Red Shirt Guy – a great story

If you’ve spent any time in community work, you’ve run into one of “those fans”. A fan of your brand/product/company who has generated so much love for your brand that the love manifests in unreasonable anger at various decisions or a level of depth on issues that even the product’s original developers never intended.

These folks are great, and they are in no small part a big reason a brand turns from great product into beloved experience. You need these folks, you want these folks, and you should love these folks.

But it doesn’t mean they’re always easy to work with. Consider the Red Shirt Guy:

[..] the epic story of Red Shirt Guy, the kid who stood up at Blizzcon and pointed out that Blizzard loremasters had left a secondary NPC (Non Playable Character) out of the expansion, and then, when video of his nervous demeanor went viral, responded calmly, reasonably, and in the same shirt to all the haters.

If you’re the Community Manager at Blizzard, having this kid stand up and ask about this level of minutia when you’re trying to launch an entire game expansion has to be frustrating. Sure, you may appreciate the depth of his enthusiasm, but it’s probably quietly on the inside.

Many community managers let this type of thing get to them and just blow it off. But this story, as Geekosystem rightly points out, went viral. What to do? Embrace it, love it, integrate it.

Don’t worry, it’s a happy ending. In reward for his dedication to the story behind the biggest MMORPG in history, Blizzard has not only fixed the omission of Falstad Wildhammer fromWorld of Warcraft: Cataclysm, but given the dwarven chieftain an addition to his retinue.The Wildhammer Fact Checker currently stands proudly next to his leader in the CataclysmBeta, and, as Blizzard confirmed, he will remain there when the game ships.

And yes, he’s wearing a red shirt.

Two things happen with this story:

  1. The team at Blizzard shows that they’re paying attention. This wasn’t a casual brushing off of an otherwise easily dismissed story. They took it and ran.
  2. They made themselves “one of the gang” within the fan community. Blizzard is proving that they’re not only listening, but that they’re as interested in the community discussion as anyone in the world.

Relatively speaking, this is a tiny amount of additional work for Blizzard. But it’s a huge win for their community and the conversation they have daily with fans. It’s hard to put this decision into a business case, but the results speak for themselves within the conversation of fans and non-fans alike.

    (For what it’s worth, I’m bored to tears by World of Warcraft)