Community Holidays & Smart Virtual Worlds…

It’s holiday time – twice in a week too! First the leprechauns, then the bunnies.

Anyway… if you’re interested in the elements that make a great/successful community, check out the life in Club Penguin & Buildabearville. Both are having holiday-events. Of course it helps that it’s Spring Break time, but regardless, the worlds are humming with life and awesomeness.

easter-egg-hunt-club-penguin.jpg

Perhaps I’m just picky, but I honestly think you cannot have a healthy, uber-strong sense of citizenship in your youth-based virtual worlds WITHOUT acknowledging real world excitement. I am consistently impressed by the thriving movement of the community in Club Penguin– they’re very good about giving their users the tools to play, instead of dictating to the users the play. Kids are actually forming their own civilization under the eyes of the moderators & site runners (I know there are several of you readers that worry about the chat system in CP or dislike Disney as a whole… I’ll leave that convo for another day).

Buildabearville is really chugging along as well. They’re still a bit stiff, but that’s because they’re young. Their atmosphere, although pretty, is a bit tight.  It’s difficult to get a sense of elbow room. Users will get used to their environment, if they haven’t already (with a couple mill users, me thinks they’re doing just fine).  Once they open up chat so free kids aren’t default “pre written text”, kids will start acting a little more like a community instead of a classroom. They’ve really built a balance of gaming vs collecting vs community– allowing such things as trading, color customization, questing, adventuring, and single-player & multi-player games that lean as much boy-oriented as they do girl.

Moshi Monsters, still in Beta, gave the audience/community a chance to build their own holiday– monster based holiday– and then supported it with contests and User Generated Awesomeness.

Nicktropolis actually also has a great new community-event function – a community quiz based around the shows, supporting the nominees of KCA. A bit like Musical Chairs with a hint of Pub Quiz… it’s great fun. It was nice to see something that allowed for change (quiz questions changing up, keeping track of points) other than typical roaming rooms with the same set animations.

Being the community chick I am – events are my favorite. Tis a great time to work in this field! Offering dreams & imagination & ever-living stories, and then putting forth the effort to bring some respect & excitement in real time– basically providing just a bit of an approval to “keep on dreaming, keep on playing, we’ll make it real, you just think it up!” It’s great~!!!!!

Happy Easter you folks who celebrate it, and happy Spring weekend to the rest of you (now if only the snow would leave some of ya’ll alone)!

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  1. Scott Arpajian
    March 22, 2008 at 2:24 am

    Hi Izzy! I couldn’t agree more. I encourage you to check out Dizzywood’s egg hunt as well. Ours has an interesting twist: once kids find the eggs we’ve hidden in the game, they then get their own set of eggs as a reward. They can then self-organize their own “egg hunts” with friends. Dizzywood has “droppable” items that kids can place in the world and other kids can interact with. We’re trying to take this approach with all of our events–create a strong entertaining story-driven event, and then extend it in such a way that the kids can take it over and make it repeatable on their own.

  2. Janet
    March 25, 2008 at 2:24 pm

    … “under the eyes of the moderators & site runners”, I was pretty disappointed that I was not able to find any such moderator on club penguin to help me. To answer simple questions. The site did not seem to have ‘real’ members.

  3. March 25, 2008 at 3:59 pm

    I know it seems like mods should be at your call at any moment– but they’re moderating. Mods encourage parents & kids to email, use their “contact” information (at the bottom – yes, probably an unseemly place, but alas, that’s the real estate most offer for something is more “out of world” and less involved with game play. You can report any interaction via the moderator shield, the whistle on the panel, or by clicking a child. Otherwise, questions should be sent to moderator managers.

    Most mods are not just idling roaming the site. Sure, there might be a few here and there, but for the most part– they’re behind the scenes.

    I totally used to live under the idea that mods should be front & center. Being a mod myself, I found it uber important to make yourself visible at all times. The problem for club penguin is– with three versions of club penguin (US, UK, Can) and twenty some servers each– that’s a lot of face time to be split up 24/7. Especially when there’s management going on– dealing with CONSTANT user-to-user reports (kids tattle at the drop of the hat, and they don’t just tattle once for one small– or big– infraction, but 5 to 10 times), as well as reading chat logs– all the chat going on in a server(s), screening names, doing customer service– scalability alone is tremendous. It’s like trying to stop a Ref in the middle of a kid’s soccer game to ask how to play.

    Now, I don’t work for Club Penguin, or Disney, and I do agree that there could be better methods of allowing parents to interact with staff (of some sort) OVER ALL– not just CP.

    Knowing the various roles of a screener (reading logs, screening names, dealing with membership customer service, etc), what kind of addition would you like to see, as a parent, places like Club Penguin offer? There are a lot of people who read this in the biz, and by offering up some ideas, it might help change some policies…. 🙂 Thanks for commenting, Janet.

  4. March 25, 2008 at 4:00 pm

    p.s. if you want to see a virtual environment where the mods are up front and center — check out Xivio.com. They have screeners/mods visible and hanging out at all times (kinda like late 90’s chat rooms). And their mods are uber nice.

  5. March 26, 2008 at 12:21 am

    Hello Izzy,

    I have worked both the frontlines as a moderator with in game moderators/community leads, and on the back-end where moderation is a very quiet, passive role with no direct access to the community.

    There are definite challenges and advantages to both sides of this argument. On the one hand, if the leads stay in the background it allows for a large portion of the community to figure out issues on their own, thereby giving them a sense of pride of learning game play, culture, etc by themeselves.

    On the other hand, helping new guests along, answering technical issues, assisting them in game behavior can make for a quicker, easier blend in to the community. It also opens up the door for future “star members” to shine and pass this behavior on when they meet new guests.

    As for body count, you are spot-on. It is close to impossible to staff a product to answer all calls/questions/issues in any product. We all have to wait in line at information desks, restaurants, even at the police station!

    That’s not to say that things cannot be done better, and speaking on behalf of someone that thrives on growing communities, watching them ebb and flow, grow strong, I love to see new users come up with fabulous ideas to pass on the good news, help teach other guests how to behave, etc.

    This is all new to us all and it’s so exciting to watch come to fruition!

  6. March 26, 2008 at 12:30 am

    Jennifer, you’re awesome. Thanks for chiming in. woot.

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