I met Tara when she came to PopCap as a member of our Customer Support team. Today, Tara PopCap is the Community Manager to Solitaire Blitz, Peggle, and Zuma Blitz. She’s also authored several blog posts in recent months, and today is her birthday! So, we at the BlogRide thought it would be fun to let you get to know our good friend and teammate through a little Q&A. Happy Birthday, Tara!
When did you first hear of a job called Community Manager?
I was already at PopCap, and I knew I wanted to be in social media. I didn’t know the titles or the career path to get there, but I definitely knew that I wanted to be on the Internet, communicating with players playing casual games. And my experience was in Customer Support (for the last 15 years!), so it made sense to get my foot in the door, get to know all the games, and get to know the players.
Was there a time you were really frustrated, because you really wanted to fix something for your players, but you just couldn’t?
The worst experience with Solitaire Blitz was when there were the big storms in Virginia, and the servers went down. Everybody that was playing the game suddenly could not play, and it was almost 24 hours of not knowing if their data was going to be lost, not knowing what was going to happen when we came back online, and everybody just being so mad that they couldn’t play. And I was in the office probably the longest I’ve ever been with nothing to do except wait for the news and kind of hold everybody’s hand to let them know that we would be back and we would help them if anything went wrong and thank you for your patience…it was awful!
And what was a time you were really thrilled with the news you got to give your players? Something you knew they would love?
Oh, oh, when I first got on the Zuma Blitz team, that was so fun, because we did a Frogatar contest—do you remember this?
Yes, Skelefrog! And Werefrog and Count Frogula! And the artists came up with these amazing sketches, and we put it out there for the players. And I didn’t know this community—it was a brand new community to me. Of course I knew the game, very well, and I knew that they would be excited about this, because now you get to play with the Frogatar that you voted on. And so putting out that vote was the first time I’ve ever done a contest like that, and so many people participated (everyone in the office was making bets, literally!), and seeing the results from that was awesome.
What deck are you playing with in Solitaire Blitz?
Well, I switch around, on my Tara PopCap deck, which is where I play with the players. I switch that one at least once a week, depending if there’s a new deck, if I just completed a quest…right now, I’m using the Progressive deck, because we have “Flotus” in the game, so I’m supporting her!
On my personal, where I play with family and friends, I go between the Cherry Blossoms in the Spring and Summer to Wild Redwood in Fall and Winter. Those are my two favorites, though I have been known to throw in Charlie (who I call Calvin) and the pile of puppies as well.
What games are you playing right now?
Well, right now it’s been a lot of casual games, ’cause I haven’t had the time to put a lot of hours into Tomb Raider or The Last of Us or all these other games that are sitting there waiting for me…. I play Solitaire Blitz and Zuma Blitz literally every day! Also lately, thanks to you, I’ve been playing Ascension on my iPhone and learning about deck-building games, kind of a first for me. And Plants vs. Zombies 2!
What was the first game you were ever completely obsessed with?
Super Mario Brothers! I was eight years old when I got my Nintendo, and that was number one!
What class did you take in school that you think people who want to be a Community Manager and/or get into the games industry should take?
Definitely Ethics classes! You definitely want to know…I mean, we all know basic morals, but when it comes to technology and being on the Internet, what is ethical? What is ok? We don’t want to trick our customers, we don’t want to make customers feel like all we want is money, we want it to be a fun experience and ethically sound. It has to be great for everybody. So I think Ethics is a great class for anyone in this industry or in the tech world at all.
Last thing—you’re a gamer, and I know that is one of the first things you would identify yourself as being! What other one word descriptions are important to you?
Mother. Friend. Artist. Happy? Is that good?