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Communal Reflection

By Tim Eisen on October 27, 2016 | Columns | Comments

Communal Reflection

If you follow any of my other columns you know when news is slow I have a few methods to fill up 1000 words. Sometimes I get micro and break down small details in greater depth. Sometimes I ramble about everything in the universe then try to relate it back to the game I’m covering. Other times I just get I get real and talk from the hip about something related to a game that has been bothering me, this is one of those times.

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Things have been low key in the Chronicles of Elyria universe for a few weeks now. While that doesn’t give me a ton of material to write about I’m relieved. For once, less news is good news and far better than any bad or polarizing news. This week I’m going to sit back and reflect on the thing that got me to back Elyria in the first place, the community and how trying to be a part of it while being constructively critical of Elyria has me taking a step back from it, but first the good times.

A few months ago I, like many others, was on the fence about backing this game. I knew it would be an uphill battle for a studio to form and produce a game of this magnitude especially as their first attempt. I always like cheering for the underdog and I thought if Elyria found success maybe it would encourage more developers with a crazy idea. That said I still wasn’t quite sold. I was going back and forth when I was pulled in by the community.

I often say I’m from the old school MMORPG era but many Elyria fans seemed to hail from even beyond that time. They were the lost children of old from somewhere between PNP and MUDs. They talked different and certainly approached this game differently than I had seen before. The blurred line between reality and role play didn’t seem like a decision so much as a natural state of being. More than any community I had seen Elyria fans carried a flair for creating content just by being themselves. Heck entire nations and all of the political subterfuge that accompanies them were forming on the forums alone! I wanted to be part of that experience so I backed this game.

Like every crowd funded game I’ve backed Elyria’s community followed what seems to be the standard trajectory with one major hiccup-more on that later. That trajectory is the early hopeful phase (the few months up to and the month of the crowd funding campaign), the verbal PVP filled middle phase (the month or two after a game funds when the “Trolls” and “Fanboys” battle - authors note, I was often called either depending), and the return to calm as the PVP dies down and development gets deeper-this is where Elyria was unfortunately unique.

Every time things were starting to settle down new information would come out and reignite the PVP! Updates were like chum in the water. Not everyone came just to start a fight. Many reasonable people had valid observations but those observations were discredited with typical propaganda. In a year of an election based on an aversion to reality it’s become painfully obvious that reason is the first thing that gets drown out in a conflict between extremes.

Fortunately, as pre-production is turning to production the community is moving into its post war phase. The Elyria community is once again becoming a good place to have critically constructive conversations without getting into a verbal smack down. Forum fighters are getting back to their own game based machinations. Old faces are coming back and new one’s present fresh content to consume but this conflict was not without loss.  

These past few months have changed me and how I view crowdfunded games. I used to half jokingly call myself an “embedded MMORPG reporter”. That meant I was reporting on a games development as an active member of the community. Now I worry that being too involved with the community might dilute my observations. That my involvement might turn into over consideration. I felt a conflict within myself always wanting to present the information as I saw it but questioning if I was being impacted by engaging in the discussion as it happened rather than reporting on it after the fact.

Going forward I’m going to take a step back to see if increased isolation changes my interpretation of the information. I’ll still observe and report on the community. After all the evolution of a crowd funded community is nearly as fascinating as the evolution of development, but I’m going to try to refrain from entering the fray.

Trying to walk the line between fan and critic during this last PVP spat nearly killed my love for the community and crowd funding altogether! Maybe this is where I should have always been? Maybe by embedding myself I set myself up to fail from that start? Trying to live among the communities while also being critical of the games was nigh impossible. If I have to sacrifice one of those things it has to be the former not the later or my integrity would be compromised and without that readers have no reason to trust that my opinion is my own, pure, uncompromised and often uncomfortable-for better or worse. 

Tim Eisen / I roleplay a wordsmith that writes about the technological and social evolution within the game industry
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