I’d like to take a few minutes to address something that has come up several times in recent months on tumblr, in Youtube comments, replies to posts on my site, and in various other e-spaces.
The topic is that of ShackTac’s growth, or more specifically, the limitations I have placed on such growth.
To help frame this, let’s take a look at some comments posed to my Q&A Tumblr blog earlier. This is not the first time I’ve read something like this, but it’s a particularly suitable foil for the sake of this discussion.
When will you ever modernize ShackTac? I have always been a big fan of your work, but somehow feel you are falling behind. There are plenty of ways to cope with the increasing demands of the community, but you choose to handle most things alone, and blame server capacity. Why? You could make more brigades, give more responsibility to others, host more servers. I have sent several mails and comments on youtube with no answer, which is sad as i thought your ideals were grander.
Why are you only interested in your little tightly knit group? Do you have any idea how much potential ShackTac has? Which you are holding somewhat back? I think your responsibility is way larger than you are accepting it is, and your attitude to newcomers and your laziness has truely shunned me. I thought ShackTac’s principles were much more than they appeared. I really sincerely hope you will modernize, somehow, in the future. With great power comes great responsibility…
I’ve left the author’s nick out because it’s irrelevant – this could be one of a number of different people from past months.
Now, to preface the next part – I will have been running ShackTac for seven years as of January of 2013. What I have helped to cultivate in my group is the result of literally years of effort, of lessons-learned, of evolution and refinement. I have continually sought self- and group-improvement and have done everything in my power to make ShackTac the bar-none best gaming community out there. I believe that we have accomplished this goal. I have personally paid for our success in ways you probably have never considered – it has cost me in very real, quantifiable ways. With that being said, it has been worth it. The community that has grown over the years is worthy of that effort and worthy of years of future effort. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t bother – simple as that.
I have seven years of experience running this group. Seven years of decisions that have shaped what we are, how we’ve grown, our ethos, our image, our gameplay – all aspects of the group. I’ve gambled, I’ve won some, I’ve lost some, but whatever the case has been, I have learned from it and moved on with the intention of doing better in the future. I believe I have succeeded in that goal and will continue to succeed with that mentality.
ShackTac does not have the gameplay it has, or the public image it has earned, by accident. The quality of our membership is not a seven-year series of fluke events, random chance, or anything of the sort. It is a hard-fought struggle to defy the norm and craft into existence something that would never come to be without a solid vision and a concerted, constant effort to support it.
Now, let’s look back at that comment from Mr. NameWithheld and address it point by point.
Why don’t you “create more brigades”, host more servers, why do you blame server capacity as your limit, etc?
This is simple. ShackTac exists as a unified, tightly-knit community. We have one ArmA server which unifies our playerbase. We play our sessions on that server, and our playerbase’s expansion is based around the capacity of that server, as dictated by ArmA. This is how I choose to operate. This is the experience I want.
I have received over 3300 join requests this year. There are other communities out there that would kill to have that kind of interest – communities that would funnel that interest and attempt to monetize it via paid memberships and other such jazz. There are people out there who would happily invite a horde of players their way if it meant they thought they could become the top-dog ArmA community, as if numbers alone are the deciding factor and simply shoveling more players at a problem somehow solves it. I have watched these communities in the past, studied them, picked at them until I felt I knew their pros and cons in detail.
What I found did not and does not interest me. I am confident of what ShackTac is, what our place in the scheme of things is. One of our guiding principles has always been ‘Quality over Quantity’, and the temptation of thousands of new members does not sway me. What we have works because of the relative intimacy of the group – the small size, secluded forums and other chat mediums, and the single cozy server we call our session home.
You cannot have a multi-thousand-person ShackTac and have it still be the Shack Tactical that I and others know and love. It’s not possible. Want to prove me wrong? Go for it – but do it with your own effort, your own years of building, of refinement, evolution, trials, and tests. Make that gamble with something of your own that you’ve built up over years – put your money where your mouth is.
Do you have any idea how much potential ShackTac has?
I do. I see it every day. I write about it in great, vivid detail every year – as I’m doing currently for our 2012 Year in Review exercise – as part of my desire to capture the unique history of this group and preserve it for future ‘generations’ of members, and for my own and others’ nostalgia. Again, as this is Year in Review time for us, I read about our potential, our successes, and the satisfaction of our players on a daily basis.
I also know that all of this could be sold out for my own gain, at the expense of everyone else in the group.
I refuse to do that. Money, fame – don’t even bother to suggestion anything along those lines. The word to describe the value of ShackTac to me is ‘priceless’, and I would sooner fall on my sword than compromise my morals for such fleeting and ill-begotten gains. I wouldn’t sell out ShackTac years ago when it was first asked of me, and I’m no more likely to do so now – regardless of what form it is presented as.
Why are you only interested in your little tightly knit group?
This ‘little tightly knit group’ is comprised exclusively of people who I invited into it. It has been cultivated, pruned, and maintained by myself, my fellow administrative staff members, and the general population of ShackTac for years. We have kept those we wanted, dropped those that didn’t fit, and have maintained our standards every step along the way.
I am interested in this “little tightly knit group” because they are the best people I have ever had the pleasure of gaming with. They are friends who transcend what you typically associate a gaming group to be. They trust me to do the right thing and keep the group moving in a healthy direction, and that faith is not misplaced.
Is that a sufficient answer?
Which you are holding somewhat back? I think your responsibility is way larger than you are accepting it is, and your attitude to newcomers and your laziness has truely shunned me.
You do not run a group as large and brimming with brilliant members as ShackTac is with an iron fist. The only power I have within my group is that which I have earned, and I maintain that power only so long as I am worthy of it. If the community felt I was holding them back, they would express that, and I would have no choice but to take that into consideration and enact change.
The ShackTac community has not expressed that. If anything, they are wary of expansion – to include the expansion we’ve had this year. I am confident that we can thrive as a group with the limits I’ve placed on things, and it has succeeded for us so far this year. The community has supported the decisions I’ve made regarding this and has helped to make our 2012 expansion successful beyond expectations.
However, this is as far as we can go for now. That’s not to say we couldn’t successfully grow larger if the ArmA situation was different – I have my own thoughts as to what the maximum sustainable ShackTac membership count would be – but reality is what it is and there is far too much to be done to waste time daydreaming about things that are currently technically impossible. In any case, it is a far different outcome than the one you and others have proposed, of alternate servers, ‘ShackTac 2’ sister groups, and so on and so forth.
Finally, the notion that any of this has to do with my “laziness” is just… laughable.
I thought ShackTac’s principles were much more than they appeared. I really sincerely hope you will modernize, somehow, in the future. With great power comes great responsibility…
ShackTac’s principles are as described in vivid detail on our site. They include things like ‘Serious Fun’, ‘Quality over Quantity’, and the notion that ‘Community is Key’. Everything I have detailed in this post is testament to the absolute devotion I have towards all of those principles.
I agree with your ‘great power’ quote. I take that responsibility more gravely than most will likely ever appreciate. It is good that I do, that I am in the position I am with regards to the group. Had that not been the case, 2012 could have been the death of ShackTac – the end of a proud era.
When all is said and done – who are you to tell me how to run my group? Who are you to call me ‘lazy’ for not martyring myself and my group to cater to your desires? Who are you to throw such attitude my way for how I choose to run my own community?
To those of you who understand and respect this passion, these ideals, and the preservation of something special – even if it means you’re unlikely to be able to participate with us directly – I sincerely thank you. Those of you that don’t – perhaps some day you’ll understand.