I spent my writing time last night trying to write something about official gaming forums.
That seems to be the swirling topic of the moment, what with Mark Jacobs saying that Warhammer Online won’t have them, the Stargate Worlds team asking for input on how people see official forums (asked on a forum, so what sort of answers do you think they will get?), and SOE’s drama with EQ2Flames.com, which considered themselves more important than the official forums but have since turned into the official SOE hate/conspiracy theory forums.
After a number of false starts that meandered off in to tales of the early days of Usenet or how I once ran a BBS, I boiled my thoughts down to two statements:
- Any official company forum tends to become a cesspool of vitriol, sycophancy, and unrealistic entitlement.
- Once there is an official forum, a company tends to use it for almost all game related communication.
So, basically, companies create this horrible place and then make you go there if you want the latest, up to date, accurate information about their game.
That apparently set in stone, the discussion then moves to how to make forums less horrible.
Darren says ban with extreme prejudice, Michael says don’t ban me bro, and Sanya wants to make sure you’re qualified to be running a forum in the first place, all of which strikes me as the classic “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic” scenario.
These ideas seem to be more of an adjustment of the ratio of sycophancy to vitriol than signal to noise.
Yes, the community team sees the forums as being about community, which is a messy, noisy concept in and of itself, but I am willing to bet cash money that most people who visit the forums do so in search of information about the game in question. The forum regulars, those who play the forum game, are a minority of the player base.
What needs to happen for those of us who do not live in the forums is some way of extracting the informational gems from the forums to make them more accessible.
Mark Jacobs says he can do this. He can get all of the important game information to the user base via a new and improved version of the Dark Age of Camelot system, the Camelot Herald.
I wish him the best of luck in this.
The Camelot Herald is nice, but it is not enough, so he had better have some big improvements up his sleeve.
Meanwhile, does any game company do a good job of pulling the useful bits out of the forums for those of us who don’t play the forum game? Is there an example that other companies should seek to emulate?