I got the phone call about two months ago. The good people at Cryptic HR phoned me with a job offer, and across the country I went, like a modern-day Tom Joad fleeing home for greener pastures in sunny California. Only instead of picking grapes and cursing creditors, I’m managing two communities ... and cursing creditors – some things never change.
Prior to my time at Cryptic, I was a game journalist. I ran my own gig at Giant Realm before the economy changed my plans for me, and before then I was an editor at The Escapist. Other than the tabletop game I created with a friend of mine, the closest I ever really got to game design was sitting in back rooms at conventions, prying information from developers large and small, then delivering what I learned to readers just as hungry for tidbits as I was.
Then came the Holy Grail: The chance to help make games instead of just talking about them. Truth be told, it wasn’t really a career I knew I was interested in until I got the chance to interview at Cryptic. I was happy in my role as a journalist, but once this new door opened, I was beyond excited to step through.
So here I am, wide-eyed and eager. I get to sit in meetings with Bill Roper and Jack Emmert and Craig Zinkievich every week – that’s access I would’ve killed for six months ago. The company is gigantic compared to a press shop. We have over 200 people here on the team; the largest company I worked for prior to this had 40. There’s free food and coffee and Star Trek episode screenings, and it’s awesome.
What’s also great is how much a lot of what I do as an online community representative feels like game journalism. I still talk to developers and share what they say with people. I post updates directly to a website, feed them out on Twitter and Facebook, and plan what we say and when we say it. And to make things better, I get to talk directly with our customers, which has been incredibly educational.
Spending time with the Star Trek Online community has taught me exactly how little I know about Star Trek. I’m a fan of the shows and can’t wait for the Abrams movie, but the knowledge some of our community members have is encyclopedic. I really dig that; it keeps us all on our toes. If we break canon, we hear about it. That’s a good thing, since we’re dedicated to creating a Star Trek experience, not just a great MMO experience.
In that vein, we’ve been doing a lot to reach out to Star Trek fans. The entire community team rocks Twitter, we’ve been running IRC trivia contests where we give out beta keys, and we pose Kobayashi Maru scenarios to the community every week. Just this week we instituted Talk Trek with Cryptic, where we invite the community to comment along with us on a pre-selected Star Trek episode. We’re always looking for new ways to engage our users, beyond the standard screenshot format. (Not to discount the traditional outreach stuff, though: We’re always updating the site with new images.)
I didn’t think I’d ever wind up on this side of the development/journalism fence, but it’s been a pretty great ride so far, and I’m looking forward to guiding the community up to and through launch.