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Okay Then: Blaugust 2015

[Blaugust Day 1]

So I decided to go ahead and do what all the cool kids are doing in August, which is spamming your RSS feeds with a minimum ten sentences of nonsense.

This post is going up in the evening today because I honestly wasn’t going to participate. In fact, it is entirely possible that this turns out to be a terrible idea, much like my attempt at Movember 2013.

See, I have a love-hate relationships with blogs that post on a daily basis. Since I mainly read posts while at work, a steady stream of content ensures the day flies by while I’m thinking about all the reasons why the blogger is horribly mistaken. Unfortunately, that same steady content stream also ensures that the discussion generated by any individual post is buried almost immediately. Within a day or two, the “audience” for your carefully structured rebuttal is probably just you and a person who is already 2000 words deep in other subjects entirely. Ergo, I feel 2-3 posts a week gives a blog room to “breathe” and evolve.

Plus, you know, it’s easier.

Nevertheless, I decided to go ahead and give Blaugust a go for one main reason, and several iffy reasons. Main reason? The grand prize is a free game from my Steam wishlist.

Hey, I never said it was a good reason.

The iffy reasons include “Do I think I can?” and “Wonder what my traffic will look like by September” and a general experiment to see if I can break my predilection for posts that “have a point” or some overarching argument. I prefer to write those sort of posts (and to read them), but sometimes that means abandoning otherwise serviceable drafts just because I haven’t crafted a thesis. Sometimes you just want to talk about how you had fun playing a game, and not feel like you’re questioning the validity of an objective reality, you know?

So… here we go.

Advice for New Bloggers

So, according to my Google Reader, there is a new blogger initiative going around like a bad case of the clap. I am not much of the “get involved” type, even for easy publicity purposes, but I do happen to have three pieces of advice I wished I had received when I started ~15 months ago. Or most likely, three pieces of advice I had actually believed.

1. Don’t “save” your best stuff.

I had big ideas. I was on a mission. All the other people I was reading had it all wrong, and the simple, elegant truth of my arguments would be clear for all to see. But I’d be damned if I wasted those articles on my newly minted blog that got approximately 7 hits yesterday… oh wait, those came from me refreshing the page. So, well, zero hits yesterday.

It will feel like a Catch-22 just starting out, but in all honesty, it’s not. Whatever articles/posts you have bouncing around in your head, write them, post them, get them out of your way. If you still feel like writing things after they’re posted, congratulations! You’re a blogger. If not, at least now you know. Besides, odds are good that the expertly laid-out posts you have planned to rock your (hypothetical) readers’ worlds… will fall flat. Meanwhile, that paragraph you zipped off at 3am will get 50+ comments.

Either way, your best posts are yet to come, so use every scrap of material you have right now and get some post histories going. And if your early work truly is a literary masterpiece, you can always dust it off and revisit it later.

2. They’re not kidding about the community thing.

If you want readers, be a reader. If you want comments, write some comments.

I’m not exactly an expert in generating traffic, but I guarantee if you post a funny/interesting comment and I read it, I’m clicking on your name to see if I can find more where that came from. If it links back to your blog and said blog is also full of that sort of quality material, it gets put in my Google Reader and in the Blog Roll, no solicitation required.

3. Find a shtick and shtick with it.

Blogging is both harder and easier than it looks. Every minute spent writing is a minute not spent on the fun thing you are writing about. Ergo, it is important to have fun writing about what you are writing about. Otherwise you are not going to be doing it for long.

Although “shtick” means gimmick, I am really referring to your personality, your recurring theme, your voice. Basically the thing you like doing.

After a while, I got tired of just talking about the WoW AH; at the same time, I really enjoyed talking about WoW’s design direction, making 2000-word arguments, and so on. So… I did. When I found myself taking screenshots and screwing around in Photoshop for hours, I started posting them. At first I worried said pictures would be cheesy – what other blogger does this sort of thing? – but I did it anyway. And people apparently enjoy them. Which is great, because I enjoy making them. It’s win-win.

This whole post may or may not be an excuse to shoehorn this picture in.

So that is my advice to you, hypothetical new blogger. Post all the good stuff you got, engage other commenters/bloggers, and do what’s fun – even if that’s sometimes playing games instead of writing about them.

Speaking of that, I’m going to get back to my Deus Ex DLC.

Class Warfare

Things are getting ugly out there in the MMO blogging realm. Very ugly. I am referring to Syncaine’s “Twit” series of posts. And while the implicit embrace of Gevlon’s M&S generalizations is one thing, this new pernicious brand of thinking is being focused on the one group of people that has nothing at all to do with the “twitification” of the hobby. In so demonizing them, one simultaneously give a free pass to the people actually responsible and reinforce all the stereotypes gamers have all endured for decades.

Syncaine actually started out being reasonable. He identified the problem with the (baited) Twit generation in my MMO post:

But what about those of us with more than a 5 minute attention span? What about those who found the older level of challenge just right? We spend money too, and tend to spend it for longer periods of time when given the chance. Are there countless millions of us like there are Farmville players? No. But we are out there, in the hundreds of thousands at least.

Specifically, there are less of you, ergo you are a vanishingly tiny niche not worth catering to, at least with AAA titles. That is capitalism working as intended. Syncaine does have a point insofar as the MMO mold can only be morphed so far while still retaining the things that make it an MMO, at least by any given definition of MMO. Where things go completely off the rails is when he stages a Tea Party-esque rally of entitled bourgeois to attack the players, instead of the game.

And sadly the twit-generation is not just young kids, but ADD (clinical or not) riddled ‘adults’ that have become so entitles, so expectant, that anything beyond instant gratification is not good enough. (source)

McDonalds makes its money not from starving people without options, but from twits who are too lazy or plan life too poorly to have time for a real meal. (source)

You want to know the difference between you and the entitled, unwashed masses you decry as killing your genre? Not a single goddamn thing. Whine, whine, whine. “I want challenge! I want games built just for meeeeeeee.” You and everyone else.

I have said for ages that there is nothing at all selfish about wanting content designed for your skill level. At the end of the day, that is what everyone wants. And it’s not just about skill level because that implies everyone looks for challenge. They don’t. There are people in WoW who log on, fish for an hour, and log out. That sort of thing is relaxing to them. Judging them based on that is indistinguishable from judging them based on what kind of music they listen to, how much money they make, or you know, the fact that they play videogames to begin with.

I get it. I understand you had this game/genre that seemed to be based entirely around your needs and desires, and now it seems to be slipping away. That’s life. More importantly, that’s business. Blizzard et tal are the ones who decided that they would rather chase casual dollars instead of your small wad of sweaty money. Stop blaming the players who have nothing to do with game design decisions, and blame those that do. Or, you know, don’t blame anyone because game companies exist to make money. And chances are good that the economics team of the billion-dollar game companies like Blizzard have already graphed out exactly how much your high regard is worth, and found it wanting.

Harder games are not some higher, purer form of magic. They are simply different tastes. And if none are being made, or the ones that exist are being “dumbed down,” you may want to start up your utopian commune because the Invisible Hand is flipping you off. That, or you could demonstrate some of that delayed gratification skills you accuse others of lacking and simply wait for some game company to come along and cater to your more refined palette.