NBI Talkback Four – Deadly Gamer Sins

As part of my continued attempt to complete the writing prompts as part of the Newbie Blogger Initiative, this morning I am tackling Talkback Challenge Four.  This one is a bit different than most because it is actually a series of questions about the “Seven Deadly Gaming Sins”.  This concept is courtesy of Joseph Skyrim who has outlined the series of questions as a way of getting to know our gaming habits better.  I have not done terribly many questionnaire type posts so this might be a little interesting.

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Lust – Do you enjoy games more if they have scantily clad and “interestingly proportioned” avatars? Do you like playing as one of these avatars? Why or why not?

Nope!  I am being honestly with this one because quite honestly there is this awkward uncanny valley thing going on when it comes to nudity in games.  It always feels extremely cringe worthy in part because developers have yet to figure out a way to do mature content without it either being soft core pornography or incapable of also showing human emotion at the same time.  As far as playing Avatars, that isn’t my shtick either.  Pretty much all of the characters I willfully play are like the ultimate version of myself, or more so how I wish I might be.  As a result I am always going to go with the heavily armored character, with badass armor plates everywhere.  While the subligar in Final Fantasy XIV is humorous, I am not the type of person to walk around in one.

Gluttony – Do you have a game backlog of unfinished games but still buy new games regardless? Why or why not?

I have a truly massive backlog of games that are unfinished, and I am mostly okay with this.  When I buy a game I don’t necessarily view it as “just” buying a game.  I also view it as me supporting the development of that game with my dollars.  Maybe that is a strange concept, but there are a lot of games that I am happy that exist whether or not I ever get around to playing them.  Additionally I am a sucker for a good sale, and sometimes I pick games up in the hopes that I will actually get around to playing them because they were pennies on the dollar of the original price.  When I pay full price for a game I always play it, pretty much immediately.  The bargain basement games however, sit in the stack waiting for me to find the time and the drive to dig into them.  I really need to resurrect the Steampowered Sunday concept again and start digging through my backlog.

Greed – Do you enjoy hand outs in a game? Have you ever opted to NOT do an action / in game activity because the rewards were lacking? Why or why not?

Oh absolutely on this one, as far as opting out of not doing something because there was no reward in it.  I am most guilty of this in World of Warcraft, because when I reach a point where I can no longer receive upgrades on a given character…  I lose all desire to keep doing  the content.  This is more than just a loot issue however because there are games where the content itself is the reward.  Some games are only valuable to me so long as there is a carrot being dangled in front of me.  For example I generally love running dungeons, but the hassle of running heroics in World of Warcraft is not worth the non-existant rewards that can be gained from doing it.  On the other hand in Final Fantasy XIV I am almost always down for running a dungeon (except Aurum Vale because fuck Aurum Vale) and there is quite literally nothing of use that I can get from most of them.  The experience is worth my time even when the rewards are not.

Sloth – Do you ever leech or AFK in a party? Do you discourage others from attempting things that you feel are difficult? Have you ever seen someone that needed help, but decided not to help them? Why or why not?

I’ve never leeched experience or AFK’d in a party other than you know…  to go do something important in the real world for a brief period of time.  There are times though that I do get pessimistic when I don’t feel like we can defeat a given content.  I tend to play MMOs and there is a hard fact that sometimes there are simply gear checks that a group is not ready for.  So while I see myself as being a pragmatic voice of reason… there are some who could see me as discouraging the group.  As far as seeing someone in need of help… if someone is struggling with content I will almost always try and lend a hand in a game setting.  I am one of those people who runs over and helps attack random monsters, because it is in my nature to do so.  As far as dungeons and raids and such, it all depends on what my overarching mission for the night is or how much time I might have.

Wrath – Ever get angry at other players and yell (or TYPE IN CAPS) at them? Have you ever been so angry to stalk a person around in game and / or in the forums? Why or why not?

The me that existed around Lich King absolutely did this thing.  In fact I have a lengthy post about the “Bunny Incident” if someone is interested in reading about it.  The current me… I try really hard to be overwhelmingly positive.  Mostly I went through a bad spot mentally for awhile… and then I took the advice of “fake it until you make it” and quite literally it did help.  Over time I became  a much happier person and additionally more balanced.  There are some people though that seem to hate me and I do find myself obsessing about them a bit.  Trying to figure out exactly what I might have done to them to make them so upset with me.  I have this overwhelming need to be liked that no matter what I try I cannot quite shake.  I am working on it, but it is like the polar opposite of Wrath.

Envy – Ever felt jealous of players who seem to be able to complete content you can’t? Do you ever suspect they are hacking or otherwise cheating? Why or why not?

For the most part no on this one.  I don’t really see myself as some pinnacle of gaming skill.  I am just a guy that enjoys piddling around in video games.  I am not a terribly competitive person, and as such when I get bested in skill I just move on knowing that the player was better than me.  I do take pride in things like tanking, but I think that is slightly different.  As far as Envy goes…  I don’t ever get jealous of content that people are able to complete.  There are times I do get frustrated when players are at a level that I know they did not earn themselves, but are bragging about it.  Anyone that worked their way up through the content on their own merit and through the blood sweat and tears that comes from weeks of wiping…  those folks earned every last drop and I would never be jealous of anyone who put in the effort I did not.

Pride – Are you one of those people that demands grouping with other “elite” players? Do you kick players out of your team who you feel are under-performing? Why or why not?

Nope! I love my “scrubs” and “casuals” for the most part.  Now on the raiding side I do tend to demand that players put in some effort.  That said I am more than willing to teach someone the ropes, and explain fights.  This has been one of the great things for me when it comes to the Final Fantasy XIV community.  Overall folks have been more than willing to stop and take the time to explain the encounters when someone says they are brand new to it.  As far as raiding goes you ultimately have to do what is best for the team.  If you have a player that is simply not performing, and even though you have spent time working with them… simply cannot compete at the level the rest of the team is.

Under those circumstances then yes, absolutely I would trim that player from the raid and replace them with someone that was able to “keep up”.  That is the thing about raiding is that essentially it is a “team sport”.  On many fights you are only as good as your weakest link, and even though it might suck to do it… you have to do what is needed for the raid group to progress.  That does not make the person a bad player or a bad person… and outside of the raid environment I would not think any less of them.  I like to keep a line of separation between “Guild” and “Raid” for this reason.  The guild is a social structure and the raid is a working group designed to complete a task.  Folks have to be understanding that while everyone can be in the guild, not everyone is ready to put out the effort needed to be in the raid.  I don’t necessarily see this as a “pride” thing but more a “taking the needs of the team” into account.

The Podcasting Bug – Part 3

Putting it Someplace

Today is the final post in my series highlighting some of the decisions that you need to think about when starting a podcast.  In the first post I talked a bit about various formats, casting options and some of the design aspects.  In the second post I dove straight into recording your podcast and editing it.  In this mornings post I plan on handling the least exciting part of the equation…  hosting it somewhere that other people can listen.  If you wanna be a rock superstar and live large…  well you are going to have to dump those shows somewhere reliable and fast.  There are so many options here that it will make your head spin but I am going to try and do what I have done to this point and just talk about a few of the potential paths.

Dedicated Podcast Hosts

When I ventured down this road I noticed that pretty much all of the podcasts I listened to had one thing in common… they all seemed to be hosted by a service company called “Libsyn” so for ease of use that is who I chose to use for AggroChat.  These companies are dedicated to a upload and forget it business model automating a lot of the process to make it easier to integrate with services like iTunes and Stitcher radio.  One of the things you are going to realize quickly is that you have no real idea just how much space you need.  For example the basic Libsyn account is $5 a month for 50 megs of monthly storage.  What that means is that you can upload roughly 30 minutes of new audio each month before incurring additional overage fees.  For a weekly show I knew without a doubt that this was not going to be enough.

When I set up the AggroChat account initially I went with the $15 a month 250 meg of monthly growth account, thinking that surely this was going to enough.  The problem there is that there were a few weeks where I quite literally had to wait until after the monthly reset before uploading that next episode.  Finally I have settled on the $20 a month account for 400 mb of storage.  This gives me some breathing room, and allows our podcasts to fluctuate in length naturally without being extremely concerned about running out of space.  Ultimately what you are going to have to figure out is what works for you.  If you figure 50 meg per 30 minutes of podcast that means you can record at a decent bitrate and hopefully have a bit of wiggle room when it comes to your monthly allowance of space.

LibSyn

LIbSyn honestly seems to be the gold standard for podcast hosting.  The problem is it is rather pricy as compared to say a normal blog web hosting account.  In part this is because they work slightly different.  For starters LibSyn has no concept of maximum monthly transfer.  They are only concerned about how much file growth you are generating each month.  Additionally they host your back log and archive indefinitely, which is extremely nice.  We’ve recorded 56 episodes and all of them are available to listen to on demand, which means they are hosting roughly five gig of audio for us.  The other big thing they provide is really good statistics and analytics about who is listening.  I would highly suggest if you consider them at the very least going with the $15 a month 250 mb plan.

PodBean

In every market there is a “Bargain Provider” and just like that statement usually means… you ultimately get what you pay for.  When you compare I am paying $20 a month for 400 mb worth of monthly growth through Libsyn, it seems like an absolute steal that you can get an $8 a month unlimited bandwidth and unlimited storage account through PodBean.  The problem is that they have a fairly abysmal reputation for reliability.  The Better Business Bureau has them listed as an “F”rating, so you are more than likely taking at least some risk.  However if you really cannot afford a better option this is there.  I would love to hear thoughts if any folks out there are actively using this service and liking it.  Most of the complaints I have heard centered around customer service.  Considering the price I looked at it seriously for “Bel Folks Stuff”.

SoundCloud

The service I am the least familiar with to be honest is SoundCloud but from what I can tell a lot of folks are having good luck with it.  In part the way its pricing is structured allows you to ease into using it, and as such get your feet wet before committing to a monthly fee.  The free account allows you to upload 3 hours of audio.  Now this is not per month, but this is 3 hours of audio period.  For $6 a month you can get a total of 6 hours, and then upgrade to unlimited to $15 a month.  When you compare the raw hosting power to my Libsyn account this seems like the clear winner, but for me personally LIbsyn still comes out ahead in the number of things it just takes care of for me.  SoundCloud offers basic RSS support but from what I am tell it is not quite as optimized.  Still this is a really solid option especially if you are considering hosting multiple podcasts off the same account.

Self Hosting Audio

You can at least in theory host your podcast off a traditional blogging account.  The problem being is that when your web host sees the usage of folks constantly downloading MP3s from your site, chances are that they are going to hit you with some sort of bandwidth overage fee.  Because of this what might be a perfectly reasonable and awesome place to host your blog, might be exactly the wrong sort of place to host a podcast.  Libsyn is not terribly flexible when it comes to adding new podcasts without adding additional subscription fees.  So when I started kicking around the notion of “Bel Folks Stuff” I opted to try and host this myself.  For some time I had a cheap unlimited storage and bandwidth hosting account that I used for some development on the side.  As a result I opted to simply host my MP3 files there, and link to them directly from WordPress.

The problem with this is once again you get what you pay for.  While my unlimited host is cheap… and unmetered it is also sluggish at times.  As a result I am telling you about a method that I am contemplating abandoning or at the very least tweaking how I do it.   The host I am using is Arvixe which offers a $4 a month unlimited transfer and unlimited storage account.  Overall it works well enough for my purposes but I have noticed that roughly once a week I have at least one minor outage in service.  These outages are usually less than five minutes according to my wordpress uptime monitors, but they still happen.  Now this could be for any reason including legitimate maintenance… or simply because they have over sold their resources.  In whatever case it is something you should be wary of when looking at any “unlimited” account.  There is almost always a small measure of “snake oil” in those sales pitches.

BluBrry Powerpress

The heart of this process relies upon a WordPress Plugin called BluBrry Powerpress.  In its free form this plug-in takes care of the functionality that Libsyn does with its iTunes optimized RSS feed.  In its paid subscription version it also adds in the robust analytics and statistics.  For “Bel Folks Stuff” I chose to simply use the freebie version.  I manually upload the MP3s to my web host, and then once activated I can link to the media in a traditional wordpress post.  The end result feeds out as a podcastable rss feed, and visually embeds a player on the page.  This works pretty flawlessly, and were I using a different host I would even maybe think this is the preferable way of dealing with a podcast because it gives me the maximum control.  The nice thing about this plugin is that when I chose to create my own custom AggroChat.com wordpress site, I can still use it to cleanly embed media from libsyn into posts.

Advertising The Show

Now that you have your hosting set aside and hopefully your website created to embed your work, now it is time to talk a little bit about getting your show out there.  This is something I honestly do a pretty poor job of myself.  I just happened to stumble into an affiliate network through the close ties I made thanks to the Newbie Blogger Initiative.  The Gaming and Entertainment Network was essentially formed out of NBI in a way, and were it not for that happening my shows would likely still be unaffiliated.  I do a pretty horrible job at the business side of blogging and podcasting, so hopefully someone will come along after writing this guide and tell you all how to actually recuperate your costs.  That is something I have yet to master, because this hobby is absolutely a money sink.  Regardless though you are going to want some listeners and I am going to talk about a few of the avenues I use.

Twitter

Twitter is an absolute no brainer.  Make an account for your show, and syndicate every new show over twitter.  You can get as complicated here as you want or be as generic as you like as well.  Ultimately in a perfect world you want to hashtag in some of the topics you spoke about during the show.  I have yet to really master the art of this without making the advertisement sound anything other than smarmy.   We publish on Sundays, so I tweet out the link early that morning.  Then on Monday I tend to re-tweet it again for anyone who missed the first posting and is looking for something to listen to at work.

iTunes

I do not use iTunes at all, but man it seems like every other person on the planet does.  There is apparently a meta game to getting your podcast placed in iTunes perfectly and there are all manner of guides to timing the launch just right.  Truth be told mine is only up there because my friend Jaedia asked me to put it there.  The act of getting it up there is relatively simple and Apple provides a list of specifications that the podcast needs to follow in order to qualify.  From there you simply have to wait the requisite three or four days before it shows up in the index.  I think for me it happened in about two but depending on backlog of podcasts it has been known to take as long as a week.  Like with anything you can get higher placement if you convince your friends to go into iTunes and vote it up.  I was shocked to find out that apparently our podcast has a five star rating.

Stitcher

The other big player in podcasting directories seems to be Stitcher Radio.  Just like iTunes they have a series of requirements for getting a podcast listed, but have a handy dandy FAQ outlining them.  Essentially it reads your RSS feed and re-syndicates it on their network.  The only problem with this is that it seems to absolutely butcher my podcast.  It sounds like a garbled mess running off their servers, whereas iTunes seems to leave everything as is.  Just like with iTunes someone asked me to list my podcast there because they liked using the stitcher mobile client to listen to podcasts so I did just that.  Really uncertain if I am actually getting any traffic from this but it can’t really hurt.

Go Make a Podcast!

So over the course of these three guides I have done my best to share the small amount of knowledge I have about how podcasting functions. The thing is I am still very much learning as I go because I don’t feel like this is the sort of the thing you can actually “master”.  You might be sitting back and thinking…. god that is a lot of information to take in.  The positive is that I knew absolutely NONE Of these things before I dove head first into recording our first episode of AggroChat.  So my hope is that I can give someone who is on the edge and considering jumping into this world a bit of a head start.  These are the things I wish I knew beforehand, and I have talked about some of the choices I might have made.  Ultimately podcasts are extremely unique beasts, so yours can be whatever you want it to be.  Again if you have any direct questions I am more than happy to answer them, but my hope is that maybe just maybe someone is going to read this mess and get the courage to start.

Back But Don’t Play

Supporting Kickstarter

wasteland2 This morning I am going to tackle the second talkback topic for the Newbie Blogger Initiative because it is actually one that has been on the hearts and minds of the AggroChat folks for the last few weeks.  For the April AggroChat Game Club game I chose Darkest Dungeon, and since then the topic of playing “unfinished” games has been somewhat of a recent discussion among us in private.  The fact that the game was unfinished caused numerous problems, not the least of which was the simple fact that we were never quite sure if this or that functionality was intended… or just unfinished.  So I feel like I was not able to give it a really solid testing, because I don’t know what might change between now and when the studio deems the game “finished”.  The prompt however for this talkback is pretty straight forward but my answer is going to be a bit more nuanced.

Early Access and Kickstarter – Do you support unfinished games?

So for the first part… yes I wholeheartedly support the backing of unfinished games.  I’ve backed more than I can count at this point through either Kickstarter or company specific initiatives.  I think Kickstarter is a pretty awesome thing, and it has caused a lot of things that I care about to see the light of day.  I’ve backed both software and physical merchandise projects through it, and have been relatively happy with pretty much every project I have ended up chipping in on.  Kickstarter does a lot of things, but the biggest one to me is that it allows me to vote with my dollar on what I think is going to be an idea worth making.  I rarely back very far into a given product tree, and the end result is me usually getting a cut price copy of the game at launch.  While many of these games offer a double platinum early access alpha program…  that is not so much what I am interested at least not any more.

Tired of Alphas

Once upon a time I wanted to be playing every single game I could get my hands on.  I reveled in the fact that I had alpha and beta tested most of the MMOs out there.  For a period of time this was something that was achievable because at any given moment there were a very limited number of Alpha and Beta test programs available.  Somewhere along the line I noticed that playing an Alpha seriously adversely effected my chances of staying with a game for very long after release.  In essence I would burn myself out playing the Alpha, so that when launch happened the game felt very old and tired to me.  The pinnacle of this problem happened for me with Elder Scrolls Online.  I seriously cared about the release of this game, and I took my Alpha testing duties seriously.  I was told at one point that I was in the top 1% of all bug reporters in the game, and every single time we played I spent most of my time reporting and re-reporting issues I saw.

The problem here is that I had been alpha and beta testing builds of this game for a good year before the game actually launched.  So while I only managed to play about three months after the launch of the title, in truth that was around 17 months of me actually playing the game.  Huge chunks of the content I had literally seen hundreds of times, and remembered each of the different incarnations.  The additional problem is I had trouble letting go of the past.  There were some changes made in that game that I considered “for the worse” and myself and many of the other early testers rather vehemently pined for the imagined “good ole days” of early alpha.  Memory is always an incomplete state, and what we remembered was this or that feature that stood out in an ocean of an otherwise broken game.  The final product was so much better than the one we were requesting they return to, but we got hung up on the minutiae of this or that feature that we missed.  Basically I learned that Alpha testing ultimately ruined my enjoyment of the final product… and it only took me twenty some years to wake up to this fact.

Back But Don’t Play

Ultimately I have a very nuanced stance on Kickstarter.  I am more than happy to donate money towards a cause that I believe in like the creation of a brand new Wasteland experience on the PC, or any of the other games I have backed that let me wallow in the nostalgia of my youth.  Generally speaking I now back just far enough into it to give myself a cut rate copy of the game at launch.  Then when I get said copy and any bonus trappings… it seats neatly in my Steam account until I am ready to play it.  I might boot it up periodically to check on its progress, but ultimately I am not going to start the game for real until I see that note from the developer talking about how the game has launched.  The problem is this also means I am phenomenally bad at tracking the progress of games on Kickstarter.  I almost always have a message that needs to be responded to about this or that game but this is what works for me.  It lets me feel like I am backing things that I believe in, but also gives me the piece of mind of not actually starting a game play session until the game is “finished”.

As far as other games that are in a permanent state of development like Minecraft…  once again my feelings are a bit more nuanced.  Paying to play an alpha does not really bother me, if the experience and the enjoyment itself is worth paying to play said alpha.  I got into Minecraft for example during its pre-beta days when you could pick up a copy for well under $10.  I have gotten easily $1000 worth of enjoyment out of that game.  Similarly while I don’t play them nearly as often I have gotten more than enough happiness out of both Trove and Landmark to recuperate any costs I might have put into them.  Ultimately backing an unfinished game, and playing said unfinished game is not an entirely bad idea… so long as you go into it with the thought process that you are playing something that isn’t quite done yet.  Early Access games are in essence paid betas, and if you can live with that… awesome…  if not wait for the release of the game.  I personally have found that the games I played heavily in Alpha and Beta get more enjoyable over time, and going back a year after launch I end up really enjoying myself.  So that is to say that the games I ruined through Alpha testing…  are not in a permanent state of ruined as evidenced by my recent travels into Guild Wars 2, Wildstar, and Star Wars the Old Republic.  Ultimately you have to figure out what works for you, and the amount or risk you are willing to take.  If I feel like I am going to care about a game, I try my best not to burn out before launch.

Finding Your Time

Writing Blocks

This morning I am trying to knock a post out quickly before “Rainmageddon” gets here.  While I don’t really believe it  the neighbor across the street said we are likely to get “ten inches” of rain during the course of the day.  That would be absolutely insane.  My wife’s theory however is that she just misheard and the news actually said “two inches”.  In any case starting at noon today we are likely not going to want to be out in the world.  This is awesome because it means I can binge on video games.  What is not so awesome is the fact that I need to get a post out quickly rather than my normal lazy Saturday and Sunday posting schedule.  So I have a video game soundtrack on to block out the world, and am in beast mode!  Sadly my beast mode is more like a sleepy kitten, but in any case…  I am making things happen!  For those curious I am listening to the State of Decay soundtrack that is available on Google Play.

Normally Storytime Saturday is the day when I tell you some tale about myself, and I try really hard to make it one I have not already told.  The problem there is that I have shared so many intimate details of my life with you all, and that I have zero recollection of what I say on any given day.  Hell there are days I get to work and I will see entire sections of a post that I don’t remember writing.  In the spirit of the Newbie Blogger Initiative this mornings “Storytime” is more than likely going to be a free form rambling mess as I share indiscriminant tips and tricks I have learned over the years.  The key to thriving as a blog is to be predictable in your posting schedule, and in order to make this happen it means you need to set aside specific blocks of time to write.  How big of a block of time depends entirely on the style of post you make.  When I write a post that requires lots of research those are usually done over the course of several days, with me keeping notes in a Google drive document.  My “normal” style of posting however takes anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour of me sitting down at the keyboard and physically writing it out.

Finding Your Time

When I launched this blog in 2009 I spent a lot of my lunch hours writing posts.  For the most part this worked great because it was a fixed block of time when I was not really doing anything else.  The problem is as work got busier, and I started actually going out for lunch… my noon writing block evaporated.  There were more than a few days when I was working on a problem that I could not set down long enough to write a post, and by the time whatever had been fixed… I was usually too drained mentally to produce something worth reading.  I wont say this was the reason behind some of my larger lapses but it was certainly a contributing factor.  When I started on my “Grand Experiment” I knew I was going to have to figure out something else to do.  I had gotten in the habit of going upstairs with my morning coffee and piddling around in a video game for thirty minutes to an hour before actually going into work.  This “boot up”  time greatly improved my cognitive ability by the time I got to work, so it was actually something that turned out to be pretty beneficial.

When finding your own block of time you have to evaluate your own schedule.  Where is a block that you are doing something every single day, or every few days…  that you could tweak a bit to turn that into a time to write your blog posts?  For me I happily sacrificed my morning game time in an effort to give myself a regular place to write words and things.  This however has been a double edged sword.  I literally cannot start my day without writing a blog post, and the days when I have to do something differently and stage the post the night before…  I feel like something is off the entire day.  I have incorporated this writing phase into my morning boot up routine and when it is missing, I am just not fully functional.  Additionally the problem of writing while you are not entirely awake means sometimes entire blocks of text don’t really make much sense.  Thankfully the frequency of my posting makes up for some of this.  When you are posting every single day, your readers cut you a lot more slack for having an “off day”.

Keep a Contract

The other nice fringe benefit of morning writing is that you feel like you have accomplished some thing.  No matter how south the rest of the day turns, you will have at least had a tiny victory that morning.  For years my wife has done something that I just did not understand until I looked at my own blogging.  When we clean the house we usually divide and conquer, meaning I take certain rooms and she takes certain rooms.  One of the rooms she always wants to do is the Bathroom and I have never understood why she tackles it first thing.  She has always said it made her feel like she had accomplished something, and I guess in a way gets those good vibe endorphins flowing making the rooms that are more painful a little easier to do.  I can definitely see this whole process working because I absolutely see these same kind of benefits with my own blog posts.  No matter how frustrating the rest of the day is… I at least accomplished writing another post and I continued the chain of daily postings by one more day.

Whatever your block or your schedule I think the absolute most important thing is to treat it like a contract.  It becomes extremely easy to give yourself an excuse for not writing one day, that turns into not writing for an entire month.  Before I ventured down the path of daily writing there were so many times when I told myself “I just am not feeling it” and let myself off the hook without writing a post.  Then as months went by of “not feeling it” it became harder to actually start the process again.  In order to keep a schedule you need a certain amount of rigor in your life, and a willingness to sacrifice other things to make sure the ball keeps moving forward.  I know this might sound like an odd statement, especially for something that we all consider a hobby.  The problem is you can’t really treat it like a hobby and achieve the predictable regularity that your readers will want.  In many was blogging is a second job, admittedly one you do out of love… but there still needs to be some constraints on your time.  At this point I have blogged every single day for over two years… so I have this pressure built up in NOT missing a single day.  I have motivation to keep going, and keep writing… and I think it is this motivation that you have to find for yourself.

Talkback Challenge 1

Avoiding a Topic

First off I have to say I am a huge proponent of the Newbie Blogger Initiative, and try my best to do whatever I can to support it.  Unfortunately I do a pretty bad job of actually participating in anything that is going on the forums.  This year I had told myself that I would try really hard to participate more and do more of the various writing prompts.  You know that whole “lead by example” type argument.  The problem is the very first topic is something that I find both repulsive and deeply scary at the same time.  Izlain seems to love to revel in controversial topics, and has recorded podcasts on various incendiary topics in the past, so I really should not be shocked this ended up as a writing prompt.

The aim of the Talkback Challenge is to engage new bloggers on a topic and provide contrasting views on that specific matter. It is also designed to encourage follow-up discussions and blog posts which further widen the level of interaction. The goal is to generate discussion on newbie blogs, raise their respective profile and share traffic. The NBI has run such activities for several years now and they have proven both informative and engaging. The opening topic for debate this time round is “how did GamerGate affect you”?

The prompt itself is pretty straight forward.  How were you effected by GamerGate, but the answer as always is far more nuanced.  I just finished writing my Bonanza post over on MMOGames and during the course of it I ran through all of the responses to this question that were available at the time of posting.  I was somehow bolstered by the fact that the majority of these posts seemed to have no real effect.  The problem is…  for those who were effected this is a really touchy subject.  The fact that someone actually wants to be talking about this makes me realize that in truth they were largely left unscathed.  All of this said, I am going to tackle this topic because I promised myself that I would actually do the writing prompts.

Talkback Challenge 1

GamerGate cycled through the community like nothing I had ever seen before.  It was swift and it was obnoxious…  and quickly moved into the realm of the really damned creepy.  Folks were using the tag without really understanding the consequences.  The claim of the movement is that GamerGate is “About Ethics in Journalism” but this claim has never really matched up to the effects seen in the community.  So much so that this has become a meme and filed away in the internet as yet another meaningless phrase.  What I saw instead was a lot of my friends getting really scared to speak their mind.  This hive mind of hatred seemed to be going after anyone who was “different” from what they saw as the cultural norm.  This meant that women and the lgbt community seemed to garner the brunt of the assault.  I talked to lots of friends who considered just stopping blogging because of the fear and paranoia that was rampant.

The problem is I am by nature not extremely combative.  You can make personal attacks against me and it really usually doesn’t phase me.  However when you take on my friends, and make them feel less than what they are…  then I start to get upset.  In the grand scheme of things I didn’t speak out as harshly as I probably should have on the subject.  I made a pretty general post about how I wish we would “Be Awesome Human Beings”.  Which drew the attention of a Gater that followed me and proceeded to try and argue with me about ethics in journalism in the comments.  I didn’t want to get drawn into his discussion and he kept trying to bring me back to his personal brand of right wing philosophy.  Ultimately I ended up un-following and blocking the person on twitter.  Within a few days of posting this relatively straight forward article, my blog came under fire of a DDoS.  At first I thought nothing about it, since hosting companies get denial of service attacks all of the time.  The thing is… it seemed to be targeted at ONLY the server cluster my blog was on.

Message Delivered

A short time after that my twitter handle appeared on a list of supposed “Social Justice Warriors” that were to be avoided.  Granted half of the people I know ended up on that same list, but while it was a point of pride… it also felt a bit like a veiled threat.  It felt very much like a list of people who “thought wrong” and should be targeted.  When you combine that with the DDoS I won’t like it freaked me out a bit.  I tried my best to exorcise my social networks of any Gamer Gate sympathizers, or at least the ones who were loudly supporting it… and I moved on with my life.  I tried my best to support those who were getting attacked, but I didn’t feel like I supported the other extreme either.  Ultimately I just wanted us all to get along and stop being assholes to each other.  That is the mission I have kept trying to move forward.  I am a tiny blue dot in a very read ocean, but I manage to get along with most of my friends, coworkers and neighbors because we respect each other not enough to try and jam our own personal philosophies down each others throats.

The problem is Gamer Gate has left me scarred.  When someone new follows me on social media the first thing I do is scan down through their posting history to make sure they are not somehow a GG leaner.  I don’t want to make people out to be the bogeyman of the internet, but I also don’t really want that sort of influence screwing up my relatively happy place.  I have tried my best to limit the about of negativity in my world.  It ultimately makes me a happier person, and GG and the vehemently Anti-GG communities both are something I can do without.  That said I am by no means trying to be neutral anymore.  I am not a supporter of the GamerGate community by any means, and the whole situation deeply saddens me.  I don’t want to be made to feel like shit for anything I do, from anyone.  So I am going to keep doing what I am doing, and keep enjoying the things I enjoy and try my damnedest to forget the negative forces still exist.  You cannot get me to believe like you do by yelling at me louder, and you cannot convince me of your point with circular logic.  Ultimately I hope the internet and gamers in particular mature and learn to make decisions on their own merit and not connected to some larger agenda.

Reluctant Blogger

My First Blog

nbimmogames-666x271 This mornings blog post is inspired by a conversation I saw yesterday between two friends about the starting of a new blog.  There are many people that have this strong desire to start a blog, but for whatever reason lack the confidence to push them over the edge to actually putting a plan in motion.  Some people are gifted with a clear vision for what they want to write about, and a firm purpose to make it all happen.  That unfortunately is not most of us.  Most of us have this burning desire to write, but are also strapped with crippling self doubt.  While I might look like I know what I am doing, I am here to tell you that every single day is a struggle to keep making content.  While I have been doing this for six years now, and been doing the every day thing for two…  I still don’t really know what I am doing on a regular basis.  I take each new day as it comes and try and figure out exactly what I should be doing in the process.

This morning I want to tell you a story about another blog.  I started Tales of the Aggronaut in 2009 with a firm purpose, and a vision for what I wanted it to be.  The thing is..  I never would have gotten to that point had another blog not existed.  Back in 2005 I stared a blogspot blog because I had this overwhelming desire to write.  The problem being that I didn’t really know what to write about.  I mostly wrote about my misadventures, and a little bit about the ins and outs of our family.  But early on I knew there was a big part of my life that I just wasn’t talking about… because I felt like no one would want to hear about it.  So my first blog was ultimately a failure because it didn’t really represent my gaming.  Additionally Tales of the Aggronaut I feel was an initial failure because it failed to represent more than just my gaming hobby.  What finally ended up working…  eight years later…  was a blending of both.  Lots of gaming, but still the freedom to talk about whatever else happened to be happening to me.

Reluctant Blogger

My first blog was a blog that hardly anyone read, because I lacked the self confidence to talk about it publically.  It was very much a private journal that I let the occasional person know about.  The folks that did read it seemed to like it, and urged me to do more, but in the back of my head there was always this nagging voice.  “There is nothing you have to say that isn’t already being said… and  being said better.”  This is the voice you have to ignore to be able to keep blogging, because it never really goes away.  There is not a single day when I don’t hear it still.  Every time I hit the publish button I have to hold my breath and close my eyes and click it… because even after doing this for all these years I still struggle to defeat my inner doubt.  It would be amazing if I could tell you that it just magically goes away, but I can at least say that over time it lessens.  The voice has less sway over me than it once did, which I guess is a step in the right direction.

You might say to yourself that you have nothing to say, and that others are saying it better…  but the act of you saying it makes it special and unique.  I could read fifty blog posts on exactly the same subject and each and every one would have some nugget that the others did not.  While we might be espousing the same ideas… each of us is adding our own experience to that mix.  Right now, before you start down this journey you might believe that you don’t have a voice worth hearing but I am telling you that you do.  Be honest with yourself, and write about the things you want to write about…  and somewhere in between your voice will trickle to the surface.  Blogging is not about being controversial or brilliant, but instead about being honest and letting the world see who you really are and what think.  This act of sharing is precious, and makes whatever it is that you choose to share more than worthy of our attention.  We are this culmination of our emotions, experiences, actions and thoughts wrapped up together making anything you have to say on any subject uniquely nuanced.

Lets Get Started

As I wrote to the Wayward Bloggers a few days ago, this morning I am writing to the Reluctant Bloggers.    I am addressing the folks that want to start a blog but for whatever reason are being held back from doing so.  If you are watching the Newbie Blogger Initiative and feel that tiny tug trying to get you to start your own epic blog, I ask you to hop down off the fence you are sitting on and get started.  The Newbie Blogger Initiative is the perfect time to get things in motion because you have an entire community waiting her ready to give you that hand up.  There are an almost overwhelming number of ways to get started.  Most people start with either a WordPress.com or a Blogger.com and go from there.  Blogger is without a doubt the easiest way to get started, but WordPress will make transitioning to a self hosted site in the future less of a hassle.  In either case, the act of getting something started is the important thing.  If these seem “too real” for you to get your feet wet, then I suggest starting a blog on Anook.com and seeing how things work for you.

Some people are gifted with the ability to start writing quality content from day one.  In my permission to suck post from last year I talk about the fact that I was not one of those people.  I struggled for a long time to find my format and to find my voice.  My blog itself has gone through so many transitions from WoW Blog, Rift Blog, to ultimately becoming a fairly game agnostic blog about me as a person and my gaming habit.  The truth is that you should expect to hate the first dozen posts you make within a years time.  Like I said there are the occasional folks that can crank out amazing stuff, but I personally would be happy never to see the first several years worth of posts on this blog.  The awesome thing about being human beings is that we are able to change and to adapt, and expect your blog and your writing to do the same.  Just like learning to ride a bike was wobbly at first, your blog will be a bit wobbly and that is okay.  You are doing something that you are going to get better at, and we as a community will be here to help you.  Now you simply have to get started.

The Wayward Blogger

Tyranny of a Blank Page

nbimmogames-666x271 Early in the week I had this idea of what I was going to write about for Storytime Saturday, and it was something good.  The problem is as Saturday has now happened I cannot for the life of me remember what it was that I wanted to write about.  Jaedia says this is why she keeps notes…  but I ultimately fail at doing that.  I have literally hundreds of “Untitled” Google documents with only a few sentences in them, so note taking is not exactly my strong suit.  Actually the problem isn’t the notes themselves but the organization.  Some people can neatly compartmentalize their lives into subjects and categories and then there are people like me that are shocked and amazed if anything goes as planned… because we are constantly rewriting that plan as we go along.  This is the point where I admit that I really have no prep work for my blog.

This is a curse and a blessing both depending on the day.  As I could not think of anything to write about this morning it was a curse.  The fact that I could start banging away on my keys and make something work as I went along…  is the blessing.  As writers we have to find whatever it is that works for us.  I’ve always tended to be one of those “rough outline” people, that I need a sketch of a roadmap…  but then prefer to fill in the details as I go allowing myself to be flexible and adjust to change as it happens.  The irony of this… is that I am pretty damned adaptable, but I still end up hating change in most forms.  I guess when you choose to life your life is a state of loosely organized chaos, you learn to really respect the parts of your life that you can commit to routine.  Those are the stable base that you build your ever changing life upon, so when one of those things changes you notice it.

The Wayward Blogger

One of the things I took special time to point out yesterday in all of my NBI 2015 announcements… was that we are also looking for what I termed the “Wayward Blogger”.  I guess this hits home for me especially because still deep within my core I am one of you.  I was a Wayward blogger for years, with weeks where I was extremely active, and month long pauses in activity.  If I could do this whole blogging daily thing naturally then I wouldn’t need to challenge myself by calling it the “Grand Experiment” and keeping track of each and every day  that goes by where I didn’t break the streak.  If you look through my blogs history you will find several six or seven month lapses in posting, and today during Storytime Saturday I guess I want to address those.  Not necessarily why the lapses happened but what my mental state was like during each.

The problem with a blog is when it starts to get popular you feel like you are forced to produce content.  The irony of doing the blogging every day thing, is that in many ways it is a gimmick.  When you are producing that much content people are generally forgiving on your off days.  Not every single post I make is meaningful or important, and some of them are going to flat out honestly suck.  I’ve talked about the “permission to suck” before, but it is even more than just this.  When you are blogging infrequently you feel like you have to write gold every single time you set your fingers to your keyboard.  This pressure is overwhelming sometimes and each day that passes gets internalized as another rung higher your subsequent post has to be to make up for the fact that it has been six months.

Permission to be Boring

I have no stats on this, but this is something I have heard from each and every other person that has gone dormant.  That they don’t blog because they feel like they simply don’t have anything to say that is worthy of that “triumphant return” post.  This is the instinct we have to figure out how to subvert if we are going to be happy bloggers.  Like the permission to suck when you are just starting out, you have to give yourself the permission to be boring on occasion.  Writing a “return” post is often like ripping off a band aid.  You need to get it over with quickly so you can get on with the normal business of writing posts.  The thing you have to realize is that for most readers your blog has been shuffled into a RSS Reader along with the rest of the people that they follow.  They will notice when you come back, but no one is actually there waiting every single day for that “epic post” you have built up in your head.

Ultimately if anyone is going to read a blog for any length of time, there is a transition that happens.  You stop caring so much about what is being written and begin to focus on the person behind the screen.  Those people, the ones that have transitioned to caring about you as a human being…  they will always be there when you return to welcome you with open arms.  The other folks who were only there when you were producing that thing they desired on that specific moment…  they will always be fickle and aren’t really worth the heartache and frustration.  You need to ask yourself what exactly do you want to write about and then focus on doing just that.  So many of us started our blogs as one thing, and then realized whatever that “one” thing was no longer sustainable.  We then transitioned into writing about the things that made us happy, and have kept going because of whatever that “thing” was.

I Am Proof

Essentially I offer myself as proof that you too can be a pillar of stability in the community.  I was quite possibly one of the least prolific bloggers, with some pretty massive absences.  The longest one that I can remember was the seven months that passed between the last blog post and me rededicating myself to doing the daily blogging experiment.  Each time I felt like a complete failure for letting the blog posts stop.  Each time I beat myself up for not being able to crank out content when I “wasn’t feeling it”.  Each time I could not get the desire that I should be writing something out of my head, and ultimately this small amount of madness lead me to put fingers to keyboard again and start writing.  Now is when I let you in on a little secret…  that inner doubt, the bit of you that tells you not to post.  That never actually goes away.  Most mornings I have to hold my breath and close my eyes… and press the publish button, because the inner voice inside me is constantly telling me that whatever I am doing simply isn’t good enough.

I was and still am in many ways a Wayward Blogger, I am just learning how to overcome those instincts and force myself to perform.  I don’t know what I am doing most days, and in truth I don’t even have a clue.  I just keep moving forward and adapting to whatever happens, coming up with things on the fly as I push forward.  If I can do this…  quite literally anyone can.  I am possibly the least qualified person to be doing what I am doing on a daily basis, yet I keep finding a way to make it happen.  You are significantly more talented than I am, and will go on and make more magic than I could ever dream of.  You simply have to push yourself to do it.  Prove it to yourself, prove it to the community… that you can be our next shining star.  The support is there, you just need to make it happen by finding what it is that you love talking about, and start writing.  My hope this Newbie Blogger Initiative is not so much that we get this massive crop of new bloggers, but that instead we find a way to rekindle the fires of bloggers that have long gone dormant.  If I can do this so can you.

Newbie Blogger Initiative 2015

It’s That Time Again!

nbi-blog-logo Well folks it is once again May the First and as such time for us to begin the Newbie Blogger Initiative.  For those that are unfamiliar with this program, I thought I would take a few minutes this morning and talk about what exactly it is and what you can expect from it over the coming month.  May is essentially the month that bloggers set aside to helping create more bloggers.  In order to do what we do we need a thriving community to live in, and this is our version of a neighborhood block party.  I once referred to NBI as the BlizzCon of the gaming blogosphere, because really this is the event I look forward to each year.  It is exciting seeing all of the new faces filtered into our world, and seeing others rededicate themselves to creating more frequent content.  Others of us just enjoy helping folks out to get their start with whatever projects they are wanting to do.

For New Bloggers

If you have ever thought about creating a blog, a podcast, or a youtube channel this event is solely centered around you.  For years we have heard that “blogging” is dead but the fact that I have over five hundred active blogs in my feedly account would disagree.  Each time I go to read through my gaming blogs it is like drinking from a firehose.  I love this and I love the fact that there is so much creativity packed into this community.  However in order to keep this a vibrant and fresh community we keep needing to infuse it with some new blood and new ideas.  One of the most difficult parts about starting any new venture is getting an audience.  It can be frustrating to feel like you are writing into the void, and in part the Newbie Blogger Initiative is here to give you what you need most…  exposure.

During this month the gaming blogosphere turns its eyes to the Newbie Blogger Initiative and by choosing to start a blog during this month we are essentially hand delivering you readers.  Now of course starting the blog is the easy part, creating regular and creative content is the challenge.  Throughout the month veteran bloggers will be giving you tips and tricks that we have to help ease your transition.  This has always been a very blogging centric event, but we want to embrace all gaming content.  There have been quite the number of new podcasts spawned out of this event and the connections with other bloggers, as well as a few folks dipping their toes into video creation.  Essentially the sky is the limit on what you can do, but you have to start someplace and we are here to help.

For Veteran Bloggers

While all of this love is getting thrown around on the new bloggers, it is  really the Veteran bloggers that make up the backbone of this initiative.  We need you, your ideas and your wisdom.  Blogging is rough, and getting up and doing this on a daily basis means we need some tools to be able to lean on.  Each of you started out as a fledgling blogger at one point or another, and many of you got a massive boost by the Newbie Blogger Initiative in the past.  Now is the time for us to step up and help the next generation to become the awesome bloggers of tomorrow.  Many times these new bloggers just need someone to talk to and bounce their ideas off.  I personally am always open to new blogger queries and during the course of this event I will end up trying to make a personal connection with as many of the new folks as I can.

What we need more than anything however is for you to keep making awesome content.  Let the bloggers know what works for you, what you have figured out doesn’t work, and general ideas about how to make a blog successful.  I’ve talked about a lot of topics in the  past, and there are a few of them I end up dusting off almost every year.  More than anything we need you showing that this is an achievable goal, and that given dedication you can succeed.  Each of us has tricks that we use to keep us going, and at the end of the day someone starting this is going to need a big bag of tricks to lean on.  Channel your gifts in whatever direction you feel best be it with writing prompts, tutorials or lessons learned, but whatever they might be we need you to make this work.  There are already folks signed up on the forums waiting for us to find them, so I suggest you sign up as mentor today.

For Wayward Bloggers

Now especially I want to address a special kind of blogger this year that I might not have in the past.  Have you lost your way blogging, and somehow lost the will to put pen to paper and create new content?  While I am generally thought of as this prolific daily blogger, there are some pretty massive lapses in my blogging history.  I recently celebrated my second anniversary of making posts every single day…  but prior to starting that there was a seven month lag in my blog.  It is easy to “fall off the wagon” for lack of a better term.  Life gets in the way and your font of inspiration dries up…  then the longer you wait to make a post the more pressure you put yourself under about making said post.  We are our own worst enemies, and as the months tick you suddenly realize you are no longer really a blogger.

Newbie Blogger Initiative is also the perfect time of the year for you to get active once again.  Sometimes we start down a path that doesn’t end up as sustainable for our interests, and other times life just simply throws us a curve ball.  In any case I urge you to take this month to get back into blogging.  We are here and waiting to help you with whatever you might need to tweak on your blog to make it sustainable.  We are also waiting with a ready audience to consume your brand new and shiny content.  Each year we lose a number of bloggers to life, and I am hoping to help resurrect some of them and get them making content once more.  The Newbie Blogger Initiative is so much more than just a launch pad for new blogs.  It can be the vitalization of our community every single year, giving us a new perspective to carry us through the next year.  If you want to come back to blogging regularly, we are waiting for you.

#NBI2015