Today the announcement went up that Sanya Weathers, former Internet Relations Manager for EA Mythic on DAOC and Warhammer, was moving on to pursue new opportunities, onward and upward, exelsior, etc.
If you played EQ, one of the first impressions that you probably got from Sanya Weathers is that she did primal screams really, really well.
If you played DAOC, you probably spent a lot of time doing a slow burn about how Mythic hated your class/realm/life and it was probably Sanya’s fault because everyone could clearly see where the stars aligned so that your class abilities were clearly underperforming as any basic statistical analysis could show even the worst moron who never plays their own game and when they do it’s on the side that is being favored unless you play on that side in which case they hate you and should be reported to the Better Business Bureau or the World Court. (exhale)
My perspective is a bit different. I was privileged enough to see her career from the inside. I was able to watch as she took a much-maligned job and turn it into a profession, through the simple and painfully obvious act of …being honest and professional.
That latter probably threw quite a few folks who only knew Sanya from her profanity-flecked message board rantings pre-DAOC. (And yes, she can make a sailor blush if given enough reason, thanks to quite a …creative vocabulary.) In fact, one of the hits she took, often, in her new job was that she was uniquely unqualified for her position, due to her constant sniping from the sidelines.
She took that, filed it in a box alongside the ever-growing collection of hate mails and photoshop manipulations, and kept doing her job. Which, since it wasn’t really clearly defined, she proceeded to reinvent.
Her take on official message boards, for example, is that they’re inherently inefficient. Many-to-one-to-many. You can never get complete feedback from a message board thread, because it’s a self-selecting sample of people who have gotten quite good at jockeying for position on a message board. So instead, she pulled regular reports both from analyzing message board trends, as well as from any other metrics she could get her hands on (one of my jobs at the time involved trying to come up with more).
She then made sure that decision makers for the game had that information available (whatever they did with it, beyond that point, was up to them), and then carried back to the player base as much information as she could about what was being done with that information. Meanwhile, the self-selecting sample of people who had gotten quite good at jockeying for position on a message board started to feel a bit ignored, because there wasn’t always an immediate response to every Dramatic Crisis d’Jour.
Much of what she did was “gimmicky”, such as the weekly “Grab Bags” that collected often unrelated answers to random game-related questions, along with an opportunity to respond to whatever Dramatic Crisis d’Jour presented itself. Yet in many ways, the gimmicks worked. Players knew to expect the Grab Bag on a weekly basis, would often handicap it, sometimes complain about it… and always read it.
Her navigating the twin pillars of Scylla and Charibdis, the developers in danger of retreating into bunkers and the players lobbing grenades at said bunkers, was not always perfect, but it was still far, far better than any had seen before. As the years passed, many players become frequently more and more abusive, often simply because, well, they could. And often, developers gave her incorrect answers to questions (including myself, a few times) for which she would take the blame. That, too, unfortunately, was part of her job.
Finally, almost every competitor paid her the ultimate compliment: here a grab bag, there some player stats, and central community news sites, well, everywhere. And that is truly her greatest legacy; that the style of communication that she fostered became adopted everywhere, and made routine. For those of us who remember MMOs prior to 2001, that was an accomplishment all its own.
I suspect we’ll be hearing from her again.