All for One and One for All
Letter from the Editor
Welcome to Part 2 of the ongoing The World is a Playground series from The Lydion Magazine, in partnership with Popularium. In Part 1 of the series, Games as Storytelling Engines, our focus was on games as engines for creating stories based on thousands of different inputs from thousands of different players. In Part 2, “All for One, and One for All”, our focus is on the gamers—the players who interact with these engines to create magical experiences and the communities that they build.
Since the early days of the Internet, gamers—often unable to find their chosen families IRL—have logged on in search of like-minded players to bond with over beloved game experiences.
Sanctuaries exist all over the web, in the form of IRC channels, message boards, forums, private servers, and now Discord and Twitch, offering gamers the means to share skills, trade tips, tell stories, and make friends around virtual campfires.
The role and importance of communities in driving the commercial success of games have only grown since the early days of gaming, and over the past decade, communities have also become increasingly important in the development process of games.
In this Part 2 of The World is a Playground series of The Lydion Magazine, we explore the evolving impact that gaming communities have on the development, release, and commercial success of games through the lens of grizzled veterans and rising stars of the industry.
David Hoppe, President of Gen Con, discusses the power of gamers to have lasting impact on each other and on their communities through the medium of discussing, building, and playing games, and the need for more real-world forums that enable these interactions.
Dave Nemetz, lifelong gamer and founder of Inverse and Bleacher Report, explores the Early Access phenomenon and the community outreach playbook that game developers and studios can learn from tech startups on building and scaling their games and companies by bringing in users early during the development process of a product and relying on user feedback to iterate and improve the game before it’s officially released. Similarly, game producer and voice artist Kristina Rothe offers perspective on the potential and risks of the Early Access phenomenon for big studios.
Indie game studios have long been at the forefront of driving innovation for the gaming industry, and indie games often give rise to the most passionate, informed, and welcoming communities in gaming. Game developer Jyro Blade offers a rundown of the tools and techniques that indie devs use to build and optimize developer-community relationships on shoestring budgets.
Part 1 of The World is a Playground series discussed the growing importance of game streamers as content creators and storytellers. Streamers-influencers now have the ability to make or break games while opening the door to new game audiences enticed by friendly faces, camaraderie, and good old-fashioned showbiz. Now in Part 2 of the series, Kore Bundt and Katie McKeon-Smith discuss the impact that streamers have on the development, growth and longevity of gaming communities based on their first-hand experiences.
We hope that you enjoy this deep dive into the fascinating universe of gaming communities and the enormous influence they have on the games we love to play.
Lucy Gillespie - Managing Editor, The Lydion Magazine
Arka Ray - Managing Director of The Data Economics Company and co-founder of Popularium
Jennifer Hinkel - Editor-in-Chief of The Lydion Magazine, and Managing Director of The Data Economics Company
How Gen Con–the Best Four Days in Gaming–Can Change the World
Communities are built and defined by the behavior and personalities of their members, both towards other members of the community and the world in general. Examples of toxic communities abound in gaming, resulting in games losing audience over time and capping the growth of the industry overall. Virtual community platforms often lack incentives for good behavior.
By contrast, once a year, 70,000 people flock to Indianapolis for Gen Con, the world’s largest tabletop gaming convention. Widely known as “the best four days in gaming”, this beloved event welcomes players of all backgrounds and gaming formats to the table for a mad-cap, joyful, and robustly inclusive good time. Gen Con President David Hoppe traces the roots of this inclusive community and discusses what virtual communities can learn from its model.
Why Your Game Needs Early Access
Early Access is a growing phenomenon in gaming that’s easier said than done. While Early Access programs can offer several potential benefits to gamers and game developers, they often result in disappointment for both due to mismanaged expectations and execution. But in the startup world, well-managed community engagement initiatives are standard practice for companies ready to scale. Dave Nemetz—co-founder of Inverse and Bleacher Report—shares his playbook for ways game studios can optimize their Early Access programs while giving back true ownership to player-participants.
Including Player Voices Early On in Agile Game Development
Early community inclusion can make games more fun for the players—and is a fantastic reality check for developers on what works and what doesn’t. Continuing the exploration of the Early Access phenomenon in gaming, producer Kristina Rothe recommends that in order to get the most out of Early Access programs, game marketers establish a framework for ongoing collaboration with the community, starting with a clear vision of the program’s goals and following time-tested practices that develop mutually beneficial relationships between developers and the community.
The Streamer / Influencer Experience
Streamer-influencers create content, moderate conversations, and build communities all out of love for a game. In many ways, streamers become the unofficial “leaders” of gaming communities and keystones for the game’s ecosystem, often directly influencing the future development direction of the game and franchise by serving as the voice of the community. Two such leaders, Katie McKeon-Smith and Kore Bundt, give us a first-hand look at how streamer-developers serve their communities of gamers and developers.
The Glory of the Sea of Thieves
When Katie McKeon-Smith fell in love with life at sea, she did what anyone would do—started a TikTok channel. She’s now an influencer who creates educational content for the massively popular Sea of Thieves. Hop on board as she imparts the Pirate Code to a swarthy bunch of rogues who follow from across the seven seas.
Stories from the Streamerverse
For Kore Bundt, being good at gaming, proactive in chat, and generally fun to be around led to the dream job; one in which they get to play all day, while making the world a better place. Occasional gaming celebrity visitations are fun, but beside the point: in the streamerverse, all are created equal.
Building with your Audience
Gaming is dominated by triple-A blockbusters, but innovations in storytelling and gameplay often emerge from the work of indie developers. Without big studio budgets to fall back on, these small teams and solo creators boil down the process down to the essential of what makes their project unique. Wielding a diverse set of tools such as Unity, Kickstarter, and Discord, these developer Jacks-of-all-trades understand that community engagement isn’t a nice-to-have, but necessary for the game’s survival. Jyro Blade, game developer and member of the NYC-based Gumbo Collective, dives into the aspects of community development and engagement that are critical to the development and success of an indie game.
The World is a Playground
The future of gaming depends on gamer empowerment. Check out the other editions in The World is a Playground series for deep dives on how developers and gamers are building this future together.
Life is played out online. Anything gamified can be a game.
Imagine a world where players own the assets they earn, build, and improve.