A Letter To The Community: Words from our Community Manager

By Dennis “DennyVonDoom” White, Jr., Community Manager | @DennyVonDoom | 4:45 PM EST, Weds. June 5, 2019
Wow, it’s really been two years.

As the founder of this community, it’s important that I be as transparent as I can with you all. As I reflect on how far the community has evolved over the past 24 months, I would like to expound upon some important details about where we are headed next. You can expect these types of detailed keynotes and retrospectives from me annually and my hope is that this will give you a broader perspective.
A lot of what we are now as a community started with TwitchCon 2017 when The Cookout was only a few months old. I would eventually meet with a handful of community members for the first time in person. This gave me and some of the others more confidence that what we are doing could become something bigger. Plenty of people thought this would be a flash in the pan. Some were hesitant that the space would be viewed as too hostile or exclusionary by being a People of Color-centered space. Ultimately, some were hopeful that this could work.
Let me first reiterate the purpose of this community. Our purpose defines the decisions we plan to executive moving forward, as well as some of the choices we’ve made during these past two years.

[LISTEN: The Cookout Fam Podcast – Episode 4 (2nd YEAR ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL)]

PURPOSE:
“The Cookout is a safe space for People of Color; specifically for content creators of color to create dope content and help each other.”

When I say safe space, I TRULY mean that. Being a Black and PoC-centered space is not enough. We come in all kinds of shades. Some of us are queer, disabled, parents, etc. and I wanted to make sure that people in this space could feel seen, included, and accepted. When fleshing out the community, I wanted to focus on a few things that would help us stand out, but to also have an impact on how people view content creators in these spaces. These things are: Mentorship, skill building with resources made available to every member, and creation of opportunities for PoC within our community. There are a few reasons why all of these things are important to what we do.


In a lot of situations, the only major difference between new content creators and veteran ones is time. Experience and comfort takes time. Streaming and other forms of creative work can be intimidating. For a lot of people starting out, they see other streamers or creators and think they have to reach that level before what they do matters. We believe that every creator who uses their abilities to create a community deserves opportunities to show off what they can do. If those opportunities aren’t being provided to us, then we will create the opportunities ourselves and make them as high quality and readily available as possible.
Don’t have commentary experience? Well, apply to commentate at a future tournament we put together. Nervous about trying a new art style? Work on that piece during one of our Creative Showcases. Want to write about gaming from a different perspective? Become a contributor to our website. We understand that even as content creators, sometimes stepping out of your comfort zone isn’t easy, and therefore, we will provide the opportunities that can you get the experience that may not be available to you elsewhere.
Learning to master new skills is key to succeeding in any industry. I strongly believe that having access to resources and sharing that knowledge is important in one’s personal and professional life. When members see others doing things like hosting their own events, commentating at a tournament, raising money for charity, or hitting those partnership goals, it inspires and empowers them. As PoC, seeing ourselves and people like us in successful roles can go a long way…especially since sometimes the industry isn’t as forward thinking as we would like. It can be discouraging, and that in itself is a reason why our space exists. As a member of the community, you can vent safely within our spaces about these things because we understand that life can be filled with micro-aggressions on a day-to-day basis. The Cookout exists to serve the community and to provide you with ways to both make new friendships and give you the tools to be successful in your journey as a content creator.
So now that we’ve talked a bit about why this community exists, let’s talk a bit about what we have planned for the next year or so. There are some BIG changes coming over the next few months that I’m excited to share with you all a bit more in detail. While this isn’t the entire list as some things are too early in the planning stages, I believe there is plenty here to get excited about:

Programming

One of these big changes revolves around a focus on programming. There will be a weekly Survival/Role Playing themed show launching by fall of this year with rotating hosts featuring Cookout members! Next up will be a horror-themed show where you will be able to watch your favorite members play scary games on a rotating schedule. We want to use these shows as a prime opportunity to give many of you a chance to engage with a different audience and learn how to be creative in new ways on stream.
Spring 2020 will serve as the beginning of the last show voted for by the community which was our Indie games showcase. You all love indie games and it shows. We want to create a show with rotating hosts and hopefully work directly with developers to show off some of the fun titles coming out over the next year. This is going to take the most active work to make happen, which is why it’s not coming until next year.

To make shows like this happen, this month we will be holding our FIRST ANNUAL FUNDRAISER for the community. A portion of the fundraiser will provide the money needed to commission some of the talented artists and video editors to complete work for future programming we have planned on the official streams.

Twitch Affiliate

Our Twitch channel will be getting an upgrade. This month, The Cookout has become an affiliated channel on Twitch (SUBSCRIBE TO OUR CHANNEL IF YOU CAN SUPPORT!), which means awesome emotes are coming for you to show your love for the community all over Twitch! Subscriptions will help us build up some money for future events and day-to-day operations.While partnership could be realistic down the line, our primary focus is giving you all more ways to represent the community and support us moving forward.
Don’t worry though, we are still planning to stream on other platforms and Mixer is a big part of that plan. We’ve seen so many talented creators on the platform and want to expand moving into 2020. This means we need dedicated people to help us build a foundation on Mixer and plan events. This includes an eventual show airing weekly on Mixer exclusively! There will be more info on that in the coming months.

Volunteer Moderator Program

Next up is the Volunteer Moderator program. We’ve been working to get this up and running for awhile, and later this year, we will be launching our first trial of participants. Volunteer mods are people that volunteer to moderate other member’s streams until they can find consistent moderating. It also allows us to pool members together for special events and streams like charity events, front page spots and things like that. We are always looking for ways to support each other and safety from harassment which is still a major problem on these platforms is definitely a priority.

Website

Our website is getting an overhaul that will include a major feature coming soon: Forums! Having trouble keeping up with tech support or finding resources? We are adding a members-only forum to the site with awesome functionality! Soon you will be able to order fresh Cookout merch directly from the site (Administrator TemptressTeelia has been working really hard on this one!) Brand new designs are coming and even more looks will be available later this year, as well as creations by your fellow members. Lastly, we will also be focusing more on building up the press and editorial side of the site so that we can hopefully open up more opportunities for some of you to report on these gaming events live on location!

The Spotlight is coming back!

The OG members of the community may remember The Spotlight as a way to showcase members of the community monthly with access to direct community feedback to help improve their current projects and get their name out there more. This event will be coming back at the beginning of 2020, revamped and more extensive. Members will still be able to nominate other members for the opportunity each month anonymously.

Charity

Last month was dedicated to helping a good cause together as a community. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital was the first charity we raised money for as a community a year ago. Eight streamers gave their time to help out those children in need and we raised a total $1,400 that year. Most of us had never done a charity stream of any kind before. I’m happy to say that we had over 30 streamers participating this year and more than $14,000 raised during this year’s campaign season! About 70 percent of those people have never done a charity event before…and I bring this up because there’s still so much we can do. These numbers prove that everybody can have an impact, whether you are a veteran at content creating or just starting out. Moving forward, we will continue to support causes that matter, but more importantly, our support will include emphasis on Black and PoC-focused charities as well. If you are a member and interested in leading the charge, please reach out. My dream would be to put together a charity event live with a bunch of members together. Maybe that’s something to put a pin in for my next announcement…

Members of The Cookout community together at St. Jude’s PLAY LIVE Gamer Fundraising Summit in Memphis, Tenn. in April 2019. (Photo Courtesy: DennyVonDoom)

And finally…CookoutCon 2020!

Many of you may have joined us after meeting members at TwitchCon 2018, which was a crucial moment and amazing experience for us as a community. It was an experience created by everyone coming together outside of the venue and making the night something special.We heard from a lot of you that The Cookout meetup was the highlight of your TwitchCon last year.

TwitchCon 2017
A photo of members of The Cookout community at TwitchCon 2017 in San Diego, California. Pictured (from left-to-right): MelinasArcade, JDubeous, ThatSoAlyKat DennyVonDoom, and Ellesria. (Photo Courtesy of DennyVonDoom)

All of this is the reason why we are excited to announce that we are working on our own event, Codename: CookoutCon for 2020! This will be an event for members featuring panels, gaming, nightlife and other fun! We are starting small of course, but we hope to make this a yearly event where members can come together for a weekend and have a good time. We will be taking ideas for what you would like to see at this event and finalizing a city location so please speak up in discord in our idea/suggestion room if you have suggestions. This event will be all about you all so we want to make sure that all the members are involved in the process.

To The Cookout Fam and friends: THANK YOU for joining us on this journey the past two years. I am happy and thankful to see this community grow and to see so many of you making lasting connections with each other, playing together, making content together, and having a good time doing what you love while being yourselves proudly. It hasn’t always been easy, some days are really tough, but keeping a space like this safe means making sacrifices and dedicating time to create systems that keep it that way.  I can truly say it’s been worth it. I hope to have more amazing news to share by the time I write another one of these next year. Thank you all for making this community what it is. Thank you to both the mod and admin team for keeping things from blowing up. And remember if you have the passion to create, you are always welcome at our table.

 

Members of The Cookout community at TwitchCon 2018 in San Jose, Calif. (Photo Courtesy: DennyVonDoom)

-Denny