Tobold's Blog
Thursday, January 08, 2015
Blogging and mass market games

Over the past months I've regularly been playing a game called Spellfall on my iPad. And I haven't blogged about that at all, because chances are that you never heard of that game. On the other hand, going back to World of Warcraft has visibly increased my output of blog posts, because everybody knows WoW. When blogging about WoW I don't feel as if I am talking into a vacuum or an audience of blank stares. It isn't as if my experience in some mass market game is in any way more meaningful than my experience in some unknown game; but it sure is easier to write something your readers can relate to if you write about a game that millions of people are playing or have played.

While saying that blogging is dead is somewhat exaggerated (nothing that isn't centrally organized ever dies on the internet), the best years of game blogging certainly appear to be behind us. There are fewer blogs around, and fewer people reading them. Google inadvertently (or on purpose to promote Google+ ?) delivered a severe blow on blogging by shutting down Google Reader. And other less erudite platforms for self-expression, like Twitter, are flourishing at the expense of blogging.

But in the specific field of game blogging, and even game journalism (which isn't doing so great either), I am wondering in how far the decline is related to the splintering of the market for games. 2014 wasn't exactly a great year for mass market games, and many of the most hyped titles ended up on lists of the greatest disappointments. Meanwhile the number of games on Steam and mobile platforms exploded. Nobody has the time to play all the critically acclaimed indie games, and however great they are they rarely reach mass market status. And if we all play different games, it becomes a lot harder for us to talk about shared experiences.

Do you think it may only be computer gaming blogs that are suffering the past few years? I only ask because when I'm out there, trawling the great wide Internet sea, looking for information on tabletop RPGs, I seem to find quite a few that are thriving.

It might make sense since tabletop RPGs exist more in a written medium. Just curious if you'd seen the same, Tobold, since you also play tabletop.
I only ask because when I'm out there, trawling the great wide Internet sea, looking for information on tabletop RPGs, I seem to find quite a few that are thriving.

I believe it is possible that for tabletop RPGs the same logic applies in reverse: Tabletop RPGs are past the era where there was a huge flood of them in the 90's. Mass market games like Pathfinder and Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition are doing very well today. In addition to that two people playing two different tabletop systems still have a lot of common ground. Most of what I write about being a DM in Dungeons & Dragons applies quite well to other systems.
FWIW, I've learned about a few games from this blog that I would otherwise not have heard about. Like I had a lot of fun with that card hunter game you were praising a year or two ago. So I'm still seeing added value from blogging.

At the same time, I skip over all the iOS games you mention, as I don't have an iPad or iPhone or mac or anything. So I'll admit the point, when you blog about the mass market, cross platform big games, you're more likely to be talking about something more people can relate to.

But that's not necessarily a good thing. The games I most enjoy have tiny communities and lack any mass appeal, like Factorio or Kerbal Space Program. And the community is more pleasant because of it.

If you were blogging about League of Legends or GW2 WvW or whatever, there's be such vitriol and unpleasantness in the comments that this wouldn't be a fun place to check out anymore.
I think it is difficult to find particular games for the iPad and if you like a game I'd like to see a post about it because I might like to play it as well. You don't have to create a post for each game but a monthly iPad game article would be nice.
"Nobody has the time to play all the critically acclaimed indie games, and however great they are they rarely reach mass market status."

This is where the blogosphere can pick up the slack. I'm tired of hearing about Destiny and WoW (Though you do say some really smart things about the latter), and I want to hear about cool new stuff like Shovel Knight or Crypt of the Necrodancer.

I think if you are making an Indie game, you aren't trying to be mass market gold. Often it's a labor of love, and a great petri dish for new ideas. Indie games could definitely use some curation.
I think for the average blogger, eventually the well of ideas runs dry. Some people only have so much to say, and there's no point continuing once they've said it. Also, due to the mass proliferation of game blogging, there wasn't really a whole lot of original thought out there. For any "original" idea had by a blogger, one could search around and find five more blogs whose owners already had very similar ideas years ago.

Most gaming blogs go through a phase where the blogger takes a stab at game design. They get halfway through a game design document, then quit and nothing is heard about it again. Often, that signals the impending end of the blog.
My page views are holding up. The line on the little graph Blogger provides zigs and zags but the general trend is generally positive. It does make a big difference what I choose to write about - writing about any highly-publicized MMO during the run-up to launch and the weeks immediately afterward always causes a spike - but comments, which are the only meaningful way to judge whether people are actually reading, don't seem to depend on novelty.

I have certainly noticed a trend on blogs I read way from MMOs and towards a much wider range of games and non-gaming topics. I do believe that there are, and will be fewer and fewer MMO bloggers until and unless there's a big, new MMO success in the marketplace. I don't agree that there's a diminution in the number of bloggers per se; although people do drop out all the time there sems to be no shortage of new blood to replace them. They just aren't writing about MMOs all that much.
I know you've talked about specific iPad games a few times, but I just finally broke down and bought one so if you felt like doing a post about some of your favorites again I for one would find it interesting.
I think what we are seeing and experiencing is part of the evolution of information exchange.

If you look back at the previous eras of gaming, you will find something that is often overlooked, but critically important to the evolution of gaming - which is the influence and effect that word-of-mouth had on games becoming merely niche titles or huge marketing successes.

Back in the pre-internet/BBS era - I played arcade, home console(pong/jai-alai) and table-top games(D&D), and the word of mouth effect is what perpetuated and influenced the popularity and success that games of this era enjoyed. The word of mouth effect in these days was limited by, and propagated via phone calls, physical gatherings and snail-mail mailing lists. The key back then was the effect that "nexus gamers"(otherwise known as "opinion leaders") had on how "viral" a game would become in the absence of mass media(radio and television).

Take Doom(ID Software) for example - In my neighborhood I was one of the few who had one of the early X86 PC's. I was also one of the few who ran a BBS via dialup connection. When ID Software decided to release the Doom demo via BBS, I managed to snag a copy of the demo early on. I was blown away by the 3-D technology and the immersive atmosphere. I was immediately on the phone calling all of my closest friends telling each of them "you have to come see this!". I invited many friends over to my home to experience a low light, headphone run-thru of this game. They were all equally blown away, and within weeks a good majority of my friends were buying PC's just to experience this game.

Fast forward to today...

We now have what is known as E-word of mouth, and anyone with an asshole is able to have an easily accessible venue in which to propagate their ideas. The difference here is the familiarity aspect.

When I switched over from the FPS scene to the MMO scene, I was leaving a very secure and familiar group of gamers with whom I identified with and trusted. When I started playing MMO's I began to delve into the MMO scene via forums and websites focused on MMO's. I paid attention to the signal-noise ratio, the moderation style and the subject matter. I found a site called Grimwell's and the rest is history. It was there that I met Grimwell, Tobold, Amber and host of other gamers who displayed a healthy and well balanced passion towards not just MMO's, but towards all games. After a period of time I discovered that Tobold, and a host of others who posted there, had developed Blogs and were sharing their ideas and opinions on specific genres of games.

I consider Grimwell to have been an "opinion leader" in my MMO experience, and I learned a metric ton of information from his site about MMO's and gaming in general...

Fast foward again to today...

Bloggers have started allowing advertisements on their blogs, Twitter and other mediums have exploded with their character limited, highly impersonal and self serving opinions.

Is it any wonder that gamers such as myself choose not to be a part of, or accept recommendations from this new wave of E-word of mouth influence?

Maybe I am wrong, but in my experience I have found that the longer something is around, the more it tends to splinter off into self serving niche groups looking for their own voice and identity. Nothing wrong with that, mind you, but for any newcomer, it's a bit daunting to separate the chaff from the wheat when the splintering is in full swing, especially when Mass Marketing is so visibly attached to the mechanism.

The ability to put one's trust behind someone or something is an axiomatic idiom that must be maintained if anything is to thrive.
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