Saturday, August 10, 2019

Gaming Communities in the Absence of Google Plus: Where Are They?

It's been quite a while since Google Plus shut down, and in its absence, it seems the vibrant community of gamers, particularly those of so-called old-school games and their retro-clones (OD&D, B/X, 1E, Labyrinth Lord, OSRIC, Swords & Wizardry, B/X EssentialsLamentations of the Flame Princess, and way too many others to list...) fragmented quite a bit.

I used to enjoy going onto Google Plus, where I was a combination "lurker" and "infrequent commenter and sharer" and seeing what was happening in the gaming community, and what ideas people were sharing. Now, there are so many different places that people seemed to migrate to, but the sharing of, and particularly the commenting on, ideas seems to have slowed a bit from those old G+ days. It could be that I'm just not using the proper platforms, but I joined a bunch of different gaming groups on Facebook, and also joined MeWe (which I had understood was where the majority of the old G+ community was going to migrate). I even try to use Twitter, which I know some people love.

Below is just a quick snapshot of my recent gaming interactions on these three platforms. I'd really like to hear your experiences, which platforms you think are best for discussing and learning about tabletop RPGs right now, and any tips or suggestions you have. Put them in the comments below, or find me on Facebook, MeWe, and Twitter.

Facebook: This was a bit surprising to me, but Facebook has become, for me, the most active of the "OSR" gaming community. Recently I answered a question on Quora: "What are three things you miss most from past editions of Dungeons & Dragons?" I posted it on Facebook on my own page, but also put it on the Tabletop Role-Playing Games group and the Old School Gamers groups. I tried to avoid too much cross-posting, because people seem to hate that, so I think those might be the only two groups where I posted my link. The question exploded in both groups, generating 104 comments in the TTRPG group and 164 comments on the OSG group. I don't recall ever having posted something that generated so much interest before. And, quite refreshingly, the comments were all generally positive. There was almost no edition bashing (a few people did pick on the 3.x era specifically and called it "dreadful," but it was very rare to see such comments. Nobody picked on anybody else for their comments. Quite a few people simply said, "I don't miss anything because I'm still playing the version I like," and I encouraged them to try to share from their experience about parts of the game that are no longer part of the current rules, and why those rules were fun/good/different.

MeWe: This has been another big surprise to me, but for a platform that seems to be trying hard to replicate a lot of the functionality of the old Google Plus, and encouraged folks to save their old posts and upload them into the platform, the gaming community here seems to be much more lethargic than I had expected. There are a ton of posts from people talking about new kickstarters, or providing links to blog posts or (mainly) podcasts, but what I'm not seeing is any interaction from people commenting on the content that's being shared. I shared my link to the "3 things you miss" answer on Quora on MeWe as well in a few different groups, but got very limited interactions: the Dungeons & Dragons group (2 "thumbs up" and one person commenting), the OSR group (1 thumb up), and the TTRPG Blogs Old School Community (1 thumb up). One person also commented on the link directly in my timeline.  For what I thought would be the place where I could experience some of the gaming goodness that I found on the late Google Plus, I've been quite surprised by the lack of interactions on MeWe.

Twitter: Let's just say that I just don't always "get" Twitter. I'm not good at using hashtags to follow things, I don't like my phone constantly buzzing with prompts that someone has posted something, and I feel that if you're not going to be on it 24/7 and replying the second somebody comments, then it's taken as a slight and a conversation never happens, because it didn't happen "in the moment." I honestly don't get how people have the time and energy and focus to just be on Twitter all the time and sharing all this stuff. I know that people do seem to discuss RPGs a lot, and every once in a while I'll see something scroll past my feed that looks like an interesting discussion, but it's usually hours or days after it happens, and when I comment or try to join it, it's too late. I just haven't figured out how to crack the code on using Twitter for learning about and discussing RPG material. When I posted my link about the "3 things you miss," I thought it might generate a bit more discussion, as it would seem to be a topic where everybody would have an opinion they want to share. But, as it is, the tweet generate 1 like and a comment (from the same person, who is a cool guy and long-time reader of my blog).

Based on this short, very unscientific analysis, as well as looking at most of my recent blog posts (which tend not to generate any comments on the blog itself - but that seems to be a trend I've noticed ever since people got used to, and preferred to, leave their comments on Google Plus), and social media sharing, I'm thinking that Facebook seems like it might be a good place to have some good RPG discussions and where folks selling OSR RPG material would generate the most reach for their message. I know a lot of people hate Facebook, and there are a lot of extreme opinions and some bullying on the platform, but I've usually managed to avoid that, and the two groups in which I posted my link (mentioned above) don't really seem to have that problem from what I could tell.

What have your experiences been? What's your preferred platform? 


Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Drinking: Jersey Long Hots (a smoked beer with fresh grilled long hot peppers by Eight & Sand Beer Co.)
Listening: "The Surrey with the Fringe On Top" (Live at the Half Note) by Wes Montgomery

9 comments:

  1. I too am disappointed in MeWe after Google+ ended. I was able to find so much content from G+ and discovered so many creators on it. Since it died, I have disengaged from even trying to find new content and creators, as it seems a lot of other people.

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    1. Thanks so much for commenting - I just found a new blog to follow by clicking on your profile!

      I still like to see what people are sharing, either for free or on DriveThruRPG or on Kickstarter. It's just harder and harder to find stuff, and the stuff that does get shared doesn't seem to generate the comments at they used to on G+. I remember "back in the day" on G+, somebody would share something, and dozens of people would comment and offer suggestions, mention how they used it in a game, or what-not. Now stuff just gets shared and it seems to go into the ether.

      Thanks again for stopping by and for taking the time to comment. Cheers!

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  2. G+ was close to perfect for the gaming community and I don't think anything else we have now has managed to capture its success.

    I've been semi-active on Reddit but despite the difference in format, it strikes me as being little different from the old message boards. More democratic perhaps, with the voting mechanic replacing power-mad moderators, but still problematic, and the whole thing feels like a relic.

    I've been able to follow and generate some buzz on Twitter but I agree that it's difficult to keep track of conversations. I think it's useful but probably more as a promotional tool.

    I had high hopes for MeWe but I agree it feels a bit like a ghost town. The interface feels weird to me too; there's something counter-intuitive about how everything works there.

    Some people moved over to Mastodon and I set up an account, but it seemed a bit too techie and that seems to have limited how many people are using it.

    Facebook does seem to be the best G+ replacement, although it's perhaps better described as the best of a bad bunch. It has some of the same issues as Twitter, with conversations popping in and out of view and getting lost, but it's easier on the whole to keep track of things. It also has a bit of a "stink" about it after all the privacy and hacking concerns, but not everyone cares about that.

    All that said Facebook does work and people know how to use it, so for me it's the best option, although I'll keep looking for a better one.

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    1. Thanks so much for your comments, Kelvin! I agree that G+ was unique and maybe a bit of "lightning in a bottle" for its time.

      I personally just don't really like Reddit, partly for the format as you mentioned.

      I've never even heard of Mastodon! Is it worth checking out at this point, do you think?

      Agreed that right now, Facebook probably seems like the best of the limited options, and it's where I've been seeing the most engagement on my posts, but I often wonder if that's because of the age group I'm in and that I'm not reaching younger folks.

      Lastly, the one other place people mention is Discord. I made an account over the weekend based on the responses I got to my post about this on Facebook, but for the life of me I can't figure out how to navigate it. I'll just say the interface is not user-friendly!

      Cheers, and thanks again!

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    2. Mastodon feels like it's aimed at computer scientists, but then so did G+ at first. I haven't really given it a thorough test, to be honest; I should give it another try.

      Discord seems to be more of a series of chatrooms than anything. It reminds me of the old days of IRC. There seem to be vibrant communities there but it is difficult to follow conversations as everything seems to be a wall of discussion.

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  3. Aw, shucks! :P

    To be honest, I don't have the time or energy to engage (or even lurk) the way I used to, so I haven't exactly been trying to find a new outlet. I do agree that Twitter just doesn't work anymore - engagement is extremely low except in "celebrity" tweets/replies, it seems. I get a bit more engagement to stuff I post on Instagram, and since that sort of "flash conversation" is about all I'm able to maintain anyway these days, it works for me. But it has the same problem with "blink and you miss it" syndrome that Twitter has.

    If you manage to find where the conversations are happening in a digestible format, though, I'd definitely check it out!

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    1. Yeah, it's been a challenge! I joined Discord based on some recommendations from people, but... well, I guess I just need to spend more time with it to understand it. Right now, I'm not getting it, and I think that's kind of weird. It's like the designers went out of their way to create something that's not intuitive, maybe just a way of proving they are different. I don't like the idea of having to spend time learning how to use a social media platform. G+ was intuitive for the most part, as is Instagram, FB, and even Twitter (as much as I don't like it).

      Speaking of Instagram, I also never post anything game-related there, because I don't have any visual content to share! I do have an account but it's not for the blog. It's just personal. You can follow me at https://www.instagram.com/thetartinm/. You'll mainly see me posting nightly pictures of what cocktail I made and what vinyl record I'm listening to. Cheers!

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    2. Ugh - Discord definitely doesn't sound like something I want to mess with. I'm too old to be jumping thru hoops for my social media interaction. I need things to be easy to learn and easier to use. :)

      Followed you on Instagram - same "brand" as Twitter and my blog. I don't have a personal account - sharing what I do thru my gaming channels is about as much "personal" info as I want to divulge to the general public. Although, now that I think about it, that's still quite a lot. :P

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