My gaming is adrift right now. I’ve considered writing a “blog on hiatus” post. In the last several months, I’ve spent a lot of time leveling multiple characters to cap in Rift and to L80 in WoW. I’ve spent time in LotRO and DDO. I played the SWTOR beta and the KoA:R demo.
I’m playing Dragon Age 2 right now. The best things I can say about DA2 so far are that it looks good, it allows me to roll with a group of fierce NPC adventuresses and go girl-wild with a few of them, and it makes its predecessor, DA:Origins, seem like one of the greatest single-player RPGs in history. Maybe it is. I’m also waiting right now for the Great River zone for LotRO, which I hope will be great.
Since no one wants to read about DA2, I’m writing about game blogging, including a bit about how to do it, how to get your name out there, and different styles of writing you might try. I’ll give examples from specific game bloggers that I enjoy reading.
I’ve found blogging to be a fun and rewarding activity, but when I started, I wasn’t even thinking about blogging. I just wanted a space online to share my contributions to the LotRO community–namely my guide to dual boxing, some graphical extensions to a mouse pointer plugin, my Elven Adventuress interface, some news digests, and a collection of LotRO links.
I mainly wanted to help people out with information, which is what I still try to do here. I like collecting information and making it readable. Most MMOs nowadays make Google and Youtube into requirements to learn what they’re supposed to be doing in a game. This is unfortunate, but on the positive side, it’s great that game communities have the tools to come together and contribute to a good entertainment experience.
As far as technical aspects, at first I started with a plain HTML document and hosted it as a web page on my personal site, but I noticed game bloggers were using WordPress. When I looked into WordPress and saw that it was gloriously free, I knew that I had to use it immediately. WordPress just happens to be a “blogging” platform, so I started blogging.
You can sign up for a free blog on WordPress.com with an email address. You can also install it on your own website or on your desktop via WordPress.org. If you want the freedoms that come with your own site, GoDaddy will auto-install WP for you with no hassle, along with the necessary database, if you purchase web hosting with them. You can also use tools to write offline on your desktop for WP.
Once you’re running, click the appearance tab and find a look that suits you, learn the interface and how things work, and you’re good to go. Incorporation of graphics is trickier, and there are limitations for the free usage. I ended up hosting my own graphics so I wouldn’t have to deal with how WP handles them, which I found clunky and constricting. Maybe they will work better for you.
You might want to learn some inline CSS to handle the graphics. The free WP platform supports the “margin-right:8px;” etc, and the “float:left;” etc. commands in an inline STYLE tag. Most other custom HTML and CSS things that I know of are stripped out of the free WordPress.com platform because they are paid features.
Every game blogger has their own style and approach. It will take you some time to find yours. If you’re going to try MMO design criticism and commentary, the best bloggers pull it off with a really broad and deep knowledge of games (i.e. Ancient Gaming Noob and Keen), and/or they have industry credentials of some kind (i.e. Eric Heimburg at Elder Game).
I’ve observed that some bloggers like to talk nuts and bolts because they want it on their resume, and they would like a real job in the gaming industry. This actually works if you’ve got a gift for it. It didn’t work for me. No one was reading what I wrote. I don’t have deep, fascinating MMO experience that goes back decades, and I’m not truly that passionate about game design.
I persisted for months with my blog with no real traffic until I wrote a guide for Rift last spring that got picked up officially by Trion, and then I wrote another Rift guide, and those two guides have brought a ton of traffic to my blog–many thousands of readers. Several hundred people looked at my review of the Kingdoms of Amalur demo as well. This works fine for me. I like this kind of informational writing.
If you’re a funny, good-natured person who can fling some witty metaphors and similes, you might try more of a Biobreak style. I would personally like to see more blogs like that–where you’re writing to entertain and share some earthy gamer comraderie as much as to inform, reflect, review, or criticize.
This type of writing requires some real skill of the kind that can get you hired at a paying publication, which actually happened in the case of Biobreak. Justin Olivetti was hired last year to a job at Massively, and he’s been solid gold for them ever since.
Writing lots of criticism will interest readers, but I think you need to temper that. If you’re outgoing, ambitious, doing videos, etc. like MMO Troll, you don’t want to hate too much on a company that feeds you and could give you a job someday. No one wants to read a Debbie Downer, either. I’m not necessarily saying MMO Troll is too critical. I’m just saying.
Pure cheerleading isn’t the best approach either. MMO Gamer Chick gives us solid, entertaining writing, and she’s heavy on the graphics, which I like, but in my opinion the best parts of her blog posts are where she puts some close-to-the-bone criticism in there like with her last SWTOR post.
I do feel the good vibrations when I read a blog that’s an unceasing essay of love and admiration for a game, complete with liberal exclamation points–but that can get a little boring. Maybe sometimes that’s just another tactic for sucking up. I wouldn’t know.
It’s good to find your niche, be persistent, and do what you enjoy. If you’re enthusiastic and you have a long-term love affair with video games, that will get you far, assuming you also have some writing ability. Advertising and linking your blog socially in guilds, commenting in other peoples’ blogs (your name should have a website link), and linking in your game forum sigs will help get some recognition.
If you enable trackbacks in WordPress and link to other peoples’ blogs in discussion, you can also get some attention that way, especially if they allow the trackbacks to show up in their comments. Maybe they will link you back on their Blogroll in a best case scenario. Tag every post you write.
I can offer a few writing 101 tips aside from the usual grammar considerations like subject-verb agreement. I’ve studied writing, so I do know a little bit about it. I’ve written seven novel manuscripts over the last two years. I’ve published some short stories for money, and I actively participate in an online writers’ critique group. I’ve spent a lot of time editing.
Try to lead a blog article with a “hook”–something interesting or uplifting that grabs the reader’s attention. Hooks are an art and a science. Think back to your English class and consider tips for writing persuasive essays. Avoid fluff. People who read online don’t want to waste time.
Re-arrange sentences for the least amount of words. For example, in a paragraph above I changed “graphics are a little more tricky” to “graphics are trickier.” Try to cut unnecessary adjectives and adverbs that add nothing except your personal spin on things. Gamers can seriously, totally, and egregiously abuse adverbs and adjectives to an epic, overblown extent.
It’s also advisable to avoid weak statements like: tend to, kind of, sort of, maybe, I personally believe in my ever so humble opinion but not really, etc. Your opinion is your opinion. This is implicit, in my opinion. An exception might be where you’re criticizing a game really harshly, and you want no mistake that your opinion is just an opinion and not a fact.
IANAL, but I know that stating inaccurate negative things about a business, products, or people can potentially be bad. To some extent, we game critics can choose appreciate the ability to state our opinions as freely as we do in public venues. Games are about having fun, right? So good luck with your blogging, have fun, and happy gaming.
p.s. Thanks to Mike, who sent me an email asking about this. I’m not in the least a game blogging deity, but I did my best to sum up what I’ve learned during the last year or so.