Every item in Team Fortress 2 has a quality. The Community quality is one of the rarest of all, present only in items awarded specifically by Valve to users for making significant and valuable contributions to the game and its community. These items come with a special Community Sparkle particle effect to further distinguish them from normal items.
For years after the game’s inception, such items were awarded across all sectors of the community at large, with a few hundred given out in that timespan. Since then, however, the amount given has tightened dramatically to the point where only certain people working with Valve directly are known to have received one in recent years. As a result, many community members making significant contributions have not received any significant acknowledgement, much less recognition, from Valve.
As a result of this situation, Pauling’s Pals is a curated list of nominees for Community items in Team Fortress 2.
Pauling’s Pals is primarily focused on contributors to the competitive scene, for two reasons: first, I am most familiar with this scene, having been involved behind-the-scenes for a few years at teamfortress.tv, the main community hub; and second, because the scene is in the unique position of requiring significant sacrifice with very little reward or official recognition for those involved deeply within it.
The list attempts to strike a delicate balance in naming nominees. On the one hand, a list limited to only those who “should” receive Community items would invite significant subjective judgement of the total quality and quantity of contributions, something that would likely differ greatly from person to person and is not very suitable for a nomination list. On the other hand, a list containing every person with any non-trivial level of contribution would be very long and unwieldy, making it difficult to distinguish those whose contributions truly stand out among others. As such, the list attempts to identify those who have significantly contributed to the Team Fortress 2 community and should merit serious consideration for a Community item, even if not all of them would receive one by Valve’s final judgement.
While such a list must be subjective in some fashion, I have attempted to be as neutral and reasoned in the process of creating the list, with each nominee having made significant contributions to one or more of the following areas:
- major competitive coverage hub (long-term sustained staff)
- significant or long-term series LAN (organizers & staff)
- widely used competitive-oriented service (managers & developers)
- widely used production software (developers)
- major regional league (head admins)
- major community charity event (organizers & long-term sustained staff)
- major documentary or other event video (editors)
It is also important to note that the list is restricted only to those who do not already have a Community item. Per Valve’s policies, people who have a Community item will not be granted another one (except under exceptional circumstances), so there is not much point in listing those people on a nomination list.
Many disclaimers apply to a list like this. Chief among them is the fact that previous versions of this list have been sent to Valve three separate times, and they have not acted on it any of those times, so it is unlikely that they will act on this at any point. However, I feel that publishing a list like this is worthwhile in being transparent and encouraging community engagement on the topic.
This list is also limited to my personal experience and knowledge of the scene, and thus it’s possible may not include someone because I do not have a sufficient understanding of their efforts. One particular hole is the lack of inclusions of people contributing to the Highlander scene, which I do not observe in any capacity and thus do not feel comfortable or qualified to judge for this list. However, beyond that, I feel that I have done the best that I can to include people fitting the criteria on the list.
Another consideration is the number of people on this list; even with the balancing act I described previously, the list contains around 80 community members. However, that’s a natural consequence of Community items not being widely awarded for several years, during which contributors have stepped aside and others have taken their place in a continuous cycle which has drawn many people over the threshold of inclusion in this list.
This is the fourth major iteration of this list. The first iteration was created during the competitive matchmaking beta in March 2016, and two further updates were made in September 2016 and April 2017, respectively.