Thursday, January 21, 2016

Building and Growing a Community

Back in mid-November of last year, there was an interesting post over at the WGC Infinity Facebook Group.  It read like this:

"I'd like to talk about Community Growth.  I'm the table top guy at a shop in Richmond, VA and we have a small but tight Infinity group that I'd like to make much larger because we have the space to run HUGE events and I love the game.  What helped you guys grow your communities?"  -  Mike DeBolt

This was an amazing post that sparked a huge amount of discussion.  Discussion, not arguments, debates or complaints, but honest, true and helpful discussion on the topic.

See?  The internets can be nice sometimes...

Let me start out by saying that Mike here asked a question that must be asked in every every gaming community, no matter what game it is.  Let me emphasize something here...


I don't care if you ask it locally, within a helpful online community like Mike did, or whatever, but it must be asked.  If we aren't asking how to grow our communities, then quite frankly we probably don't care about growing out communities.

So how did I answer it?

Be enthusiastic without being overbearing. New players can becomes overwhelmed by even the best of intentions and it's a delicate balance.

Be thankful of the store you play in. Encourage your players to spend money at that shop and to not chat about online retailers while playing. Don't just plan ahead for you and your players, but for the store's schedule as well.

Don't knock or be disrespectful of other games, communities, blogs, podcasts, etc., around your community. You don't know where your players are coming from, and Infinity as a whole has an amazingly supportive and *intentional* spirit about it.

Be intentional. Intentionally courteous, intentionally organized, intentionally helpful, and intentionally willing to sacrifice your own play to run events, demos and tournaments.

Always answer questions, even from people who aren't playing the game at that time. They may have just bought that PanO starter yesterday and you didn't know it.

Be willing to shoulder a decent amount of the Terrain load of your store doesn't have any. Be it MDF from any of the manufacturers, or you get all crafty with foam core, get terrain together, paint it and learn to set up tables.

Those are just my thoughts partway down the insane amount of great answers from all kinds of folks within the group.  Let me cherry-pick some others that I really loved as well...

"Set up a weekly event. Stick to it. Run growth leagues. Be positive and don't gain say other games. Infinity stands on its own merit and people see that." - Joel Traveller

"Do your best. Don't be afraid to stumble, fall, and then Climbing Plus your way out of any unexpected pitfalls." - Karl-Christian Vanmoerkerque

"Get the word out, flyers, word of mouth, go on community Facebook pages and spread the word, don't spam but let them know you are running a demo day, or 200 point beginner event. If the store doesn't have a demo set of Infinity, ask them to order one for display purposes. just be sure to show enthusiasm, smile don't talk badly about the other games. That can be the biggest thing i can stress, even if you were burned just make sure to ask question, interact with the person and use his/her name often so they are shown you payed attention. Keep eye contact, let them ask questions and respond as clear as possible." - Nestor A. Medina Jr.

"Focus on small parts of the game that allow people to learn sub sections of the game and just get out there and have fun. As everyone sees your group having fun, it will generate interest and you'll pick up more along the way." - Chris Kornfeld

"If you haven't...make a group site for your area...have a pizza night grin emoticon give a slice a pizza to anyone that plays a demo." - Nestor A. Medina Jr.

"A lot goes into building a community. The biggest items on that list? Patience, Positivity, and Pleasantness.

Don't rush building the community. Start off small with your friends and, as people come over to ask what you are playing show them the game, offer to run some demos, and be cordial and open.

Run events for new players and vets alike. Do training scenarios to get newer players used to specific rules or rulesets and have tournaments and non-ITS events for the veterans that the newer players can dip their toes into if they choose.

Be consistent and present. Don't be late to your own events without someone who can cover for you. Schedule events far enough in advance that players can adjust schedules.

Don't be negative. This includes trash-talking other game systems. Don't present Infinity as an alternative solution to another game. Infinity has enough merit to stand on its own.

Be inclusive. If vets want to help, incentivize it and give them due credit. You can't be everywhere all at once so use the experienced players to your advantage (or the energy and excitement of new players who, once they know the base rules, often make very good demoers." - Kevin Dickens

"Just make sure people are having fun.

Some portion of your players LOVE INFINITY and they are going to play it no matter what. Maybe they love the models, the competition, whatever, they will find you and they're here to stay. Just keep scheduling events and you're good.

Another portion of your players are never going to be Infinity players (at least not long term) and your challenge is not to spend any more time on them than necessary. My go to line is 'Infinity's not for everyone, you have to play the game that's right for you'.

The middle 60% is where you live, and this group just wants a good time. Seriously, I spend most of my time running an event just watching to see if people are having fun. I will probably never run a 4 round tournament in Atlanta ever again. Yeah, I've got some die-hard competitors who don't like the math on a 3 round tournament, and I don't blame them a bit, I don't like that math either. " - Mark Manlapas

"The secret to getting new players to stick is your other community members. As long as you cover the basics, the game basically sells itself. But, the real reason players will stick around is because they enjoy gaming (and hanging out) with other members of the community. You have to be willing to cull bad apples and convince the others around you to set positive examples and play "the right way". Players come for the game but stay for the community. It takes a village, etc." - Kyle Wilkerson

"Be active on local gaming forums, in the 'General Minis' section if there isn't one for Infinity. Work with the LGS owner, but don't be pushy. Be prepared for possible push-back from players who end up not liking the game - it happens, but don't let it get you down and don't let it ruffle your feathers." - Tim Steed

"I would also say that when you are playing a game and someone starts asking questions, take the time to explain to them what is happening and why. The more you draw them in the more they'll want to play. I've sold the game to more than one individual just by engaging them in conversation while playing." - Michael Edwards

...and that's really not even half of the contributors, comments and advice that was given in that thread.  If you'd like to read it all, GO HERE.

Please, go read it all.  It's more than worth it.  Yes, it's very Infinity-centric, but it all applies for whatever you are trying to grow within your local community.  After all folks, this ain't a game of Solitaire.  We play these games with people, and honestly every single one of the very best friends I have to this day, I've faced across a table at one point or another.

- Tim