Drfited away – but still playing games!

My blogging career definitely tracks my MMO play activity. If I’m playing any genre but MMOs, I don’t seem to take the time to blog about it. Since I’ve been actively blogging here, I played some League of Legends, a lot of Starcraft 2, Team Fortress 2, and a lot of single player games that I missed while immersed in various MMOs (The Witcher, Mass Effect, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Fallout 3, among others).

I recently started playing LoTRO again (and tried Rift on a free weekend), and my desire to blog also picked up. It’s curious; I’m a very solitary person within most MMOs. For example, I just finished leveling a minstrel (usually a very group-friendly class) to 65, almost entirely solo. Despite my reticent nature in-game, I’m happy to talk about what I’m doing in an MMO when I’m not actually playing it.

Why do I want to talk about MMOs more than single player games or multiplayer games? Is it something about the persistence of an MMO compared to the more transient experience of multiplayer matches? Is there more of a story to an MMO? There’s a pretty good story in most single player RPGs, but I don’t feel compelled to write about those so much. I spent a lot of time playing TF2 and Starcraft 2 and League of Legends with other people, but I don’t feel the need to blog about it. It must be the persistent world that makes me feel like sharing, the non-instanced nature of an MMO. Anyone can log on to Steam and find me for a TF2 game, or friend me on League of Legends and ask if I want to play, or I can join a variety of Vent/TeamSpeak servers and play a match with friends, but all those interactions happen outside the game world first. The MMO is always there, always on, always the same, and somehow that makes me want to write about it. Maybe it’s a way of connecting with my character who’s idle while I’m not able to log in, and maybe it’s a way of connecting with other people who are doing the same thing, yearning for a bit of persistence while we await another opportunity to enter that world and play.

Whatever it is, I’m happy that my on-again off-again relationship with LoTRO has finally reached a major milestone.

That took long enough

Gallatin at 65

It’s kind of crazy how much work still remains in LoTRO. As you can see, I’ve got trade skills to master, I need to figure out Legendary Items and maximize what they offer, I’ve got plenty of skirmishes to run, deeds to finish, traits to earn, and dungeons to explore if I ever decide to start grouping on a regular basis. I’ve reached level cap, but I certainly haven’t come close to maximizing Gallatin’s potential, and I hope to spend some time figuring out how to make him a useful member of a group instead of a solitary War Speech minstrel. He’s also got a big house to decorate!

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Bitching about Tobold’s free account

Are you fucking kidding me? I read this over at Lum’s, and I’m astonished anyone is complaining about Tobold getting a free WAR account.

Let’s get this straight. Tobold’s blogged heavily for 5 years now. He doesn’t have any ads on his site. He’s paid a lot of cash in subscriptions for various games, and he’s given thousands of degenerate game addicts like myself countless hours of free content to digest and discuss. He’s thoughtful, he’s dedicated, and he’s a big contributor to the unofficial MMO gaming community.

$15 a month is going to buy him? Look, I don’t know Tobold. He may be easy, but I can’t imagine he’s cheap! Do you think for one second that he’d modify his content, fearing the loss of his free account? Ridiculous. Moreover, do you really think Mythic is going to mail him and say “Hey, we’re giving you a whole $15 a month, you BETTER say nice things!”? If y’all think that’s a sufficient bribe, you’re so not cut out to ever consider a career in politics. Just sayin’.

Jeez. How about congratulating the man? If anyone in the MMO blogging world deserves a little coming back his way, it’s Tobold (or Brent, but I’m pretty sure that Brent already works out of a secret lair in Tahiti, surrounded by gorgeous island women provided by Sony πŸ™‚ ). Enjoy your massive, world-changing windfall Tobold. Let us know what little island you’re going to purchase, now that your monthly bills have been so drastically reduced! Clearly, you’re indebted to Mythic and EA forever. When do you have to publically admit that Madden and US football is superior to that “other” football that only 3 billion people in the rest of the world prefer? I’ll expect to hear you and Jeff Green talking about it together on an upcoming “EA Whore Podcast”. Sheesh.

When you consider the money the US government wastes every year, it’s astonishing to me that people are going to take the time to bitch about Tobold and his $15. Could our priorities get any more fucked up?

Why I don’t give a !&*# about advance NDA drops

If you’re following Warhammer Online, you know that some websites have permission from Mythic to break the closed beta non-disclosure agreement. I know this has pissed off some dedicated WAR bloggers, like Syp. And I don’t blame Syp. It’s really a shame that his dedication to WAR goes unrewarded here, but I suppose EA/Mythic feels like they have to kiss the ass of “major gaming sites” and give them something exclusive.

I’m in the beta, so I have the luxury of already knowing (and sometimes disagreeing) with what’s being posted by said gaming sites. Maybe if I was dying for news, I’d be hanging on every word they’re posting, but I kind of doubt it.

I’ve noticed, after a couple years of reading RSS feeds, that I’m likely to ignore the dozens of posts churned out daily by the huge gaming sites. I’ll skim through those folders in Google Reader once I’ve read through all the blogs produced by individual bloggers, but I don’t read them the same way, or in the same detail, that I read The Ancient Gaming Noob, or Syp’s blog, or Hardcore Casual. Maybe I’m just an old MMO dog, but individual gamers write about what interests them specifically. They can talk a little more narrowly, perhaps, than the broader appeal of bigger gaming sites.

Maybe I like the individual blogs because they’re talking about what interests them, not what they think will interest me. If they happen to find like-minded souls out in the gaming ether, that’s awesome, but they don’t write thinking about page views and click throughs and a certain number of posts a day. Sure, we all like an audience, and we enjoy the conversations that arise, but I think the primary motivation for an individual blog is saying “Hey, here’s something I thought was interesting”. It doesn’t have to be news, or journalism, or a breakdown of game mechanics on a broad level, or developer interviews…I don’t care as much about those things. I want to read about what other gamers found interesting while they were playing games last night.

I don’t think I’ve read much of anything about WAR from any of the gaming sites that can bypass the NDA. If I did, it was just a skim of a headline in my RSS feed. Yeah, I’m in the beta, so I know I’m not the standard audience, and I’m sure some people are enjoying what’s being written, but you can bet that when the NDA drops for the rest of us, and CoW bloggers start writing stories about their experiences, I’ll be reading their stories with great interest.

Ya know, I don’t think I care so much for stories about how the game works. I want stories about what people are doing in the game. Syp, I know it sucks, and you definitely deserve a nod and a thanks from Mythic for your work promoting their game, but dude, I’m anxiously awaiting your WAR stories, and I could care less what the big dog sites are writing. It’s not the same as acknowledgement from Mythic, but I want you (and other WAR bloggers who might feel slighted by this) to know that you guys provide a personal perspective that I appreciate and gravitate toward. Keen and Graev, Snafzg and crew at The Greenskin, Syp, CoW bloggers; those are the sites I want to hear talking about WAR. The big sites are sort of the CNN of gaming. It serves a purpose, and they do it well, but it’s definitely my second choice for reading.

And yeah, I know, I’m dangerously close to high school-type arguments about why arena rock bands are sellouts and the real shows are in the clubs by unsigned bands, bla bla bla. Maybe it’s a little stereotypical, but there’s some truth in stereotypes too. Like Dwarves and drinking. Or Goblins and stinking.

So, you want to be a blogger?

I was listening to VirginWorlds on my way to work this morning, episode #119, I think (I’m behind, my phone broke a couple weeks ago, and I just got my replacement), and Brent read a question from a listener who was asking about how to become a game blogger.

I started this blog about a year ago, so I figured I’d share my experiences. I take what I write seriously, but I don’t feel compelled to write something here every day. I’d rather write when I feel like I have something worthwhile to communicate. With RSS feeds, there’s no reason to feel like people are going to lose you if you don’t write every day, or every couple of days. If people like what you write, and you write at least semi-regularly, seeing a new post from you in their RSS feed is enough reason for people to keep you on this reader. That said, if you update once a month, you might want to think about whether you’d really like to be a blogger πŸ™‚ If you write that infrequently, you might be better off trying to write articles for other sites. I noticed Gamers with Jobs has a link explaining what they’re looking for if you’d like to write for them. If anyone knows of other sites that solicit articles, post ’em in the comments! You’re not going to get paid for your posts, but it’s a great way to get exposure and connect with other gamers.

Brent’s response in the podcast was right on. The best way to be a blogger is to just do it. Check out WordPress or Blogger and see which seems easier to use, or which templates you like better, and set up a site for yourself. My blog is damn simple, and I like it that way. I’m not one to mess around with CSS or Photoshop, tinkering and puttering with the look and feel of the blog. I chose a theme, grabbed a screenshot, messed around with the links and the blogroll and the basic shell, and I was ready to write.

I’d get some posts on your blog first, before I started asking people to be added to their blog rolls. I’d guess that before someone is going to add your blog to their blogroll, they’re going to want to know that you update frequently enough to warrant a spot on their list. No one wants to link to a dead site.

Just writing this makes me a little sad, because it seems that Foton over at AFKgamer has taken a break. I should probably take him off my blogroll, but his site is so damn funny that I’m hoping he comes back soon. Anyway.

I know I usually only add people that I read regularly. I don’t think I’ve ever added someone because they asked (actually, I think only one person has ever asked to be on my blog roll, hehe). I add people because they’re the sites I read first when I see something new from them in my Google Reader list.

I’ve also never asked someone to be on their blog roll. While I don’t think it’s bad manners if you do ask, I’d prefer to let the blog owner make that choice. However, that’s totally a personal decision. If you’ve got a good site that’s updated frequently and gets decent traffic, I don’t see anything wrong with politely requesting to be added to someone else’s blog roll. Everyone’s got their own preferences for their site, though, they may want to keep their blogroll short and manageable. Don’t be offended if someone turns you down. If I had all the sites on my Google Reader list on my blogroll, it’d totally hose the page layout balance.

I don’t get a ton of traffic here. I’m sure my numbers pale in comparison with Tobold or Keen and Graev, but I’m fine with that. I write because I enjoy it, and I’m kind of digging the fact that things are growing very organically here. The only “advertising” I do for this blog is posting comments on other blogs. I get to add the URL in when I post a comment, and that seems like the best way to build an audience. First of all, you’re supporting other blogs when you take the time to post a comment on their site. Second, you get a chance to show people what kind of writing they might find if they click on your name in the comments and check out your site. Third, you’re going to be making some friends and acquaintances who enjoy the same things you enjoy. Well, maybe not the part about the ponies, but definitely the part about the games.

Some of my posts started as comments on other blogs, but when they get to a certain length, I prefer to break it out into a blog post and link to the other site. I don’t think people read super-long comments in a blog post, and I don’t want to hog up space on someone else’s blog. Plus, you’re giving the original blog post a bit more visibility by linking to them from the front page of your blog. I’ve found a lot of good sites that way; it’s how I found Keen and Graev, for sure.

My last bit of advice for building an audience, which is worth as much as you’re paying for it, is to find a gaming community of some sort. I’ll admit it right up front, I’m terrible at taking my own advice here. I belong to Gax Online, I just joined the Gamers With Jobs community to play TF2 with them and an old WoW/Eve acquaintance from The Well, and Steam seems to have a great community. There’s a ton of places where gamers congregate, and you probably already frequent a few regularly. If you drop your blog URL in your forum signature or your profile, you’ll probably get some visitors that way as well.

I’m not nearly aggressive enough in keeping up with the social networking sites to promote my blog, but I don’t really mind. I write because I enjoy it, and I enjoy meeting thoughtful and interesting people who have left comments here. For me, promoting the hell out of this site would make it too much like a job, and I already have one of those πŸ™‚ I want this to be a place that I enjoy coming to, where I can write about whatever random thing pops into my head, and hope that people enjoy reading it. You’ll find your own reasons for blogging, but the biggest reason should be that you love to think about games (or whatever you choose to blog about), and you love to write. If those two things are true, you’ll likely be a good blogger, and enjoy doing it.

One last plug: If you do enjoy writing, but you find yourself not setting aside the time to write regularly, I’m reading a great book about being a writer. It’s called “Write Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day”, and you can get an inexpensive used copy on Amazon. The author, Joan Bolker, has years of experience writing and assisting writers, including time spent at the Harvard Writing Center. It’s not just about writing dissertations, although it scales up to that type of task very well. It’s more about allowing yourself to write, instead of putting roadblocks in front of you. Her approach to writing, and the process a writer goes through, makes so much sense to me. When I write larger pieces, I want to jump right in to writing the finished product, which is quite impossible, although I didn’t really understand why until I read her book. Her approach to the whole process of writing details how my brain usually works, and how what I thought was unproductive or wasting time is actually a valuable step toward the finished product I think I should be writing in my first draft.