Hello everyone! In celebration of the Community Game-Along reaching 100 themes, I, MDi, reached out to Anne Lee, who started the Community Game-Along in 2014 to get an insight on how the event began, and her feelings about the event, its success, and what the future holds for the Community Game-Along.
MDi: How do you feel about the Community Game-Along reaching 100 themes?
Anne: Wonderful! I'm thrilled that the community has responded so positively to this monthly event, and extremely grateful to have you carry on the torch. Here's to the next 100!
MDi: Tell me what you remember about how the Community Game-Along started.
Anne: I'm pretty sure it began as a discussion on Twitter with Kimimi of Kimimi the Game-Eating She-Monster about how Falcom games were way too underappreciated... And I wanted to make a point of playing more of them myself, so I suggested we dedicate a month to playing Falcom games. Thus, Falcom Month was born!
MDi:How would you describe the Community Game-Along?
Anne: The Community Game-Along is a monthly gaming event that encourages people to pick a game out of their backlog or try something new, with a theme each month to guide that selection process. A bit like a gaming book club, but you're playing games within a certain theme, rather than everyone playing the same title.
MDi: #JRPGJuly is obviously the Community Game-Along's most popular theme each year. Are you surprised at how popular this theme is (still)? Why or why not?
Anne: Well, it is an extremely catchy theme name, I must say! I personally love that it comes in the traditional mid-year lull, and during summer vacation for those that have it, so it's a great opportunity to work on a longer game like an RPG. The fact that the lovely folks at RPGamer participate each year has really helped elevate the profile of this theme, I think. I was really surprised and honored when they started doing a series of articles throughout the month, with many members of their staff participating! All of those things came together to make this theme a big hit, I think.
#JRPGJuly. A Community-Game Along tradition, as well as an RPGamer tradition.
MDi: What are some of your fondest memories of the Community Game-Along? A certain game you played? Meeting someone through participating in a current theme? Etc?
Anne: Oh, definitely the fact that the very first #MonMonth was what turned me into a Monster Hunter fan! The theme was centered around Monster Hunter and Monster Hunter-like games (such as the God Eater series) and I played Monster Hunter 4 in Japanese with a group of online friends. I had so much fun, I was completely hooked after that, and made MonMonth a recurring theme after that. Fun fact, the first MonMonth coincided with Monster Hunter's 10 year anniversary!
MDi: When deciding on what themes to choose each year when you were hosting the Community Game-Along, what kind of things did you take into consideration?
Anne: The main thing I considered was whether the games in the theme were underrated or underrepresented in some way. I really wanted the themes to showcase games that people may not be discussing as often for whatever reason. Of course, no one would say that JPRGs are underrepresented, for example, but even a theme like that can be useful for highlighting the truly broad range of titles available outside of big names like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest.
MDi: Between Dating Sims, JRPGs, SHMUPs, Horror Games, and Visual Novels, which of the main recurring themes do you have the most fun with, and why?
Anne: Oh, this is such a tough one! To be honest, I almost never found time to fit in a JPRG, so I can't in good conscience pick that one (though I love seeing everyone participate!). It's probably a tie between dating sims and horror games - they're both very divisive genres, but it's always so fun to see someone try a dating sim or horror game the first time and see how they find it. It always makes me really happy when someone is surprised by how much they enjoy a game in a genre they wouldn't have tried before! And of course, I play a ton of romance visual novels, so DatingSiMonth is one I always participate in. Plus, I love seasonally-appropriate themes! (dating sims in February for Valentine's Day and horror games in Ocotober for Halloween)
MDi: What do you think continues to make the Community Game-Along resonate with others?
Anne: I think everyone wants to tick more games off their backlog, but it can be really hard to choose where to start. The monthly themes are a great way to narrow down that selection and share your impressions with others, which is always more fun than gaming on your own! The event really encourages social media sharing and other kinds of content, be it podcasts or Twitch streams, so it's also the kind of thing that naturally brings people together around a mutual interest.
MDi: What do you think is the most important aspect in what themes get selected for the Community Game-Along each year?
Anne: Probably maintaining a good mix of themes that will resonate with a broad range of people and more niche themes that encourage a bit more stepping out of one's comfort zone for those people who are keen to try something new. I really like the themes that focus on a lesser-known developer or composer, highlighting the visionary people behind the games we play, not just the games themselves. But if every theme is too specific or niche, people won't want to or be able to participate, so it's good to have those recurring favorites or more accessible themes.
From 2014 to 2019, the themes of the Community Game-Along were chosen by Anne Lee, with some input from friends, followers, supporters, etc. And during that time, the majority of Community Game-Along information was posted on Chic Pixel.
MDi: At what point did you realize that the Community Game-Along would be something that could be enjoyed for many years to come?
Anne: Around the end of the first year, when people started asking me what the next year's themes were! I hadn't really considered that it would go longer than a year, but there was so much interest that I just kept it going. And I'm so glad I did!
MDi: Are there any themes that surprised you with how many participants it got?
Anne: Which ones? I think the dating sim theme initially was surprising, because back in 2014 there were quite a few less localized dating sim/romance visual novels available in English. But there was a lot of interest! I've really enjoyed seeing how that one's grown over the years in particular as we've seen more games come out in English that fit that theme. Of course, JPRGJuly always blows me away by how many people participate too!
MDi: What would you like to see happen with the Community Game-Along that you feel like hasn’t happened yet?
Anne: I'm always keen to see more people participate, so anything that would introduce new people to the event is great... Sometimes, game developers will jump in on the hashtag if it's relevant to one of their games, or something they're in the process of developing. I'd love to see more devs get involved like that!
MDi: Do you have anything you'd like to say to Community Game-Along participants in celebration of 100 themes?
Anne: Thank you all for joining in the Community Game-Alongs, whether you've participated in one, or many! I hope the themes have inspired you to pick up something you wouldn't have otherwise, and maybe even led to a new favorite game. The event wouldn't be what it is without everyone's support!
And thank you Anne for agreeing to share with us your perspective of the Community Game-Along. Here's to 100 more themes indeed!