Today we have a special treat, as new SWG Community Manager and SWG rookie Joe “GreyPawn” Pishgar answers a few questions on the nature of community management:
Answers by Joe “GreyPawn” Pishgar (Community Manager, Star Wars Galaxies, SOE)
Questions by Robert “Sabrehawk” Cox (Site Manager, SWG.WarCry.com)
Warcry: Tell us about your background. What got you into gaming? When did you realize it was a career path you wanted to explore?
GreyPawn: I had been into gaming from very early on. I have fond memories as an early teen drooling over the Tandy computers that could play Sim City and Police Quest at the local WaldenSoft. I think I was completely sold after playing my first game of Lemmings. I didn’t know that being in the games industry was what I wanted to do until I was introduced to Ultima Online.
Warcry: Before joining the SWG team, you did a lot of work with various community sites. How did this prepare you for taking the helm as a community manager, first for Big Huge Games and now for SWG? How different is an MMO community like SWG from what you saw at Big Huge Games?
GreyPawn: Working for fan sites for as long as I have certainly helps to give me an edge in dealing with them. I’ve run a few of my own, too, so I know what they need to work, and how to help them grow. I’ve always felt that fansites and even guild/clan sites are integral to the growth of a community. Knowing the ins and outs, like for instance what sort of news to provide and who to go to for it really helps.
As for the difference between the communities of real-time strategy games and MMOs, well, they could fill volumes! The main difference comes from how the player plays the game. In an RTS, players play the game and there is a definitive end, a declared victor. In an MMO, players don’t just play in the game, they *live* in it.
Warcry: The title of Community Manager can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. What does it mean to you?
GreyPawn: A CM wears at any given time, the hats of about seven different people. He’s got to be the strongest advocate the player has, the representative of the entire development team to those same players, a singular and definitive source of information, the spokesperson, moderator, webmaster, and mediator. The growth and cohesiveness of a community is ultimately the Community Manager’s responsibility, and while that’s a big burden to bear, it can be very rewarding.
Warcry: Star Wars Galaxies has been out for four years, giving it a bit of elder status in the MMO world. How does it feel to be the rookie on such a well-established team?
GreyPawn: At first, intimidating. But I was pleasantly surprised to find out truly how much this development team cares about the community and the issues brought forth by the players. These guys are seriously looking out for the players’ best interests and taking all community feedback into consideration.
Being a rookie to the game has been tough going, but with the warm welcome and offers I’ve received from both sides of the community and development team, I’m feeling part of the family already!
Warcry: Now that you’ve had a few weeks to settle in, what kind of impressions have you formed of the game’s community?
GreyPawn: I have to say, my initial impressions were very wrong. As an outsider, the Star Wars Galaxies community looked very insular and daunting to a newcomer. Hardcore passion about a game and its systems and lore, while great, can serve as a barrier to entry for the newbie. The great thing about the SWG community is its cohesiveness. It’s got a strong, growing community and that’s appealing to anyone.
Warcry: You’re not only a new staff member, you’re also a new player. Tell us a little about your experiences so far. Have you chosen a side in the Galactic Civil War? What NPC are you most looking forward to meeting? Shot any Gungans yet? What are you waiting for?
GreyPawn: Oh, I chose a side long, long ago. Imperial to the core, baybee! As for my experiences so far, I think the most fun thing I can relate has been my encounter with the Sarlacc. Like everyone, I imagine, when I first encountered the Sarlacc I was frightened. Is this poison going to kill me? Will tentacles shoot up and drag me in? After thinking about it, and waiting for something disastrous to happen, I edged closer to it. And then that thought went through my brain.
“What if I…jump in? Will I die a slow horrible Fettian demise? Ohhh, so tempting!” Ultimately, I backed off. But I asked other folks, and apparently everyone thinks about jumping in! If I was in a sassier mood, I’d draw an analogy to the desire to jump into the Sarlacc with becoming Community Manager for SWG, but I’m not, so I won’t. 😉
Oh, and as for NPC I’m waiting to meet? I’m hoping to eventually meet the Emperor and ask him where he got such stylish threads.
Warcry: For many players, SWG is a way to relax after a long day at the office/in the classroom/watching the kids. As a staff member, it’s also your job. Is it hard to separate work from leisure?
GreyPawn: I’d love to tell you that there is a disconnect, but honestly for me there isn’t. When I’m home, I’m still browsing the boards (even though I try not to!), and leveling my newbie Jedi character. It’s very difficult to separate work from leisure in the games industry, but when you absolutely love what you do and have fun doing it, it helps in keeping you happy.
Warcry: What other hobbies or activities do you pursue?
GreyPawn: Gaming, both video gaming and of the tabletop and pen & paper variety. I guildmaster from time to time, and help design and build on my “garage” style MMO projects. I also read quite a bit, though corebooks and supplementals are my faves.
Warcry: As community manager, what do you feel is your most important responsibility? Why?
GreyPawn: That’s a hard one to narrow down. The primary responsibility I see as being tantamount to this role is being the intercessor, a big honkin’ word for “go-between”. That way, both sides of developers and players know what is going on in each other’s world, and the lines of communication are kept open and clear. Without that feedback, stuff just breaks down.
Warcry: Have you set any goals for yourself and the community relations team? If so, what’s most important?
GreyPawn: My main goal is to make sure the community that exists now is taken well care of and has the opportunity to continue growing like it has been. My secondary goal is to reach out to the veterans we’ve lost over the years as well as the folks who’ve never tried SWG, and see what we can do to bring them into the game.
Warcry: Finally, a question we like to ask all members of the development team …Who shot first?
GreyPawn: In my not-so-humble opinion – Han Solo shot first. Not only did he shoot first, but later on off-camera he hunted down Greedo’s family and killed them off as well. A scoundrel is a scoundrel after all, and better safe than sorry.