Let me tell you a story.
Once upon a time, the Guild Wars 2 community was a large and varied place. Fansites, bloggers, artists, writers, podcasters, video makers, musicians, and any mixture of the above. The amount of content coming out of the community was as large and varied as the community itself. ArenaNet openly supported all of these avenues of creativity. All matter of creation was acknowledged and shared by official channels. Fansites and blogs were allowed to preview content before it came out, and were used to give away awesome things to the rest of the community at large. And for a time, it was good.
That all changed when Twitch attacked.
…okay, so that was a silly introduction to a topic that has rubbed me wrong for a very, very long time now, and resulted in a several-hundred-tweet long conversation between over a dozen people yesterday. Several conversations, actually. I’m still sorting through all of it myself, but the crux of it is that the current approach to community engagement is not a very good one.
Before I go any further, I want to bring up a post from three years ago about how ANet wants to build the GW2 community. Some select quotes:
“We will continue to work with fansites as we have done in the past, but in addition to “traditional” fansites, we will also provide a platform to support smaller, specialized communities/projects that would never have had a place in a traditional program, like blogs, machinima, etc.”
“One thing that is very important to keep in mind: there is no single “community.” It’s not a monolithic, unified demographic, but a many-faceted, living, breathing ecosystem. You will find communities on Fansites, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, YouTube, guild sites, and lots of other places.”
“By working together, with you bringing amazing and great community projects to our attention and us highlighting them for the broader community, we will be able to build something great and lasting that will benefit each and every one of you.”
“Our ultimate goal is to create an environment that is respectful, welcoming, inclusive and friendly. We want to create a global community where people will feel at home, and an environment that will foster both creativity and collaboration…the main goal is to be inclusive, not exclusive, to encourage collaboration between communities, and to generate an atmosphere that is helpful, friendly, and above all, respectful.”
For quite a long time – from several years before the game launched until about a year and a half ago – this was the case. This is how things were done. ArenaNet did a great job for years of reaching out to and promoting all of the varying aspects of their community. They actively and openly supported all of the content creators within the GW2 community. And you know what, I’m not going to deny that I’ve got a horse in this race. I’ve been running this blog for just shy of four years, worked with GuildMag for some time before that, and was active on twitter and forums before that even. This blog is the definitely of a smaller, more specialized project that they mention above – I essentially run this thing by myself, with the occasional post from my husband. I did it because I enjoyed doing it, and was always thrilled when one of my posts got retweeted by the GW2 twitter account, or posted on their facebook. I thought it was great that I was included in things such as beta key giveaways, the big Collector’s Edition giveaway. That I was able to do two different interviews with ANet staff, and that I was included on the fansite previews of season one living story stuff.
Basically, for a long time, ArenaNet was awesome at taking care of and supporting their community and the content creators within it, and it flourished for years. And because ANet supported both small and large sites alike, it created a rather tight-knit community amongst bloggers and artists and other fansite owners, as well – instead of seeing each other as competition, as could well be the case, many of us saw each other as friends. There were so many different sites that no two people put out the same content, and so there was no need to compete for attention. We all talked, regularly linked to each others’ works, worked together on projects, became friends. Because that’s what happens in a good community.
And it all pretty much came to a halt overnight. The fansite preview project came to a halt after a couple of press sites broke embargo. There was essentially nothing but radio silence for several months. Once things started to come to life again, it became clear that the scope of what ANet wanted to promote for the community had changed, and changed drastically. And, quite frankly, it was not a change for the positive.
Earlier this week, emails went out for a stress test of Heart of Thorns. The wording of the email, mentioning “most loyal players”, created a certain amount of ill-feeling. Yesterday, this was tweeted from another GW2 player:
…and off it went.
As of right now, there are only a select few GW2 community members that get any support or promotion from ANet, and they all do the exact same things – stream the game on twitch and post videos on youtube. There is no variety, and there is little actual content being showcased (the sole exception to this being the GW2 tumblr, where some fanart and screenshots get reblogged). It’s pretty damn frustrating.
I’ve had this feeling for a long time. It’s been bothering me for well over a year now. I don’t like the idea that if you do any sort of work for the community other than stream on twitch, you are not deserving of recognition and support. And as that conversation was kicked off yesterday, and more and more people who are long-time community members (either as content creators or those who liked the massive amount of content that used to come out of the community) jumped in to voice their opinions – that after so long, it really sucks to suddenly be left in the cold as though all of the work you’d done for years no longer matters.
The Tough Love Critic managed to go through and create a timeline of all of the tweets from the varying branching conversations kicked off by that first tweet – it’s kind of disorganized, and sometimes you have to click to read more of a conversation, but it’s all there. And there are a lot of good points being made there, too. Such as this one from Ollanach, the creator of GuildMag:
Celeste of Guild Wars Reporter also said:
A comment from Tough Love Critic:
And then this one, from Tylluan, who isn’t a fansite owner but has been a member of the community for a long time and noticed the massive shift that happened, which rather hits the nail on the head:
I kept my opinions quiet on this matter for a very long time, because I wasn’t sure if me being annoyed about it was just feeling bitter about suddenly being left out, or if it were a more widespread thing. As it turns out, it seems like most people who felt like this have for some time but stayed quiet for similar reasons:
So, here’s the base of the issue – the sudden change to focusing on Youtubers and Twitch streamers to the exclusion of all other parts of the community not only goes directly against the original community philosophy espoused by ArenaNet three years ago, but it also served to suddenly cut out members of the community who had been supporting the game and creating content for and about it for many years – most of us long before the game even came out. It’s a slap in the face to all of us that have done so much work for so long. And, to be completely frank, it is a poor way to foster a good community.
What solutions are there? Personally, I would be happy with going back to at least some of what we had before. I’m not even asking for big things like being flown to conventions and ArenaNet’s offices, as awesome as that would be. But, please, just recognize that we are still an important and vital part of the GW2 community. Recognize and promote the work we do. Acknowledge that many of us have been at this for closing in on half a decade or more. We had a hand in helping to shape this community – give us back the ability to continue to do so. Many fansites have closed down or slowed in the intervening year and a half – and I’m sure the culture of neglect has had a hand in that – but many of us are still around. Allow all aspects of the fanbase to flourish, all type of content to be created and promoted and supported – not just one very narrow section of it. Just…stop ignoring us. Please. That’s all it takes.