Psychochild's Blog

A developer's musings on game development and writing.

14 August, 2018

The importance of community culture
Filed under: — Psychochild @ 11:44 PM

I talk a lot about culture because this is an important thing. How you deal with the culture of your community is perhaps one of the most important things that determines the long-term success or failure of your group.

Let’s take a closer look at what culture means in a community like an MMO guild.

This will be a relatively short post because I’ve written about culture before, although the focus here was a bit more on the culture of a company, especially for creative work. The culture of a company impacts the quality of work accomplished.

A lot of the same elements exist for the culture of a community: it’s easy to ignore issues of culture when the group is small and just starting out. A small group can be very like-minded and agree on things implicitly when there’s not a lot of people to disagree. However, if things stay implicit then it becomes there can be an assumed culture that takes root. Behaviors can be observed and copied, but it’s easy for people to misinterpret such actions. For example, your group might have a culture of playfully teasing each other; however, others can see this as a more aggressive culture not realizing it’s friendly teasing instead of being simply teasing others. This becomes part of the assumed culture of the group if the culture isn’t made more explicit.

And making the culture explicit is important. Letting people know expectations of behavior within the group helps avoid misunderstandings and drama. But this culture also needs to be reinforced and new people introduced to the culture so that they understand it. In yesterday’s post I talked about how a influx of people into a community can change that culture because the new people aren’t introduced to the culture. The culture they experience will be a blend of the culture they observe in the new group and the culture imported by new people. If elements of these cultures are at odds with each other, then that causes confusion. People will have to choose one or the other in their minds; if the group culture is reinforced, then people are more likely to pick up that culture when there’s confusion.

But what happens if you want to change that culture? For example, you want to go from being an elite hard-core raiding group that supports high-end raiding goals to being more mid-core because most people don’t have time? That’s going to be tough of course. The first thing to realize is that you’re probably going to lose people: those that still have the time and want to pursue elite hard-core raiding will probably leave to find another group that meets those needs. You also need to reinforce this new culture. People may still cling to hold elitist ways despite no longer being elite, which can hurt attempts to draw people interested in the new culture. Finally, you need to deal with how others perceive the group. A change in culture doesn’t mean that others will immediately see the change. Communicating this change to others is important so that mid-core raiders don’t ignore your group since you’re known as elite hard-core raiders.

At the end of the day it’s about fun. Running a community like a guild can seem like a lot of work that you pour into it. But if you do it right, you can not only help yourself but also help other people to have fun in the game. And that can be a very rewarding thing! So mind your groups culture to keep it going.

What do you think? Do you set up a culture for your groups? Have you seen conflicts of culture affect a guild and tear it apart? What elements of culture do you think are important to reinforce?

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