complaints and allowing a hate brigade to shit up your forum, but Sapience was on the right side of the line.

Kithred
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Kithred

Unemployment. 

I’ve yet to see even a fairly good community manager, so I have difficulties to picture how one would be.

JamesCrow
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JamesCrow

mosselyn that was the case with GW1, now i can’t say the same about gaile and the whole anet team.

SallyBowls1
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SallyBowls1

IMO, 

Gamers tend to way overestimate the CM’s role.  They can explain and pass on information, but they do not decide on the features or budget.

Gamers blur the game situation with their CM opinion.  A competent GM on a growing game is going to be perceived better than a great GM on a dying game.  A CM for a game the studio has a $50M/year dev budget is going to have more positive things to talk about than games with small and shrinking budgets e.g. DBG & Funcom.

A Dad Supreme
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A Dad Supreme

“What do you think makes a really great MMO community manager?”
========
Someone who can balance the line of appearing honest to players all the while repeating lies and omissions in a memo from their bosses or else you risk looking like this:

syberghost
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syberghost

schmidtcapela Corvus Monedula SoMuchMass the problem here is you’re both right. Some companies hire Community Managers into the Marketing team, and look for and manage people on that basis; others, into the Operations team, where they’re basically the management/supervision for the Customer Support staff.

I personally prefer the latter, but even they have to be a bit of Marketing because they’re the interface with a very important (small, but hugely important) segment of the customer base that skews toward the high end of ARPPU.

Leilonii
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Leilonii

mosselyn Except the part where the GW2 forums are like a communist country. You can’t say anything without getting a warning of some kind.

SallyBowls1
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SallyBowls1

I would look for a hyperactive extroverted optimist with good communication and people skills.  Being a masochist with low self esteem would, alas, probably be helpful.  Now real companies are hiring them and giving them jobs with “social media” in the name.

They need to be good at working their internal organization – who to go to get questions answered and pleasant enough to get them to do it in a timely manner. They need to be good at synthesizing the rabble and passing on trends to developers.

Ghostcrawer (ex WoW dev exec) said he had bosses who told him not to read forums.  CMs are cheaper than devs and more used to the … “tone” of forums.  They need to read all the chaff and pass the salient info on to devs.

syberghost
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syberghost

JayPower I didn’t “like” this because I don’t feel quite so strongly as you do about Morrigan (I think she’s in a tough position with insufficient help/training, but doing her best), but I want to agree about BranFlakes; he is one of my models of an ideal CM. Another is Margaret “Luperza” Krohn.

Full disclosure: I “worked” (unpaid) for BranFlakes for a while, moderating STO forums. As to whether this makes me biased or really well-informed, I leave to the reader.

Leilonii
Guest
Leilonii

The best CM I’ve ever seen in a game is still CM Minea from TERA (no longer there sadly). You have to do a lot. 

You need to ensure your forum moderation team keeps the forums clean 24/7 – and yes that means you yourself may sometimes find yourself spending a few minutes moderating in the evening or on weekends to clean up some messy threads, but the cleanliness of your forums has a huge impact on the community. You also need to find a good balance between letting players speak their mind while not letting it get out of hand. You need to be Goldilocks – not too much moderating but not too little, either.  

You also need to be a very vocal part of the community. Keep your game community up to date with what’s going on with the game and the company. Post replies to threads on the forums giving whatever bits of info you can (or even saying you have no info). Post threads of your own with important updates. Even posting a funny picture or silly comment in a forum thread goes a long way to showing players you care enough to be active in your community and read what they’re saying. It’s as much your community as it is theirs. You’re not merely managing it, but you need to be a part of it.

Yes keeping Twitter and FB up to date is standard and keeping an active presence on the game’s Reddit is sometimes important as well (depending on how the game’s Reddit is run and by whom).

Also having community programs is important. TERA frequently had in game events of varying kinds that kept players interested and they also had the weekly stream on Friday’s that players looked forward to. It’s all part of not only keeping players in the game and interested in the game, but engaging the community and keeping it lively. 

You need to work to create a community, not merely stand back and moderate whatever community happens to form by itself. You need to do what you can to foster the kind of community you want to have and a lot of work goes into that. The best community moderators are the kind, caring type. They care a lot about the people playing the game and the game itself, to go those extra miles instead of merely “checking off the boxes”. A CM is one of the major voices/faces of the community and should serve as the player’s primary contact point between the company. Sure you’ll have the Producer step in here and there, or a Developer, on important topics that only they can discuss. But most of the time you’re hiring the CM to deal with the players while the rest of the company handles the behind the scenes stuff.

Cambruin
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Cambruin

The best kind is the absent kind. Experience has tought me that communities will twist each and every word coming from a blue post. Looking into a certain aspect of housing turns into looking into housing in general and ends with “we’re getting a massive housing overhaul! OMG!”  Also, some community managers can cause so much damage to a product it may very well never fully recover. 

I remember a certain community manager stating that raiders make up less than 10% of the community, thus creating content for them is not the best way to spend the limited resources available. That may very well be true, but can you as a community manager be both so arrogant and ignorant at the same time that you are willfully alienating 10% of your community? During times like these where MMOs have become a dime in a dozen, I doubt that’s a responsible way to manage a community…

Nanulak
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Nanulak

A good community manager has to a politician.  They have to be able to pacify both sides even when they know one side is wrong.  In my opinion they have the hardest job in the gaming industry.  Myself, I would not last a week in a job like this.  I tend to call a dumb-ass a dumb-ass, sugar coating is not in my skill set.

schmidtcapela
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schmidtcapela

Corvus Monedula SoMuchMass Corvus Monedula schmidtcapela 
If the company is hiring spokespersons and lying to the community by telling them they are community managers, the community deserves all the ill-will and hot water this jerkish move might cause.

A true community manager is neither a community-advocate nor a developer advocate. Just like he shouldn’t be blindly taking the company’s side, he also shouldn’t be a stalwart defender of the players. He should instead be more like a mediator, someone that listens to both sides, find where they agree and where they disagree, and tries to help them reach a compromise that is good for all.

A compromise, BTW, means the players keep playing and, more important for the company, spending money. Not reaching a compromise means a dwindling player base, as unsatisfied players leave, with good reason.

Also, the role of community manager isn’t just about mediating between players and company. It also means mediating between different player factions. For example, preventing PvP and PvE players from jumping at each’s throats with such intensity that new forum members are turned away.

ManastuUtakata
Guest
ManastuUtakata

VilleUusitalo 
…and one else read that as Good, Giving, and Game? o.O

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