Blogs Are Not Community

Social Gaming

I am breaking my own rules a little bit with this mornings post.  Generally speaking I sit down at the keyboard and write something fresh each morning, in the 30-45 minutes I have before I need to leave for work.  There have been times in the past when I have broken this rule due to me needing to leave for work early the next day.  Today however I feel that this topic needs a bit more care and feeding than my half awake brain can really muster.  As such I am getting started on this topic the night before my intended date of posting.  I am sure that sounds just as contorted as it did to me as I wrote it… but bear with me.

Today I spent a few minutes sifting through my Twitter list, and pruning folks who either are not active any longer, or that have never really engaged with me in the past.  I may have accidentally pruned someone that does not fall into that category in the process, and if so I will go ahead and apologize now.  If this happened and we talk regularly I will definitely want to correct that mistake.  Essentially I view the people I converse with in games and online as more than “just pixels”.  I think this is the side effect of growing up an only child, that I have a deep yearning for being people…  despite also having an introverted streak in real life.  So as I approach people, I see them as not someone from whom I can benefit… but instead a potential life long friend waiting to be discovered.

Blogs Are Not Community

This viewpoint towards social media and other gamers has caused me more than a bit of heartburn during my almost five years of blogging.  As I pruned my twitter list today, I noticed that a number of people that I thought I had made a connection with along the way no longer followed me.  There is a time that this would have absolutely devastated me, but over time I have gotten used to a sad fact of the gaming blogosphere.  While at times we think of ourselves as a community, in truth we are more like a collection of independent nation states.  While we may make occasional alliances, and share resources…  these alignments are all too temporary and fleeting.

This is not to say that I have not met some really amazing people that I will hopefully be lifelong friends with, but over the years a handful of folks I trusted ended up stabbing me in the back.  I have come to accept that unlike my guild, these are not always people that I can rely to always be there for me.  My craving this permanent connection is likely a side effect of the amazing guild I have been a part of since 2004, and the similarly amazing community that got me started in blogging in the first place.  I have given credit to Blog Azeroth and the Twisted Nether Blogcast in the past, but had this extremely nurturing community not existed, I likely would not have set down roots in the blogosphere at all.

Blog Azeroth

I’ve always enjoyed writing and found it extremely therapeutic, but the BA folks offered me support and fertile environment.  There are several truly amazing and completely selfless people out there.  I’ve talked a lot about how amazing @RowanBlaze of I Have Touched the Sky is… and I cannot highlight this fact enough.  However I have to take a moment to talk about @Fimlys of Twisted Nether Blogcast.  This man has made a career of highlighting the amazing work going on in the World of Warcraft blogging and podcasting community.  Similarly from the Blog Azeroth roots I met so many amazing people like Stop, Triz, Rev, Linedan, Llanion and so many others that I may have met initially through BA that I now associate with other things.  So these forces combined gave me a somewhat unrealistic viewpoint of what I felt being a gaming blogger was all about.

When I made the decision to leave World of Warcraft and venture off into other games, I was simply unprepared how tentative this “community” of friends I had built really was.  I joined Twitter initially as a way to hang out with other blogger types, and within a few weeks I had amassed a large group of people that I chatted back and forth with regularly.  However as soon as I stepped forth outside of the WoW Bubble I found that a good chunk of those people disappeared. Since I was posting content not related to WoW, they were simply no longer interested in me and  my non-wow discussion.  I tried to make connections within the more game-agnostic circles, but set forth with the false notion that it would be just as easy as it had been within WoW circles. 

Cold Outside

It is funny how a one game can instantly bring people together.  If you meet anyone in real life, and find out that you both play WoW… regardless of the Horde/Alliance divide…  you are pretty much instant friends.  You both share this large shared set of experiences to draw upon, and it gives you immediate common ground.  Going out into the outer reaches of the mmo landscape, was tantamount to leaving civilization behind.   I expected to find the same kind of fast friends I had experienced before, and instead had some pretty harsh reality checks.  Like I said, I go into almost every encounter with a new person open minded and entirely too trusting for my own good.  This is likely a side effect of growing up here in Oklahoma, but I generally expect the best from people.

The problem with the non-wow MMO blogosphere is that there is no common point of reference that we all have.  Sure I would imagine that most of us have WoW in common, but each of us exited that experience with a kaleidoscope of different experiences not all of which something you want to build a friendship on top of.  If you go a little further back there is likely a common thread of Everquest, however not everyone views those days with the same rose colored lenses.  So instead of immediate bonds over shared experience, what I found instead were a bunch of wholly independent personalities, not all of which were that open to new people operating in their shared space.

Lessons Learned

I had a bunch of bad experiences early on, and it has made me a bit more guarded.  I still try and be as open as I can be, but at the same time realize that I am “just pixels” to a fair number of the people I meet along the way.  This has made me cherish all the more the people I do feel genuinely care about my well being along the way.  I want to thank @Sypster for creating the Newbie Blogger Initiative and @ModeratePeril and @TRRedSkies for carrying the torch forward this year.  You three and everyone who has participated in the initiative in any way are selflessly trying to create the same kind of nurturing environment that lead me to start blogging.  The problem is, that once the initiative is over we all fail pretty miserably at keeping the ties we created going.  I’ve picked up several of the new bloggers on Twitter, but I could be doing so much more as well.

I think all of this comes down to the fact that once you leave the rather large and protective WoW-based blogging bubble… the community is somewhat flawed.  We lack a single focus, a single rallying cry to unite behind.  For a long time there has been a zeitgeist of players rushing to whatever happens to be the newest thing.  So for a short period of time, we have a rallying call, a thing everything wants to talk about.  When the magic fades from whatever shiny new toy we have, we are left again with a bunch of separate islands floating in the same stream.  I can wish things were different all I like, but I know at the end of the day I have a very few individuals that I can really count as true and long lasting friends.  Overtime I have learned to accept this and just expect folks to drift apart and forget or be forgotten.

What Was the Point?

Quite honestly… I am not really sure what I was trying to say before I started down this path.  I still find it disappointing when someone decides they no longer want to interact.  I know for example one individual who has followed and un-followed me at least a dozen times by now.  I feel like I am the same person I was the day I began blogging, or at least I am at my core.  I have always tried to be myself and be open to meeting new people, and hopefully integrating them into my own personal monkeysphere.  If you want to interact with me, and do so in a way that does not stress me out… then I want you in my sphere.   Chances are I am also going to try and adopt you into my guild family…  it is a thing I do.

This year I really want to surround myself by more positive influences, and be willing to accept that there are going to be some negative ones I need to let go of.  I cannot make everyone happy, and I am sure I will annoy the hell out of a good number of people along the way.  My hope though is somewhere between I will keep finding a lot of loyal and true friends along the way.  I also hope that by some small way I can do my part in trying to fix what is broken with our “community”.  I am not really big on making new years resolutions, but if I did make one it would be to continue staying positive and try my best to find the good in people.  Here is hoping that some folks will stick around long enough to find the good in me as well.

Factoid February

I have to credit @TheChindividual for the name, who is as a matter of fact one of this years crop of Newbie Blogger Initiative graduates.  This February I am going to do something to put more of myself out there in front of everyone freely.  During the twenty eight days this year I am going to start off each mornings post with a true factoid about myself.  @Ithato had a great idea of posting two falsehoods and one truth…  and as much as I like that, I think it defeats the purpose of baring my soul for all the world to see.  So I have a few days before this starts, and I am going to begin jotting down things… hoping by the time I need them to have all twenty eight ready to go.  Hopefully at least someone out there will get some enjoyment about my little tidbits.