Lessons Learned While Building a Gaming Community

From knowing absolutely nothing to understanding just shy of perhaps something.

I started a gaming community called Strats.co in 2014. In the past couple years, it has had its ups and downs. Currently it serves as a pretty great group of mature gaming regulars who frequent our various channels from our Forum to Discord.

Overwatch, Blizzard Entertainment

1. If you build it, they (may) come

Just about every single entrepreneur or startup type article out there will tell you to just start. While saying this feels really cliché, I’ve found it to be quite true.

Starting might mean different things for different projects. In this case, I set up a forum. I opened a Digital Ocean account, deployed a server, and boom: we now have a (completely devoid of life) community ready for the taking.

2. Grow slowly but steadily

It’s really tempting to set your growth expectations high out of the gate. The problem is, when you’re starting from scratch your value proposition is essentially zero.

What you will find is that your very early adopters are the people that you will come to trust and come along on your journey.

3. Share the journey

By far the best thing you can do for a new community is grab those first few people and elevate their status. Make them moderators, sell them on the vision, set their expectations, and partner up.

It’s hard going alone and even though there may not be a significant body of content to moderate, by establishing your core team the journey becomes shared. They will share in the success or failure of the community and will be more incentivized to help it grow.

This does not mean you should go nuts and give everyone a some admin or mod role. Choose early, but make sure you are choosing a core team that shares your values and vision.

4. Go where your community is

For a long time our mission was to drive people to our forum at all costs. This meant minimizing or deprioritizing other channels like Steam, Discord, Twitch, etc.

Today I feel like that was a mistake. Your goal should be to meet your community where they are. If you do that right, the entire group stronger.

People will naturally filtered through to the surfaces that make sense. The important part is that everyone is communicating and feeling part of something larger than themselves.

5. Create meaningful connections

If you’re in the business to sell ads, you’re going to have a hard time unless you are backed by some kind of significant value proposition.

I see a lot of questions in community-building groups about the right time to monetize. For us, it was when we got tired of replying to PMs about how there was no way to donate. Your only mission in the beginning is to create meaningful connections between your members. You are building systems to facilitate that. Advertising is going to get in the way of that initially.

Eventually, we set up a Patreon profile and started taking donations from some of our loyalist regulars. Still, this is not required and we don’t even push it much.

A good community will have your back and you want to establish that first.