Continue our column How do you manage a Facebook group?, this time with an interview with Marco Cuccu, director of the group Role-playing games - The RPG in Italy (former RPG Player).

Today we interview Marco Cuccu, the historical administrator of one of the major Italian Facebook groups dedicated to role-playing games. We are obviously talking about Role-playing games - The RPG in Italy (former RPG Player), which you can visit Thu. Role-playing games - The RPG in Italy (former RPG Player) it has 12.551 users, was born in February 2013 and is a private group, managed by one person only, namely Marco Cuccu.

Let's see how Marco lived the creation and management of Role-playing games - The RPG in Italy (former RPG Player) over the years, how you work to create a positive discussion place and what advice you give to those who want to open a Facebook group dedicated to RPGs.

First of all, thank you for attending this interview. Let's start from the beginning: how it was born Role-Playing Games - The RPG in Italy (former RPG Player)? A certain evolution is already evident from the name!

Thanks to you for the invitation!

The group Role-playing games - The RPG in Italy was founded on February 14, 2013 by Alessia Olivetta, while I actually went into administration a few weeks later.

It was a common project: we wanted a virtual space where it was possible keep in touch with other role players. The initial name of the group, RPG player, indicated precisely the audience to which the group was addressed.

With the passage of time our paths have separated, and for about 4 years I have been managing the group independently. In 2018 I changed the name of the group to the current one, because I wanted it to be clear from the beginning theme (role play in its entirety) and the community of reference (the Italian one).

What is the purpose of the group?

The main purpose is to become one welcoming and proactive meeting point for those who love role-playing and for those who want to get closer to it. It is a goal that has many facets.

For example I am committed to shorten the distances between creators and content users, to promote the knowledge of role-playing in all its forms, to encourage constructive comparison and to offer discussion points capable of stimulating creativity and openness towards new perspectives. Last but not least, I try to limit harmful behavior that make it difficult to unhinge the prejudices that have plagued the world of role-playing games for decades.

How much time do you spend with the group during the day?

It depends. The group is on average very quiet: most of the members are respectful, open-minded and ready to discuss the most varied topics of discussion. Usually a few hours a week are enough to propose new content, read the discussions of the members, manage collaborations and private contacts.

However, there are times when the community becomes more restless for one reason or another, and the group needs more attention. As I respond to this interview, there is a heated global debate on the fight against discrimination, which is also reflected in our hobby. It is a sensitive issue regardless of role play, and in times like this, personal differences, discontent and social dynamics emerge that require attention. In recent days I have had to stay focused on the group for 8-10 hours a day, including late at night.

How do you think that Role-Playing Games - The RPG in Italy (former RPG Player), being one of the most populous Facebook groups related to the RPG, has it helped the Italian role-playing community?

It would be interesting to ask this question to the community itself, to know the opinion of those who participate in the life of the group or know their existence.

According to the positive feedbacks I receive most frequently, I can say that thanks to the group, numerous were born collaborations, that many people have known realities that they did not know before, that many onlookers have started to become passionate about role-playing and that the internal climate favors healthy and profitable interaction. In my opinion, this last point is the most important: the Italian community, like all communities, needs healthy environments that encourage the development of new ideas and collaborations, and that are a positive business card for the outside world.

Cover image of Games under the tree, one of the role-playing projects - The RPG in Italy (ex GDR player). Illustration by Diego Pisa Artwork
Cover image of Games under the tree, one of the projects of Role-Playing Games - The RPG in Italy (former RPG Player). Illustration of Diego Pisa Artwork

How your Christmas initiative works, Games under the tree? When did it come to your mind? And why?

At the end of 2018, the group had around 10.000 members. I remember one evening I stopped to think how rare it is that such a large group can be managed by one person without it ending up in the asylum, and I reflected on how positive the group was and how worthy its members were.

I felt the need to somehow demonstrate my gratitude for the climate that had been created over the years, therefore I contacted some role-playing authors and publishers who had attended the group since its inception and asked them if they were willing to send me some of their games to give to the community for Christmas. I was expecting a lukewarm answer, and instead in a few days I found myself inundated with manuals, illustrations and bonuses to use at will. It was moving.

I realized that I couldn't limit myself to a single Christmas present, so I opened the page Games under the tree and I started a promotion of role play (and its surroundings) through prize games, which continues today. At every event I receive games and accessory products from those interested in making them available and I organize challenges always new that allow the public to win them.

Over time, the project has developed enriched with new elements, acquired new collaborators and gained supporters on Patreon. Everything is still evolving, but the desire to make role-playing known in an original and captivating way has never changed.

Existing since 2013, Role-Playing Games - The RPG in Italy (former RPG Player) he watched the RPG community for seven years. What are the biggest changes you have seen in our community? But what has remained unchanged?

The group represents only a part of all the Italian players, but I have noticed that over the years the interest and thefocus on the emotional sphere of players, at least in terms of debate, and that the desire to explore role-playing potential in the educational field and within the awareness of important social issues.

At the same time, we are seeing a gradual one interest "from the outside" towards the world of role-playing games. There could be interesting developments if the community takes advantage of this moment to get out of their niche.

What hasn't changed, unfortunately, is the general hostility of some players towards everything that represents the "new": new systems, new forms of play, new approaches to the hobby, new market niches, new growth opportunities. In this sense, I witness today as seven years ago the same manifestations of closure and intolerance, which on Facebook often translate into aggression towards those who approach the hobby in a way that differs from the canons that some consider untouchable. It's a deleterious behavior which has as its only effect the removal of potential new players, and which contributes to conveying a negative image of the community.

As has been seen in recent times, the world of the RPG is sometimes shaken by serious and polarizing discussions. How do you generally deal with these debates?

The debate leads to growth. It is important that the community discuss what concerns it and what it could get to the world around it. However, the debate must be constructive, so I always try to encourage the exchange of ideas, even if it is on if necessary, while limiting the manifestations of intolerance and aggression as an end in itself.

The great debates that periodically shake the community almost always have their roots in contrasts that go beyond the community itself, so I always try to have an overview as broad as possible and I try to understand how people live the debate who take part in it, so as to encourage dialogue without this becoming a mere struggle between factions. It is not always easy, especially because some people fail to recognize harmful behavior when they themselves implement it, and often struggle to accept and understand the moderations of the form of their interventions, interpreting them as censorship of their ideas.

In general, how do you handle toxic discussions and behaviors within Role-Playing Games - The RPG in Italy (former RPG Player)? What kind of environment are you trying to create?

I try to create a welcoming and purposeful environment. Those who attend the group must feel protected, so that they can freely express themselves without the fear of suffering verbal attacks from anyone.

The description and the rules of the group are sufficient to understand which conduct is required and which attitudes are not tolerated, so when I have limited time I limit myself to remove inappropriate content by notifying the specific broken rule. In most cases I prefer though intervene directly in the discussions explaining to the author or author of incorrect interventions what the spirit of the group is and the behavior required within it. If the intervention is successful, we are all happy, if the incorrect behavior persists, I proceed with more formal moderations until, when necessary, we move away from the group.

There are however particular cases that I punish with ban direct without getting lost in chatter, for example illegal conduct and explicit manifestations of bullying, discrimination and lack of interest in invitations to respect the rules of the group.

The cover of the Facebook role-playing group - The RPG in Italy (ex GDR player)
The cover of the Facebook group Role-Playing Games - The RPG in Italy (former RPG Player)

What did you learn about role-playing games thanks to Role-Playing Games - The RPG in Italy (former RPG Player)?

I have learned almost everything I know about role-playing games thanks to the group.

My experience as a player is limited to what we call Play by Chat: games built mostly on dedicated sites, with its own setting and its own system of rules. I have never actively played paper or live role-playing games, and by managing the group I have been able to learn a lot.

Not being an RPG "expert" has often been an advantage: helps me to put myself in the shoes of those who want to approach the hobby without previous knowledge, and allows me to tell the role play in a way that can be understood even by non-experts.

What advice would you give to anyone who wants to create a role-playing group today?

Look around, try to understand what the community is missing and try to offer it to them. There are many groups dedicated to role-playing, both generic and dedicated to specific titles.

Making a difference is not easy, and largely the success in the long run the group will be determined by your principles, your character and your ability to look far and have an overview of the community.

There is no one-size-fits-all formula to better manage a group, but an excellent first step is to always keep that in mind each group is made up of individual people, and that each of them must be taken into consideration.

Two conclusive words

First of all, I sincerely thank Marco for participating in this interview. I think the leitmotif of the column How do you manage a Facebook group? will be the answer "managing a Facebook group is complicated". Certainly, however, it must be recognized that Role-Playing Games - The RPG in Italy (former RPG Player) it's a more peaceful and positive environment than others, and as users we should all be committed to keeping it that way.

In this complex period, in which ethical, social and ideological tensions (we talked about it Thu, Thu e Thu) are boiling our society and, therefore, also our community, remembering to deal with a user of human beings is important, just as it is important to remember that debate helps us grow. However, it is also important to moderate bullying and hate speech, as they are the main factors that make a group toxic.

In this sense, I feel like saying that Role-Playing Games - The RPG in Italy (former RPG Player) is a group that should be taken as a positive example.