[Editor's note: Community member Coonskin05 contributed a piece to our Weekly Musing subject on how to make gaming communities suck less. Please post your own over on the Community blogs. It may get read during our panel at PAX this Friday! -- CTZ]
The term "gaming community" is a very loose term. In the most basic sense, it means the members of a videogame Web site.To me, this is a very cheap use of the word. By this standard, every gaming Web site has a community. But how those "communities" interact is often not very community-like. At other Web site, these communities comment on their Web site's articles, and it pretty much ends there. The members are only known by their handles, and usually don't know each other unless a certain member comments on everything and is constantly involved in discussion.
Destructoid took it a step farther in 2007 by introducing the Community Blogs, where members could post their own articles and comment on each other's blogs, further advancing how we interacted with each other. But to stop here would still restrict what community means. That version of a community would still just be avatars and online handles talking to each other over the internet, which for many people would be enough, but not good enough for Destructoid.
I'm unsure when the first actual NARP was, but the first two notable ones were in 2007, starting with PAX 2007 and the Cincinnati NARP. Here, a bunch of Destructoid members got together, face-to-face, and drank, gamed, and enjoyed each other's real life company. In October of 2007, I was lucky enough to organize the first Texas NARP. There were only six of us, but we entered Austin, Texas as friends and left as damn near brothers. Shortly after, the Destructoid city groups were formed, and regional NARPs were a way of life for the Destructoid community.
Face-to-face interaction, to me, is what defines the Destructoid community, and boosts it above all other videogame communities. Emotions and fellowship can only be expressed to a certain extent via online text. Hugging my fellow Dtoiders is something that one can't experience through years of commenting and blogging. Since the city groups were created, people have done things that no other site would dream of doing.
A community member was flown out to Cancun for the second anniversary of Destructoid. Macca took out a personal bank loan to get money to come to PAX 2008. Jim Sterling ditched his job covering the ScrewAttack Gaming Convention so he could drink beers with us. Dtoiders from the UK, Netherlands, Australia, and New Zealand have flown across the world to come to PAX for a weekend of bliss spent around their Dtoid brothers and sisters. Somehow I doubt many members of other sites have that level of dedication and love.
A site is enough for a person to register and interact with others. A close knit videogame community is enough for someone to log on everyday and talk to their peers. But it's not until people join together and physically spend time with each other that it's enough to devote yourself to a community, which is what Destructoid has accomplished.