Extralife Challenges: A Long-distance Teammate

Welcome to our re-launched website and blog. I’m Zekk Walker, and I have been a member of Team AcaGameia since Extralife Gameday 2016.

This is where many of our readers, who may be longtime team AcaGameia supporters, could be scratching their heads in confusion.

No, you likely have not forgotten my participation in the “Fresh Pots” streams. I am mostly a solo streamer, and most often run my game day streams separately from the main group.

Now, I’m not simply being anti-social by streaming alone…  I live nearly three thousand miles away from the main group. I am a long-distance teammate.

As you can imagine, this separation can sometimes prove to be quite a significant barrier to working together with my fellow teammates. The challenges, opportunities, and workarounds we navigate are going to be the focus of this blog series.

I am not alone as a long-distance teammate. There are many extra lifers out there like me. There are even some others on our team. 

What is my goal with this series? 

I want to share our team’s acquired knowledge about how to effectively team up with others who may be half a world away. What works, what is difficult, and what does not work. I also want to share what we are going to try in the future to be able to interact with our more remote members. 

As a long-distance teammate I want to share my insights with our readers. Hopefully, if you are a long-distance teammate, this series can help take some of the trial and error out of the process of becoming more connected to your group.

The first and often most overwhelming of the challenges that long-distance team members face is team communication.

If the main group all see each other daily, weekly, or even monthly, they most often are going to communicate plans, gaming ideas, and set up events in person. Accidental isolation from such quickly made plans is a critical challenge a remote teammate can face when it comes to working with your team. It can unintentionally exclude them from pre-event decision making, and or the event itself, simply from lack of foreknowledge.

This also presents our first opportunity. 

As a team, it is important to have a central hub for communication. 

AcaGameia has a team Discord where we can very quickly check in with each other, and post information about projects and ideas about events. 

While Discord is our flavor of choice for team communication, there are many different options available. The important part is that the opportunities to interact with the team, and decision-making processes, can be presented to everyone regardless of where they live.

This new re-launched website and blog, for example, is a project that was discussed both in person and via our communications hub. The opportunity to participate, and indeed write this series, was also dependent on good conversation within the team communication hub.

Communication can make or break any team. If team members are engaged and feel included, they are much more likely to share their ideas with the whole group. Good communication can also help events get planned with less panic. It can be very challenging to learn about an event at the last minute. The long-distance teammates often must find a way to plan around prior personal commitments or navigate other barriers to entry.

Common barriers, such as time zone differences, or child care may require a bit more pre-planning to successfully navigate. If events are planned ahead of time in the communications hub, it becomes much easier to keep track of and plan for them. 

This vital communication goes both ways. If the long-distance teammate is planning an event and wants as much main team support as possible, or wants to find a way to participate with the main group in an event, it takes good communication, and pre-planning to find solutions to possible barriers and implement those solutions effectively.

We know this because we have tried to multicast my stream, and others, into the main AcaGameia Extralife stream on the fly. There were a few wrinkles to iron out. One such challenge has been that the picture in picture way we have previously used requires the mature filter to be turned off in the channel being featured. Another challenge with our current method is that communication between any two streams is fully dependent on monitoring both the sound of the stream’s involved and their twitch chats. This also requires taking into account both stream’s delay factors. All of this has to be managed while running our events. 

This can take up a ton of monitor real estate and computer resources, not to mention extra mental effort on tired brains during twenty-four-hour streams. This situation has provided us with an opportunity to work together as a team while doing different things, but our current implementation is still far from a perfect solution. 

This leaves us with an opportunity to improve upon how we connect and interact with each other for future events. We don’t have a good answer to this one yet, but we are working on it! Perhaps we can have a section of our Discord where we all hang out during the streams, but with separate channels. Then we can move in and out of, be dragged around to, or monitor another stream’s communication audio channels as we need or want to.

Communications can be tricky for a long-distance teammate!

Something we have learned is that If two or more long-distance members band together and create an event, the communication hub is the best way to facilitate the planning process openly for all the team to see. Such events could even end up becoming a full team event if all the pieces fall together. This is how we, as a mixed team, ensure that we are being as fair and inclusive as we can to all our members.

In the end, we are all friends, and friends of friends, working together to provide content and have fun. Most importantly, we are all helping to raise money to help care for sick children. 

We are strongest when we stand together.

The next post in the series will be focused on the challenges of getting together with your team as a solo streamer, the difficulty in navigating time zones during team event scheduling, creative scheduling to mitigate the effects of those time differences, and strategies for maximizing those time differences to create continuous team coverage for larger events.

I am Zekk Walker – Game On! 


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