Gamerz for Gamerz is a brand new service that is set up to bolster online gaming communities. The idea is simple, yet exciting: bring gamers and devs together both in game and in person to build a stronger bond and share stories of their favorite hobby. This is not only done through a simple forum or Facebook page, but through an array of special tools that will make interaction much easier.
Gamerz for Gamerz was founded earlier this year by two vets of the online industry: Cindy "Abigale" Bowens and Michelle "Elionia" Butler who first worked together during the early days of EverQuest. I sat down with Cindy to discuss this new venture and find out exactly what it hopes to bring to the market.
"The whole philosophy behind Gamerz for Gamerz is to bring together the entire gaming community, both online and in person," Cindy said. She and Michelle first met back in 1999 when she was an EQ guide and Michelle was the EQ guide liason. Since then, the two have joined forces to run SOE's Fan Faire events and build the Community Manager position up from a concept to the full-fledged teams that work current MMOs.
"We’ve been talking for years about some of the different things we will be offering to our community," Cindy said. "We have always been passionate about bringing gamers together and had lots of ideas about ways to do that. We’d have long talks about building a business like this but then life would happen. We continued to research and refine our ideas but the timing never worked for one reason or another. Then somehow, the stars aligned just a few short weeks ago and we knew it was time to make it happen. Since then, we have been joined by so many brilliant, talented people that I am thankful it didn’t come together until now."
So who are these brilliant and telented people? Cindy and Michelle called on former co-workers and lifelong friends to help get the service off the ground, including EQ artist Bob Painter, former SOE Systems Engineer Rob Matzker, EQ and Warhammer Online designer Dan Enright, professional event coordinator Steve "Mennix" Fuller, and EQ and Vanguard artist Willie Watt who now owns and operates his own successful t-shirt company.
But all of these names and years of experience mean nothing without a good business plan. This concept has been tried before, in various iterations through the years, but Cindy says that she has seen quite a change in the realm of online gaming in the last 16 years.
"The most important change I have seen in the industry is the field of community management being more accepted and respected," she pointed out. "More than just game companies are starting to realize the value of open lines of communication with their audiences. When I became the community manager for EverQuest, no one knew what that even meant. But these days, every game out there has someone in charge of their community. And many businesses and large corporations now employ CMs to interact with their customers. It’s nice to see some acknowledgment and respect for the work many of us in this field have been doing for years."
Not only that, but Cindy also feels that gamers have been losing that sense of community that was once enjoyed in the early days of online gaming. "Back in the old days of online gaming, we had to rely on each other a lot more. It was difficult to play an online game without a group of friends backing you up."
And with all the new online games releasing every year, it's been much more difficult to keep the old teams of friends together. "We all connect as gamers, sometimes connecting more than we even realize. When we all start comparing gaming experience, it’s amazing what we have in common. So I think there is still a sense of community out there, but what was once a small group of people playing a few online games has splintered into numerous smaller communities in which we’ve all lost touch a bit. That’s one of the purposes behind starting Gamerz for Gamerz: To foster a gaming community for all gamers and developers in one place."
So what about those devs? The people who worked on these early games are often forgotten or not credited correctly, esecially if they helped build the game but weren't there on launch day. The Gamerz for Gamerz team hopes to not only let those developers tell their stories, but it will put them back into the spotlight and let their achievements shine.
"In our community, anyone who has ever been employed in any part of the game industry is a VIP (Video-game Industry Professional)," Cindy said. "This includes everything from designers and programmers to gaming PR and marketing pros. We will be providing ways for industry pros to connect and share ideas. We will also be offering an exciting new way for them to showcase their own accomplishments and career paths. More on that soon!"
Right now, Gamerz for Gamerz is still very early in its path, but the recently opened forums are a good place to start if you're interested in taking part. They also have a Facebook group that's been growing rapidly. In fact, it's been fun to watch the reconnections already happening among these early game devs who may have lost contact over the years. The service isn't even officially launched yet and it's already working as intended!
Cindy and the team haven't wasted any time starting up the very first meetspace event that will be taking place on Halloween night in San Diego to help kick off the official launch of the service. The launch party will allow gamers and devs from an array of games to mingle, see some informative panels, participate in roundtable discussions, and have fun with a costume contest.
This party will also serve to announce all the top secret services that Gamerz for Gamerz will provide in the future, and there will even be game industry recruiters there if you're interested in getting your foot in the door!
Those in attendance will also enjoy special discounts for future Gamerz for Gamerz events, so be sure to join the forums and Facebook group for more of the very latest information on this event and others down the line.