I probably don’t blog often enough these days to be on Syp’s radar anymore, but I wanted to make my own contribution to his Newbie Blogger Initiative project, which I support whole-heartedly. The world can always use more creative artists, authors, musicians, and in this particular case, Gaming Bloggers.
Cliche, for Good Reason
The first piece of advice is one any and every writer gets: Write for yourself. When you first start your blog, you will be the only reader. Once you involve yourself in the “greater blogging community” by commenting on other blogs that will change, but make sure you enjoy reading your posts. If you can read your writing a day, a week, or longer and enjoy what you said or how you said it, consider your writing a success. We are our own worst critics, so if you are able to enjoy your own material in some way, you can be assured we will as well. Fair enough? Let’s get to it, then!
Who Do You Want to Be?
You have, in essence, three choices:
1) Psuedonym with its own Persona
2) Psuedonym with Your Personality
3) The Full Monty: your Real Name and your Real Personality
I’ve done all three over the years. I started off with the first option, creating not only a nickname but his own persona which came out while writing under that name, which wasn’t often reflective of my own personality. As the years went by, and I got more and more comfortable in the skin of the pseudonym, what I discovered was that I was also getting more comfortable in my own skin, so to speak, and gradually the persona I’d created started fading away while my own written personality took its place. Finally, when I created this blog a few years ago, I took the step of eliminating the pseudonym altogether and blogging under my first name. Given that we’re Gaming Bloggers, it’s almost a given that we have some sort of in-game nickname, so using a pseudonym is probably the most natural way to start blogging.
Who Are You?
When I ask that, I don’t mean tell everyone your real life (or virtual life) story. But give yourself a voice. If you’re using a pseudonym, it’s very easy to give it a persona that is both you, but not you. People are multi-faceted, so just because someone may be very kind and considerate every time they blog does not mean that person is that way every moment in his or her life. Similarly, there are a fair share of bloggers who are, for lack of a better term, “trolls” on their blogs but not at all in their real lives. You can choose to indulge one facet of yourself or feel free to let all your moods and all your opinions out. It’s your blog. It’s your virtual world of words. We, the readers, are merely spectators; we don’t call the shots, and don’t let anyone tell you differently.
You know how we might watch movies with certain actors, or better yet, interviews with those actors, and from those little snippets we see — what they said, how they said it, their mannerisms, the way they smiled (or didn’t), and so on — we may feel like we relate to that person a little bit? Like we “know” that little part of that actor in some small way, and that can either permanently endear them to us, or make us dislike them? The same is true for authors, musicians, artists, and yes, bloggers. Whether we blog under a persona or as ourselves, little things we say enable the readers to feel they can relate to us in some small way as fellow bloggers, as fellow gamers, or perhaps only in a single shared opinion or viewpoint. But that moment of empathy creates a sort of virtual relationship between “you” and “them” (not in a creepy way, hopefully ) and that is the foundation of what makes blogging special: the greater community that you have just joined and happily participate in.
Along with the “voice” you blog under, also give consideration to the style you wish to write in. While I am obviously making a distinction between voice and style, the two may easily go hand-in-hand to the point they may be indiscernable. But when you’re new at this, maybe a little under-confident, it’s normal to be unsure of your own style. So, perhaps go through your own list of blogs that you read regularly. Which ones do you get the most enjoyment from reading? Examine that person’s writing style, and — just to get yourself started — mimic that blogger’s style while ensuring your own voice is the one that emerges from the words you write. Pretty soon, you’ll find your own style was there all along just waiting for you to give it an opportunity to show itself!
Don’t Limit Yourself
For the sake of argument, I will simply presume you’re reading the various NBI blogs because you wish to be an MMO Blogger. That’s perfectly fine, and that is exactly what the majority of us Gaming Bloggers do, because MMOs have certain aspects that lend themselves more to blogging about on a regular basis than do other forms of games. But if I can offer a single piece of advice from nearly a decade of blogging and more importantly, reading and seeing blogs come and go, it would be this: Do not limit your blog to one single game or one single MMO. It’s 2012 now and there are literally hundreds of MMOs out there, not to mention the thousands upon thousands of non-MMO games. The majority of gamers hop from MMO to MMO, and if you don’t already do that yourself, you will likely find yourself doing it for any number of reasons. There’s only so much that can be repeatedly said about a single game, MMO or not. But mixing it up will not only keep your own creative juices flowing, it will also maintain your own enjoyment of the hobby you love so much that you’re blogging about, and it also gives your readers yet more tiny tidbits that enable us to relate to you and be able enjoy the fact that even if we all play different games, we are all part of the greater gaming community together. See how things keep coming back to that?
Here on Pumping Irony, I mostly blog about MMOs but you’ll find plenty of entries on non-MMO games, mostly Xbox 360 titles even. I’ve also blogged a little on writing, and on ebook formats, and other topics. Gaming is the one hobby I hold the highest and reserve the most passion for, but when I decided on this blog to write under my real name, I also decided to every so often let the readers have some insight to the person behind the words, the person who is multi-faceted and whose life entails more than pixels. Readers who are uninterested in those articles can easily skip them in their RSS reader of choice, but for the most part I think I’ve been a member of the blogging community long enough that some of the readers get a kick out of at least seeing what some of my other interests might be, even if they may choose not to indulge me by commenting. At least I hope that’s the case.
Slow Down, Smell the Roses, and Exploit the Persistence of the Medium
What I mean is, your blog is not in-game chat. It isn’t a brief SMS or a Tweet. You don’t need to be in a rush to press the Enter key before the next mob attacks you or before you accidentally ride of a cliff mid-sentence. Before you begin tossing out acronyms and shortcuts left and right, consider your audience. Are you trying to attract hard(er) core players of one particular game or do you intend your readership to be more diverse? The more game-specific shortcuts you write unecessarily, the more difficult you make it for a diverse audience to follow you. For example, if I’m writing about Star Trek Online I will usually write out the full name of the game at least once before using the STO shortcut. Same goes for Lord of the Rings Online and LOTRO, or any other game I may choose to write about. I often don’t use any shortcuts at all, because this is my blog and I have all the time in the world to write what I want to say in a way that can be understood by any reader. It’s easy to forget our audience and just use the shortcuts we know, but those only work for players of that game, barring universal terms like “DPS” and such. I read an EVE blog this morning that had so many EVE-specific shortcuts that I have absolutely no idea what the guy was saying or what the entire post was even about because I am not an EVE player. Nothing gets me to click the Next button quicker than a page full of gibberish, so give consideration to that as you write. Your blog is not a quick line in a small chat box that scrolls off the buffer in a few seconds. It’s not a Tweet that vanishes into the ether of attention deficit after an hour. Your blog is archived not only by the blogging platform you use, but also cached by search engines. It’s darn near permanent, so just like above where I said write for yourself, that also applies to read for yourself. If you don’t like to read gibberish, then don’t write it just because it’s “easier” or “faster” when the reality is the few extra milliseconds it might take to type a name instead of an acronym might be just the few milliseconds that caused more people to add your RSS feed to their reader.
This may seem like a Captain Obvious tip, but trust me, it’s applicable. It gets extremely easy to take oneself too seriously, especially those of us who have a propensity toward theorycrafting posts, and other similarly hardcore and under-the-hood style topics. Every so often, if not more often than that, remember that you are writing about games. We play games to have fun, right? So relate that fun to your audience and tell us of your adventures! Some of my all-time favorite blog posts I’ve read (and written) were tales of the author’s adventures and exploits and were written in such a way that the enthusiasm poured from the words on the page in such an infectious manner that I could picture the world, the events, the action… That’s immersion, and that is the ultimate form of the blogger drawing the reader into the article she’s written, even if — no, especially if — the reader doesn’t even play the game being written about. I no longer play World of Warcraft, I do not enjoy playing Everquest 2 and have never played Wurm but some of my favorite bloggers do write about their adventures in those very games and I cherish every word they write because it gives me a few moments every day of having my own mental adventures vicariously through the words they’ve written, but also enables me to smile and celebrate that we’re all so different, we’re all playing so many different games or even styles of games, but all of us, every one of us, share gaming as a passion that we love enough to sit down and write about it.
I will add a single caveat, however: many of our favorite adventures are not solo, but those shared with other players. Perhaps they are guild-mates or other online friends, but if they are not bloggers themselves who are just as likely to write about the good times as you are, please make sure those players are okay with you blogging about their character or in the case of non-MMOs, about those players. A little courtesy goes a long way.
Being a voice in a passionate community. It’s what makes us shine. So go forth, new bloggers, and shine for us! We look forward to hearing your voice added to our symphony of gaming bloggers!