Welcome to Part III of this three-part series on Grifball Reconstruction. In Part I, I discussed the inevitable decline in popularity of Grifball. In Part II, I addressed some ways that the Grifball management and the community can work to recruit new players into the league.
Once a team is signed up, extra effort must be made to ensure that they stick around for their first season and come back for another. Currently, there is very little proactive outreach to newbies. It appears that only way a new team is helped is if they seek out the commissioner, the admins, or the elected management.
There must be a paradigm shift. Some blame newbies entirely for not showing up after they register, identifying it as that team’s loss, not as the league’s loss. However, when a team goes through the trouble of signing up, but fails to show at game time, it is a loss for the league; it’s a team that was almost hooked, but got away at the last minute. We should ask ourselves: Why did we lose them? And how can we stop that from happening to other teams?
1) E-mail outreach. As I mentioned previously, while some league veterans may not realize it, it is a big commitment for a newbie to participate in a gaming league. The management should be doing everything it can to encourage people to continue to participate after they have been placed in a division.
Everyone who signs up a team supplies an e-mail address to the commissioner. How difficult would it be to send e-mails to Amateur captains letting them know that their application has been received? Letting them know that they have been assigned a time and day to play? Letting them know that the league has begun, that week one has concluded, or that it’s now the make-up week?
It’s been done before. I received this message from Paul/PhoenixRage during our first season:
Hi, this is Paul, I’m an administrator with the Grifball League. I have been going over registrations which is what has prompted this email.
-No errors found at this time on your registration form.
This email does not guarantee that there are no errors on the form or that the division choices that have been asked for are secure, only that the registration form submitted has passed the first check and that the contact email you have provided is working. If we have any questions or concerns regarding your application or division choices, you will be contacted at this email address provided.
Thank you for your time,
Last summer, there were three “Important Grifball Amateur League Reminders” sent out by Caleb to Amateur captains, giving them information on playing their games. Yes, e-mailing these captains with news and instructions that seem obvious to experienced players can be a chore, but these are the basic duties that should be performed.
Given that each captain must also supply a Gamertag, messages could also be sent out via XBL to team captains, reminding them when their games are to be played.
Overall, instead of passively posting information on the homepage or in the forums, or forcing players to rely on an outdated rules page, the Admins should be actively reaching out to all Amateur captains.
2) Updating the Grifball.com front page. When Jack ran the league in SL08, there were multiple news posts on the front page covering league updates. During the offseason, every “bum rush” was announced in a front page post, and the winners were publicly congratulated.
This past season, news posts were only made to announce signups, beg for highlight submissions, and announce playoffs. While there was a week-one Pro League roundup that promised to become a weekly feature, it never materialized.
There is no reason why there can’t be more news posts on the front page. If a Grifball fan site like GrifballHub can have a new front-page post every day for months, there is no reason why the official Grifball league cannot have a post every week.
What’s more, these news posts must also cover the Amateur League. Too often the focus is solely on the Pro League, to the detriment of the Amateur League. One argument is that Amateur players don’t read the front page or visit the forums, so it’s better to cater to the known audience of Pro players. That is a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy–Is there no Amateur news posted because Amateur players are tuned out? Or are Amateur players tuned out because there is no Amateur news posted?
Anyone with Site Admin powers can post to the front page of Grifball.com. There’s no reason why a typical week can’t, for example, have a post from the Amateur Admin, a post from the Pro Admin, and a post from the person in charge of stats. There’s also no reason why Grifball.com can’t link to outside sources writing about the League—as long as they are sites that are approved of by Rooster Teeth management.
3) Forum outreach. We all know that old habits die hard. And no matter how the main Grifball.com site is reformed and updated, most of the chatter about the league will take place on the RT forums. If the forums turn out to be a welcoming place, why not encourage new players to sign up for the forums? The collection of e-mail addresses–the single greatest untapped resource available to the management–can be used to send out an e-promo encouraging new captains to sign up for and participate in the RT forums.
4) Greater transparency. Just this week, there was another discussion in the forums about Amateur teams not being placed in their requested divisions. I also read a comment from the head of the disputes committee mocking a team for disputing a game, and I’ve heard comments from a few captains saying that they submitted a dispute, but never heard back. These are telltale signs that the league lacks transparency.
Is there any reason why the divisions requested by all the teams aren’t published information? Is there a reason why the results of all submitted disputes aren’t posted publicly? Given that the head of disputes has front-page posting privileges, why can’t the results of all disputes be posted on the front page in a weekly round-up?
In Grifball, as it is in every job, if no one knows that work has been done, they are going to assume that it hasn’t been done. Even if every dispute is turned around in 24 hours, no one is going to give the disputes committee any credit if they don’t announce the results–or at least message the captains. When someone submits a dispute and never hears back, their conclusion isn’t going to be that their dispute was judged in a fair and timely manner. They are going to conclude that they were ignored. The best way to counter suspicions that disputed games are being ignored is to publicize the process and the results.
This goes for all other duties, as well. Why is there no Grifball.com Administration Twitter feed, for example? That would be an easy way to keep people in the league information as to what management is doing. How simple would it be for the Amateur League Admin to tweet, “Replied to three messages from captains tonight asking about playoffs.” The head of the disputes committee could post, “Now reviewing the Green Ray/Red Army game.” The Commissioner could write, “Spent 3 hours conferring with the Amateur Admin and head of rules about playoffs.”
All of these suggestions are fairly simple and only require effort. At a bare minimum, the Grifball community should expect the league management to achieve what has been outlined here. If there is a legitimate reason why some of these reforms can’t take place, then those reasons should be aired publicly and work-around should be pursued.
In six months, Halo: Reach will be released. Grifball’s inclusion in the game is all but confirmed; the Grifball.com league will see a spike in participation. This second lease on life must be taken advantage of if the Grifball community wants to continue to have two competitive leagues segregated by skill. If the status quo does not continue, I predict we will still see an eventual decline in Grifball participation, but at a much slower pace in Reach.