As promised, I’ll take some time to talk about the contest that’s currently in progress on The Secret World’s forums. This is an “epic forum event” that we’d been promised by the community managers for some time, and part of the payoff for the ARG I’d mentioned. The theme running throughout the contest is #IAMTSW (which soon morphed into #WEARETSW); this idea that we are the ones who make the game what it is, so let’s share our experiences.
There are a few things the community and its community managers are doing for this contest that make me more excited than I usually get about forum contests.
For one, they’ve made a point of ensuring that by the time the last round of the contest is announced, everyone who wants to participate will have had a chance. What I mean by this, is that they’ve structured the contest in a way that appeals to a wide variety of players (solo, group, PvP, PvE, RP, and so on) and also a wide variety of creative talents. So far we’ve had an audio round, a screenshot round, and the latest to be announced is the cosplay round. We’ve had hints and teases that future rounds may involve writing and video-making. Taking the time to craft so many different rounds was a stellar way to make sure as many folks as possible can participate.
The individual rounds have also been kept open in such a way that they invite different interpretations. In the audio round, we’ve had players discussing the game, a well done piece about negative space and how that relates to the story and structure in TSW, and numerous in-character pieces from our RP groups. Folks have spoken from a PvE and PvP point of reference. Some pieces have used voice effects or text-to speech, and some are simple voice. We have planned skits and off-the-cuff comments and everything inbetween.
Speaking of participation, I’ve noticed that the theme of everyone joining in has been more present than just the “I wanna win” theme of most contests I’ve seen. Don’t get me wrong; they’ve got some lovely prizes that will be given out by both the company and by player-run cabals and groups; but the theme I keep seeing come up is one of coming together as a community and sharing what we’ve created. You can see this in both the feedback on the forums and in other ways. Soon after the audio round began, a player posted a list of advice for better audio quality and later, another player posted yet another guide to help folks out. Despite this being a contest for prizes, it feels more like the FanPages & FanArt thread decided to have a party and invited everyone to join in. 🙂
With this emphasis on community and sharing coming from all sides, it makes the contest a very comfortable place to try new things. I’m speaking from my own experience, here. For those who don’t realize this, I really don’t know much about recording excellent audio. Yeah, I’m on the BTV podcast and friends’ livestreams often enough, but I’m not the one checking levels or editing the show later. I also haven’t yet taken the time to RP with the community even though I think they do some very impressive things. I blogged some thoughts about that a while back, actually. With those two things in mind, I still went ahead and recorded an in-character piece for the audio contest. It was tempting to weasel out after I’d had the idea – I was probably not going to do the greatest job, after all. What swayed me over was knowing that we have the kind of community where things would be ok even if it didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to. Where a forum contest would normally invite a sort of, “Well, I’ll never win so why risk making a fool of myself?” response, this contest, and community, encouraged me to try something completely out of my normal comfort zone, and learn something new.
The submissions to each round have also had folks sharing some very personal experiences and making themselves very vulnerable in the process. We’ve had people meet and relationships begin in game, we have players whose experiences in game and with the community helped them through some serious crap in their lives. That folks would feel safe opening up and sharing those stories speaks volumes about the kind of community we have. And it brings me back to that sense of, “We’re coming together to share what we love,” that I notice during this contest.
We’ve got the cosplay round coming up and I have a couple ideas for that. My entry isn’t going to be professional quality, but I’m ok with that. I’m going to do the best I can with what I have, I’m going to have fun with it, and I’m going to feel good contributing to what’s become more important as a place for the community to come together over their love of the game than just a simple contest. Bravo to our community and our community managers for this event and the way it’s playing out. 🙂