Dec 19, 2011

Exclusive: Interview With Regina Buenaobra

As the title suggests, we were recently given the honor of our first interview with Arena Net. Specifically community manager Regina Buenaobra. On behalf of the whole team here at Vigilant Fans I'd like to thank Regina and her co-workers for taking time out of their very busy schedules to answer these questions and wish them all a Merry Christmas and a happy new year! The interview in all its glory follows.

Vigilant Fans Blog – Interview with ArenaNet Community
Manager Regina Buenaobra

Q: Some MMOs provide a central forum to aid the whole community in congregating when offline. From there, players can discuss topics, share information, and branch out to fan recommended sites. Has your team ever considered an official forum to centralize a hub for the community? If not, why so?

Regina: A community manager looking at the prospect of managing a community for a new product considers many options, regardless of whether one is a community manager for a videogame company or a company that has nothing to do with games. I think it’s key to understand, as a community manager, that if a community is hosted on an official site of some kind, there will always exist a network of communities outside of the officially hosted community.

Q: Within the community (Facebook, Twitter, and other official ArenaNet spaces), conversations can be inappropriate or become heated at times. How do you decide when to respond and when not to, when to delete and when not to as well as maintaining as much free speech as possible?

Regina: Knowing how and when to respond (or not respond at all) comes with experience. After a while of being in the trenches as a community manager, you develop instincts that help you make decisions like this.

On the second point, I think people who are social on the internet (and this includes games) should understand that freedom of speech and expression doesn’t mean freedom from consequence. If a community member is being abusive on our page on Facebook because he disagrees with a game mechanic, we have every right to delete his comment, and—depending on the severity of his offence—to ban him from our page in order to keep our community discussion at a high level of quality and respect for everyone. If you’re invited into someone’s home for a party and you start swearing at her and abusively insulting her choice in decorations, she has every right to kick you out of her house in order to keep her party’s atmosphere nice and welcoming for all of her guests. The same goes for online communities of all kinds.

Healthy communities attract more people to participate and engage and do cool, creative things. People who abuse, disrespect, and harass other members discourage this kind of engagement and actually push people away, driving community engagement levels down, making people drop out, and making the space uncomfortable for anyone who isn’t also an abusive jerk. That’s not the kind of atmosphere we want to encourage in our communities.

Q: How often are the community pages under ArenaNet’s moderation? Do you also follow along/post when not at work?

Regina: It’s hard to give a specific answer on this one because I don’t track the hours I spend keeping an eye on our brand pages on Facebook. All I can say for sure is that I’m there regularly. Community managers are available for any emergency issues, but we are encouraged to keep a good work/life balance and not spend all of our free time working on the forums or monitoring our Facebook brand pages. It may seem kind of odd that reading and posting on forums and official Facebook/Twitter accounts, but for community managers that’s part of what our job entails. And like everyone else, we take breaks and have weekends. :-)

Q: How do you imagine the Facebook page will change at launch? Do you think it will still be an active community?

Regina: The Guild Wars 2 page on Facebook is a key component of our overall social media strategy, and we will continue to engage with fans on that platform. As we have seen over the past few years, there are quite a lot of people who prefer to participate on Facebook rather than on traditional community spots like fan forums or fan blogs. I believe that our community on Facebook will continue to be active post-launch, though a good chunk of that is up to you and the rest of our fans on Facebook. :-)

Q: I’m sure you, like many of the other team members, will be playing the game upon release. What are a few of your personal favorite professions and aspects of the game?

Regina: At the moment I’m enjoying playing the guardian and the engineer. The best part of the game for me right now is just the intuitiveness of the dynamic events system and combat. You’ve probably heard this before, but a lot of the pain-points that I had with traditional MMO games, and even the original Guild Wars, are gone with Guild Wars 2.

Q: How much of a role have you had in testing Guild Wars 2? Do the community team members get to participate in the “all call” sessions? What has been your favorite moment so far in the times you have had to play?

Regina: Everyone in the company is invited to participate in scheduled testing. On the Community Team, we try to participate as much as our schedules allow. One of my favorite moments was during a recent session where the Marketing Team all decided to meet up together outside Divinity’s Reach. We all had characters of different levels, ranging from 3 – 15. At one point we were fighting this elite Oakheart in a level 10-12 area —a big challenge for lower-level characters. The combat was fast-paced, with people switching out of combat roles as-needed, and it was so much fun even though some of us were defeated A LOT!

Q: When you guys aren’t monitoring the community sites, what are you doing?

Regina: We act as advocates for players internally and help communicate and clarify information to our players externally. What our players see in public is only the tip of the iceberg.

We’re involved in strategy planning and community strategy gets integrated into the overall marketing strategy. Strategy planning involves in-depth research, prioritizing, and decision-making. And of course, at one point planning has to go into the nitty gritty of tactics, goals, and execution. It’s a lot of fancy talk for: we have plans for the future, but we can’t talk about that right now. :-)

Individually, Community Managers specialize in certain roles. For example, I am the point person for maintaining our English-language presences on social media and I coordinate initiatives and projects related to our social networks. St├ęphane Lo Presti specializes in wikis and he is the contact person for our player-run wikis as well as helping out with our internal wikis, which we use for documentation. Martin Kerstein is the team lead and has an overall responsibility for community strategy and making sure that the other team members have all the resources we need to be effective. We keep up to date on best-practices in our areas of expertise and community management as a profession.

An important aspect of what community managers do is to support the product they’re working on and coordinating with the other teams to make sure that our initiatives make sense. Let me give you an example from a social media angle, since that’s one of my roles. In the past, prior to revealing significant information about Guild Wars 2, sometimes the Community Team would help build anticipation for that information release by teasing screen shots or even hints on Twitter about that upcoming release. One specific example I can think of was when we posted photos on Twitter that showed off cross-profession combos shortly before we (as a company) released information about combat in Guild Wars 2. This kind of support is coordinated with Marketing and PR to synchronize with the information release itself, so that all the different elements work together.

ArenaNet Community Managers also maintain relationships with key members of fan communities like fansite admins and bloggers, as well as act as a point-of-contact for fan creators who wish to establish a working relationship with ArenaNet. We do things like coordinate interviews with fansites, just like this interview here. :-))

At ArenaNet, Community Managers act as producers and event planners for our conventions. These responsibilities include managing many projects, large and small, that have to do with the convention. A few examples: scheduling ArenaNet staff shifts on the show floor, all logistics for fan meets and parties, and having a bit of input on aspects like booth design and giveaways. When convention season rolls around, the Community Team gets very busy.

There are a bunch of other things we do behind the scenes, and almost every day for us is different, which is part of what makes our job so rewarding.

We'd like to once again thank Regina Buenaobra personally as well as everyone else at Arena Net who helped with this interview! We see this as a bold step for our Blog and hope to bring you many more exclusive interviews in the future!

1 comment:

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