As we’re ramping up for the global launch, we wanted to introduce a series of behind-the-scenes blogs to highlight some of the team working hard on Sky. First up, we’re interviewing the team’s Community Manager, Criss Fowler.
Hi Criss! When did you join thatgamecompany and what do you do?
Hello everyone! I’m a very recent addition to the team, joining as Community Manager only this past April. What I do here can best be summarized as creating a window into the development process. I’m here to help the team support our already awesome Beta and Limited Live communities by making sure your feedback makes it to the devs and their insights make it to you, while also continuing to grow and identify the community’s needs after global launch.
I like to think of it this way: the dev team are builders who have built a “house” with Sky, and my job is to bring the party — that’s you! — to the house. I make sure the house is inviting enough for people to feel excited about joining, the house is working, and that everyone is averaging happy and getting along inside the house. Basically, I’m playing the Sims IRL… but with 100% more spreadsheets and meetings.
What drew you to working with Sky and its community?
I especially have a great love for games that explore using abstract elements and emotions to tell stories, so games like Flower and Journey were already favorites well before Sky.
I fell in love with Sky the instant I saw Jenova Chen step on stage and first share the magic of Sky with the world. I remember feeling so very excited at that first glimpse, and seeing its potential to bring people together in a way that hasn’t yet been fully explored in games. In so many other online games I’ve played, multiplayer means things like who has the best rank, gear, numbers, or pvp kills. But in Sky, there is no need to be competitive, fear judgement, or show off in that way – which is what makes Sky so special. “Showing off” means pulling out your new instrument and giving a new friend an impromptu piano concert, or flashing your fun new expression and then taking your new friend’s hand and excitedly calling as you show them where you found it. In the kingdom of Sky, the best way to show off is to take newer players under your wing and impart your tribal knowledge to them as others did to you before.
Who wouldn’t want to work with such a community?
What has surprised you most about the development of Sky so far?
Learning about how hard the team has worked to develop a successful online game that stayed true to its themes of compassion and generosity. I have a deep appreciation for the development team’s determination to find a way to balance this right, and it’s so incredibly warming to work with a team who is sincere in this objective.
What three games do you love that best defines you?
1) Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Although I was weaned on the gaming consoles of the 80s and 90s, I never really identified as a gamer until I played this game. My family used to crowd around the couch, taking turns playing GoldenEye 007, Mario Kart, and Tetris Attack, with the losing family member giving up their seat to the next in line (P.S. our mom always won). It was a group-bonding activity to us, so gaming wasn’t something I knew could be a solo emotional or thought-provoking experience for the first part of my life.
And then one summer afternoon, my brother and I watched our uncle play Ocarina of Time for the first time, and something about the way I saw games shifted permanently. Since we only had one console, my brother and I teamed up to beat the game together for the first time. When we weren’t playing, we were excitedly chattering about what we liked and didn’t like, the story, and the puzzles. It was maybe the first time that I realized that video games could be something I could culturally identify with and then connect over with other people. After we finally beat it, I found myself with a voracious appetite for video games that I still haven’t managed to quell.
2) World of Warcraft
As my first online multiplayer experience, World of Warcraft absolutely deserves a spot on this list for me. There was just something so special about that initial awestruck wonder you feel when exploring its world for the first time. Mixed with the social element of working with other players to achieve a common goal, the whole experience left me feeling like I was one part of something much bigger than just me — not unlike how I feel when I play Sky, I might add.
Going in, I thought this would just be a cute indie RPG — which it was, but it was so much more than I was expecting. Without spoiling it for you, it is a game that explores what it means to be “good” by making you question your choices and how you treat the various characters you encounter. The gameplay is novel, the music is fantastic, and the characters are lovable in a purposefully campy way that adds flavor and contrast to the more serious ethical questions the game poses.
What advice do you have for anyone wanting to learn more on how to get into community management?
If you are empathetic, great at both written and verbal communication, and excellent at social problem-solving, you’re already halfway there. But the best way to grow those skills is to just dive right in and create a community! You don’t have to be a professional Community Manager to build an online community. I got my start moderating discussion forums and gaming fansite communities over a decade ago. If you’ve ever run a guild, forum, Discord, or a Facebook group that maintained social activity, congrats! You’ve built an online community.
The key here is to get firsthand experience in order to understand how online communities function, and to learn how to identify what is needed from you to thrive — even as it continuously evolves. To do that, you have to be at the forefront of one to learn the impact of not only your own decisions, but to observe the constant social ripples that occur with every person who joins, leaves, causes tension, or causes excitement in your community. And with this experience, you will grow your understanding of not only how to manage personalities and expectations, but how to iterate on a structure that fits your community.
Interested in working at thatgamecompany? Check out our careers page to see what roles we have open!