My name is Tim Urlacher and I live in Montana somewhere. I am a musician and artist at heart but I work for Charter as a Voice Coordinator III during the day. Whenever I'm not at work I am pouring my heart and soul into music and animations.
Hello there Destructoid! You may have seen me around before but I tend to stay near the background of things. I'm thinking about making an introduction post since it's been so long since I've blogged but right now I'm here to talk about what makes online communities great based off of my personal experience. The other day I was playing 360 with a friend and we were talking about the good ol' days when MMO's were more a part of our gaming, but not for gaming's sake, for a social outlet.
Back in the day I used to play this game called Graal, at the young age of 9 years old I downloaded it in 1995 when it was listed under the name "Zelda Online." Legal issues between the game creators and Nintendo caused them to change the name but the game was very blatantly inspired by the 16-bit Zelda: A Link to the past. Graal was like nothing I had ever seen before, as a young and impressionable gamer I fell in love with its online community and Zeldaesque atmosphere. I began playing the game on the Classic Graal server where my inner Graalian eventually died, I could never get engrossed in the other servers so I naturally stuck to Classic. I used to be a really huge PKer (Playerkiller for all you n00bs out there) and on my 4th account I was up to around 46,100 kills before fading out. I made friends in this game that I could never make anywhere else. Zozma, Layzie, Nicholas KILL and KIO were some of the first friends I ever made in the game and they have probably changed my life in more than one way to this day. I still talk to them but only every once in a while (KILL where are you?). We started guilds together, formed alliances, built our guildhouses, custom skins, and everything in between. This game was cool because it was built around the community and all players had equal rights to become LAT's (Level designers and Scripting), GPs (Graal Police), GCs (Game Coordinator), and FAQs (Your one-stop-shop for questions and assistance). The community was the reason this game was so great much like the community here at Destructoid being the reason for this sites amazing accessibility.
From the summer of 1995 to around January 2007 I had worked on the Classic Server with two different accounts. I would plug in my weekly required 200 minutes of Hosting events as a GC and on one of my other accounts I was the Classic Server Levels Admin. I had designed locations and quests in the game working with wonderful people from all around the world to make it all happen. I did this for free, out of pure passion for the community that I grew up with.
This used to be one of my social outlets.
By the end of my Classic Levels Admin career I had designed numerous quests, shields, swords, events, player houses, guild houses, overworld maps, and anything else that you can think of. This wasn't just a game to me; it was my hobby and my main creative outlet.
I used to fear that I would never find an online community as amazing and diverse as the one I knew and loved from Classic Graal... but Destructoid has proven that there are other tightly-knit online communities out there.
My old GC bosses hosting an event of Connect Four for the players. *Interesting note* DC got Sammy pregnant in real life after he rode a bus 12 hours to take her to her senior prom, they had never met in real life before that.
Where I am going with all of this...
I don't know what EXACTLY makes a wonderful online community but I'm pretty sure it roots from the base of where the community started. Neiro is our founder and therefore he is our foundation. He's got a wonderful group of people working under him and I don't doubt that a lot of his business decisions brought this site to where it is today. Part of the reason this community is so great is because its leader is actively involved with the community on a daily basis. The fact that I see his comments and open opinions under all sorts of blog posts shows me one very important thing, he does not put himself above the community. Leaders' that are actively involved within the community, to me, is the most important part of having an online community that does not suck.
The second most important part of having a strong online community is the community involvement. The fact that Nick, Jim, Colette, Reverend Anthony, Ashley Davis, and especially Hamza, respond and acknowledge our existence through comments and community events shows me that these are more than just editors and journalists; they are also our friends and just like us on multiple levels. The fact that my blog can be featured on the same front page, that these nice folks make a living off of, shows me that none of them are above their community. I can be as involved as I want to with this site; I'm actually ashamed that I haven't been more involved up to this point because of how rewarding a relationship with a strong online community can be.
When I was the Classic Levels Admin I did it for the community, if someone asked I would create and upload whatever I could for them, knowing it would better the community. Community feedback often helped me refine levels and make them better and more appealing to the players. A lot of players ideas got turned into events and a lot of "normal" players were even given the chance to work as Graal Staff. I see the same kind of activity here on Destructoid every day. Sometimes Jim will write a cblog and sometimes a cblog will be promoted to front page.
We are all different but the same and this is what the only two online communities I've ever sunk my teeth into have had in common.