Tobold's Blog
Thursday, July 11, 2013
Blogging is dying

There has been a lot of weeping and gnashing of teeth lately about the death of blogging. Psychochild asked where the MMO bloggers went, Wilhelm asks whether there is really a blogging community out there or whether blogs are relics of a bygone age, and Marc thinks blogs might live on as ancillary components to the conversation held elsewhere. I think there are two factors here, one which is general to blogging, and another which is specific to MMO blogs.

Blogging in general is in decline for the simple reason that there are increasing numbers of alternatives to express your opinion online. And each platform has advantages for specific forms of discussion. A blog has the advantage of giving the blog owner the best available "ownership" of his writings, and to favor a sort of discussion based on arguments and counterarguments. Those are the main reasons I personally like blogging, but I sure can see the advantages of other platforms like Twitter if you have other needs to express yourself, for example for shorter thoughts. Social networks give you better control over who your audience is. Forums are better to create a more equal community, where unlike blogs everybody can start a new thread.

A secondary phenomenon is that the gold rush days of the internet are over and people increasingly realize that getting rich and famous by writing on the internet is a fool's quest. So even if you use a blog for the better ownership of your content and then try to monetize this, you'll find that your chances for wealth and fame aren't any better than by applying to a TV talent show. The barrier to entry might be lower, but the chance of success isn't any higher. A decade of writing got me over 5 million visitors to my blog, but that is some sort of extremely minor fame, and apart from a few free games and donations for coffee also completely not worth it from a monetary point of view. I am not aware of any MMO blogger who got rich and famous from blogging. The "most successful" is probably Lum the Mad, and that resulted in nothing more than a mixed bag of a career as game developer.

If we look at MMO blogs in particular, we will find one trend that is sure to annoy a lot of people: If you had a curve of the sum of readers of all MMO blogs over the years, the curve would be surprisingly similar to the curve of World of Warcraft subscribers over the years. "MMO blogging is dying" is as true as "WoW is dying", insofar as both are clearly on the descending part of the curve. That is not because everybody's interest is WoW is proportional to his interest in MMORPGs in general. But both the popularity of World of Warcraft and the popularity of MMO blogs suffer from the subject getting old. Just like you don't want to do yet another kill ten foozles quest, you don't want to read yet another casual versus hardcore discussion on a MMO blog. Just as there are very few new ideas in new MMORPGs, there are very few new ideas to discuss on MMO blogs.

And as to the question about community, I would say that whatever community there is, it is highly segmented. Even inside one game people are spending most of their time discussing their differences than their commonalities. Go somewhere else, and you'll be told that you are playing the wrong game, and that you are playing it in the wrong way. It is not just the Bartle types, but pretty much every sub-group of a sub-group is spending most of their time attacking anybody else. There is no such thing as a common purpose (or common enemy), so how can there be a MMO blogging community? I think this is much worse in the case of discussion about MMOs than in the case of discussion of other hobbies. The very fact that a MMORPG does not have a win condition, but various different ways to gain some sort of status that makes you feel superior to other players, is leading to the eternal accusation of "you're playing it wrong". You cannot build a community out of a common habit of attacking each other.

It is not just the Gevlons of the MMO blogosphere, but expressing hate against another population of players is an extremely common theme on MMO blogs. We hate the morons & slackers that don't use the auction house "right". We hate the random people we got grouped with by some algorithm, and get extremely angry if another algorithm groups us randomly with even more people. We hate people with money who buy shiny virtual things. We hate people who can spend more time than us in the game. We hate people who spend less time than us in the game. We hate raiders. We hate people who don't raid. We hate people playing a different game. We hate people playing the same game as us but in a different way. And because we hate all these people, we also hate it when they express their opinions on a blog. The internet is rarely a polite place, but gamers often stand out negatively in the way they talk to each other. And unlike let's say political blogs which express a clearly defined hate of the other side, gamers express their hate for each other. If that is any sort of community, it is at best a toxic one.

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Please do not use the comment section to prove just HOW toxic the community is.
Funny, my WoW subs are cancelled but occasionally I get the itch to return.

So last night I went on to the WoW forums to check out the latest news and what do I find but the same old topics full of players begging Blizzard to render the game unplayable to me.

I think it was making 5 man dungeons at least 90 minutes long this time.

No doubt the posters motivation was to create his ideal game - not by creating content he likes (he would soon stop running 90 minute 5 mans) but by eliminating the majority of players for which he has some irrational hatred.

Needless to say I closed my browser, booted up steam and played something else.

Perfect example of the community killing the game. Any time I get the urge to go back I just have to read any mmorpg forum for an instant cure.
@Woody: if you consider the official forum "players" to be representative of the game, good luck finding ANY MMO you want to play....
if you consider the official forum "players" to be representative of the game, good luck finding ANY MMO you want to play

Representative of the game? Certainly not!

But what about "representative of the community"? Theoretically, if WoW has 8.3 million players, of which 8 million are nice, but never say a word anywhere on the internet, and 0.3 million who are toxic and spew hate on various forums and blogs, which part is "the community"?
Sorry I was about to follow up by cautioning on our use of the word.

Tobold is correct in that the forum types are the public face of the game.

Many potential new players having seen a TV commercial for WoW will head to the website and take a look at the forums to check out the vibe...

That forum community may also be small but they do appear to have considerable influence over the devs too. They somehow got Blizzard to tailor an entire expansion to their tastes a few years back. Something that arguably lead to what was an unbelievably successful game heading into a downward spiral from which it seems unable to recover.

A small minority yes, but don't under estimate the influence of that "community" on potential new players, existing players and the developer.
I agree with all your points, but I think there's one additional major factor you missed. Game developers themselves are now much more involved in social media than they were 10 years ago.

It used to be standard that games would issue press releases on their forums, but never even acknowledge any community reactions. WoW had one guy who would respond (Ghostcrawler, I believe), but he sounded like a PR rep who never said anything of substance, and clearly had no influence with the game developers. I can remember what a huge deal it was that actual City of Heroes developers would often respond on their forum, discussing aspects of the game and potential changes with players.

Now, that's more or less standard for most games. Where are people going to want to discuss "how should X be fixed," on a random blog or with the actual developer?
I've been writing for the best part of fifty years. Blogging is just another format, nothing more nor less. In all the years I've written I've always wanted but never managed to keep a diary. My blog is just that, a gaming diary.

The only new thing about using a blog as a diary rather than a book is that its a public diary, which is probably the deciding factor that's kept me at it where all previous attempts to diarize failed. That and being able to put in pictures - that part's very important.

None of the alternative, newer social medias fill this role as well so I plan to keep on blogging.
Ghostcrawler is the guy with the major influence believe it or not! Lead systems designer!

Part of the problem was that in 2010 he appeared to be TOO close to the "community" and didn't put a greater emphasis on their internal statistics or rolling up his sleeves and playing in amongst the bulk of the player base to help decide the direction of the game.
I've maintained some sort of "blog" of my own for many years now, and I too have watched the format rise and decline.

Twitter, Facebook, etc represent a shorter, more accessible version of content creation, and they also provide better "popularity contest" type functionality than most blogging platforms.

Blog posts are essays; not dialogues, not quips. It's a form that I find quite valuable, but it's unsurprising that its relative popularity is in decline as more immediate forms of communication become available.

As you say... how many essays can one reasonably write about MMOs? Especially with the genre itself so stagnant.

At the end of the day, you have to write because you enjoy it, and the blog format is one that I enjoy writing. Perhaps we are doomed to irrelevance as communication evolves, but I'll keep doing it for as long as I find this sort of writing personally rewarding, even if nobody is reading it.
I remember back in 2005 just how weird and novel Barrens chat felt. Cut to 2013 and I log into..say....Rift, and am greeted with perpetual Barrens chat in this and every other F2P title, around the clock. It makes me want to delete all MMOs, period.

As for the blogging...I'm part of a late generation og bloggers, who go into it for fun and had no notion that money was ever a possibility. My blog is fairly diverse, however, so the impact or decline of MMO blogging doesn't really do much for me; I will note that those posts which discuss MMOs always get a lot of hits, though.
I've tried a couple times to start a blog, but I just couldn't sustain the willingness to post stuff. It's hypocritical of me to say it in a comment, but I just kept finding myself unable to believe anyone would actually care to read my random babbling. XD
It's taken a LOT longer for the MMO fad to wind down than I thought it would.

The Southpark WoW episode was the peak. Been all downhill since then.
"There is no such thing as a common purpose (or common enemy), so how can there be a MMO blogging community?"

Here you are responding to other blog posts in what I would call a community, and yet you say that community does not exist. Astounding!

To drag out a movie quote, I am not sure that word means what you think it means.

As for attacks, as I have pointed out elsewhere, your post on "evil" appeared to me to be one of the most pointless, off-topic, personal attacks I have seen in our community.

Yet I gather from your response that you still see no problem with it.

But if personal attacks bother you (attacking ones arguments for the sake of establishing a point should be left out, otherwise we might as well just all pack up and go home), you can start with yourself.

As for attacks, as I have pointed out elsewhere, your post on "evil" appeared to me to be one of the most pointless, off-topic, personal attacks I have seen in our community.

Did you actually READ that post? I think you, and others, got distracted by me naming names, and totally skipped the core point of that post: "I believe that wanting to win over the opposing avatar is okay, but deliberately wanting the player behind the opposing avatar to be emotionally or physically hurt is evil."

Is that something you disagree with? And how can making such a strong point of personal belief be "pointless"? It certainly wasn't "off-topic" in the context of the Mittanigate affair that was happening at the time. It might have been better style not to put names in that post, but I guess people would still have complained.

But as I said in this post, we gamers hate each other, and I was deliberately using "we" in that phrase so as to avoid exactly your sort of comment. And no, replying to another blogger and telling him to shove it does NOT make "a community". It is you who doesn't know what that word means, probably because you think from your game experience that backstabbing and attacking each other is what a community does.
I like blogs for the reason others prefer twitter et al: I like to be able to come back after a few days and get caught up rather than an immediate "stream".
Re: 8 vs 8.3 - the community really is who you encounter in the game. (although it does not take many to harm the experience i.e. I don't play 5-mans even though they usually are fine.) MMO companies are getting more involved in social media. Yet I can't help the suspicion that player happiness would be increased by not having forums. Alas, on the forums the 0.3 is far more visible than the 8.0.

I rarely feel better about the game after visiting a forum or most blogs. Is that due to the game, the blogging/forum community or people.

I am surprised at Wilhelm's comment. After your link I reread your post. It seemed pretty reasonable to me. I would assume a considerable majority of the other 3 Bartle archetypes would agree and many/most of the killer archetype would not. I would also assume a more overwhelming number of employed, non-gaming adults would agree or certainly would have before the talkradio/internet civility became more common.

Wow I must have missed that blog about "Evil".

I was just thinking about that subject the other day when driving to work. I couldn't quite figure out how to best put it into words though.

But with that bold quote you just explained why I will never touch a game like EVE.

It isn't just because I have no desire to spend my evenings in the company of the type of people that play that game either.

As an mmoRPG player I expect a certain level of "RP". That doesn't mean full-on RP like you might find on a dedicated RP server, I just expect people playing to behave to a tiny extent as if they are in the game world. You know - to behave in what would be considered a logical and rational manner were they to actually be their Avatar in the game world.

The problem with EVE is that too many people don't seem to play their Avatars. They behave, and therefore their avatars behave as if they are fully conscious of the outside world and attack the real people behind the screens instead.

When people participate in behaviour such as suicide ganking where their Avatar gains nothing and the only reward (received in real life and not the game) is the pleasure of knowing that they hurt a real person as opposed to another avatar, then the illusion of being in the game world is completely lost.

That kills my interest in the game/genre long before I start to consider my feelings toward the odious players perpetrating those acts. At that point the game stops being an imersive world, and merely becomes another medium for attacking real people - no different to forums, facebook and twitter etc.

The strangest thing of all is that this behaviour doesn't really involve gamers "hating" other gamers. I don't think they do it out of hate, I think it is related to a sickness of some kind.

I don't think that is unique to MMORPG's either, it is no different to real world vandalism. I guess the problem with MMORPG's that could ultimately be their downfall is the "MM" bit. If only it were possible to create some kind of gated community whilst maintaining a big budget commercially viable product.
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I wonder if there is any correlation between RSS dying and blogging dying.
MMO communities appear to be so "hateful" for the very reason you alluded to in your post: we're all playing a different game. There isn't one WoW community, there are thousands. Raiders are playing a different game than the solo-LFR'ers. Hell, "raiders" can even be divided up into hardcore raiders, world-first raiders, casual raiders, Friend & Family raiders, "More ICC plz" raiders, "More TBC plz" raiders, and so on and so forth.

Most importantly though: game design is largely zero-sum.

Look at LFR. Look at LFD. Look at attunements. If attunements were to come back, several "communities" would be ecstatic. Many more would be crushed. In this sort of design environment, someone making a well-reasoned, rational argument for attunement removal directly makes your play experience worse. How could anyone not see that as an attack on your fun? It is literally an attack on your fun, and the stakes are very real. You see all the vitriol and the like within the "community" precisely because everyone is engaging in enlightened self-interest, facing down total strangers who are trying to make your game worse.
The problem in the attunement example is whether the fun of attunements is a good or healthy type of fun.

Those that wish for it do not do so because it leads to fun game play but because it acts as an arbitrary barrier to stop others from accessing the same content as them. Remember it denied perfectly skilled players access to content due to a lack of groups for attunement content after a certain time period.

It comes back to those strange mental health issues you see in some EVE players. The pleasure of hurting others is greater than the pleasure they derive from playing the game. It is very prevalent in a certain niche of WoW players too who are more interested in what others can and cannot do than they are in enjoying their own game play.

Call it spite, call it a desire to be a special snowflake, call it evil, what ever you call it the end result was bad for everyone including the person that wanted it because it lead to non viable content - not enough users to justify the cost.

There seems to be a desire within certain sections of the mmorpg community to self destruct or cut off their noise to spite their face.

In mmorpg's, players are playing different games, that should be fine though. It is not zero sum in the mind of a healthy individual. Does a casual player in RF care that hardcore players have a heroic raid mode with better gear and an extra boss? No, absolutely not. Do they care that some players are in arenas? No!

However a segment of the hardcore raiders are very unhappy that casual players have an RF mode with crap gear and no bonus boss.

If you were to employ a psychologist to look into why that is, it would make very uncomfortable reading. There is an inconvenient truth here about certain elements that are attracted to mmorpg's and in particular the more focused end of it. I believe you would find a higher percentage of people suffering from social disorders and conditions such as aspergers in that community than you would in the general population. It is hardly surprising given that the life style required to play these games at that level tends to favour the type of lifestyle that usually results from such conditions.

It's seems to be a taboo and people are too scared or embarrassed to bring it up. The presence of these people can be fine if developers stop those elements from hitting the self destruct button and repelling the large mass of players that provide the bulk of the revenue.

When left unchecked with no controls it can become a toxicicity that stops your game ever expanding past a certain point (EVE). When developers make the mistake of placing too much emphasis on campaigns from this over represented minority on community sites it can send the game into a decline costing them millions of dollars a year in lost revenue (Cataclysm).

Sorry, but I cannot agree. The desire to be part of an exclusive group is more of a neurotypical trait, not a sign of mental illness. You don't see it just in toxic communities, good and moral people do the same thing. Year-round charity workers feel superior to those only involved with specific events. Regular churchgoers disdain the Easter&Christmas crowd. In every field the professionals look down on the hobbyists, and the better hobbyists on the dabblers, and the dabblers on the uninitiated. This is normal.

Eve isn't a horrible game because they let the players' innate badness go unchecked and grow to toxic levels, as if that were the natural way things go. Eve is bad because it intentionally maintains a toxic gameplay model. If they evenly distributed materials across both empire and null space instead of putting the best stuff in null, and made it so that in empire you had to flag for pvp to be vulnerable to player attack, then within a year (if the game still existed) it would have the same quality of community and social standards as a typical mmo. Eve is unpleasant to play because the developers want it to have the toxic community it is famed for, it's intentionally unpleasant.
I am going to split hairs, as I believe saying this:

I believe that wanting to win over the opposing avatar is okay, but deliberately wanting the player behind the opposing avatar to be emotionally or physically hurt is evil.

Is dramatically different that saying this:

I believe that Alexander "The Mittani" Gianturco is evil. I believe that the real person blogging under the name of Syncaine is evil.

You wrote both of those. I mildly object to the first because "evil" is a culturally loaded word, but expressed as such, it is difficult to counter as an argument.

I object strongly to the latter because in my own upbringing, evil is a state beyond redemption and I do not believe you have anywhere close to enough knowledge about either person to make such a statement. And to claim, essentially, that evil means just what you say it does show such a lack of empathy that I have to assume you were being deliberately provocative.

And no, replying to another blogger and telling him to shove it does NOT make "a community".

This is, of course, where I think the problem lies. I did not say "shove it" or anything even remotely comparable to that. I pointed out what I would generously call inconsistencies in your argument.

First, your very action of responding to other blog posts is evidence of community. Hence my quote from Princess Bride, which clearly did not have that humorously disarming effect I was hoping for. Damn text as a communications medium.

Second, you went on and on about hate. So I brought up evil, which is something that is worthy of hate, and how you declared that SynCaine, or more specifically the person writing under that pseudonym, was evil based on no direct, personal evidence whatsoever. And I suggested that you belong on the list of haters as well.

But, apparently, I committed the error of disagreeing with you on your own blog and you summarized my comment as telling you to "shove it."

Perhaps you should just turn off comments again.

Don't get me wrong, I understand why exclusive groups exist - but you are taking about a different type of group. Exclusive gentleman's clubs are fine.

This is not the same as in WoW where certain groups effectively want to ethnically cleanse the game of the majority of its population....following which their own tiny remaining group of survivors would no longer be able to survive due to their resources being too small to fund their existence.

Biting the hand that feeds you etc.

The inability to understand their position, their numbers and their parasitical status/dependency on the people they wish to starve out is nothing short of suicidal.
evil is a state beyond redemption

I don't see it that way. For me the two statements are of the same order, just that the specific one with the names is giving concrete examples of the general statement.

If a specific act is evil, a person committing that act can be called evil. But evil is neither beyond redemption, nor is there just one degree of it. Deliberately hurting somebody emotionally is obviously not the same degree of evil as setting him on fire.

Deliberately hurting somebody for fun is evil, and there is sufficient evidence that the two persons I named are doing exactly that.

you summarized my comment as telling you to "shove it."

That was a general comment on how bloggers reply to each other, not specifically on your comment.
Funny 2 years ago you posted WoW was dying. You keep using that word, but I don't think it means what you think it means. :P
Kilster, you might want to read this post.
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