[New Blogger Initiative] Join the bloggerati! Fame, fortune, flames await!

nbimedium

If you read many MMO blogs, you’ll see this logo popping up a lot during May because the gorgeous Syp (of Biobreak and Massively fame)  is organising a whole month worth of new blogger initiatives (NBI)  to encourage new bloggers to throw down with the rest of us!

There are at least 70 other blogs supporting the NBI, and I’ll get a link to the others later in the month so you can check them out. If you are interested, or recently started a blog and want to get involved, there is a bboard where you can sign up here.

We’ll all be aiming to post some articles giving advice to new bloggers – probably including advice we wish we’d had such as ‘never offer to buy the first round’ and ‘don’t go to bed with your boots on.’ If there is anything in particular you’d like words of wisdom on from me, feel free to suggest in comments. (Don’t ask about how to make money from blogs, I’ve never tried to do that so I’m the wrong person to ask!) And we’ll be spreading some link love.

So if you’ve always wondered about blogging about games, whether it’s one particular game that you love, one that you’re really looking forwards to, or general squeeing or ranting about games you love/hate, there has never been a better time to get started.

Why blog, and how I got started?

Blogging is a great hobby. You get to practice your writing, polish up your editing skills, spend lots of time thinking and writing about your favourite hobby, and make new friends. That latter may sound odd, but after you have been knocking around the blogosphere for awhile, interacting with other bloggers and writing comments on their posts, you get to know people.

I’ve also found that blogging means I enjoy games more, rather than less. It doesn’t feel like work, instead I think more about the games I play and why I like them. It doesn’t work like that for everyone – some writers find that analysing their games takes the joy away, and if that happens then you can stop any time.

Others find that they love writing guides to their favourite games to encourage new or inexperienced players to get involved. MMOs encourage community building and social gaming, even if a player prefers to be solo at all times in the game itself. I’ve seen many keen and insightful commenters who play solo, where I’d reckon that interacting with the bloggers is part of the social gaming experience.

And the other great thing about blogging is that instead of bothering the partner/cat/random facebook friends with details about your screenshots, character and the cool stuff that happened in game, you can talk to readers who are actually interested :)

The first MMO blog I wrote was about Warhammer Online, which was called The Book of Grudges (an inspired name, I still think) – my sister, Arbitrary, thought of it and co-wrote the blog with me. We started it during the hype cycle for WAR and stopped soon after the game went live.  I still have a soft spot for WAR, whatever it’s issues, we had a lot of fun playing it. We didn’t really have a blogging strategy, just we both posted short posts whenever we thought of something to say. This resulted in a blog which had loads and loads of short updates, BoingBoing style, which seemed to be entertaining for people. WAR also had a great blogging community and we threw ourselves into it, and many of the other WAR bloggers who got started during that time are still going now.

After that, I took a break for a few months, started playing WoW since Wrath had just come out, but I missed blogging. I did think hard about starting again on a new blog because it meant starting from scratch again with no readers. But this time I knew I didn’t want to focus on just one game, so I did it anyway! I knew that the WoW blogosphere was huge and unlikely to want much to do with me, but I figured “Hey, why not?” even if just me and Arb and a few old WAR blogging friends read, it’s something to do.

One of the nutty things I did when I was first getting started was write a polite rant about something one of the big WoW bloggers had written. If you read that post, you can see how my writing style has improved since then. But the thing which blew me away was that Matticus linked to me in his blog as part of a summary of reactions to his post, and replied. I wasn’t expecting him to even notice, I was just a two-bit blogger. But some of his readers came to check out the link and before you knew it, I had COMMENTS! (!)

So the WoW bloggers weren’t such an intimidating bunch after all. And this is what you’ll find with gaming bloggers in general, we do like to interact with new voices even when they disagree with us.

So you want to get started!

I’m not going to post a newbie’s guide to blogging right now, but the first thing to do is decide which platform you want to use. WordPress or Blogger are the main platforms people are using at the moment. I like WordPress, which is where this blog is located.

WordPress for Beginners

Blogger (it’s part of google so you can log in using your google account)

If you use Windows, I’d also recommend Windows Livewriter as a blog writing tool, although both WordPress and Blogger let you type your post straight into an online editor.

I also recommend reading other blogs, for two reasons. Firstly they’ll give you an idea what people are writing about, and secondly writing comments on other blogs and interacting that way will be one way to get involved and have larger blogs post links to you. Most bloggers have a blogroll to the side of their posts, mine is on the right hand side, which is a good way to start reading around.

And go sign up on http://nbihq.freeforums.org/index.php if you’d like to get involved, there will be a lot of advice and linkage around this month. Take advantage of it!

When anecdotes attack…

I know it’s no big surprise that World of Warcraft and MMOs in general can really provide a bond between people where there really wasn’t anything much else in common.

I wrote a while ago about my boss’ young son and his little written note asking me how to get off Teldrassil. And my boss said her coolness factor with her son had gone up a couple of notches for knowing someone who could answer his questions.

Steampunk Phoenix tattooA couple of weeks ago, I went to get a tattoo I’d had planned for a while. It was a mammoth 8-hr session of tattooing (and I still need to get the background put in!). The tattooist had mentioned he was into computer games, but it was only when his girlfriend showed up towards the end of the session and he casually mentioned that both she and I played World of Warcraft that the big gaming discussion took place. She was in her early 20s, I’m 40. She’s a very hip goth chick, and I’m just an all-round geek. And yet we both play on EU roleplay servers (not the same ones, but still) and managed to have a very long and animated conversation about the game, Cataclysm, healing and roleplay in MMOs. Considering this was after around 6h of tattooing, it really helped get me through the final stages.

And then we come to last week. Just before a meal with workmates I went round to my co-workers’ house (she lives much closer to work than me, and yes, we work in a 2-person library, so it’s just us most of the time). Her 18-yr-old son came down to get some food and mentioned something about the Shattering and World of Warcraft and I discovered he’s also a healing nut (though he plays a druid to my shaman) and he ended up abandoning his sick girlfriend for 45m to have a chat with me about WoW.

It’s funny only because all these incidents all happened so close together. Normally I go through life with my gamer friends on one side and my non-gamer friends on the other. And while the non-gamers may be pretty tolerant to my explanations of these games, I don’t often have moments of connection via MMOs. (I mentioned on a very old blog once that my colleagues in the big library all knew that I went to fight a Balrog every friday night in LotRO and frequently asked how it had gone, even if they had no idea what any of the words meant ;p).

Anyway, thought I’d share because it made me feel warm and fuzzy!

Blog news: Ratings on comments, future post schedule

Just a brief update on a couple of changes around here:

I had been trialling the WordPress option to let people rate comments  on this blog (you may have seen the thumbs up/ thumbs down icons). I’ve turned it off for now, but thought I’d pass on some good and bad things I saw with it — feel free to leave comments if you feel strongly about the issue.

Good points about rating comments:

  • It’s very easy for people to feel that they can make a contribution to the discussion without necessarily having to write a comment. If someone else said something you agree with, instead of posting “I agree with Nick!” you can just click on the +1 vote.
  • It’s fun for people to be able to see how their comments are viewed by everyone else.
  • It’s another way for people to interact with each other, and interaction is one of the things I really like about blogging.

Bad points about rating comments:

  • It can put people off expressing strong feelings, especially if they disagree with the blogger, because they may get automatically voted down by ‘fans’. (I don’t expect anyone here to be all that fanatical, but since it’s my blog I do have a built in power bloc.) So people can feel oppressed if they want to say something unpopular.
  • On the other hand, that could happen anyway. It’s just that instead of  typing as a comment, “No! Spinks is a goddess! How dare you disagree!!!” it is much easier to click -1 on the comment you disagree with.
  • But if it actively puts people off from commenting then the whole discussion will get less interactive, less lively, and less interesting.

My gut feeling is that although the voting can be fun, the downside at the moment outweighs the upside. As I said, feel free to leave a comment if you feel strongly about it.

Future Schedule

Just for information, I am back at college full time at the moment and still adjusting to the schedule. With Arb’s help, I expect to be able to keep up fairly frequent posting but this will now depend on having enough time at weekends to write posts in advance. Especially when coursework and essays come due, I can’t guarantee how the schedule will hold up, but I have every intention of chronicling the effect Cataclysm has on the in-game communities in WoW. (Quite happy that the expansion is dropping just before the end of term – and although I’ll expect to be playing on a fairly low schedule I’ll see if I can find someone who plays more regularly as an extra guest writer.)

On the bright side, there will probably be more posts that touch on issues like the ones I have written recently about industrial societies and consumerism in MMOs. Textbooks can be pernicious.

A holiday, a holiday, the first one of the year! Best of 2009.

Happy Birthday, blog!

((twilight zone music))

On this day last year, I wrote my first proper post for the blog. It was our first trip into Naxxramas, and I wanted to talk about why it felt like such an edgy period getting raids started at the beginning of an expansion.  It also  documents my first raid as one of the main tanks for our 25 man raid group (which they have kindly let me keep doing all year).

Oh, I was nervous alright. 24 other people relying on me to not mess up their evening.

I’ve gotten a lot more confident since then, both with writing and tanking. So has our raid group, which happily spent much of last night wiping on one of the new bosses that got patched in this week.

I’d like to thank everyone who follows or has ever commented on the blog, it’s just amazing to me that I can write some blurb and people want to come and chat about it. I love you all. My goal was to try to write something every day, and although I have given myself the odd day off, it’s mostly been realised.

I’d particularly like to thank Larisa (who was the first person who ever linked here that I didn’t know personally), and Matticus (who was very decent in responding to a critique I wrote about one of his posts; and he’s a big blogger and doesn’t need to do that, I was and still am touched).

So with no more ado, here are some of my favourite posts of the year:

My Roleplaying Posts
One of the things I really enjoyed writing this year was a six part series on roleplaying in MMOs, what the main problems are, what works, what doesn’t, and how it could be improved.

And, finally, my cat.

Thanks again for coming along for the ride. If there’s anything you’d like to see more or less of next year, feel free to leave feedback either in comments, via twitter, or  email.

Feeling bad about cutting other people out

A few weeks ago, my raid group had a really good application from a paladin. He was a tank, he had loads of experience, he sounded very cool and laid back, and exactly the sort of person we’d all want to raid with. But there was a problem. We have enough tanks, and his heart wasn’t really in playing as an offspec.

The raid leaders thanked him nicely, informed him that they’d be in touch if any of us fell under a bus or moved to Antarctica, but noted that there was no room. So we passed up on including a really nice guy in our community and I feel as though it was partly my fault.

I love raid tanking but I also know that part of the reason I wound up in this slot is because I dug my heels in at the start of the expansion. And I’m still digging my heels in now. I could step down to let someone else have a go, but I’m not going to do that — they can wrangle my shield out of my cold undead hands.

I’m not sure if this is true of other raid groups also, but I know that all of our tanks get twitchy if we go for more than a raid or two without tanking anything. I think this may be less bad for the guys who have a healing offspec — healing feels as useful as tanking even with a slight gear deficiency. Dps as an offspec however? Say hello to the bottom of the damage meters unless you’re on an overpowered class or got really lucky with 10 man drops. (I miss my overpowered Fury days, oh yes I do.)

Maybe it’s because a couple of us are female so we tend to get more emotionally bound up in the social side of things. And so if we’re not tanking, we feel like a drag on the group.

The problems of class and role quotas

When you have raids which require fixed numbers of roles, you run into these problems with recruitment.  You have to turn away perfectly good candidates because there’s no spare slot for them. People who are soft (like me) do feel bad about ‘stealing’ a slot that many other people want. (Feeling bad doesn’t change how I act, I just feel vaguely bad at the same time.)

I remember a post by Chastity@Righteous Orbs that caught my eye a few weeks ago. He (or she?) commented that he was the only tank in his raid group and he found that this made him very jealous and protective of his spot. He found himself subtly discouraging other would-be tanks from going that route, even though he knew it was a bad idea because they needed more tanks.

And I understand that also. In the beginning of the expansion when we were all still jockeying for raid roles and didn’t entirely know how many tanks we would end up needing, things felt more competitive. And I say this as someone who genuinely likes all the other tanks in my raid group.

It’s just that now it’s all over and I do feel comfortable in my spot, I have the luxury of looking down at the new applicants, shaking my head sadly and crying into my roast hazelnut latte at the sheer misery of it all, and whining on my blog about the existential angst of the lonely tanking road.

Nothing says I love you like a mechanical squirrel

squirrel

I’ve been spending some time lately duoing alliance characters with my husband. It’s been fun and chilled out. Yesterday, I found this in my mail. It’s one of the oldest pets in the game, and one of the cutest. So sweet.

squirrel2

(Admittedly I did send him the pattern. You can learn a lot about successful relationships from this :) )