Two nights prior I had an inkling for a post that I wanted to write, but it was late, and I wasn’t in the mood to peel off one of my trademark “fire and forget” posts for publishing the next morning.
Cut to “the next morning” and I see this in one of my Tweetdeck columns:
It seems that every game company or project effort, regardless of size, feels that having a Discord presence is now a community requirement on par with having a Twitter account. That means that it’s not necessarily the best idea, but since everyone else is doing it, any company not doing it is somehow leaving money on the table, so to speak.
I feel that Discord’s original mission was to provide a better VoIP service to gamers. Before Discord we had an ecosystem of “OK” systems like Teamspeak, Ventrillo, Mumble, and others that required one member to host a server, or for someone to pay to have it hosted. None of the UIs were sexy, and they were often esoteric in their configurations, but they had pretty good sound and allowed for many people to be online at once. They all sported functionality that I think really arose from the needs of large gaming parties — i.e. raids — to exert control over who could speak, where, and when. When Discord arrived, it flattened the curve and just allowed everyone to speak (with a few admin-level features to keep things under control), did it with a pleasant and easy to understand interface, and did it all for free.
Chat, on the other hand, seems secondary to Discord’s original mission, but because it’s easier for people to type-chat than it is to be in a place or state of mind to voice-chat, it’s really the typing chat that seems to be Discord’s claim to fame. Like VoIP, the chat curve is pretty flat; servers can be divided up for organization and housekeeping, but the Achilles Heel is that there is no archiving feature to speak of; once a conversation rolls into history, it’s pretty much gone. Searching a server was a late addition (and doesn’t even work that well), and the most recent inclusion of threads — side conversations that happen out of the normal chat stream — are hardly utilized and make me wonder if most admins enable them, or if users are even aware of them.
With the recent announcement that Discord was going to be arriving on Xbox, I got to thinking about the ubiquity of the service and how every company seems to be spinning up a server just because. This led me to want to write a post about how the trend of companies and projects moving all of their community platforms into Discord is one of the worst ideas ever, but when Kotaku beat me to the punch I felt I had to state that “I thought of this first” (not first, but…just before their most recent post). In fact, it was Discord competitor Guilded who brought this article to my attention.
I don’t like being “forced” to join a Discord server. In my mind, the only good reason to join a server is to use voice chat or the live chat, and I am not the kind of person to do either with random people I don’t know; if I do join a Discord server, I am not there to mingle; I’m most likely there because I need an answer, and because the best provider of those answers has made no other avenues available. I’m sure in the mind of Those Who Make Decisions for a company’s community platform, people who are in their Discord server are focusing on their product and not someone else’s product. It’s that “engagement” that statsmongers love so much, and unlike Twitter or Facebook or even advertisements, it’s easy to see that engagement in real time. With every company pushing their own server, it’s impossible for anyone to participate in any one server at the level that these companies apparently assume people are going to want to, leaving the only benefit for moving Discord being as a repository for information that people need…and which Discord completely sucks at providing.