So, it occurs to me I have things to say, things people potentially (I might be kidding myself here) might want to hear. So, let’s lay this all down, shall we?
I used to admin StreetPass San Diego, a (at the time) large gaming group. As I, myself, am, it was Nintendo focused, and I spent my 13 months as an admin building a reasonably-sized, loosely-knit group into an amazingly large community. I left for personal reasons (that should read I really could no longer stand to be around two of the other admins, but I’ll spare the drama-related bullshit and foul words for other people – this blog is about the group, after all…), but I miss and still love the group dearly. I forged some amazing friendships and bonds and made some great professional relationships, as well, all from something stemming from me and one of my best friends simply looking for people to play Mario Kart 7 with.
Episode 1: Community
Next week’s episode: When doves cry
One of the factors that made my work as an admin so successful was that I put a huge emphasis on community. When I joined the group as an admin, it was clique-y, people separated into people they already knew (or wandered around by themself) and only intermingled during tournaments, which were a long string of Mario Kart 7 tournaments, monthly. A huge amount of people revolved every month, so many new people kept coming, and didn’t return, unless of course, their friends also returned.
I’m not sure why, at the time, this didn’t bother anyone else, because it seems to me a successful group has, well, members that keep coming. After some initial thought, I realized: people were just coming for free things.
It’s not uncommon, and likely even standard practice, for StreetPass groups to have a raffle. StreetPass groups often receive freebees for promotional purposes; to give away to help promote that entity (the game, the store, etc.) Rarely, it would be bought by the admins, but most often, it was donated. The culture surrounding this is flawed… while some sponsorship occasionally is a great thing, and it can entice new people to join the group and reward people for coming, having raffles every meet up or event is toxic.
Why? After every raffle at StreetPass San Diego, without fail, over half the attendees would leave. Sometimes as many as 2/3 of them. What kind of group is created that people are just showing up for free things? One of the better parts of StreetPass San Diego, is for some time, many participants would donate to the raffle – this was especially true during the height of the sense of community (around April 2014). But when people are only showing up for free swag, the chance of creating a successful community drops significantly.
What I am not advocating is eliminating freebees and raffles entirely – these are an important tool. Especially when they’re relevant to the nature of the event – SPSD had a number of freebies for its December 2013 event, which weren’t advertised. The people showed up to celebrate the theme (which was the Year of Luigi in this case), showed some loyalty and love to Mr. Green Stache, and were rewarded. Freebies should be surprises, raffles shouldn’t be the only reason people come. Most of the people from December continued to come back, partly because of this. The rest of it was the sense they belonged in this community – more of which I’ll touch upon later. Unfortunately, the culture behind the scenes kept me from doing anything major to upset the status quo, and it continues as far as I am aware. A mad drive for “sponsorship” and a disgusting need for it are a small part of the reason I left.
In closing, and simply put: I love Nintendo. I always have and always will, and I ran Streetpass San Diego for that reason. And I wanted to share that love, and help bring other people together to share that common interest. And I think I did a great job of that — Streetpass San Diego, in large part to my hard work, because one of, if not the largest Nintendo gaming groups in the country. It’s a shame others got in the way.