May of 2012. It was a crazy world then. TERA had just launched, The Secret World was still in beta, and Aion just went Free-To-Play. Crazy. (Thanks to Syp for the timeline!) Also, the Newbie Blogger Initiative was in full swing, and Casual Aggro was a new and fledgling blog, waiting to be read and judged by the masses.
Hindsight is 20/20, of course. Over that time, a lot has surprised me, and I’ve learned more about myself than I ever thought I would. Mostly, I’m shocked I’m still writing. Seriously, usually I would have flaked out on something like this ages ago, and during a rough period where I got sick and depression got the better of me, I did end up taking a 2 month hiatus. But it didn’t knock me out, or mean that I was done. I may have been downed, but I pulled myself out and came back for another round. I may sometimes be a flake, but I’m also stubborn.
So, here is an outpouring of accrued knowledge I’ve gained over the past 17 months, far from the multi-year’s worth of experience of others, but I hope it’s still something that you can take away from.
Write Down Your Ideas
You never know when inspiration is going to strike. Brilliance is going to strike at 2 AM, or on the drive home, or at the bar, or on the disc golf course, and if you think you’re going to remember it, you’re taking a big chance. What you might remember in the future might be different, or changed, it won’t be the brilliant flash. So, write it down! Thankfully, there are many ways to do this. Smartphones all have note apps, notecards work, any spare piece of paper, really, just write it down!
Game blogging doesn’t happen all alone, it takes a village to raise a blogger. When one of us succeeds, all of us succeed. Just as a store’s employees are some of their biggest customers, the majority of eyes that will be on your blog are other bloggers, but that’s okay! Your audience and word of mouth will be your biggest promoters, so join in on that. Get yourself a Twitter account, and use it. Find other bloggers, retweet or repost their stuff, comment on their articles and read them, really read them. Now, you can’t read them all, and that’s okay, too, but following the old “Do unto others as you would have them do to you” rule, you can’t go wrong.
Spend A Good Chunk of Time on Your Title
The number one thing that will draw people to your post, whether it’s from others blogrolls, from Twitter, or any other site, will be your title. So, spend some time on it. Make it compelling, make it something you think others can’t resist reading. Think about why YOU click on any link, and work on your title from there. But then you should follow the next point…
Stay On Topic
If someone clicks on your link because they expect topic A, you shouldn’t hand them topics B and C. Give them A! So stay on the topic you promised. If I visited a site and the post ended up being something different than the title, I wouldn’t be reading it for much longer.
Widen Your Gaming Experience
People like to read about others new experiences, mainly because starting something new is risky. I was never big on grouping, and am mainly a solo gamer. This hasn’t changed, but I have started grouping a lot more, and it’s still outside my comfort zone. But that’s okay. Try something you would never imagine yourself doing: PvP, Raid, Roleplay, play a popular military shooter or a new indie game. Just try new things, and tell us all about it.
Imitation is the Highest Form of Flattery
Trying to find a truly creative source for your blog is difficult. Really difficult. Those that do it are working on a whole other creative level. There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking inspiration from other’s sites. For example, all of my screenshots have roll-over text, ala XKCD. My blog’s main image switches and shows game images like Bio Break and Kill Ten Rats, and I try to use a lot of screenshots like Massively. If it works for them, it might work for you. However, signing my posts is something I’ve made up. Not everything needs to be borrowed from others.
Make your RSS Links Easy To Find
Google Reader may have shut down, but just because it has, that doesn’t mean Rich Site Summary feeds are dead. Far from it. They’ve just switched providers. Currently I have my Feedly looking at 100+ gaming blogs, and even this is nothing compared to other bloggers. So, the easier you make it to find the RSS link on your site, the less there is in the way of having someone add your blog to their RSS aggregator. Also, if you have a podcast, make that link easy to find as well! I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to want to subscribe to a podcast, but then find out the podcast has no direct RSS Feed link. Even if it’s only on iTunes, there is still a way to find that link. The more barriers you take down for others to reach your content, the more they will read it.
Write When You Have Something To Say
Updating frequently is a good thing, and is a good thing to strive for, but if you’re writing “just to post something”, you’re doing a disservice to your readers. If you’re writing just to have SOMETHING, namely your quality is going to suffer. Some blogs post very rarely, but if all of their posts are high quality, it doesn’t matter if they post once every two months, you’ll still be more likely to read it. On the opposite end, if the majority of your posts are the writing equivalent of “white noise”, even your loyal readers are more likely to pass it over.
Promote Yourself, But Be Humble
Imagine you’re in a car dealership, and you’re looking at a brand new, 2014 Blahdeblah. The salesperson comes over and tells you “Oh. This car? Well… it doesn’t get the best gas mileage. The seats aren’t that comfortable, and after a few miles, the engine tends to make a funny noise.” Are you going to buy the car? Most likely not. Be proud of what you write! Promote it! Tell it to others! Let THEM be the judge of your quality. There is a time for self-deprecation, but when you’re promoting your blog, that isn’t the time. The other side of this is that you don’t want to go too far into arrogance. It’s not as fine a line as you think, though it is easy to cross sometimes. Humility will draw others to you, arrogance will push them away.
Write What You Want to Read
More than anything, you’re writing for yourself, and your target audience is essentially YOU. So, write what you would like to read. Your style, be it long prose, or short thought-provoking pieces. Nothing but screenshots, or haiku. If you find what you’re writing interesting, that will show and improves the chances that others will find it interesting, too. If you’re passionate about your topics, that passion will flow, and your target audience, other gamers like you, will see that.
Be An Elitist Jerk
Are you the 1% of the gaming elite? The kind of player that actively looks down on other gamers they deem beneath them? Do you frequently find you seriously use the term Noob, Scrub, Welfare Gamer, etc.? Then why are you writing? Who do you think your audience is going to be? The other 1% of gamers? No. If all you’re talking about are top raids, and how you have to carry everyone else, all you’re doing is stroking your own ego. It’s tacky and arrogant. Get over yourself.
Seriously. Writing is not my number one skill, but even I know how low this is. I can’t think of anyone who has done this in recent memory, and it’s not a rampant problem, but just don’t do it. You know what is good? Quoting others, linking to other sites that you find info from. Always give credit to your sources. Always. Even if you’re just writing a discussion piece off of some other blog, give credit to the source as inspiration. They’ll appreciate it, and be more willing to pay attention to what you say. It’s just good karma.
Be Hard on Yourself
If you miss a week or two, eh, it’s no big deal. I started off writing this blog and put myself on a strict once per three days schedule. This lasted… pretty much three days. For days I would see it on my calendar: Write a post! Overdue! I was being hard on myself, but it didn’t really push me to write, it pushed me to NOT write. I was just being hard on myself for not living up to my own expectations. The schedule I wanted to post wasn’t the schedule I could actually post, and it depressed me, and caused me to take a month long break. I was simply being too hard on myself. If you don’t live up to your own expectations, give yourself a break.
Be Negative Without Constructive Criticism
Rants will happen, and a rant from time to time isn’t going to hurt, it’s only human. But if all you do is complain, and don’t offer suggestions on how to fix the problems you see, then you’re quickly going to gain a reputation as a complainer. A “This game sux!” post just looks immature and trolling, and nobody is going to take it seriously. However, if you post what you think is wrong, and offer ways to fix them, or examples in other games of where something works, you might even become a force of change.
Apologize For Taking a Break
This is hard to avoid, sometimes, and the best of us will do it periodically, but when you apologize, the assumption is that you did others wrong. That others are dying to read what you say soooooo much that you not posting has wronged them in some way. When you apologize for taking a break, the true person you’re really apologizing to is yourself. And like I said earlier, don’t be so hard on yourself. Plus, if a blogger is constantly apologizing for not posting, it takes away from what they’re posting about. If you plan on taking a break, maybe consider taking on guest bloggers, or just not mention it at all. If your readers consider your posts high quality, it won’t matter the time in between posts, they still want to read it.
Again, this is common courtesy. If you don’t like what someone else posts, don’t flame it, use it as counterpoint. Attacking others will quickly push your readers away. But actively reading a post you don’t agree with and writing your side of the story creates discussion and civilized debate. And isn’t that what we are, a civilized society? A rule to live by: If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.
So, there you go. My hope is that, even with all the grains of salt you are taking with this post, that there is something here that will assist you. I may not have been blogging for a long time, but I have learned a lot, and if I can even help one other blogger with this post, just one, it will make it entirely worth it.