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Making it as an MMO blogger: The community manager interviews part 2

Shawn Schuster

If you enjoyed our community management feature from yesterday, we present you with part 2!

What level of honesty should bloggers have regarding the benefits and flaws of your game in balancing the interests of the readers and the interests of your company?

David Bass: Bloggers should always be honest. But they should also be fair. Yes, game X might have some issues, but is the company consistently working to improve the game? Are you seeing excellent communication from the team? No MMO is perfect, that's for certain, but in addition to learning where our flaws are, we're also interested to learn what we're doing right. Bloggers aren't there to cater to us as a company, and if your blog is heading in that direction, most readers will notice that and may choose to shy away from it. If you stick to being honest on your blog, that's what will get the company to notice you.

Shaun Brodie:
I don't want to be lied to, just like gamers don't like to be lied to. Be upfront and honest with me all the time, and I'll do the same for you. If you tell me you're really excited by the slow paced tactical space combat of Star Trek Online, and are really thinking to yourself, "This stuff sucks, it would be so much better if..." I want to hear the truth. Otherwise, I can't take that back to the development team and see if they can make it better for you.

Sean Kauppinen: Honesty is the only thing of value. If your community doesn't value your opinion, then you have no value to companies.

Tami Baribeau: I'm a firm believer in honesty. Bloggers don't have a contract with the game developer to always remain positive, and the best part about blogs is the truth and reality coming from the horse's mouth.

Tricia Jenkins:
That's an element of blogs that perhaps draws many gamers to them-they tend to be quite honest in their impressions on a game. As developers, we can get a lot of valuable feedback on our game through bloggers and their readers.

"Honesty is the only thing of value. If your community doesn't value your opinion, then you have no value to companies."

Wonder Russell:
Everyone wants a good review for their game, but no one wants a weighted, dishonest review. That does more harm than good in the long run and leads to lots of bad feelings. If you get a free game and hated it, a professional level of criticism about exactly why you didn't like specific elements is the most helpful to the reader, and allows for preference. Everyone is going to have favorite genres, styles of play, etc that they bring to the table. Conversely, when you play a game you absolutely love, readers will trust your opinion, knowing that not every game gets a raving two thumbs up and flashing gold star.

For our company, we look for reviews that took the time to play in-depth and try all the options and ideally played to the finish. They should have experience with many different games and not base everything on the one game they do play "Overall, not as fun as WOW with my kickass guild." Reviews are not only read by potential players but by us – the dev team. We're gonna know how deeply you delved into the game and therefore how comprehensive the review is. For my part, I also look for those choice quotes that could end up on in our marketing materials. Bottom line, reviews have to be genuine and backed up by experience and integrity, otherwise it doesn't do either of us any good.

Regina Buenaobra: This ties in to the previous question. Obviously, a blogger should not publish information that is not true, but this is where good journalism and fact-checking sources comes into play. Bloggers generally write in-depth about their own personal experiences and perspectives, so we understand that whatever a blogger writes will be colored by that. We also understand that issues can be viewed from different perspectives. The developer side of a contentious issue may be different from a player's perspective, and a developer probably has additional context that a player lacks.

I don't think I can or should tell bloggers what to do, as a lot of this depends on how they feel about their readers and our company. Speaking as a blogger myself, I would probably resent a company telling me what I could or could not write, though I would agree with being honest to the degree that I know what I'm writing is the truth.

EM Stock: Credibility from the gaming public is essential for bloggers to acquire. Let's face it, no game is perfect. There's not a player in existence that doesn't have major criticisms of their favorite game. Not voicing those criticisms will damage a blogger's credibility – making it look like they are a "fanboy" or in a game company's back pocket. Gaming companies simply need to realize that criticism comes with the territory when you have bloggers writing about your products.

It's always in the bloggers best interest to be honest with their feelings and impressions because that is the only way other players will relate to and trust them. If a company is really smart, they will encourage constructive criticisms from their bloggers and then take the feedback to heart and use it to better their game and retain customers.

Meghan Rodberg: I think that's really up to the blogger, although of course game companies would rather bloggers write about the benefits of our games rather than the flaws. That said, a well-written blog about a system that can use improvement, that draws useful comments and interaction from readers, can be very helpful to us.

Is it better for a blogger to remain with the masses or get inside access to information for the community relations and marketing purposes of your company?

David Bass: This is really dependent on the blogger's intentions. From our perspective, obviously we'd love to foster a close relationship with bloggers and have them assist us in our marketing endeavors. But if you're just running a personal blog, is it really going to help both you and us to have marketing materials there? I suppose it depends, but in my opinion, I think it's something a writer needs to choose for themselves.

Shaun Brodie: I think you want that happy medium. If you're in the trenches with the masses, you get to know what the masses want, which helps you to be able to speak for them. As for inside access to information, players always want to know more. The more they know, the more invested they become in the game, the community, and your blog.

Sean Kauppinen: This depends on the audience. Identifying with the masses tends to make the information more relevant, but credibility and audience are the ultimate value of any blog and should be the focus.

Tami Baribeau: I don't think there is a "better" here. You will get more hits and readers to your blog if you have exclusive inside information, but that might not be what the blogger is going for. Having a blog with regular readers IS like being a community manager. You have to consider the needs and desires of your readers when creating content for your blog. If you think they enjoy reading opinion and speculation from someone who is "just like them" it might actually be a detriment to your blog's community if you gain too many exclusive privileges. Consider your readership and what you're trying to do with your blog, then act accordingly.

"A blogger perceived as too much of an insider could also be accused of favoring that company, and the company may even come under fire for favoring a particular blogger. It's a fine balancing act."

Tricia Jenkins: There is a fine line here, because bloggers technically aren't press and you don't want to treat them that way – constantly feeding them news bits. It's important to keep them in the loop on the latest features, but not to an extent that you would a specific MMO news site. Part of what makes reaching out to bloggers unique is that community-building aspect you can achieve, via exclusive promotions, information etc.

Wonder Russell:
This is pretty tricky and I'd have to say it depends on what's going on. If they have a good relationship with the CM, it never hurts to ask! A good blogger can also glean the best-of-the-best from the "masses" and find ways to keep that interesting.

Regina Buenaobra: I think this may be a philosophical question of blogger ethics and comfort level. A lot of bloggers pride themselves on not taking compensation or having close personal connections to "insiders" because their opinions are then perceived as less biased.

A blogger with insider information can also be seen in the community as more authoritative because of that access, though this is definitely a double-edged sword. A blogger perceived as too much of an insider could also be accused of favoring that company, and the company may even come under fire for favoring a particular blogger. It's a fine balancing act.

At the end of the day, a blogger has to weigh where their priorities lie. The answer to this question depends on one's perception and what one values.

EM Stock: Clearly, there is game related information that a company should make sure to share with all of their players at the same time. It's information that should come directly from them as opposed to coming from a fan site or a blog. That being said, bloggers have set themselves apart from the masses by proving that they want to share insights and opinions on your game in ways that most other players don't. That justifies giving them not necessarily "inside" information, but first looks at features that the player base may already know about but hasn't seen yet...or direct access to a developer who can answer a question or two for their readership. In the end, support of this nature is a 'win/win' because content like this can help build a bigger fan base for the blog who then has the ability to reach and educate more people about the game.

Meghan Rodberg: Again, this is up to the individual blogger and what their goals are for the blog.

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