As gamers we have all visited video game companies’ message boards and seen the moderators of those boards. You know, the guys who are constantly on the board, banning trolls and slapping order into place. Well, believe it or not, at one time I was a moderator for a very successful video game company. I won’t name names, for the sake of privacy. I just wanted to reflect for a moment about my time as a moderator and the reason for my retirement. Most of the time being a moderator was fun, and it had its advantages from after parties with the company while at PAX or E3, to the occasional free game! It was amazing. It was like I had done something right in my life and got myself noticed by an amazing company filled with amazing people. It made me proud to do what I was: helping out a company and having some input into their community. I remember exactly the day it happened, too.
It was September of 2010, my second PAX. Some of the community decided that we were going to have a meet up. Hang out, eat dinner and socialize in person instead of through the Internet. It was an amazing experience and I will never forget it. The community manager at the time approached me and thanked me for putting together this dinner, and asked me if I wanted to be a mod. Without hesitation, I said “YES!”
This company had been around for just a few years, and they were starting to become prominent. They had only made a few games, but the ones they’d done were just right. The community was starting to blossom. We had an amazing community manager, one who cared a lot about the forums and the people there. The company really started to embrace its fans and we loved every second of it. Hence the aforementioned dinner.
The thing with video game companies though is that they are constantly in flux. Staff changes, new designers, and the sort. Even for a small company, the turnover was no different. In time we got a new community manager. The old one had quit over the mistreatment of an employee, who was one of the best employees the company had ever hired. She was outgoing and always ready to listen to the fans. News of her leaving left us all devastated and heartbroken. With the Community Manager also leaving, we were at a loss.
This marked the end of an era. By the time I had headed to the next PAX, there was a new community manager. He was new and really ambitious. It’s a good sign to be eager to help out fans and get input. He was the one so impressed with my skill of organizing a small event that he gave me mod powers. Now you might think, “Mod? Man, you get to edit people’s comments, delete posts, and be the boss on the Internet!” At least that’s what some people think when you tell them that you’re a moderator on a company’s forum. That’s not as close to the truth as you might think. Mostly, my duties persisted of cleaning out spam bots, settling arguments between forum members, and sometimes banning somebody. It’s more keeping order than being a policeman.
Let’s fast forward a year or two. Things at the company had started to slow down, a few more games were released, and the community manager fell out. He still worked for the company, but he was assigned a new role. With him too busy with his new duties to manage the mod team, we fell into the hands of the customer support lead. Over the next several months, the company became a PR Police State. We were required to put a disclaimer in our signatures that we were moderators, not staff, and our posts didn’t reflect the opinions of the company. It became standard procedure to handle any controversy by remaining silent until it blew over. And all of this during the time when the company was releasing its biggest game to date and stirring up trouble by missing release dates. It was a nightmare.
All of this mess was going on when PAX Prime 2012 came around. I was close friends with one of the other mods, and we decided that this was the year to go to PAX together. Now, if you’ve never been to PAX, if you’ve only heard about it through articles and the sort, it is the most amazing experience ever; fans interacting with developers, seeing all the new games coming out. Of course, this company was there as well, and that’s where my personal feelings for the company left with out a trace. We were told that we were getting a new site, with a new forum. The old site was a mess, and we were excited to think that as mods, we were going to play an important part in the company’s history. Our input would be among the most important. At least, that’s how they made it seem.
A couple of months after PAX, the moderators were invited to a private beta of the site, and it came with a host of problems. The layout didn’t work. Nobody liked the comment system. In truth, it was a mess. We made our opinions known, and they fell on deaf ears. A few months after that, a public beta was launched. Yet again, it received negative feedback. It was built around an architecture that nobody wanted and nobody needed, and everything else was neglected. Yet again, the feedback fell on deaf ears. At this point in time, it had occurred to me that I had fallen out of love with the company. Nothing they did made me happy. There was no feeling of joy, and when I would hear their name it just made me groan.
I had finally come to the decision that I was going to leave my position as a moderator. I made the decision to leave and never look back. Even though I am no longer a moderator I still have friends I made there, some of them very close friends. It was hard to let go of such a place, where at one point I had spent hours upon hours cleaning up the boards and making friends, only to leave it in the dust. The truth was that the thing I had loved and taken care of was long dead. Only a few things remained that reflected what it once was. I had made friends during my tenure as moderator, and gotten email addresses, screen names, and Steam friends from my time there. I would still keep in contact with the people who made the forum what it was.
I never regret my time being a moderator, not one bit. It was a learning experience, and if any readers get the chance to do it, I say go for it! Just keep in mind that things are in a constant flux, and everything will change and we can only hope it changes for the better and not the worse.
Edit: I wrote this on my personal website, that is the main reason why I left the companies name out of this.