As we ramp up to discuss more about what Playable Worlds is working on, we wanted to pull back the curtains a bit and give a little peek into who we are. In our first Playable Profile, Raph Koster interviews Playable Worlds’ Senior Community Manager, Danielle. They discuss community experiences, games, and more! Read on to meet Danielle!
Raph: So, this is a chance for us to start talking about some of the folks on the team and you are, of course, going to be one of the people that everybody outside of Playable Worlds sees most often.
Yeah, so I guess you should probably tell the world who you are.
Danielle: Yes, I probably should! I am Danielle, the Senior Community Manager at Playable Worlds. Well, I do a little bit of everything, but most of it at the moment is behind-the-scenes. I would describe my job as probably primarily to build up the community, communicate with all the players, and kind of be that middle person between the development team and the community so that we make sure that everyone is happy and we’re hearing what the community wants and what the development team can actually do.
R: And you’re not going to be Danielle to all of them, right? What’s your handle?
D: Oh yes! My public handle is VioletLight. So I actually chose that name originally when I was a game master on DC Universe Online. I could not figure out a name, and I was like well, I like the color purple and it sounded kind of superhero-esque. So that’s how it came to be!
R: Cool! And of course they can’t see you right now, but you’re wearing one of those cat ear headsets. And in this lighting, it actually looks a little violet even though I think it’s supposed to be pink.
D: Yeah! So it actually changes colors, so I did make it purple 😀
R: Cool! So you worked on DCUO. It sounds like you’ve probably got a long background in MMOs?
D: Yeah, you could say that. Let me see, how long has it been…over a decade now [laughs]. I’ve worked on, well besides DCUO, I’ve worked on PlanetSide 2 as a game master, I’ve worked a little bit with EverQuest and EverQuest II, Star Wars Galaxies, Free Realms, Clone Wars Adventures – those last two are actually my favorite games that I’ve worked on. And also as a social media manager on another MMO that’s currently in development.
R: Yeah, so why’d you end up in community management? I mean, I understand not just being a game master forever, it’s a very tiring job, but community management can also be pretty intense.
D: Yeah, and they’re similar in a lot of ways, too, because they’re both interacting with the community. I guess the main difference is being a game master, you’re kind of one of many and as a team you’re kinda of a voice. Rather than as a community manager, you’re more that one person and you’re being the voice for the community.
I actually really enjoy connecting with the players and interacting with people on the day-to-day. It is kind of weird because growing up I was very shy, nervous, and awkward. So, if you had asked me when I was a kid that I would end up being in this more public-facing role, I would not have believed it.
But I think that’s the beauty of games, that you can connect with people through screens, and it just makes you more comfortable and you’re meeting all these different people everywhere in the world. I just think it’s really cool!
R: Yeah, I’ve always said that to me games are like glue. They help us connect people in different ways.
D: Yeah, absolutely.
R: So what’s your ideal community? What is it that you shoot for as you work on cultivating a community?
D: In a perfect world, everyone would get along [laughs]. Ideally, we would be very inclusive, we want it to be a community that’s for everyone. So maybe we have people who have joined the community at the beginning and then they’re helping community members that maybe just popped in. So we want to kind of encourage people to have the initiative to help others and we’re all just a big almost…family I would say where we’re just really nice to each other and it’s a fun environment.
R: Yeah, it can be hard to get that going, right? I think it’s always a challenge – I say cultivate because you’re trying to build a particular culture, right? You’re not trying to shape and guide every individual but it’s a lot more like tending a garden or building a culture. That’s why I say cultivate because you want it to surprise you, don’t you. You want the community to do things that you didn’t expect, but that then you think are awesome.
D: Yes, exactly. I think my favorite thing is always seeing things that they create like, whether it’s art or like physical things they’ve created based off of the game or the thing that they’re really passionate about. It’s awesome.
R: Yeah, you know, I’ve been making MMOs a long time. I’ve got quite a collection of things that players have sent from fan letters to mugs to guild t-shirts, plushies, you name it. And you know, when people really get invested in something like that and put their passion into it, it’s just amazing to see.
D: Yeah, it really is. That’s why we do this, really.
R: Yeah! Can you name a favorite moment?
D: Oh I have so many! I do remember I was in-game, I don’t know if I was monitoring something, I don’t really remember those details. But I was in PlanetSide 2 and I happened to catch an engagement proposal. So someone made a broadcast and they proposed to their fiance in the game and I thought that was REALLY cool that you can share those moments with people in an online game.
R: Yeah one of my favorites, I actually saw something very much like this pop up as a meme on Reddit the other day, but I remember the first time it happened to us. Clear back on Ultima Online, we asked people to send in, you know, “why I play UO,” and we did a little contest. And one of the answers was actually from someone who was in a wheelchair. And they said, “Because I can run.”
And you know it sort of revealed the ways in which people use these games to, you know, explore and be in ways that just open up different possibilities, right? The family that was doing Thanksgiving dinners, because the husband was posted overseas in the military, and they did their Thanksgiving dinner around a virtual table.
D: That’s really cool, yeah.
R: Yeah, you know it’s those kinds of things that have always been my favorite kind of moments.
So we should ask some boring questions – what are your favorite games?
D: Oh, my favorite games. That’s always so hard to choose and then I’m like, do I want to share my favorite games from like the past, or what I currently like.
Yeah, so let’s see. First and foremost, I think Stardew Valley is actually one of my favorite games ever.
R: That’s a great game.
D: Yeah and it’s just so basic, right? Like there’s not a lot of crazy graphics, there’s a basic storyline, but you kind of do whatever you want. Like you can fish, you can farm, you can gather things for others…what are they called in that, villagers or townspeople? They always need something like an ingredient for a soup. Those kinds of games where it’s just like casual little tasks, I always really like those. Let me see, what other games. I really loved Horizon Zero Dawn.
R: Also a great game!
D: Yes, not only is it beautiful and the story is just fantastic. I really loved that it was a female lead in the game, which is kind of not common. So I just thought it was really cool. Plus she’s like a rebel, I love it.
R: And let’s see, what advice would you give for someone trying to break into games?
You know, one of the reasons why we’re doing this is to try to give folks who might be interested in our game, a bit of a glimpse of how the sausage is made. And I hope that over time we will actually be exposing way more of that kind of thing. Giving people a real behind-the-scenes glimpse, but it does start of course with getting into the game industry. How did you get into the game industry?
D: So it was kind of by chance, I was a young 18-year-old looking for a random job that would pay a little more money than say fast food or something, you know, like part-time. And my husband was working as a contractor as a GM on Vanguard and he mentioned there was a position opening up. So I applied, went through the process. I started out doing Playstation Home moderation, which was kind of boring, but then I hopped onto the Game Master train, and yeah!
R: Great! So you’re basically saying that your advice for others breaking in, would be to marry someone that’s already in or just get really lucky or…[laughs]
D: [Laughs] Well, he wasn’t my husband at that time, that’s probably helpful information. Yeah, so I think if you can try to get an entry-level job if you don’t really have any other skills or experience in the gaming industry, that’s a good way to do it and that’s why I did that. I think networking, if you can find some kind of event, like a lot of local groups like, what is that organization called, IG…
R: There’s a local IGDA chapter in San Diego, yeah.
D: Yeah yeah, IGDA, finding something like that. Connecting with people on Twitter or Linkedin. Just really talking to people and meeting people and hopefully trying to work your way in there. It’s not easy!
R: Yep that’s true. It does feel like, you know, getting into games is kind of like it used to be the dream that, you know, young folks would start a band in their garage. Now it’s go be an indie in the garage.
Well, thanks so much and I think from here forward, you’re going to start interviewing bunches of folks on the team, right? And giving a glimpse of the different types of jobs that exist and what people do. So yeah, looking forward to it!
D: Yeah, we have a lot coming up, I’m very excited to give a little behind-the-scenes look into what we’re working on and the people who work at Playable Worlds!
We hope you enjoyed this interview with Raph and VioletLight! Stay tuned for our next Playable Profile interview, featuring a member of our engineering team!