The Think Tank: Are unofficial MMO fansites and forums important to you?

GW2Guru.com
With the often unpleasant turnaround rate of fansites and unofficial forums, one can't help but wonder about the viability of such websites in relation to the bigger picture. Often times these sites are created and maintained purely from player passion, even when official support is nowhere to be found. But that passion is not always consistent.

I polled the Massively team members for their own thoughts on fansites and unofficial forums. Do they trust these player sites more than official lines of communication on a game's community status, or are they often too sporadic or unprofessional to bother with? Read along after the jump for our answers.
Beau
I will only really ever come across a post or wiki entry when I need an answer to a riddle I can't figure out or when I get stuck in some other way. In most MMOs, the challenge rarely comes from puzzles or riddles, so I barely use those sources. I know that forums can be a great community-building tool for many games, but it all depends on the developer. Those forums can be an amazing amount of work, as well, so I can see why some developers would rather skip them. In the end, social media has made the world my forum, so I am never stuck on one site.
Bree
Whether I use them depends a lot on the game. I usually spend a lot of time on wikis (player-run and official -- ArenaNet's tend to be excellent) looking up information, but I don't usually consume everything on one-game "fansites." But there are corner-cases, like older games that lack official forums. I've spent more than my fair share of time on Ultima Online's unofficial boards because where else would you go?
Jasmine
Both are hugely important to me if they contain information about a game's content, like item locations, min/maxing, and specific quests. I don't personally find anything enjoyable about slamming my head into a wall trying to figure something out when a quick search will turn up 17 different guides. The variety of tutorials, discussions, and theorycrafting available online is mind-blowing, and I never want to see it stop. I love consuming player-generated content and learning from other people.

When it comes to things like "general" unofficial forums and fansites, I just personally have never really felt a desire to participate or seek them out. I chat on my own guild's forums, but that's the closest I've ever come. I have given a few fan social groups a chance in the past but just haven't found a reason to keep logging back into them. I can definitely understand why some gamers (like dedicated RPers) would find wonderful resources on unofficial forums, but I'm more of a boss-guide-and-loot-list sort.
Justin
No. Except, yes, when they're strategy-related. If it's a good unofficial wiki or a guide site, then I am not opposed to using them. I probably would not have gotten through The Secret World without Unfair.co, for example. And I use LOTRO-Wiki all the time.
Matt
Fan-run forums and wikis are almost always necessities when it comes to forming and supporting a thriving roleplaying community. Outside of that, though, I don't tend to participate in communities focused on a single game, largely because I'm often playing so many different games in tandem that it would be impossible to be active on a different site for each. Instead, I tend to simply use the game's official forums (assuming they have official forums) on the few occasions I need to do so. That being said, there are few things in this world that I appreciate more than a constantly updated and maintained game wiki, and those are almost always unofficial fansites. I know there are a few games I've played in the past, some of which I still play, that I would never have been able to pick up and learn easily if it weren't for the assistance of a well-stocked wiki, so in that regard I'd have to say that yes, unofficial fansites are quite important to me.
Matthew
I think a thriving, independent roleplaying site is key to a game having a strong and active RP community in any MMO. Beyond that, player-created wikis and databases are nice to have. Even if the developers provide something like that, there's limits to how useful and informative most are willing to make them. Still, anything developers and publishers provide to support their game community is welcome. General purpose forums, for example, are really vital, even though they tend to either turn into hell-holes or see little use. Providing something that players can at least try to use shows you actually give a damn.
Patrick
I'd say that in general, yes. Most game wikis are fanmade, so right there anyone who ever browses wikis for games they like probably are at least somewhat invested in fansites. I think that because of the key word "fansite," it's impossible to say no to this question. There's no big game out there that does not have an enormous dependency on fan community for content about their game. If I want videos or gameplay information about a game, I will almost never go to an official source because the official sources are never going to be as well-maintained or devoted or complete as those created by fans.

As for fan forums, which is a different question, I feel that no, they are usually not that important. Sometimes a game limits communication on forums for its F2P players (or other non-premium players), and those players end up having to go elsewhere, which is just irritating and not good for anyone. In that case, unofficial forums may become the de facto communication method for players about a game. Otherwise, official forums are probably the best choice, since it's where normal users will go first when they want to view a forum. Otherwise, unofficial forums have a use only if they cover some special interest (such as RP or something).
Terilynn
They are very important to me! I would never be able to survive without the wikis, podcasts, and in the case of Star Trek Online, the 24-hour internet radio station that plays music and news about the game. I might be a bit biased, seeing as though I used to participate in a podcast about The Foundry and my current podcast still covers STO news, but I really do rely on all of the player-produced materials that are out there. Not only do they provide a place where discussions are less moderated (and therefore a bit more freeing), but they also tend to pick up on news that might otherwise be missed.

What do you get when you throw the Massively writers' opinions together in one big pot to stew? You get The Think Tank, a column dedicated to ruminating on the MMO genre. We range from hardcore PvPers to sandbox lovers to the carest of the carebears, so expect some disagreement! Join Senior Editor Shawn Schuster and the team for a new edition right here every other Thursday.
This article was originally published on Massively.