In October 2020, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) walked into the engine room of a spaceship and said, “I can’t kill Poki, she’s nice.”
Seconds later, she kills Poki.
The in-game murder was part of a Twitch stream about Between us, a hugely popular social reasoning game created by the indie studio Innersloth. While premiering two years earlier, Between us fandom explodes in 2020, fueled by a pandemic of boredom and interest of internet celebrity. The aim of the game is to work with “teammates” to complete a series of missions before the “imposters” on board kill everyone. But despite being a game rooted in silent stabbing, its community guidelines emphasize a contradictory quality: Kindness.
This has a lot to do with Victoria Tran27 years old, community director at Innersloth.
“I don’t know if you know this, but the Internet is not known for being kind and generous,” Tran told Digital Trends while calling from his home in British Columbia, Canada.
There are trolls on every platform and gamers have a specific reputation – earned or not. But Tran saw the beauty of the internet. She experienced it growing up on massively multiplayer online (MMO) games, like Hotel Habbo and tibia. She has made connections online that really mean a lot to her. So Tran’s thoughts are: How can we make online communities better?
“A lot of my work is based on the fact that although I have this energy, and while I have this curiosity, I want to explore the ways in which we can make the Internet better and not be satisfied with it. stereotypes,” Tran said.
“In a way, I have trained my whole life for this.”
Tran is well known in the gaming industry for incorporating kindness into community design. This means that the design of the spaces inside and outside the game encourages players to treat each other, and the game creators and operators, with respect. Decent design can be facilitated through rules, set expectations, and treat players with respect, garner their trust, and create a sense of well-being, Tran explains. friendly in-game and the game’s social channels. Her philosophy is that kind communities bring more kindness: An audience that accepts bad behavior will allow them to be trolled. An intolerant audience will turn that off. Kind design is what aids in creating an intolerant audience.
“I care about how people love something,” says Tran. “Any community that is thriving is a place where people feel welcome.”
Rachel Kowerta research psychologist and director of research for Do thisCall Tran’s 2019 article about creating these communities is a “groundbreaking piece on how to better understand the structure and nature of communities and how they can impact behavior in and out of the game space.”
“Her view is unique in seeing the boundaries and structures of social space as the foundation for community in- and out-of-game behaviors,” says Kowert. “She was one of the first to talk about these concepts in a public space.”
It is a view that she began to cultivate from an early age. Tran attributes her interest in the media and the community to the fact that she often took on the role of interpreter, both literally and of a new culture, as a child.
“Good design starts with the rules because the way the game is structured facilitates the kinds of discussions and attitudes you want.”
“My parents were refugees during the Vietnam War,” Tran said. “They come to Canada, and they don’t know English; They don’t know the culture. So when I was growing up, I was a translator; I read government documents and tried to tell my parents what I thought they meant.”
Childhood also means hours of free online MMO play. The concept that she can connect with people – even say she has friends – in other countries is amazing.
“In a way, I have trained my whole life for this,” says Tran.
She went to college to study healthcare, graduated, and realized she hated her job. “I had a huge mental breakdown,” she said. “I hate that I don’t know what to do! So I really started looking for “what to do if you don’t know what to do” information and I came across something that said “let’s start with your interests.”
She thought about online games.
Tran becomes a community strategist for the puzzle game Open the packagecommunications director at Games on Kitfoxand in November 2020, community director at Innersloth. She is also a co-host for Games & Colorsa grassroots organization set up to support color game developers.
Innersloth is a group of 13 people who are far away, Tran is working on. In addition to social media on community design, she works on marketing, public relations, branding, campaigns, influencer partnerships, and other initiatives. When asked what she does when she’s not working, she laughs, then pauses for a long moment. (She loves reading manga and baking chocolate chip cookies.)
Tran describes the role of a community director as the link between game developers and gamers, but more importantly, facilitator of spaces where communities interact. Because Between usthat means in games and platforms where players discuss it, like Twitter and TikTokwhich has 1.4 million and 2.9 million followers respectively.
Tran explains, creating and enabling a decent community is a multi-step process that reflects the environment game developers want around their work. It involves holding players accountable to a code of conduct, as well as being clear about what is expected: It’s not enough to say “don’t be a brat,” Tran says. The rules need to be clearly defined, public, fair, and applicable to everyone.” In practice, this means incorporating design elements in the game like making it easier to report a player for bad behavior or create lists of words people can’t say in the game.
“Good design starts with the rules because the way the game is structured facilitates the kinds of discussions and attitudes you want,” Tran said.
Tran advocates setting the standards of the space (showing what is an acceptable way to communicate and what is not), building trust with the community through transparency and seductive them through positive encounters and fandom celebrations. One of the ways Tran does this is simple but effective: She responds to comments, even comments by haters.
“If you are going to post in a community, you should be part of it. Putting in the time and effort can really change everything. ”
It pays. For example, Tran recalls an event that happened shortly after Between us TikTok account has been created. She posted a video of a new map, it went viral, and suddenly it was flooded with “death game” comments – complainers, who said they were over the game.
“It was just such endless comments and I was very dismayed,” Tran said. “Then I think about it and ask myself – what am I really going to do about this? What I did really was sit for hours and respond to as many comments as I could and not in a sassy way like some brands, but in ways that are honest and I hope to be a little funny.”
Suddenly, she saw a change. Other commenters joined the conversation, asking: Why are you playing indie games? Why do you hate what everyone likes to play?
“It was a complete change of tone,” says Tran. “It’s an example of why, if you’re going to post in a community, you should be part of it. Putting in the time and effort can really change everything. ”
Tran sees this work as a continuation of the kind of online space facilitated by early YouTubers, like John and Hank Green and Project for Awesome, and describes it as a “win-win” project for game developers. Kind communities are simply good for business, says Tran: They bring in audiences, but more than that, they bring in audiences that share thoughtful feedback and care about the creators. product. (When Tran tweets on holidays after announcing his account will be closed, Between us Twitter followers gently scolded she.)
“It’s great that people care and engage with you in a meaningful way,” says Tran. “There is a very human side to it that is really hard to quantify. I don’t really want to quantify it anyway. “