Whilst browsing through the various sites amongst this fine community, it's quite easy to forget that there's a real presence behind all of the websites you traverse across. We've attempted to give you a genuine insight into this 'other world' in the past (see Behind The Scenes). As a result of this real life influence into the community, members of it come and go due to their changing personal circumstances. So what are these circumstances? That is the question this piece poses and attempts to tackle. Obviously listing every single circumstance is impossible, but that's where the beauty of generalization will come into play.
Losing interest in something is usually a very gradual process - one you don't realise happen until you sit back and think for a while. In today's ever-increasingly hectic world, that's something a lot of people don't make enough time for. So, speaking from my own experience in losing interest in the community, here are some of the most common reasons you are likely to encounter.
We all have to be fiscally responsible. After a brief period of fluttering around trying to make some sort of income by offering website design and the like, I had to face up to the fact that a 'normal' job (as society would put it) was a far more reliable source of income. Obviously, hours are far more demanding than the ones you spend putting together a few graphics and a bit of code. One will also find they spend far less time on the internet due to simply being at work - this ties into the subject of time that I will discuss later. A C&C website is never going to offer anyone any sort of substantial income. The series is simply not popular enough.
Stairway to Heaven
I could be proper here, and entitle this point 'The Other Gender', but lets face it - how many girls play C&C? Not many. Our teenage years witness an increasing interest in the feminine species. The capture and chase of them being time-consuming indeed. This particular area has strong links to the point of social acceptance, as will later be discussed. The more you grow to like a particular girl, the more time you'll find spending with them. Whilst this may sound blindingly obvious, you simply won't realise that the time being spent with them is often time you would otherwise have spent pottering around on the internet. One of the big attractions of a girlfriend is of course the physical side. Would you rather be blowing up dragon-tanks or getting your end away? I know which one I prefer. Obviously, a lot of the aforementioned points are rather dependent on your age and social development. The community is full of people of varying ages, including a lot of younger members who are probably not even yet to discover the art of masturbating, let alone the secrets of luring females into their beds.
This I believe to be the most direct factor on influencing one's involvement with the community - given that it has a notable effect on all the points that this article discusses. For example, a ten year old is less likely to be worried about going and getting laid or being financially solvent. As we grow up, there are many outside influences that effectively change the person we are, and shape the person we are to become for, in a lot of cases, the rest of our lives. The charm of alcohol is of course one of the biggest ones. Your later teenage years see you develop a taste for the beautiful gift that is beer - something that results in many drunken nights (and days!); which means you won't be finding yourself by a computer. Having said that however, it did result in a drunken prank on our front-page a good two years ago; the full details of which have never been publicised thankfully! But generally it's safe to say that when you're getting legless, the state of your website or the internal-politics of your clan will be of very little interest to you.
Yes, this point does deserve two whole paragraphs. Another important factor that has to be mentioned is that of driving. Learning to drive is something the majority of us does as part of our transition to young not-so-responsible adults. Once you have the means to go anywhere, whenever you please, you'll find yourself just generally being 'out' more. This is especially true if you are unfortunate enough to find yourself in the 'sticks' like several of our staff members. Another important issue is the idea of responsibility. The older you get, the more likely you are to find yourself having to look after yourself instead of being mole cuddled by your parents or indeed the education or employment systems. Responsibility involves making decisions, which involves a decent portion of time. Whilst one would rather be destroying legions of infantry or groups of heavy-armour, filling out tax returns and the like is something that has to be done. There are so many aspects to growing up that I'm forced to end the discussion of this point somewhat prematurely, otherwise I will find myself droning on forever.
Me getting drunk in the sun at Old Trafford watching Lancashire
As time passes, people develop new interests. It isn't simply down to ageing, although it more than often is. You may find a fifty year-old suddenly developing a passion in computers games for instance. It all comes down to external influences and pure chance. I for example have developed an interest in cars as a result of learning to drive. My interest in sports such as cricket and football has also increased due to having quite a successful past season with the former. Basically, the more interests you have, the less time you'll find yourself spending with another interest (such as gaming). Before you know it, you haven't played a game in months. You're that busy you don't notice. As I mentioned before, you only realise when you stop and think.
As a result of having quite some knowledge of this community, it's quite easy to notice that the 'new blood' gains an interest in the games we play (or don't!) as a result of influence from their friends - this group is typically under the age of seventeen. It's harder to gain an interest in something such as gaming at a later age as there is not as much external influence. Therefore there is very little to prevent you from losing interest - if you don't have a friend pestering you to have 'one more game' then you quite simply won't.
Killing computer generated sprites is still not cool. It won't be for a long time, despite this technical revolution we are in the midst of. As you grow older, you will often find yourself hankering after social acceptance. Therefore it's often quite difficult to explain to your friends why you spend hours browsing forums and websites for a game. We're often worried about how people will perceive us when they find out about our 'geeky' interests. As for my take on the situation, I'm not bothered about my close friends knowing - but with friends I don't know oh-so-well, I do have my reservations. For example, if I'm showing them something on the Internet, I'll make sure my homepage (no guesses) doesn't load first. There's nothing wrong with having a passion for something such as a game - I'm a firm believer in the principle that people should do what they want with their own free time, regardless of whether it's socially acceptable or not. One must appreciate that when you're sat in a pub, your mates are more likely to be impressed with tales of your drunken exploits than how many times you beat that 'noob' last night. This outside influence can often result in people taking up other interests or simply forgetting their current interests in order to save having the piss taken out of them.
This is quite possibly the most unfortunate way of losing members of a community. If your computer isn't good enough to play a game, then you simply can't play it. Initial bravado will see you proclaiming how you'll buy the game as soon as you get that new computer - but often by the time you have done you simply won't bother. My free copy of Generals sat collecting dust for four or five months before I had the means of playing it. By then I simply wasn't bothered. I had lost interest due to many of the influences discussed. It's hard to sustain interest in items such as a websites when you can't even play (and therefore discuss at any great length) the game that it covers. Obviously there's never going to be a solution to this problem. Games become increasingly demanding, meaning that there are always people who don't have the current system requirements to enjoy the privilege of actually playing it. Although having said that, the requirements of Red Alert 2 were such that it was playable on many systems - even my graphically challenged laptop. So, basically, if you can't play the game, you're very likely to lose interest in it and its 'relatives' in the long-term.
The 6 P's
A small word, a huge concept. Time is relevant to everything. The more time spent doing other things, the less time you have. It's a very simple concept. Whilst we will always make sure that we make time to do the essentials, such as sleeping and socialising, we're hardly ever likely to put community interaction at the top of our to-do lists. It is most commonly our free-time, our spare-time, that we spend to do the things it takes to be part of a community, such as perusing forums, chat-rooms, updating websites and playing the respective games. Therefore it's quite logical that a student is going to have more time to spend casually than someone who works from 9 until 5 and then has to cook his or her dinner and such forth. Personally, I often go on the Internet simply because I'm bored, and can't think of anything else to do. That's why I'm writing this article you see - because I was bored, and Charlton versus Birmingham was hardly the most exciting match ever. So basically, if you've got nothing to do all day, or all night, you'll find yourself whiling away the hours on the Internet, inter-acting as part of a community. Given that it's practically winter here in England, there's far less daylight and less opportunity to pursue certain interests such as sports. It really can come down to such simple factors as the change of seasons or the state of the weather that allows for the time to be part of a community and therefore maintain or gain interest in it.
So what has this article achieved? Well it's managed to outline many reasons that result in people leaving online communities (or for that matter communities in any walk of life) and has, I hope, managed to raise some interesting points. Hopefully it will also make you sit back and think how the above factors could affect you in coming years. Because, believe me they will. Obviously a lot of you will have experienced them already, some of you perhaps will have lost interest in the community as I have - although logic governs that not many of you will be reading this article as you will be otherwise occupied.
I'll always maintain some sort of passing interest in the community. It was over three years ago when I first laid the foundations for this site on Geocities. How quickly that time has flown. However, now I've lost interest, I really can't see myself regaining it easily. I certainly won't bother trying to play catch-up with Generals, or try to befriend all the new faces that have entered the community as a result of it. I'm simply not interested as I once was. There are things I would simply rather be doing. We often fail to appreciate the far-reaching effects that the real world has in terms of directly influencing members of this community and thus the hierarchy of it.