Rebel Racing
Rebel RacingImage by: Hutch Games
Rebel Racing
4 November 2020

How gaming communities have kept us social and sane in 2020

Head of community and social at Hutch Games
Chris Hohbein
3 minutes read time

With a global pandemic wreaking havoc across the globe, it’s no wonder more and more people are seeking a way to escape tedium and anxiety through video games. What’s more, the consequential lack of human contact that comes with country-wide lockdowns continues to have a negative impact on our mental health, driving people to find alternative ways to remain socially active.

Gaming has always been a social space, linking a wide and otherwise distanced playerbase together with a love of video games. It promotes discussion, friendly debates and long term partnerships between passionate fans who are always looking for ways to engage with like minded people. Thanks to the enthralling worlds that games create and the endless wealth of content available, there has been a tremendous growth in global gaming audiences that goes far beyond the games themselves.

Having worked with some incredibly tight-knit and passionate communities for games like Fable, RuneScape and No Man’s Sky, it’s been interesting to reflect on the impact communities can have on the lives of their members.

In my current role at Hutch, we’re proud to have grown an incredible community of over 300,000 members across our live games. Every day I see how important our communities are to their members, from hilarious meme exchanges to heartfelt words of thanks to us as developers for making games. It's been an amazing journey to engage with our fans and learn more about the people who follow and love our work.

Sure, communities will always have their share of toxicity and negativity, but in my experience that’s always outweighed by an innate sense of unity that really brings people together. I’ve watched friendships, romances and marriages blossom that otherwise would never have been formed without a game at the center. I’ve seen communities come together to donate generously to support their fellow gamers in times of great need. I’ve even had the privilege of meeting and building friendships with some of those people myself.

Games offer a fantastic starting point for the development of meaningful relationships. They’re often competitive, complex and innately social. By offering the right environment for players to engage with one another, Community Managers can help bring would-be strangers together over the games and experiences they love. One of the biggest challenges Hutch faces is, paradoxically, the sheer size of our communities. The bigger a community, the harder it can be for new members to ‘feel a part’ of something.

" By offering the right environment for players to engage with one another, Community Managers can help bring would-be strangers together over the games and experiences they love. "

So we go to great lengths to identify micro communities we can cultivate, making sure small groups of like-minded people can come together around more specific topics. For example, we have an influencer program with an active group of like-minded creators. A player council of veteran players who help improve our games. We have volunteer moderators who help us keep our channels safe, and even a small community of Top Drives car fans who help us make sure the huge array of cars in the game have accurate stats!

We also break down our Discord servers to be really granular - we have somewhere in the region of 20 sub-channels, including channels which break players out into groups based on their current progress in the game. All of this helps players find the place they ‘fit in’ with our community, and it’s one of the reasons our communities continue to grow and remain highly active.

Now more than ever, we have to find new spaces to relax with friends and take a break from the stresses that are a fact of life in 2020. Gaming is an excellent safe haven that offers a respite from the outside world, but with a strong community of players it becomes something far greater. Building communities is a significant challenge for gaming, but is a vital step in ensuring that gaming continues to offer more and more support to players. We know how much a friendly group of like-minded gamers can support each other's mental health, so we work with our players to create a fun, safe and hilarious environment that anyone can join.