Not too long ago, a post was put up where an individual felt frustrated about a lack of communication from me in regards to a problem they were having. This person, understandably frustrated with the situation they were dealing with, was someone that I communicated with over months and months to a sum total of over a dozen responses. This was in relation to a problem that was happening between players in the DR Network.
When this post went up, I was incredibly insulted. I spend roughly 4 hours a day responding to what people need from me (not counting actual production time for books and resources). For the past 6 years Ashley and I have all but dedicated our entire lives to ensuring that things work as best as they can for a number of interests we oversee.
I then came to the realization that players, who often time only see their own localized bubble, don’t grasp the full body of the network they are a part of. It isn’t something bad or wrong that they have done, however, with each group having a territory of over a hundred miles and some chapters not currently having neighbors, players can sometimes get tunnel vision in regards to not only what degree of response they should get but also their own ‘urgency’ in the network as a whole.
To try and help with this concept, I made some shitty artwork. This took about a minute to make, and it shows in the details, but it really drives the point home. See, there is only 1 person who is the originator and primary genre material resource for Dystopia Rising. That person is me. There is only one person who oversees all network, software, legality, and business operations. That person is Ashley. In the network under us are a number of directors who we have approved to be a part of the network. These individuals run localized businesses under the guidelines, mechanics, and genre materials we provide.
That concept is a little abstract for people to grasp, so here is a simplified version. Like Retrogrades, genre materials, world setting, and the system design where one person can’t go solo? Yep, that’s me. You like the fact that this network exists due to the fact that a team of lawyers, accountants, promotions managers, writers, graphic designers, and software engineers are organized and invested in to make the network better? Yeah, that’s Ashley.
And with the volume of work and the dedication we have put into this, we often times are very demanding of our directors. Directors need approval for the way they operate their chapter, the growth of the business, the application of genre and mechanical concepts, as well as to follow material and production guidelines produced by the network as a whole. Directors promote their own game, operate their own localized business, and are awarded limited rights to use trademarked and copy written materials that Ashley and I own.
Every director has a staff of volunteers who receive different degrees of compensation for their time and effort. The vast majority of these volunteers do little more in regards to time investment at the event than a standard player does (6 hour marshal shift instead of 4 hour NPC shift, assisting with setup and breakdown before and after the event etc) and has a degree of responsibility in the downtime to help their fellow player. Most volunteer staff are chosen from the sort of people that *would be doing most of this anyways*. Helpful and caring people who just want a better community and a better game for everyone, who are rewarded for that degree of assistance.
Then we have standard players. In the network we currently have about 3,000 active members between 10 active games (not counting the 2 new chapters who are ready to go who have not had a game yet or the 20 + applications for next year’s processing).
With this entire structure now laid out in front of you, the idea of response time (and to a degree, the sense of entitlement to fast responses) from individuals in the network as a whole needs to be put into perspective. If you ask a question straight to the top, much in the American tradition of ‘I didn’t like the burger I got, get the manager up here’ then your response time is going to become slower and less often. At the head of the network there are two people that produce all of the resources and primarily train and work with directors so that the directors can train volunteers to assist the network.
If you are looking for a response from your director, again, you need to give a little bit of time for your responses. In a larger game where there are 250+ people an event, you are looking at dozens and dozens of people trying to get a response directly from the director while the director is trying to organize, train, and assist their volunteer staff.
Also, with this all now put into scale, I shouldn’t have to say that common courtesy and politeness in regards to addressing an issue or contacting a staff member should be in order. While you may only be emailing for the first time, and may not realize you are being curt, the fact of the matter is that most staff members answer hundreds of emails a week… and not all gamers are the most socially adept people.
So here is my closing advice:
People want to, for the most part, be helpful. The volume of help, and the willingness to help, is directly in relation to the involvement the individual has in regards to the person asking for help as well as the mental, emotional, and physical ability for the helper to provide assistance. When someone is running a game, or volunteering, often times in the downtime these individuals are trying to handle all of the other aspects of life which allow them to continue to host and provide a localized game. These people have their own stresses, concerns, and work to take care of both involving and not involving game. So when you contact these people, you need to understand that they are not a resource for your immediate use. These are people, who are volunteering to help at a game, and you are asking them to do something for you when not at game.
Also, it also means the higher up you are going the less communication you are going to get. When you get to the point of Ashley and I, we are working on materials publications and ensuring that new chapters have all the tools they need to be a success like our other chapters. We are trying to keep ourselves as humans while working 80+ hour work weeks in our dream jobs. We are captaining a ship and making sure that no storm ever sinks all of us. So Ashley and I aren’t as available to handle one on one situations with every player, no matter how much love we have for the network and the people in it.
So no matter the community you are in, no matter what game you play, just remember that you are talking to people. If a community is a success, chances are good there are people who are assigned to handle specific details to lighten the load for everyone. Please don’t be insulted when you are asked to follow guidelines for asking for something, or, when someone other than the person on the top takes care of it.
Everyone is working towards the same goal: happier people with less time invested into negativity. However, to achieve anything like that, an individual needs to be empathetic to the whole picture instead of just their own part. If you start your communication with statements such as 'You did..' or '..a travesty' or other forms of negativity, chances are good that no matter how little of negativity you put on your tone you may be the 45th asshole to treat a volunteer with less respect than they deserve. Unless there is a actual travesty, such as your face being lit on fire and then put out using live kittens, don't be a melodramatic schmuck. Be nice. They used to say that 'the squeaky wheel gets the grease'. In this day and age I think of it more along the lines of 'the pleasant voice gets listened to'.