One of the greatest things about working for a site that covers MMOs is the privilege I have of interacting with player communities for many games, each with its own wildly different personality. Whether it's a hardcore PvP community or a community filled with the younger MMO crowd, each one is special and unique in its own way.
Secondary to learning about the player fans behind a game, I also get a chance to know the often-overlooked but critically essential community management teams that keep things active and flowing and, yes, even under control at times when a rowdy bunch might appear to be taking over. These gentle, and even sometimes not-so-gentle, folk guide discussions and keep the community informed about all that's going on in a game.
To my way of thinking, there is no more passionate involved fanbase for any MMO out there than the one that sits in support of KingsIsle's Wizard101. Every time we post an article or a contest, we are literally bombarded by these good people, not because there is an agenda behind their visits, but because they are hungry for any and all information about the game that has brought them countless hours of enjoyment. It is this group and to their shepherd, Community & Social Relations Manager Kiersten Samwell that today's column is dedicated.
Last week, our site ran a give away called "Pack-a-Palooza". We had a scant eighteen packs to award lucky recipients with, something that was made clear in our original posting about the event. The relatively small number of prizes did not in any way deter the Wizard101 community and the forum thread reached well over four thousand comments. Four thousand. I can't swear to this fact, but I would guess that this enormous number of responses from the passionate player base is a record. Maybe we can convince MikeB to let us know! Regardless, the numbers are simply staggering.
I know that someone will wonder why all these people are generally so silent here at MMORPG.com and why they are not more active in this community. My guess is that they simply do not have the time since they are actively channeling all energy into being Wizard101 fans.
So what's the secret behind the success of Wizard101's community? We managed to coral Kiersten to ask her and to find out what her secret is for keeping the gang satisfied and involved in what is considered to be an "aging" game.
MMORPG: Tell us what you think of the Wizard101 community.
Kiersten Samwell: This is the best community that any game, or community manager, could ask for. Wizard101 has room in its Spiral for everyone, and our diversity only makes us stronger. Where some players are strategists who meticulously build their decks and experiment with different approaches to creatures, others are players who cast certain spells because it just looks cool. Soloists can enjoy the adventure just as much as collectivists who like to group up. Cooperation and competition go hand in hand, and Wizard101’s variety is reflected in how our players interact and enjoy the game. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
MMORPG: How do you keep them engaged so effectively?
Kiersten Samwell: I’m just as excited about Wizard101 as many of our players. I love it; I play daily, so it’s quite effortless for me to get caught up in the enthusiasm of the game. I try to bring that energy into my communications with our players; both over public mediums such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ as well as through our Message Boards. I cheer at the triumphs of a badge well earned, gobble up new content like crazy and I feel the frustration of a “did not collect” message just as our players do. The key to keeping our players engaged is to be an engaged player myself.
MMORPG: What do you believe keeps them inspired to be so passionate about W101?
Kiersten Samwell: It’s human nature to want to learn, to explore and to connect with other people. Online multiplayer games such as Wizard101 let individuals from all over the world meet other people, learn new skills and have adventures in a safe environment. The only way to really enjoy something is to earn it first, and Wizard101 does a great job of rewarding gameplay–we’ve all had that really long tough boss battle where we’re down to our last few cards and our last few points of health, only to pull off a super strong spell and dance triumphantly as the enemy is defeated. Meanwhile on the other side of the keyboard we cheer out a hearty “YES!” and slump back in our chairs in exhaustion for a brief moment, then quickly sit back up to see what comes next. Sharing that experience (whether it’s with the other teammates in the duel circle with us, our friends standing on the sidelines, or even the families we tell the story to over dinner) is just one reason why our players are inspired—and a key part of what inspires us to make our games great.
What you see here is that an effective community, an engaged and happy and passionate community isn't born and left to grow on its own. It is a combined effort between engaged and excited players and a dedicated team to keep that excitement alive. In my book, KingsIsle and its Wizard101 players have created something special and completely unique in the MMO-niverse. If you've been looking for a game and a united development and player community, Wizard101 is definitely something to check out.
What about you? What makes a great community in your eyes? What other games have fostered this recently? Let us know in the comments.