Does Live Chat among players belong on a site like HorseTourneys?
It’s a question that we’ve grappled with internally off and on for the better part of… well, only the last decade.
The case for allowing Live Chat is that it adds to the entertainment value of the product, creating a higher level of engagement and fostering an even greater sense of community among our player base. Anyone who has played tournaments at on-site, brick-and-mortar locations has witnessed the kind of camaraderie that typically comes along with a major tournament event. While online chat could never replicate that experience, it would at least bring some of it to online play.
The case against Live Chat is that it could become a messy place in a hurry, particularly in a highly-charged environment like gaming, and could create at least a semi-toxic environment. We don’t need to get into how, generally speaking, a meaningful percentage of those participating on social platforms can have a hard time behaving themselves. Moreover, there’s the expectation that support can/should be handled through such a service (it can’t); the technical challenges, time and expense of maintaining and policing it, and so on.
The history of Live Chat tied to similar products isn’t particularly pretty. While we’re not fluent on the practices of the entire Fantasy Sports marketplace, industry leaders DraftKings and FanDuel both discontinued offering Live Chat on their platforms several years ago, citing many of the reasons stated above. Overall, they felt that that issues it created simply outweighed the benefit. And anyone that has played online poker has no doubt experienced some cringeworthy moments in chat rooms there.
I am not afraid to admit that I have been personally biased against including Live Chat from the get-go. Now let me say–I’m certainly not anti-social media. While I don’t have a personal account, I use Twitter daily (it’s a fantastic news and business tool), and I enjoy connecting with friends on Facebook from time to time. But while we debated it annually as a team, our collective instincts leaned toward the “No” column.
Much of our reticence was related to the development time and expense needed to create the kind of tool that would be worthwhile to deploy on HorseTourneys, and especially, one that wouldn’t endanger site performance. Recently, as technology has advanced and become less expensive, we were presented with opportunities that we felt could work. Over the last few months, we’ve spent a great deal of time and energy on the right solution.
Today, we’re actually quite excited about what a Live Chat piece could bring to the table. We think HorseTourneys is more conducive to Live Chat than other gaming platforms for a number of reasons, such as:
- The numbers of participants in individual tourneys overall is reasonable; in events with several thousands of players, things can devolve into a big mess quickly
- Tournament horseplayers, on balance, are a kind and thoughtful group. A large percentage of the players participating in major tournaments at HorseTourneys know each other. It’s a real community, with what I like to call a real “simpatico.” It stands to reason that bad actors won’t be well tolerated, and that there will be a great deal of lively, constructive, and fun conversation
- We have firm control on how, when and to whom we offer Live Chat, so we can better keep an eye on things in an effort to maintain a productive environment
So how are we going to roll this out?
In the short term, we’ll limit the Live Chat option to Featured tourneys, such as major cash events Wednesday through Sunday and/or select qualifiers. Events that offer Live Chat will be designated in the Entries section of the schedule, like this:
Whether it’s 30-60 days, six months or more, the experience will be our guide. The rollout will be gradual until we’re totally convinced that Live Chat is a net-positive offering, and that technical concerns are zero. If that proves to be the case, while it’s unlikely that the option will be available for all contests, it would stand to reason that it would be included for most major events at some point.
The maximum number of players allowed in an individual chat is 100. We hope to expand this number within the next few months.
But, please allow us to be clear: poor behavior will not be tolerated. Anyone who chooses to participate covenants to comport themselves appropriately. While we’re not going to give a Rules lecture here, the Live Chat Rules will give you a clear guide as to what’s not acceptable. Most of it is obvious.
And believe us, we’ll be watching. Every single chat will be transcribed and will be reviewed by a dedicated staffer. Any bad actors will not be chatting for very long, and depending on the behavior, possibly not be playing at HorseTourneys at all. Will players be able to handle it? We are confident that they can.
So, look for the Chat option on the next big event, and give it a run. Please send any comments to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll keep you posted on major decisions as it relates to this new feature.
McKay Smith is the President of HorseTourneys.