OngoingWorlds blog

News & articles about play-by-post games, for roleplayers & writers


The importance of community in Star Trek Freedom

Star Trek FreedomSome roleplaying games have the staying power to stay around for many years, while some lose their members and close just after a few weeks. A roleplaying game isn’t just about roleplaying, it’s also a community. To find out how important a sense of community is to a roleplaying group I asked Anthony Keen, CO of roleplaying community Star Trek Freedom. When I last interviewed Anthony Keen, it was clear that they’re taking it very seriously and put a lot of effort into both the game and the community. Star Trek Freedom has been around for over 13 years, so they’re definitely doing something right to make their players stick around. They’re really active as a community and socialise together using email, forums, Twitter and Facebook.

PR (Public Relations) is very important to us as its the sense of community and family that holds our game together.

Anthony Keen, Star Trek Freedom

Many roleplaying games focus on the characters in the game, and not so much about their players. It’s common to see a character biography on many roleplaying websites, but Star Trek Freedom also has a personal biography for all players too. You can also see a gallery of player photos here.

Anthony and Wendy

Anthony and Wendy

Romance between players?

Star Trek Freedom is also responsible for several romantic relationships, but lets not stop there – there have been two marriages between members, including Anthony himself.

I’ve been married since 98, about 9 months after moving to Melbourne after meeting Wendy in this PBeM in Jan 98.

Anthony Keen, Star Trek Freedom

They’ve also had several other romantic relationships between players in the game, including same sex relationships.

Player meetups

Like many internet-based communities, Star Trek Freedom has players all across the globe, so I asked Anthony how often they get together for a meet up.

Not regular at all,  a few people in the US have realised they are close and have gotten together for dinner… Wendy and I took a trip around the world and met up with people in the game in New Zealand, Hawaii, Canada, the UK which was fun

Anthony Keen, Star Trek Freedom

Meet up

A member meet up

Their latest idea is to take a teddy bear (the STF Bear) with them whenever they meet up and pass on to another member, so eventually the bear will be taken all around the world. So far the bear has travelled to Manchester and Scotland in the UK, and will eventually reach Anthony down in Melbourne, Australia.

Taking the bear to a meet up

Taking the bear to a meet up

Working together

Another way to bring people close together is to collaborate on projects. Star Trek Freedom has an active wiki that the members work on together.

I find that members really value contributing it as a way of expressing and extending themselves. It was a left field surprise I didn’t count on. With 3000+ pages, its simply an amazing resource for them to use.

Anthony Keen, Star Trek Freedom

Sticking to the technology that works

There are many ways to communicate these days, but Star Trek Freedom have found the one that works for them the best and stuck to it. Many roleplaying groups use real-time chat and forums, this can be a great boost to your game bout it can also be a distraction.

We don’t do chats anymore, we did back in the day have IRC sessions for all members but it seems that no-one has the time anymore. Being an email game, people like to use email. Even the forums don’t get used, the email is where it is at for an email game.

Anthony Keen, Star Trek Freedom

The GM can’t do it alone…

With a large group it’s very difficult for just the GM to keep the community alive, as Anthony explains:

As the GM, I can’t solely keep the members interested and alive. I delegate the running of each group to the CO of that group. We have 5 ships, we have 5 COs who are the GMs of their ships in reality. The Council of 5 keep an eye on them, and we play in the same period of time, so we keep everyone together using the same rules, and general story.

Although all of this is nice and a good additional aspect to a game, there is only one way to retain members and demonstrate to new people what we’re about, and that is to cater to why they wanted to join in the first place. In our game, its to roleplay star trek in an email format and be active in that goal. The rest falls into place if the story everyone is contributing to is interesting, engaging and fun! Fun goes a long way.

It takes time but if you identify the reasons of why people joined in the first place, its not hard to make sure you continue to listen and adapt to their needs.

Anthony Keen, Star Trek Freedom

Anthony’s last paragraph really sums it up there. The community is just a group of people, who all have different reasons for being there and might want their own things, which is why no two communities are the same. Sometimes just talking to people will give you a clear idea of what they want out of the community.