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Learning about Community from Online Games [Day 28 – 28 Days to BFL]


This is Day 28 of 28 Days of Building Fierce Loyalty. Sadness!  Yesterday, Barry Moltz and Becky McCray gave us the inside skinny on how to use “local connections” to build Fierce Loyalty. I’m already implementing things I learned! Today, I am super excited to share my friend and online gaming geek, Jeremie Miller. If there were ever a fiercely loyal community out there, it’s the gaming community. Read on to discover what we can learn from them about building fierce loyalty!

Learning about Community from Online Games

By: Jeremie Miller| @Jeremie Miller

Jeremie's online Star Wars Jedi alter ego

Jeremie’s Timeline of Online Gaming Geekiness:


    : Participated in a play-by-mail gladiator fantasy role playing game. You mailed in your moves. Your opponent mailed in theirs. A geek in California decided who won and mailed you back the results. One fight a month. Snail mail.


    : Called into bulletin boards and played Dungeons & Dragons via message board posts. One text post a day. 0.3 kbps phone line modem.


    : Played in a MUD (Multi User Dungeon) with 50 other players. Text based real time action. 9.6 kbps phone line modem.


    : Played Ultima Online, one of the first MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games), with hundreds of players. 2D graphic real time action. 56 kbps phone line modem.


    : Played Everquest, another MMORPG, with thousands of players and a built in social system of groups, guilds, and chat. 3D graphic real time action. 250 kbps cable modem.


    : Playing Star Wars: The Old Republic with thousands of players and a built in social system of groups, guilds, chat, and community forum. 3D graphic real time action. 25000 kbps cable modem.

How does this timeline help us learn about creating fiercely loyal communities?

I could tell you what I think it shows us, but that wouldn’t be very interactive now would it. I would like to invite everyone to interact with today’s post in two ways:


      Post any ideas about community building that pop into your head from looking over the timeline and we will discuss them here.


      At 1:00 PM PST this afternoon join me at

    and I will talk about my takeaways from the timeline and answer your questions live.


Five years ago Jeremie Miller and his wife Ashlea quit their jobs and sold everything to move to their dream location in the beautiful mountains of Rossland British Columbia to raise their son Fionn. Now Jeremie combines a long time love of online gaming with his experience as a teacher, and training as a Certified Professional Coach, to help innovative business owners navigate the strategies, technology, and costs of expanding the reach and impact of their work to a global audience. You can learn more about taking your work to a global level at

P.S. TOMORROW! I have a super special bonus post that you don’t want to miss – especially if you are ready to put fierce loyalty to work in your business.  

P.S. Just in case you missed my announcement about my only live coaching retreat in 2012, you can catch up on the details (like there are only going to be 10 people there) and grab your seat here:

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  • Reading that timeline – which reminds me a lot of my own background 🙂 – makes me think of one thing. People are not motivated only by money. People will do all sorts of things simply to be part of a community. 

    • (NOTE: my wife was logged into facebook when I posted so this post is under her name, but this is, in fact, Jeremie replying)
      Great first takeaway of the day, and one I had not realized when writing the timeline, but it is so true. In fact I spent money to have all of these experiences and saw no financial return.

      Well at least no intended financial return. I did eventually get a job as a staff writer for a video game website and TV show, and now I use my gaming experience in my current business, but I did not play these games with that result in mind.

      The returns I received from the friends I made and spent time with were much greater than any money I could have made.


      • “The returns I received from the friends I made and spent time with were much greater than any money I could have made.”

        Exactly. Like grandma always said “them does most what they likes best.” People find time to do what they really are passionate about. Understanding this give us insight into how to motivate participation. 

  • Having a 14 y/o son at home, a gaming nut one might say, I can definitely relate to the loyalty in this community. I’m not sure if he chats more or plays the game more, but either way he is having a blast.  And yes, we pay to be part of this community (internet, an upgrade here and there, you get the idea).

    First thing that pops in my head:  a loyal community will always follow, whether you are up-to-date with the techy world or are old-school and use an abacus to tally their purchase.  You just have to offer what the community needs. But that’s the tricky part, isn’t it?

    Thanks for a fun post…I think my son would enjoy the timeline.

    •  I love that you brought up the tech piece Lori and you put it so nicely. It isn’t that you have to have the latest technology, you just have to have the latest technology for your community. If you fall behind on the latest tech that your community uses then that is going to make it more difficult to connect. What that tech looks like is going to be different for each of us and our communities.

      The other important piece that I think we need to start realizing is that online communities can be very strong communities, sometimes stronger than real life communities. Many people discount virtual communities as “less important” and for many that just isn’t true.

  • jPeter78

    Time lines, tipping points, and a whole bunch of others things that have happened in the past and explode in the now… I hope to join you at 1:00 pm today to see where this all goes to!
    Some of my insights… price of water,  Cell phone to smart phone, 

    •  I hope you can make it Peter!

      Cell phone to smartphone… a huge technology change that is affecting all of us in real time, and allows communities to stay even more connected. Many online games actually have apps that allow you to interact with the game from your phone so that you don’t even need to log in to stay connected with your gaming community.

      There are huge opportunities to use smartphone technology to help build community.

  • Ahh, gaming. A built in community at any level. As a former WoW addict in my most recent gaming experience I can attest to community. Players around the world, working together, having on and off topic discussions, nobody cares what or who you are…a fantastic setup if done right…and Blizzard did.

    How its actually built, offline or online is actually a major factor in the creation of the game, from play by mail to email to MMORPG.

    •  Agree, how it is built and strategized is so important. Many people think they are going to start a facebook group or a forum and think the community will just magically form, but there is a lot of thinking that needs to go into the structure to make sure the community can be healthy.

      It is interesting, earlier MMOs like Everquest and WoW (I mostly avoided WoW as I didn’t want to get drawn in) provided more of a framework for people to play in, and so quite often you had to be social and form community to have things to do.

      Right now I am playing Star Wars The Old Republic and it is very story rich, and there are a lot of things to do. The community seems to be a bit less connected, so I am starting to wonder if there is too much structure and too much to do in the game, so people don’t have to connect.

      It may be that there is too little structure, too much structure, and a “just right” amount of structure for making communities flourish. What do you think?

      • There does need to be a balance between the two. There has to be enough content you can do on your own as to not be frustrating, and enough you need help with so that its not boring

        With community management and growth, its the same. You need enough people around to generate conversation, but enough so that its not one guy blabbing to himself, and not too many that stuff gets lost. The original intent needs to stay intact as well. Sara has a community here that is fantastic …but if all we talk about is knitting or whatever, is the community really a success?

        You were smart to stay away from Wow. Huge time sink. But between the game, the online community and the offline community, its a great example of how to build the social aspect into something.

        • So enough structure to give the community some direction, but enough freedom to take that community in different, possibly surprising directions.

          I have been thinking a lot lately about what the critical number is to get a community off the ground and living. I know it is not as simple as just a number, but I think it is helpful to think about, and I think you touched on it in your reply Mark.

          Are 10 people enough to maintain a living, online community? 50? 100?

          At what point does that number get too big so things move to fast for people to stay engaged with each other?

          At what number do you need to support sub-communities within your larger community so thigns don’t get to unruly? (in MMOs I am thinking things like friend lists, and Guilds.) Is there a point where not segmenting your community a bit leads to it failing?

          I have no idea what the answers are, and I know I have oversimplified this with just a number, but it is at least a conversation starter. What does everyone think?

          • There is definitely a point, but there are so many variables to determine. A very interesting thought though. Almost an idea for Tipping Point volume 2…lol

  • Kathryn Corey

    Eventhough i don’t even understand a lot of the terminology and I’ve never played an online game … the timeline is compelling and says a lot about online communities and their Fierce Loyalty.  PLAY ON!

    • A great point Kathryn! Language has a lot to do with building online community, and we need to be careful about the language assumptions we make when engaging people new to our community, or in a blog post like this.

      How much has my use of “lingo” affected people replying and joining this conversation?

      On the flip side, how important is that lingo to bringing your community together and creating a special bond?

      There seems to be a fine line between a low level of lingo so new people engage, enough lingo that people feel like they are in community, and too much lingo so you scare people away.

      For me, I may have made the final mistake, and used too much lingo in my post.

  • Hello everyone! You can check out a replay of the live broadcast here:

    Let me know what you think of some of the ideas I shared,


    Thank you to Sherrie and JPeter for joining me live!

    • You’re welcome, thanks for hosting! It was a great chat! 🙂

  • annettenack

    I loved reading your timeline Jeremie!  I do have to say that could update the timeline even further to include the more local & definitely more intimate games like Risk & Dungeons & Dragons.  I mention this because I grew up with an older brother addicted to Risk & another older brother who went on to work for the company that developed D&D.  I believe these were each precursors to the online gaming that I have luckily stayed far, far away from.  I’m dangerous when it comes to time-suck…

    But what I really got out of your post- and the lingo didn’t get in the way at all!- is that there has to be a want to be part of the community or some kind of common denominator.  It won’t matter where you’ve come from if you have something in common that is greater than your differences.  I love that about communities.  You never really know who’s participating outside of their avatar if you never check out their bio or website.  You get to a common playing field where you’re allowed to connect without (or hopefully without) some preconceived notion of who or what you are.

    I also see that there has to be some kind of evolution.  For a community to survive, it needs to progress with the needs of it’s members.  If nothing ever changes, then what is in the community that will be able to sustain it? Is just that one common thread enough to keep it going?  Fortunately with the explosion of technology, I don’t foresee any slowdown to the growth & emergence of new communities.  The trick will be for each of us to take your thoughts & those of the last 27 days & incorporate them into something that can grow into fierce loyalty.  I’m a huge fan of not recreating the wheel.  Thanks for such a simple but insightful post!

    •  I could definitely add years of Dungeons&Dragons and other strategy and role-playing games to that list as I have spent many, many hours at the table. Interestingly, my two best friends I have known since grade 7 and our common bond was gaming. The friends I stayed in touch with the most from university were the people I played games with. Those bonds are super strong for me.

      As much as I think you need freedom within a community, I agree, you need to have that common foundation to build the community upon. Once you have brought those people together then the magic of all of the differing points of view and ideas can take over and allow the community to grow. But, in the end it is that foundation that brings them back to whichever conversation they are currently having.

      Your mention of evolution hits home the most for me as it is a big part of my philosophy around community and business offerings in general. I believe it is important not only to evolve your community/business but also to strategically plan some of that evolution. Map out some of the ways you will grow, and leave some to surprise and chance, but definitely have a vision for what things will turn into over time.

      If you start your community off with all the bells and whistles then it is harder to offer more, make changes, or grow, so I suggest that you start somewhere less than what you know you can do, and then grow and evolve into that bigger picture. It helps keep both you and your community engaged if they can see how the joint effort is growing and evolving.

      Thanks Annette!


      • Totally agreeing with both of you on the common denominator …

        “… there has to be a want to be part of the community or some kind of common denominator.  It won’t matter where you’ve come from if you have something in common that is greater than your differences”

        I’ve seen that time and time again in various successful communities I’ve been a part of both online and offline. 🙂

  • Thx Jeremie. This point struck me: “There seems to be a fine line between a low level of lingo so new people engage, enough lingo that people feel like they are in community, and too much lingo so you scare people away.” 
    In writing and book publishing, it is very powerful to create language that allows for entry and engagement, but isn’t so broad and bland that you could be anywhere, reading anyone’s ideas and story. One helpful idea is to think about an “idea set” and “sticky language” that is meaningful on the surface (not arcane) but that gets richer the more readers and community understand it …and start sharing it.  An aha is that my “community” (a lose group of readers, clients, audiences) often use language they’ve gleaned from my teaching, writing, consulting and they use it with each other.  Good food for thought. 

    •  I think that is a great point you make at the end, and this is how I interpret it:

      You don’t necessarily try to create or force the lingo, you let the lingo develop naturally as the community grows and makes some of that lingo their own. I think this would help make that lingo not only unique, but important to the community, instead of feeling forced into it.

      Of course, as new people enter the community they won’t be part of the development process, so that lingo will be brand new for them. But maybe because the community helped develop it, new arrivals will become part of that lingo more naturally.

      Thanks Janet!

  • Thanks so much for this great post, and I apologize for being late to the conversation. My husband and I are closet gamers 🙂 We love it but don’t discuss it in public. Some gamers would get why, others may not.
    This timeline is fabulous, and really (in addition to bringing back some great memories) shows us not only a lot about how communities are formed, but how much we are all enthralled with being a part of one.
    We have offline games that we used to play but never do any more, or very rarely because we enjoy playing, but we don’t enjoy being in a silo. Being very social, we love interacting with others while we enjoy the experience of the game.
    My husband is very shy (it’s tough for me to remember this as we’ve been together for 22 years this year) and it’s great for him because he never has that awkward period where he has to try to come up with conversation. He knows EXACTLY what he has in common with those he’s playing with and his fabulous personality can just shine. He doesn’t experience the uncomfortable feeling he does in a new live group of people.
    thanks so much for raising some great thoughts !

    •  Glad you joined in at the end Shannon! I totally understand the closet gamer feeling. Back when I was dating my online gaming wasn’t mentioned until we were past the casual dating period, and my Dungeons&Dragons tendencies were only revealed to long term girlfriends after I felt it was safe to “reveal my dark secret”.

      The ability of online games, and online communities in general, to allow shy people to interact and express themselves is one of my favorite parts about these communities. I have met some great people online that would never think of attending live events, or networking. Without these games/communities I would have missed out on those relationships.

  • This is now most important for us to make a contact with others people. Because we know communication is way where we can get all kinds of help from others. You write so well about the community.

  • This is now most important for us to make a contact with others people. Because we know communication is way where we can get all kinds of help from others. You write so well about the community.

  • larry45234

    Now there are more people are like to enjoy the game so more and they like to get more entertainment in here. To enjoy our like and get more success sometimes we can use such kind of gaming technology.