What to do when a well-known member of your gaming community dies? Case study

Source: Alan Cabello @ pexels.com

Death is inevitable. While we die alone, there are other people left in this world and they will want to express their emotions towards the deceased person. While it may be very hard to react to, social media and community managers should know what to do in such cases, as sometimes they just happen and we’re just faced with them and expected to act. I have encountered such a situation today and here’s what I did in the professional environment.

What exactly happened?

One of the most prominent and well-known players of one of the game’s I’m in charge of passed away sometime late last week. People, be they from their clan or from other ones, started submitting posts in memory of the deceased player to our official Facebook group. This was the way we found out about the situation. A tad bit later, some of their clanmates told our support employees about that via the in-game support system.

Source: Ghost Patriot @ pexels.com

The thing is, I was away for 9 days and I just got back to work today and it was one of the first cases that were brought to my attention. It’s not very often that it happens, so it certainly was a challenge.

The risks of the situation

Such situations usually demand a delicate and mindful approach. Here are the problems that I had to face before taking any substantial action.

Personal data protection laws

Was I allowed to write about the deceased person, even though I didn’t know and couldn’t use their name? I dealt with that in another way, but if you’re faced with that and decide to address the deceased person and you’re under the laws of the EU – it’s ok. You don’t violate GDPR, as personal data of deceased persons aren’t considered personal data, so you can use them.

Will it be in good taste?

Writing a eulogy for someone you didn’t know is a weird experience. What direction should be taken? Should I write something very general, something emotionless (just stating the facts and dropping „our condolences to the family and to the clan” at the end), or should I pretend like I knew a lot about this person? What form should be taken in order not to offend anyone?

What could we exactly do?

Should we even acknowledge this fact as a company? Can we and should we contact the family of the player? Will such contacting be compliant with GDPR? Shall we rather go with a statement to the public?

Did it even happen?

People don’t often report another one’s passing as a joke, since it would be extremely distasteful and cruel, but it was one of the things we need to keep in mind – that a single person devised a wicked plan and went viral. It was, however, very unlikely.

What about others who passed away?

A person from within the community informed me today that some of the Russian players in one of the Russian player groups of the game (an unofficial one, not associated with us), loudly complained that we surely will put emphasis on this player’s passing, but we wouldn’t do anything like that for Russian players who have passed away. No need to explain why this was a huge image risk for us.

What was already done?

The product team sent out an in-box message to all of our players to honour the memory of the player and to announce that a special creature called after the player will be introduced to the game in the future. There was also a special black band that players could use as a frame for their profile pictures.

So here’s what I did.

The power of a brand’s voice

We, social media people and copywriters, often tend to look for ways to emphasize what our messages should do. We tend to include CTAs, we use questions in interesting ways, we write clever and catchy one-liners. But this wasn’t the case. I did pretty much the only thing I was able to do, which was to publish a memorial post in the game’s Facebook group. We didn’t have time to make a nice image for the post and I didn’t want to reuse any assets. We also had our posts scheduled for our Facebook page for the near future, so I didn’t want to mess with it. Thus, I started writing a copy for the post. It had to combine several things. Namely, it had to:

  • be relevant to the situation and current world events,
  • address the situation,
  • not rustle any feathers,
  • have a message of hope and appreciation in it to include something more worthwhile and to be heart-warming,
  • not address the player exclusively, and the most important thing,
  • be human.

It wasn’t a post made to perform well or to increase our KPIs. We simply wanted to be as human as it gets. Sometimes, it’s what brands should do.

After writing and proofreading the post, I published it, tagged it as an announcement and pinned it to the top of the group.

It says:

„Dear Players.

Lately, it came to our attention that a number of players have passed away, some due to the ongoing world pandemic. While we could list their names and honour them as properly as we could, we’d make a disservice to others who are no longer with us and also were a part of our community. Because of this, we want to honour memory of all of the Fishing Clash players who have passed away.

While we all mourn, we shall also not forget to cherish other people who are still with us and form friendships in clans, in our groups or even in the real world sometimes. Care about others and be kind.

Thank you for reading this post.”

I’ve accomplished everything I wanted to with this post, which was just to pay respects to all of the deceased players of Fishing Clash, not only to the one whose passing caused this situation. The crazy thing is that it performed really well, as it’s the post with the biggest amount of reactions we’ve ever had in the group. People were also (generally) very kind and thoughtful in the comments. But it doesn’t matter at all in this case.

What was learnt

People don’t enjoy talking about death, illnesses and other taboo topics in public. I wasn’t comfortable writing this eulogy (you probably wouldn’t be as well) and people reading it may have felt a flurry of emotions. However, being in a position of power (as a brand), you can’t forget that you’re a human and you talk to other people. They will appreciate if you do what’s expected, at least to a certain extent, from you.

There are many risks that need to be addressed before writing such posts in order to minimize possible controversies. Some information can not be verified, so it’s sometimes better to avoid publishing it.

Hope drives people and gives them strength to go on, so emphasize it even under such circumstances. People greatly appreciate reinforcement in the belief that we shouldn’t take anything for granted.

I hope that you won’t have to tackle such a topic in your professional life, but if you had to, remember that there’s no one good and fool-proof solution to such situations. Adjust your communications according to your audience and to channels that you use to communicate. Adjust the tone of your communications, remember about possible issues which need to be tackled before publishing. And be a human talking to another one, not necessarily a brand.

Common sense is a great tool for judging whether the thing you wrote is fine. Would it be suiting to be said at a funeral? If not, you may reconsider your actions. Scrap it and write a new copy again, or make proper modifications.


Thanks for reading this post. If you wanna reach out to me and talk about marketing, gaming or pretty much any stuff, head to my Twitter and LinkedIn profiles and add/follow me. I’m also up to work on side projects, so you can hire me as well!

Sorry I didn’t include a lot of pictures in this post, but I think that it wouldn’t be appropriate.

Have a great day.

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