12 December 2011

As well as being a fantastic writer and cosplayer, Meagan Marie is also the Community Manager for the Tomb Raider franchise, at Crystal Dynamics. She joined the team in Summer 2011, moving to San Francisco from her previous job at Game Informer. Since joining the team she has established the Official Tomb Raider Fansite Programme, organised and ran a series of community days across the globe, created an official blog for the series and kept fans up to date with regular newsletters and podcasts. 

Recently Meagan very kindly took a few minutes out of her busy schedule to talk with us about her life at Crystal, her favourite games and tips for getting into the industry. 

What do you find  the main challenge in working with a large community?

Connecting with everyone has been the most challenging task, especially because of the many language barriers. After introductions and those initial few emails everything has fallen nicely into place though. I’ve now got a database up and running with fansite administrators, forum moderators, and other super fans catalogued for easy contact. I’ve even been lucky enough to put many names with faces this past year during our European tour, making the connection between the studio and community even stronger.

With tools like Google Alerts, TweetDeck, and various RSS feed readers, it’s actually pretty simple to keep up with the community, track content, and monitor brand sentiment. Time to respond and participate in every sub-community is hard to come by though, which is the other primary challenge. It gets much easier with time however!

What part of the Tomb Raider Community tour did you find the most memorable?

Each stop on the tour was very memorable, especially considering that it was my first time in Madrid and Hamburg! It was very exciting to demo Tomb Raider for fans at my first tradeshow (GameFest in Spain), and the community dinner in Germany was epic – complete with custom Tomb Raider menus. The stop in the UK gave me a chance to meet up with coworkers I’d not yet met in person, and the entire fan gathering turned out to be female, which was really fun.

I think perhaps the most memorable moment however was walking through the ancient Egyptian exhibit with fellow Tomb Raider fans at The Louvre. It was my first time at the museum, and something about the entire day was surreal. I’ll never forget it.

Meagan with Tomb Raider fans in France, during one of the community sessions. Photo from the Official Tomb Raider Blog.

What is it like working for Crystal? Could you describe your average day at the office?

While social media is perhaps the most public aspect of my job, in reality it’s an all-encompassing position that requires a strong understanding of social tools, data analysis, public relations, brand and franchise development, general management, event planning, and more.

I usually kick off the day with email and forward-facing communication such as posting blogs, updating Twitter and Facebook, and checking in on the forums. This is all part of keeping both longtime and new fans apprised of information as well as growing and garnering excitement for our upcoming products.

After checking in on the status of our community, it’s onto the long-term projects such as fleshing out PR plans with the brand team, exploring licensing opportunities and product partnerships, conceptualizing and realizing brand initiatives (such as the Tomb Raider 15-Year Celebration), and keeping a pulse on the sentiment of our studio and products through monitoring press coverage and fan discussions. This sort of information is compiled and presented to the team for analysis. All of the above requires working regularly with international Square Enix teams and weekly check-ins with territories worldwide.

When the time comes I’m also responsible for coordinating and prepping global asset drops, preview embargoes, and writing press releases. As the campaign for title ramps up, I’ll be traveling to industry events worldwide providing demos & hosting community events.

I’ve also taken on responsibility of promoting the studio itself, and as such have implemented monthly newsletters and podcasts (which I plan, schedule, prep, record, and edit myself) to help build up awareness of studio culture, charitable initiatives, and job openings. Quite a bit of my job is actually forecasting communication functionality of our studio and products so to best meet the needs of consumers and fans – be it through our website, forums, or social media tools.

When not doing the above, I’m occasionally asked to do something unique such as read temporary VO for the game, play test a level, act as a sounding board for ideas, do some design work, and more.

Just like Game Informer no two days are alike and I love it. It’s a very intense and demanding job, but every day I learn more about the inner workings of game development and am inspired to work hard in order to do the team and our collective work justice.

What are your favourite perks of the job? Are there any disadvantages?

Travel is the ultimate perk, as I’m quite social and love to be out and about. I really enjoy attending trade shows and demoing the game, or meeting up with fellow fans at a smaller event. I suppose a disadvantage to being a CM of a global brand is the hours, as there is always a Tomb Raider community awake in the world. That being said, the franchise has been a passion of mine for fifteen years, and as such the lines between work and play often blur. I enjoy working hard.

Meagan at during a Tomb Raider meetup at SDCC,  premiering her Lara Croft Steampunk cosplay.

How were you first introduced to Tomb Raider?

I first met Lara fifteen years ago! My love of gaming ignited the moment I was introduced to Lady Lara Croft, but I’ve been playing games since the furthest reaches of my memory. Tomb Raider was the first game I took ownership over, however. Although some may find it laughable that a preteen would identify with a buxom, gun-toting, aristocrat archaeologist, I did. Or rather I wanted to identify with her. Lara inspired me to be intelligent, strong, and independent – all qualities I do my best to embody even today.

What is your favourite moment from the series?

I have dozens, stumbling upon the T-Rex in the original Tomb Raider being the most obvious. I look back most fondly on exploring Croft Manor in Tomb Raider II and III (especially the maze with the quad bike), which made its destruction in Tomb Raider: Underworld equally memorable (and sad).

Do you have any advice for fans who would like to start up their own Tomb Raider site?

The best advice I can offer up is to find your voice! There are many Tomb Raider fansites out there, and all of them of great quality. If you want to stand out, perhaps focus on something specific like the movies, cosplay, fanart, or music. It’s easier to become an authority on a smaller scale topic first, and then you can expand your content to meet the needs of your new community.

Developer session at Eurogamer Expo.

Besides Tomb Raider, what other favourite video games are your favourite?

As far as franchises, Mass Effect, Uncharted, Gears of War, Left 4 Dead, Portal, Resident Evil, Kingdom Hearts, and a handful more top my list. I also love Fatal Frame III, Final Fantasy VII & VIII, Beyond Good & Evil, Batman: Arkham Asylum/City, Borderlands, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, Okami, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and Split/Second.

Your previous job at GameInformer sounds quite different from your job at Crystal. Was it difficult moving to San Francisco and becoming a Community Manager? And what advice would you give to someone who is planning on moving for work in the Video Game Industry?

I’d say it’s best to warm up to the idea of moving early on. The industry is healthy and expanding, but there are still hotspots such as San Francisco, Boston, and Montreal that are going to offer the most options if you can’t find a company or startup in your area. I knew when I first began my pursuit of finding a job in the industry that relocating was most likely in the cards.

Crystal made the transition quite easy, however, helping me with temporary housing and recommending places to live. As long as you do your research online through apartment rating websites and so on, you’ll be fine. Your new coworkers will most likely be eager to show you around once you’re a part of the team!

Thank you so much for doing the interview with us Meagan!

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