Friday Feature – Interview with Greg (yes, that Greg)

The aim of these interviews is to allow people that don’t frequent other chat rooms to get to know mods in other areas of Kongregate and perhaps switch up their hangouts a bit. If you have any questions that you would like us to include go ahead and contact us or leave a comment.

A word before we start; Greg is a staff member of Kongregate. He creates the badges that we all have come to know and love *snicker* He has many other hats beyond being “the dude that makes those badges” and we have tried to outline those here. If you have any other questions leave them in the comments. We may have a follow-up interview if there are enough questions to justify that and if Greg is interested. And now to the good stuff!

What all does being the community and developer relations manager involve and how involving is your role in Kongregate?

Well, my primary job as the community manager is to appoint and oversee all the moderators, and try to prevent the community from erupting into a cesspool. Unfortunately, the site has grown a bit beyond my ability to do this very well as a single person, so lately I’ve been spending a bit more time brainstorming and planning out a system where users on the site can essentially moderate themselves. On the developer end, I spend most of my time talking to developers about game sponsorships and whining to them about our API implementation if I want to put a badge/challenge in their game (either asking them to add our API or asking them to fix one that isn’t working well). I would say my role at Kongregate is very involving, but then I can’t think of a single employee in the company who doesn’t have a role that’s also very involving. I think part of working at a relatively small start-up company is being able to see and understand how everyone’s job is pretty essential.

Seeing how easy it is to implement the API I’m surprised more developers don’t include it. I notice you responded to Psycho Goldfish’s article on his Generic Defense Game experiment. What are your thoughts on the numerous clones out there that don’t attempt to add to the genre?

Haha, well, they don’t know how easy it is until after they’ve already implemented it! I think if we could fully convey just how fast it is to implement, we’d get more people doing it. Regarding Flash clones, well, the whole sponsorship of Generic Defense Game made things a little more difficult for me. I mean, every time I’m looking at a potential sponsorship for a clone and I find myself thinking, “This has been done before, so maybe it’ll do well again…” I can just picture Psycho Goldfish standing over my shoulder and shaking his head in disapproval. So I try to focus on sponsoring things that do something new, put a new spin on an old concept, or polish an old idea to a new level of quality. Every now and then I’ll see a clone game that I wouldn’t have considered for a sponsorship get really popular, and I’ll think, “What? Why? How?”, but for the most part, I think players recognize when a concept has been done to death, and they won’t be as quick to rate it highly or spread the game around the web. I think in the end, most clones are pretty harmless, since people usually recognize it for what it is. There have been countless copies of Desktop Tower Defense, but how many have come anywhere near the success of the original? On the flipside of that, though, I’d be careful about what we label a “clone” and what we acknowledge as simply being in the same genre. “Defense” is a popular Flash genre, but that doesn’t mean that defense games are clones of each other any more than Newgrounds Rumble is a clone of Super Smash Bros, or Doom is a clone of Wolfenstein 3D.

That’s a good point. All right, so how did you get involved with Kongregate?

Well, I’ve always been really involved with gaming, both as a leisure activity and regarding my employment. I played games a lot as a kid, and I’ve always been really involved with online communities, since I was about 13. I also worked at GameStop for about 3 years in high school/college. During my second two years in college, I spent a lot of time working for the student newspaper, and I eventually started reviewing video games pretty regularly. I think that led to my employment with Kongregate more than anything. After graduating from college, I worked at NHN USA ( ijji.com ) for a few months, so that was my first experience with the casual games industry. I saw an ad for my current position with Kongregate on Craigslist one day, and it sounded really exciting, so I sent in an application and got an interview.

Cool deal. I’m sure you’ve heard this one once or twice, but what’s the story behind the game you uploaded?

Haha, that was John’s (jmtb02’s) idea more than it was mine. We actually went to college together, even though we never met until after I graduated. We became pretty good friends a few months after I started working at Kongregate — he’s legitimately one of the nicest Flash developers I’ve ever spoken to. Anyway, John (at one point) considered MrCredsAlex’s work to be pretty hysterical. John came into our office once, and I remember him just laughing uncontrollably at the mention of MrCreds, saying that his games were brilliant, and he wanted to give him a job doing something. (When I asked what, he said, “I don’t know, just a job doing something. I need to hire this guy.”) Later, on an unrelated note, John told me that we needed to make a game together. I had no idea what he was even talking about, but he insisted that I had to be the one to come up with the game concept, and he’d do the programming. I originally wanted to do a Lolcats-themed Ball Revamped 5, but he didn’t want any of that. Probably something about damaging the series’ precious reputation or something. Whatever. I don’t know whose idea it was, but eventually we came up with the idea to remake the MrCredsAlex classic “Rockettack.” (This wasn’t my first MrCreds reference — some might remember the Asteroids Revenge 3 challenge being named “Rock Attack.”) Anyway, once all 15 minutes of work was finished, I uploaded the game on Kongregate, and he uploaded it onto his site, and we got some good laughs from the reaction it got. Since then, the MrCreds joke has worn a bit thin, and I’ve actually considered removing the game entirely, since people ask me all the time if I’m a “real” developer, and I always have to tell them that, no, I’m not. And no, please don’t follow my example. But every time I go to delete the game, a couple of new comments will make me laugh, and I always change my mind. I’ll probably migrate it over to a different account or something eventually, though.

Well it really cracked me up when I realized what was going on. I’m interested in hearing about what sort of challenges the community encounters, such as legal, business, and those from other sites.

I don’t think our community really encounters any challenges beyond what the users are exposed to. We haven’t really had any legal or business challenges, and the staff doesn’t dwell much on other sites out there. The Kongregate vs. Newgrounds or Kongregate vs. Nonoba arguments/feuds with a few users from these sites are a little silly, as the actual staff of Kongregate doesn’t share these sentiments. I want our users to understand that if they go on another Flash portal and spam the forums about how much Kongregate is better than that site, they do so without the Kongregate staff’s blessing: We really don’t support this kind of behavior at all. Lately this has been a bit of a problem.

I can imagine so. There seem to be some rather ardent supporters of Kongregate. What do you feel sets Kongregate apart from the other online gaming communities?

Challenges, achievements, chat, and our layout. The best games (determined by user rating) will always have a spot right on our front page, where new users can easily find them. Most of the games on Kongregate are on other sites too, but the best ones can sometimes be a bit difficult to find; you might end up wading through a lot of other stuff that’s not so great on other sites — stuff that’s been given equal front-page treatment for whatever reason.

The uniqueness of our challenges/achievements pretty much speaks for itself. The only other gaming portal I can think of with a serious emphasis on achievements is Pogo, and the games there are geared toward a completely different audience.

Well the Pogo link is certainly no surprise considering Jim used to work there. Now under certain circumstances a ban seems too harsh. Are other ways of imposing discipline rather than banning, like just preventing a user from participating in the chat and playing games rather than an outright ban. I know most of this has been discussed here but I’m curious about any recent updates to that.

I am definitely in favor of a system on Kongregate where “silences” replace outright bans. However, our programming staff is extremely busy right now with other projects (our card game being the big one), so I’m not sure when community features will get some attention. It’s certainly on our to-do list, though, along with lots of other stuff.

I’ve played Kongai and that’s definitely some good fun. Now I’ve notice that there seems to be a large number of mods these days. Are there any specific criteria for nominating mods or is it just on recommendations? And if it is a recommendation of another mod is there a minimum waiting period for a new mod to make another nomination.

Our moderator-appointment system is as informal as it is outdated, given our current traffic. There was a time when I personally got to know every regular user on the site (back when we had about 100 online at any given time), and I would select moderators myself. Now, though, this isn’t remotely feasible anymore, so I rely primarily on recommendations from current moderators, as well as the thoughts of other moderators on those recommendations. If people seem to support someone for the status, I’ll take some time to browse the person’s chat history a bit — mostly to make sure that the person isn’t simply polite only when moderators are around. If everything looks all right, the person will be appointed. There really isn’t anything more formal than that. We need a new system, actually.

I was getting that impression but I figure you folks already have some ideas bouncing around. So there’s the card game coming up, but what else can we expect in the near future for Kongregate?

The premium games are on the not-too-distant horizon. We have a ton of other ideas for new features on the site, but almost none of them have been finalized (the card game is really sapping away our time!), so I don’t think I can comment on them at this point.

Fair enough. As the manager of one of the fastest growing communities, how is Kongregate prepared for the rise in usage and membership?

From a technical standpoint, I think we’re doing pretty well, and we’re constantly upgrading our servers to accommodate the rise in traffic. From a community standpoint, I think we’ve definitely outgrown the system of chat being moderated by volunteers whom I have to personally select, amid my other responsibilities. So we’re definitely not satisfied with our current system, which should come as a relief to those who might be a little frustrated with the occasionally inappropriate behavior in chat on Kongregate. We’re looking to much more powerful, user-controlled systems of community management, and we’ll hopefully start working on those within the near future.

Well great, I’m looking forward to seeing what tomorrow brings. Thank you for your time with the interview and I’m certain our readers will get a kick out of reading this.

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3 Comments on “Friday Feature – Interview with Greg (yes, that Greg)”

  1. JTtheGhost Says:

    I agree that the moderation system needs an overhaul of some sort, however the user moderation system sounds very flawed in some ways. It sounds like groups of people who dislike one person will be able to report a person they don’t like, even if they have played by the rules, OR maybe all of them are breaking the rules but they only report the person they don’t like, and not each other.

    It also seems that due to kongai, the moderation has dropped significantly, whispering to moderators goes though game chat, but most of the time they don’t see it. there has been many a time where i fail to find a moderator when i feel its needed, and i myself can not persuade the person or people to calm down, or stop etc.

  2. doctormarmalade Says:

    >:| thal, i am angry. I wanted this review!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Venzael Says:

    Definitely a wonderful interview. The bit about the feud between Kongregate and Nonoba is especially important, in my opinion.

    As for the moderation system, yes, since Kong is growing so quickly, Moderation will become harder and harder. It’s good the Staff are working on it on top of everything.

    As always, a great (and insightful) read. The interviews are a great feature of this site 🙂


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