Alexander Paschall is a Professor of Game Development at ENTI at the University of Barcelona and Unreal Engine consultant, expert, and specialist. Formerly, he was the Community Manager of Unreal Engine’s indie realm.
Alexander grew up making mods for games as a kid, specializing in game development of Unreal Engine in college, and working in sales at Game Stop. As his game mastering knowledge grew, he joined Epic. His skills of both knowing how to use Unreal Engine and knowing how to talk to humans stood out, and he soon moved from Unreal Engine’s question and answer support team to Community Management.
Eventually, this led to a teaching opportunity at the University of Barcelona, personal projects, and some game development consulting.
His wife, Kait Paschall, was on the podcast earlier in the season, and you can listen to her interview here.
Building and Managing Online Communities
Unreal Engine is a game development software that allows you to take all of the parts you need to create a video game and make it properly. Any modern fighting game (think: Fortnite) is made with this software and their target audience is everyone from the big manufacturers to the little guys. This poses the unique challenge of maintaining a community around a product with an extremely wide user base.
“How do you community manage when your community is a mega-corporation that makes huge triple-A games and Jack, the guy who is making a cool little indie game, that has like $500 in his bank account?”
To solve this dilemma Unreal Engine had Development Relations handle the big triple-A corporations, and Alexander managed the “Jacks.” These were the guys who were making games out of passion and love, with no money for fuel.
Cultivating a Positive Culture
During his time as Community Manager, Alexander created special community events like game jams to cultivate a positive culture. Games that were born out of these events include:
- Calm Down, Stalin
“When you’re a community manager for game developers you find out much later on that they took something that you said or you gave them inspiration… or they just put your picture in their game.”
At Unreal Engine, Alexander said their goal was to focus on creating a helpful, informative, friendly community of smart game developers. The way that he accomplished that was extreme curation. This involved very clear and precise action on any negative or unhealthy interactions.
Alexander shares how he learned how to effectively confront people acting childishly online and treat them as a real person who should be acting like a professional. While “shaming” isn’t exactly the word to describe this, he says that calling individuals out either privately or publicly was crucial in shaping a healthy community and culture.
Tips for Building a Healthy Community
It will be hard to build your audience in the beginning, so Alexander emphasizes the importance of utilizing these tools and tips:
- Social media
- Landing pages
- Clear community guidelines.
- Listening to and engaging with your community.
“If two people in your community… came together and they talked, what would they say to each other and how long could they keep up a conversation about whatever your product/thing is? Because, if you can’t actually bring more than two people together to hold a conversation for more than 5 minutes about your product, do you actually need a community manager? Because you might not even need a community.”