I like to think I know a thing or two about communities. Key words there are "I like to think." We can't actually say for sure what makes any community tick, because a community could mean tremendously different things to any given individual. I may be in a community for competition, while someone else could be in it for friendship. While there are certainly individuals who overlap in their interests, not everyone does. Communities are very interesting things. If you'll let me, I'd like to share some stories and thoughts about the communities I've been a part of in my life. I'm not going to mention anything outright by name, but hopefully you'll get the gist of what I'm driving at.
Yes, I'm one of these
The first real group I identified with in high school (which is the arbitrary point in time I've decided constitutes the beginning of my real social development) was the anime club. I'd dabbled in anime and Japanese culture before, courtesy of a friend who was a rabid Gundam fan, but I'd never really "explored" the whole deal. When I did start exploring, though, I liked what I was finding. My first real anime "love" was Neon Genesis Evangelion, but my first exposure to serious fandom was through Naruto. Commence your judging. I was in high school, I loved big breasts, explosions, and, being a guy who got trashed on, loved to see the underdog win the fight.
I decided, my freshman year of high school, to attend the local anime convention. It was rather large for the time, and has grown even more since, but that was my first real "exposure" to the community. It was also where I first learned what I wanted out of it. I was doing cosplay that year, and it helped me realize something. I don't want to be an active participant in the anime community the way some people are. I'm content to be a "keyboard warrior" when it comes to that community. The next two years of conventions solidified that. I simply don't enjoy being surrounded by my fellow anime fans. I love an argument about anime. Anime is one of those things that I just enjoy arguing about. Intellectually, of course, I've moved past Naruto (though it did take about two years). Religious undertones, political jabs, social commentary, that's my jam. Moeblob garbage? Don't want nothing to do with that. And since I've found that the moeblob and generic-shonen fans are the ones who turn out in droves for the conventions, I've ceased to enjoy the large crowds associated with anime cons. I long for what I originally came into my high school anime club for. I want a small group of people that I'm close friends with, not people who run up to me demanding a photo. I want to be able to laugh, have an argument, and, maybe once in a blue moon, pop in Urotsukidoji. Just for laughs.
And yes, I played this
Being a weeaboo, WoW was of course not my MMORPG of choice. Ragnarok Online was. And what was interesting about this was that I separated the two communities. While I was into anime for casual friendships (bro moments, if you will) and arguments, I was into RO for serious relationships and venting. Back in the day, I would never call up one of my anime friends to vent, but I would instead take my complaints to the server forums. There, people really "understood" me, they were also angsty teens with problems. They were MY PEOPLE.
As such, I wanted to be the best I could. As the Heavy would say, I wanted to be "credit to team." I would put in tremendous amounts of hours to achieve the next level (I tended to play on fairly low-rate servers), and at one point, my grades began sagging because I was putting off (and not completing) my homework for the sake of Ragnarok. While I'm willing to sever a relationship if it gets too bad, I do want to do the best I can while I'm in that relationship, and for whatever reason, I considered RO to be more important than a "normal" relationship. It was something I was fierce about, and when all my (IRL) friends gave me a ton of crap for my obsession, I would fire back that at least my RO friends would listen to my problems and help me through. Ironically, several of my friends offered the same service, but I turned them down flat every time.
Eventually, I got fed up with Ragnarok. My aforementioned scrub nature kicked in, and when my effort ceased to pay off during the guild wars, I ceased to play. I was briefly lured back during college, when a group of my friends and I all played on the same server, but even that lasted only about a semester, before I dropped it. Why? Well, as Jay-Z would say, I had 101 problems. Moving on.
Disclaimer: I was never, and will never be as good as that man
Music has, and always will be my biggest love. Sorry gaming! As a saxophonist since fourth grade, and a pianist from kindergarten to fourth grade, I've always been enamored by music. Classical and jazz were my two biggest loves back in the day, and still are to a tremendous degree. That said, I was a huge band geek in high school. I was in band for a number of reasons, the biggest being simply that I loved doing it, but I was also in it because I enjoyed the company of my bandmates.
I've always found true appreciators of music to be some of the most intelligent people around. And these are the people I enjoy hanging out with. I surrounded myself in high school with other "bandies," most of whom also happened to be anime and gaming nerds. We would spend most of our time together (when I wasn't playing Ragnarok), and they were the closest friends I had. That being said, I guess the only thing I wanted out of the music community, and still want, is friendship. If you like and play music for serious, we need to hang out. We need to talk music, we need to just chill together and listen to some albums, and after that, we'll hit up Dairy Queen (or your preferred local ice creamery) and eat ice cream outside while listening to tunes from the car.
We are going to be FRIENDS. Not just bros, not acquaintances, FRIENDS.
This sums up most of the social gaming I did in high school
Outside of the internet, I gamed a lot as well. I spent most of my time in the later years of high school at a mom and pop game store nearby, and to this day, some of the people I met there are my best friends. This was interesting as a community, because it presented something new to me. I'll get that out of the way first.
Competition. Now, I'd never gone back to a place just to compete before. But man, did I want to win those Guitar Hero tournaments. Now, scrub nature kicked in eventually, and once the game switched to Guitar Hero III and everyone kept throwing out DragonForce and Raining Blood, I quit the scene, but that was a big reason for me coming back at first. Since matches were close, I didn't have to "train," but could just keep playing casually, the way I was always playing Guitar Hero. Luckily, Guitar Hero and Rock Band work such that by simply playing something over and over again, you get better and better at it. With other games, you might have to start adding new strategies and plans, but with those games, the goal is simple: hit more notes. Nowadays, I'm in gaming a little bit for competition again, as I find it gives me drive. I'm also training for the sake of training now, too. Interesting how we progress.
Eventually, I stopped going for the competition and started going because I just enjoyed the company of the people there. When I'm going to a store or event in person, I like to get to know who I'm playing with. Maybe we'll become good friends. Certainly a possibility.
Online communities are slightly different. Since everyone comes from all over the place, it's much harder to meet up in person (although next time DToidNewEngland does some in MA, I'm there), and that creates a bit of a distance for me, I think. What with the fiasco that was RO back in the day, I'm less willing to spill my personal problems and issues all over the internet for "strangers," and I find I'm in the community for people I can just "hang" with. People who are here to just play games and shoot the breeze all casual-like. And you know what? Sometimes that's exactly what I need to chill out. Some dudes (and gals!) just taking it easy and playing some games together.
YOU GUYS! (I guess US GUYS, actually?)
So what does that mean about Destructoid? Destructoid is a little interesting, because on the one hand, here I am talking OPINIONS and GETTING SERIOUS with you guys. On the other hand, I just said gaming's about chilling and the occasional competition. So I guess... I'm really not sure yet. I'm definitely looking for some of that competition and chill, heck, that's why I'm in the PS3 Fight Club, and why I participated in my first FNF last Friday. But at the same time... I'm looking for a little bit of what I got into anime for. That argumentative aspect. Destructoid seems like an intelligent group of folks, and I love to read the CBlogs and hear your opinions. The comments are some of my favorite things to read on front page articles. I love the way we can discuss things together, and I'm looking forward to seeing where else this community takes me. Unless it's out back behind the barn. I'd rather not go there, thanks.