Updated: Jul 14
Base membership is one of the most useless numbers in gaming communities. Sure, a high base can encourage folks to join, but it can also discourage others interested in being a part of an elite, exclusive group. A high base can also tell people that your team has been around a while and has experience. But if your turnover is high, a high base can suggest you have problems holding onto your people. The only number worth watching is active members. Proportional Realities of Gaming Communities There are two types of gaming communities: open and closed. An example of an open community is the Hell Let Loose Training Camp (or HLLTC). The HLLTC's mission is to act as a positive, highly-inclusive first point-of-contact for players new to HLL. Our goal is to connect players to the game and each other through training, advanced team play, and a wholly pro-game, pro-dev, pro wider community experience. We then encourage players to seek out and learn about other HLL teams that might best suit them. A lot of players stay, of course, but even more casually move on. It's a good system, and it works for us. But our turnover is about 90 to 95 percent after a community stay of about one month. Closed communities may operate on the same principles (inclusive, pro-dev, etc), but closed communities typically rely on direct recruiting rather than an open-door policy to grow their base memberships. While an open door lets anyone of any skill level join, direct recruiting focuses on talent and player demeanor and generally avoids new or inexperienced players. So, an open community like the HLLTC may have a large base membership, but closed communities like the HLL faction of 7Cav, for example, have a much higher proportion of active members. Interestingly, the two teams have about the same number of active players, but you get the point. The One Key to Growing Your Gaming Community Retention. Retention is everything in gaming communities. If you can retain your members, you wildly improve the chances of fielding a highly competitive, capable team. Bottom line: the more your people play together, the better they get. They begin to read one another's minds, so to speak. You can't train that. It comes with time and tons of team play. But time and tons of teamplay can only happen with retention. The HLLTC, for example, has low retention, but we haven't lost a single member of our core ever. . . Many in our core (i.e. our HLL support team) have several hundred hours playing together. Because of this, we now boast some of the absolute best players in HLL, and we are, without exaggeration, one of the best teams in Hell Let Loose. And you can be, too. Here's how:
1) Be patient but progressive 2) In-game, only extend an invitation to players you like
3) Have 3 to 5 basic rules, backed by in-depth policy
4) Have a simple rank structure and promotions platform to start
5) Modify or expand everything but only as needed
The best place to recruit directly is in a public server (HLL Official). Though you may have your own gaming server(s) and want to keep them seeded while at the same time playing with your friends, dedicate off-hours to playing with "randos" in the public-server sphere. But don't just spam your links in chat or solicit your squad or teammates. Put in the work. Inspire interest through great gameplay. Show those randos who you are and what your team is all about by being awesome. If a player shows interest or you guys are just clicking, only then do you extend an invitation to check out your camp. 4 out of 5 will take it.
As a rule, the HLLTC does not recruit in privately-run servers, and you shouldn't either. Inter-team relations are important for you and the wider HLL community. Be respectful.
When a potential member enters your camp, greet them warmly, and then inform them of your camp's 3 to 5 bedrock rules. These rules should meld with your camp's unique quality or character. In the HLLTC, we ask members to 1) Be kind, 2) Be patient, and 3) Lead by example. We also ask that members have a mic and connect their Discords to their Steam accounts, but the most practical additional rules we have are all about jumping directly into a game with us. We ask new members to check out our "current-servers" channel in Discord to see on which servers and sides we're playing, and we ask them to respect Comms Etiquette (no talking in Discord while in-game). Your team/camp policies allow you to be much more involved, but these easy-to-understand basics get them in-game and connecting with you and your people fast. If these new members like you and want to stay, they will almost certainly want to rank up. Your camp policy is a great place to post ranks and roles. Ranks and roles should have clearly-defined expectations and duties (if any) but also details on how you promote. I recommend a nomination and vote system, balanced against gaming frequency and level of activity in Discord over time. What you're looking for is confirmation that one or another candidate is indeed the right fit for your community. Finally, modify and expand everything you have but only as needed. One of the HLLTC's unofficial mottos is those who play together, stay together. Another of our camp's unofficial mottos is "measured steps." Your primary focus as a gaming community is the gaming experience. It's very easy to expand too fast and ask too much. This can stress your base and lead members to burn-out. Keep the gaming experience first and foremost in your mind, and you'll be fine.
Have fun with it, GOD-sSs-END (aka David Allen Farrell) Gaming Community Management Consultant