[NBI] Content: What should you write and how should you write it?

Welcome to issue 2 of my advice to new gaming bloggers. This is the part where I state the obvious for a paragraph or too, and then discuss  it so brilliantly that you forget it was obvious and you already knew it.

If you are a gaming blogger, you should blog about games from time to time. Preferably games that you are playing. You may see other bloggers spawn huge comment threads by writing provocative opinion columns or raising knee-jerk issues (ie. issues that are guaranteed to get a reaction), but before you throw yourself headlong into a flamewar frenzy, bear one thing in mind. What people really enjoy is to read opinions that agree with their own, especially if they feel that their opinion is a minority. There is probably a psychological phrase for this, but it makes those readers feel good about themselves.

I’m not saying you should write for anyone except yourself, but if you write about things that you enjoy in your favourite game/s of the moment, you will probably attract a readership who are in tune with that. If you write about a great time you had in the game, readers will remember why they also liked that game. If you write about how much you enjoy grouping in MMOs (I’m using Skaggy as an example because he posted this today), it reminds readers of why they enjoy/ed grouping in MMOs. If you write about the joys of soloing, you’ll please readers who connect with that too. So even if you are in a gaming slump, try to post more positive articles than negative ones. It’s good for your mental state and it makes other people happy too. If you read a lot of older gaming blogs, you’ll see that people like Tobold and Syncaine are careful to schedule some positive posts even when they are mostly feeling negative about the genre. It is a way of connecting to readers who also enjoy games, and if they didn’t enjoy games they wouldn’t be reading gaming blogs in the first place. It is also a way to remind people who game that you are ‘one of them’. This can sometimes get lost if you tend to use a more formal writing style, or focus on writing guides. None of those things are bad, but writing about your own positive experiences will always engage with readers.

You will never go wrong with a post that describes how you had fun in a game. I am sure it is possible to offend more people than you gain via your notion of fun, but I’ve never actually seen anyone do it. If the fun involves playing an underplayed class or much-hated-on game or playing style  then so much the better, because you’re also demonstrating to other people that fun doesn’t have to involve minmaxing or playing ‘the cool new hotness’.

Or if you want to write about how much fun minmaxing is for you, then that’s good too.

How much of yourself to put into your posts

Some blogs thrive on the personal voice of the writer. Others may use a team of writers, focus on curating links, or cultivate a more professional writing style. You should never feel pushed to reveal more of yourself than you feel comfortable with. If you want to write a high concept theorycrafting blog then there’s no need to write about how games affect you emotionally, especially if they don’t. If on the other hand you are an emotional person or want to use your blog to let off steam, a blog can be a good way to do this.

Warning: Do not blog about your guild or in game friends without thinking hard about how they might feel if they read it. Everyone else will LOVE reading about guild drama, it has a sort of car crash fascination, but getting it off your chest a) might not make you feel better and b) might get back to them and increase the drama. If you’ve thought it over and you’re OK with that, then go for it and send me the link Smile

Readers do like to get a sense of the person behind the blog, because that way they can build up a sort of relationship. I’m sure anyone who has been reading this blog for awhile will have a sense for my gaming interests and how I tend to play and think about games.The longer you stick at it, the more likely your persona is to end up embedded in the blog whether you mean to or not. Your opinions and attitudes will colour what you write about and how you write it. While it is possible to front a persona for the purposes of blogging, authenticity is what attracts readers. Be genuine. Don’t pretend to like something you hate. Don’t be afraid to admit you like something that you like. And don’t be afraid to write about why you like or dislike those things.

Topics that will usually get a reaction

This is just based on my experience. Don’t do this just to get a reaction, just be aware that if you want to write about these things it may happen.

  • Posts about feminism or discussion of sexy character costumes in games
  • Ditto for racism or portrayals of gay characters
  • Pictures of cute animals
  • List posts. ie. title is something like ‘X reasons to buy Diablo 3.’ (Please don’t make your entire blog into list posts.)
  • Posts connecting your subject to something currently in the news.
  • Posts about casual vs hardcore gaming
  • Posts about soloing vs grouping in MMOs
  • Direct attacks on other bloggers/blogs. Blog flamewars can be kind of fun, though.
  • Anything really negative about a fan favourite game (rabid fans have some kind of psychic way to find these things)
  • Anything really positive about Blizzard or Bioware

And a couple more ideas to get you going

Rowan has some advice on RSS feeds and blog lists. I rely heavily on RSS to source links for my link posts, and one of my fallbacks for post content is to look through the reader at what other bloggers have written and see if I feel inspired to reply via blog post to any of them. It’s polite to link to the post you are referencing.

I saw this in problogger recently, it’s a link to a google spreadsheet that will draw in recent articles on a topic of your choice. I thought that looked like an interesting way to generate some ideas so am passing it on here too.

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28 thoughts on “[NBI] Content: What should you write and how should you write it?

  1. I tried to start a blog because I knew I had interesting things to say, but then I realized that I really didn’t care whether anyone else actually read my interesting things. Also, it felt like trying to promote was too arrogant, suggesting that people should spend the time to read my ramblings. Nor did I have any interest in arguing with them if they disagreed with me. No point arguing with people who disagree who also cannot affect your experiences and enjoyment. Then I didn’t see much point in keeping it just as a diary.

    Hell, I barely even comment, even on stuff that I find profoundly interesting. Nothing to be gained from intruding on the conversation. I’ve been enjoying this blog for 2 or 3 years now, and I think I have like maybe 6-7 comments across the whole thing.

    ^ rare comment that gets past my ‘nobody wants to hear my inanities’ filter.

    • Glad you’re enjoying it! And thanks for taking the time to introduce yourself :) I don’t think of comments as intruding on a conversation, but maybe I’m more used to bboards where everyone just chips in. I know that one of the things that made me want to blog was because I was really into games — much more than even my gameplaying friends — and I wanted to talk to people about it.

      I love the sorts of interactions you get in comments sections, it’s one of the reason I sometimes ask for responses (ie. question of the day type stuff), because I’m genuinely curious what other gamers think about things. And I do honestly feel privileged that people want to have those discussions.

      So I don’t think of it as arguing so much as having a discussion with other gaming fans who I wouldn’t have met iRL. I don’t know if blogging is always the right format to take, it depends so much on what you want to do. With social media like twitter and google+ there are other ways to engage or share your thoughts now.

  2. Some of the best advice of the NBI so far, I think, particularly the section on content.

    Do pictures of cute animals tend to garner more of a positive or a negative response, in your experience? And do they have to be real animals? Pictures of cute MMO animals and animal races, something I am exceptionally fond both of seeing on other people’s blogs and using on my own, largely pass without comment as far as I can tell.

    • People love the cute animal pictures, and especially pictures of real animals. Extra bonus for baby animals. Arb used to post these regularly on Book of Grudges and people just loved looking at them.

      It isn’t so much that everyone comments (although people will comment on a particularly cute picture, especially if you have a witty tagline for it) but it was really clear to us that those probably got more views than the written posts ;)

  3. I wonder if it depends on the blog whether you can get away with cute baby animals. I did used to use them to break up content, or to annoy those who thought we should only ever talk Warhammer on Book of Grudges. And then they got in on the joke and started to love them :-)

  4. “Please don’t make your entire blog into list posts.”

    If someone enjoys writing list posts and prefers to express their thoughts in that particular format, why not?

    • They might be able to turn it into a schtick, but list posts are a very commercial style to set out a blog post. I think a whole blog of them will look like link bait and people will wonder what you’re trying to sell them, so I’m putting this in as a request because a) it does make it harder to build any kind of relationship with the writer and b) I find it annoying.

      If you want to check out a blog by someone who uses a similar bullet point style for their gaming blog, but without the ‘hyped up’ titles, check out Bullet Points. I think this reads far more chilled out and less forced than continual link posts, but you still get the bite sized topics.

  5. I just got back to my own blog after more than a month off due to some RL related issues. It was interesting to see these “NBI” posts on the various blogs that I followed. Maybe it will help direct some new eyes in my direction (cheap plug!) Thanks for helping out the “new breed,” Spinks. :)

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