Community Building 101
I have been meaning to write an article about community building for quite some time now but it always felt a bit too early. I never prided myself with the right amount of knowledge in order to be able to write such a piece, but I figured that since a lot of people have been asking me about it lately, it might just be the right time to produce one. With experience in running almost a hundred Netrunner events by now, including three National events among them, it most certainly feels like the right time for it.
With the help of Ian Witt (3N1GM4) who left notes on various parts of what I had originally wrote, this article was written with the purpose of giving some helpful insight in building, maintaining and generally running a Netrunner community. There will be straight up helpful hints but also stories to accompany various points made across this guide-of-sorts.
There is even a nifty synopsis at the end of it as well as a part where I go through all the important steps I personally go through in order to organize an event. I do suggest however that you read through the whole thing if you are serious about community building.
A little backstory
Becoming the “Leader” of your Community
Prizes and “The Store needs to make Money”
Separating Prize Pools
Keep People Engaged
Alternate Format Events
How Kelf Runs an Event
A little backstory
For me, the Netrunner journey begun when I moved to the Netherlands. First time abroad and all alone, my first try at meeting new people was through board gaming communities. It was not long before I entered a board game store in Rotterdam and Robert (who later became my best friend in the NL) asked me straight up “You got any Netrunner decks?” Little did I know that I was going to get myself into an emotional roller coaster ride for the next 5 years. A good ride of course.
The Netherlands community had stores organizing events all over the country, more specifically 3 cities that were 1 to 2 hours apart from each other. The country being small enough made it quite easy for people to travel from one city to another in order to play the game, but when it came to recurring casual nights, it was somewhat more difficult.
For the first few months I was involved with Netrunner, I saw how easily disorganized everything could be when organizers and store owners were trying to put events literally whenever they felt it was cool for them to have them. There were overlapping events and various other problems that quickly dismantled the interest for the game, since dwindling attendance numbers was one of the main effects this had on the game’s community.
It was when one of the main moderators of the Dutch Facebook group quit that my friend Robert picked up the responsibility of handling it and within a week also told me to help with the whole thing. Now, me being an organizing and socializing freak, I knew I had to make it right and try my best to make it a thing for the community, but also BY the community.
We started contacting store owners, solving issues with tournament date planning, made our own website with our own domain so that people can find information much easier and a whole lot more that I will be explaining below in this article.
The point of narrating this little backstory to you was to show you that organizing a community and doing things for it only needs one reason; love for the game. The love for the community and the people in it, will come as soon as you start doing things for the game and its community. You cannot justify doing things for people you do not know of course and nobody expects you to, but from my experience, people in Netrunner that I have helped organize things for, have been nothing but kind and amazing to me, so I would not expect any less in any other situation. From what I heard has happened in all other Netrunner communities worldwide, this is also the case.
So first and most importantly, you must love the game. You must love it enough, to want to see it grow.
If you are having any doubts about the game or anything like that, that is also fine, as long as you can suppress your concerns about it and not show them publicly. But we will come back to that later on.
Before you head out to do anything, you need to make sure you understand how a good event is ran. It is quite simple but it is always good to have the basics in the back of your mind just to be sure that you are doing the right thing. Here are some quick points that you need to take into account when organizing an event:
- Where and when you can have the event.
- Contact place owner (store/cafe) to make sure you can run the event on that date
- Organize it way in advance and prepare the necessary amount of information for players. It needs to be easily accessible.
- Advertise the event at least 2 weeks in advance. Sometimes you might do some last minute things, but take it from me, that is never a good idea.
- Make sure you have advertised the event on all social platforms that you know players of your area lurk on.
- Make sure you have everything ready for the day (prizes, hardware, tournament running software, snacks, etc.)
- Make sure you are there before the event actually starts. You never know what you might have to prepare last-minute.
- Make sure you keep on schedule and keep everyone happy in terms of tournament information (if someone asks about something, such as if and when there is going to be a lunch break).
- Make sure you have someone that is able to explain rules. Does not have to necessarily be you. If there is nobody to do that and it’s an event with only new people, then make sure you let people know that you are willing to help look things up.
These and many other things that could be more or less important (but are not coming to me just right now) are things you need to keep in mind when it comes to event organizing.
Becoming the “Leader” of your Community
Sometimes, it is all about taking initiative. However, just because you want to help, does not mean you are most definitely the right person or that you should be doing this alone. First and most important point on this, is that you should show respect to others that have done things for it already. If there is someone already trying to run things (regardless of if he or she is doing a good job on the matter) then you should be respectful and come in contact with that person with the purpose of trying to work things out for the community together.
I get it that some people are not the collaborative kind and work better alone, but when it comes to running a community for a game, you really have to be that kind of person, otherwise it will not really work out.
I am personally very good at working alone due to my job but when it came to community running, I realized I had to be a very different and way more sociable person. Try adjusting and learning from it yourself as it can be a very insightful experience.
Dutch Netrunner Nationals. A 4 years-long tradition that we have managed to keep going as one of the most fun Netrunner events to attend in Europe because of our fun pre-parties among other things.
So, taking initiative is the most important you need to take as soon as you are past discussing things with people already involved. This could come in the form of:
- Contacting stores and letting them know you want to run more events
- Contacting stores and letting them know you want to advertise the game more through various means that you are willing to help with creating
- Creating easy to use pages/platforms for people of the community to use when it comes to finding information on the game’s community (local or worldwide)
- Inform people in a timely manner about things through those pages/platforms
- and a whole lot more
Some will take the word “leader” as something wrong here, since as I just mentioned, you should not be doing this alone. However, it is very important that most things go by one person in the end of the day since it makes decision making for quite a few things much easier.
Take for example date planning for events. As soon as you have more than two people involved in that process, it becomes tiring and very time consuming due to people being unavalailable at certain times or other reasons. Running the Netrunner community is something that you are most probably doing in your very limited free time, so I am sure nobody wants to waste even more of that for silly uneeded things.
Some decisions are of course WAY more important than others and therefore require the opinions of more than one person, but most of the straight-up organizing decisions can be done by one person. Even if that person makes a couple mistakes, it is a game community and people just work around those mistakes for the moment and just learn how to do it better in the future.
Next page continues with Prizes and “The Store needs to make Money”.