The Elder Scrolls Online Community and the Power of Guilds

What metrics and indicators of success are you, your colleagues, and community excited about for 2022? Whether you’re hoping to better demonstrate the impact of the community on your business’ bottom line, foster safer experiences for your members across the communities they are part of, or want to focus on establishing better boundaries for you and your team, this conversation with Jessica Folsom, lead community manager at ZeniMax Online Studios, may provide some inspiration.

Even without perfect end-to-end campaign attribution, Jessica discusses the impact of being a participant in the Elder Scrolls Online community and how certain attributes may lead to different outcomes for community members and for the overall community. For example, Elder Scrolls Online players may participate in official forums, they may be content creators, they may stream the game, or participate in player-run communities on Discord or Reddit. Jessica and her team have learned that the players that can find their connection to the community retain better and drive investment in the game, too.

With such an expansive group of players, Jessica also has to be prepared to help community members deal with toxic behaviors outside of immediate Elder Scrolls Online spaces. While it can often feel like we can’t do much in these circumstances, Jessica explains how she listens, offers guidance on how to block and report the behavior on these parallel platforms, and in some cases, contact local authorities. Do you have a plan for helping your community members handle toxicity on other platforms? 

Jessica and Patrick also discuss:

  • How Jessica’s team sets success metrics
  • Helping community managers prevent burnout
  • Why community members are not your friends

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Big Quotes

How community connection contributes to retention and growth (8:20): “People who are in guilds, for instance, tend to be much more invested overall in [Elder Scrolls Online]. Not only do they tend to spend more but they also contribute more to the community, which is immensely valuable, to community growth and health. … [Content creators] tend to also be very, very valuable, and not only from a monetary perspective but just what they give to the community. They give us our community culture. They’re the backbone of it.” –@JessFolsom

How guilds unlock connection to Elder Scrolls Online (9:40): “Guilds [drive] all of the positive things that we want. Players can be in five different guilds. Usually, if they find at least one, they find that community that they really want to be a part of … this is cliché, but it’s about the people. If you find a group of people that you’re really invested in, you then enjoy the game more, you spend more time, you invest more in the content, [and] you invest more in the monetary side of things as well.” –@JessFolsom

Helping community managers prevent burnout (11:24): “It’s okay to shut things down at the end of your day. Don’t look at the forums, don’t look at email. If somebody needs to get a hold of you for an emergency, they will, but take your time to decompress, live your life, enjoy your hobbies, your family, your free time, and you’ll come back better to do your job the next day.” –@JessFolsom

Helping players deal with toxic behavior in parallel challenges (26:44): “[When our players are getting harassed or targeted with toxicity in parallel channels], we try to educate players on what they can do and how they can use those tools. How do they block players? How do they use two-factor authentication if their account got hacked? How do they report really awful comments or activity on the various different channels, using the channels’ methods of reporting that they have available to them? Then in extreme cases … we will work with that player to educate them on all the different things that they could do by delaying their stream. For instance, if they’re getting stream sniped, [everything from] putting a delay on their stream to contacting local authorities.” –@JessFolsom

Why there is no official Elder Scrolls Online Discord (26:44): “I know a lot of smaller studios really like Discord but with a community our size, the amount of moderation that we would need, we’ve got a player base of, I think we recently said 12 million or something like that, it’s not realistic to have a Discord community that we run. If we run a community, and it’s an official community, there is an expectation that we are able to maintain a certain level of protection, professionalism, and rules that I don’t think we can.” –@JessFolsom

About Jessica Folsom

Jessica Folsom has been working with gaming communities for 16 years and is currently the lead community manager at ZeniMax Online Studios. She has been working with the Elder Scrolls Online community for about nine and a half years. Jessica got her start in the video games industry in 1999 as a customer support representative at Nintendo of America in Washington state, where she is originally from. After about eight years there, she left and spent time at numerous studios, including NCSOFT, Trion, Mythic, EA BioWare, Big Huge Games, and 38 Studios.

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