To Write or Not to Write?

Casual Aggro, Dungeons and Dragons, Chronicles of Mystara, Paladin

That is the question. Well, it’s the question that’s been on my mind for such a casual blogger like myself, anyway.

I started Casual Aggro back in April of 2012 essentially as a way for me to take my hobby of gaming to the next level. I found myself in comments sections writing tiny novels as reactions to articles. You know the type. Not the ones that were being very critical, or trolling, but the ones that are just walls of text. Even if I was making a solid point, something others might want to read and comment on itself, I was putting a lot of effort into something that was mostly being passed over. The people seeing it had already read an article by a paid professional, why would they read my similar-sized (or sometimes bigger), amateur response?

So I joined the very first Newbie Blogger Initiative, sponsored by Syp the Mighty, and started this little page as a way to explore my hobby from a new perspective. But from the very beginning, I felt like an impostor. Here I was, some random MMO player, who didn’t even have that special of a perspective, just another joe-shmoe who thought that what he said could even compare a little bit to those who did this for a living. And in a way, even attempting to be on the same level as paid professionals felt like I was somehow insulting their profession.

At the same time, I had no realistic aspirations that I would ever be on their level. I already have a day job. I focused my education on math and science, not writing. I have, aside from the standard classes most universities force every student to take, zero experience writing. I would’ve much rather sat down and worked on a physics problem that took up three pages than write a three page paper. Because I felt like such an impostor my static friction, if you will, was much higher than I believed it would ever be. Just starting the ball rolling became a daily fight. And the days that I lost that fight, which were most days, I felt awful about it.

No Time to Explain, Existentialism

Basically this.

But I still wrote. Not every day like some other bloggers, and sometimes not every week. But I still put something out when I can. Some nights, especially after a long day, I felt like relaxing the way I already knew how. By playing, you know, games. So some nights it became a fight to play games or to write about them, and guess which usually won out.

When I did write, the reactions were… well, not exactly what I thought they’d be. I was writing to further myself, explore my hobby, and improve my own skills, sure, but when you put hours into a post, when you try your best, and get back in return only a handful of eyeballs? The return on investment seems not worth it. Seeing others celebrating hitting milestones that I knew I could never reach just hit me harder, and made me feel a little more alone.

Every month, though, is a new month and this is not just your standard month, this is Blaugust! The month of the Blog! So, let’s try this again, yeah? I’ve been picked up by the all-around geekery goodness site, Sub-Cultured, to be a regular contributor. Now being part of team the amount of friction already feels less and is so far significantly different than being alone. The success of my own site I never cared that much about, but the success of the group isn’t just about me, but the team’s success. And isn’t teamwork what it’s all about? Isn’t teamwork why we play the MMO genre in the first place? In fact, I’ve already put up a review of Star Trek Online’s new Agents of Yesterday to the site!

This explains so much, Octodad, Dadliest Catch

Or, it at least explains a bit of my absence, anyway.

So, if you’re reading this, and I sincerely thank you for still hanging around despite my lack of posts, maybe throw Sub-Cultured onto your Feedly as well. Expect posts from all around the world of geek, from comic books to television, from conventions to gaming, from current news to opinion pieces and all points in between. Who knows, you may even see little ol’ me hitting up a convention or two on *gasp* an official capacity!

But don’t expect it to be cultured, expect it to be Sub-Cultured.

// Ocho

 

P.S. – Alright, I just made up that tagline and I made myself groan when I wrote it. Still, though. Check it out. And as usual, a big shout out to Belghast the Prolific for once more throwing his leader hat in the ring for Blaugust. May it be a fruitful month of posts for all.

P.P.S – Now, to maybe work on getting myself onto a podcast or something of the like… I should really redesign this place, too. Maybe a new coat of paint, maybe a new door, couple of throw pillows… we’ll see.

 

NBI: List of Blogging Do’s and Don’ts #NBI

Newbie Blogger Initiative, Star Trek Online

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.

The Secret World, Agartha, Blogging

TO-DO

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!

Be Social

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.

Guild Wars 2, Whale

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.

Skyrim

NOT-TO-DO

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.

Plagiarize

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.

Flame Others

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.

Flame

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.

// Ocho

Keep Calm and Blog On