Can we use Discord to host effective, memorable large events?

I attended a virtual conference a few months ago called PAX:Online. PAX is one of the largest series of gaming conventions in the US, and as you can imagine, they haven’t held one in-person since March (they normally would have hosted four more in this calendar year).

However, their production team is at the top of the field in creativity. They proceeded to run an entirely online “convention” which attracted well over 20,000 people to interact in widely varied digital spaces.

One of the most amazing parts for me was their use of the social-media system Discord. Discord used to be primarily for voice chat while videogaming, but is now much more broadly used for all kinds of social interactions.

I could go on and on about all the innovations I saw, but I’ll just share my favorite for now.

The PAX Online “server” had different sub-channels, essentially chat rooms, where participants could interact-- and the production team designed bots so that when users typed specific commands (like “!look”), the bot would reply and describe an imaginary room to that user. The user could then go interact with different things in that imaginary room! And the more you explored, the more little emojis you unlocked for your username. Silly, but incredibly fun, and really helped users engage with the convention as a para-physical event.

Could we map this over to churches? Para-church ministries? Events?

How/when would you introduce it?

(These are not rhetorical questions :wink: I’m curious-- what pitfalls do you see? How would we make this work?)

It sounds like a fun experimental interaction! I wonder if the technical bar to implement such a thing would be too high (e.g. programming bots for each channel) for a typical church setting.

I am curious about the chat rooms–were you assigned a room or did you select one? If you chose it, how was it described so that you would pick it over another? And did the chatrooms end up connecting strangers the way an in-person conference would?

You have a point about the technical bar, but maybe that’s something we should also be talking about. If we’re serious about transformation, we won’t be able to stick to “easy, accessible” technology for long-- we will need to either train/recruit teams who can handle that implementation, or partner with designers to make easily accessible tech for specific church needs.

Putting that aside, installing bots etc. on Discord isn’t too bad because it’s more or less built to be friendly to them-- though executing it on the level PAX did would in fact require a lot of work.

In terms of chats/channels, the Expo format lent itself very well to natural channel creations. Most text chat rooms had corresponding video room options, so people could play a game over video/voice and then supplement their engagement in text. I think the voice/video element is really what took the human connection to the next level. That being said, in smaller, long-term environments like that you get to know and recognize people by their usernames pretty quickly.

I recently saw a Facebook ad for this platform: which is one company’s take on wrapping a church livestream with more personal voice/video choices and a little bit of spatial sense through seating charts. I feel like the digital “translation” of the physical experience is a bit odd though, like the idea of reserving seats or sitting together in a virtual space. Creating text channels and video rooms on the other hand seem to be a very natural thing in digital spaces.