Finding Life’s Balance

It’s been a while since I wrote a post about my personal goings-on, and since I’m lacking anything else of substance to write about I figured I’d do so now.

I’m partially inspired by Belghast’s recent post about needing a break. I’ve never been on any sort of regular schedule, and his ability to go for years posting every day is admirable, but as he noted in his post, sometimes you start to feel like it’s a job, and that’s no good. Also, it seems that more you post, if it feels forced, the content isn’t really all that great. I’ve had plenty of times during my twelve and a half years writing this blog that I wasn’t putting out the greatest content. Recently I’ve read over some of my older blog posts and have found some gems, where I was really hitting my stride and there was a bunch of community feedback as well. Lately, I’ve been talking about games and Magic, and though most of my audience is familiar with the former, I seriously doubt many are interested in the latter.

That comes down to the notion that I write for myself, not for an audience. However, writing for myself still brought about an audience, and that was multiplied through my involvement in the NBI, along with having run a podcast for a couple of years that helped to feed the blog. From what I know, the NBI didn’t happen this year, and my Podcast has been dead for almost a year. It’s clear that both of those facets had an impact on my traffic and involvement with the community, because blog stats show that I’m back to pre-NBI numbers and the decline has an effect on the desire to continue.

This isn’t an “I quit” blog post. Despite having written those words before, I always end up coming back, and I have faithfully posted a minimum amount of posts per month since my full-fledged return to blogging about four years ago. Granted, my return coincided with a period of unemployment, so I had more time to devote to writing, and in turn more time to devote to creating and running a podcast for two years. At this point I don’t have the same amount of time, having a full time job along with other life responsibilities, a girlfriend and a weekly Magic group. At the end of the day, my time has to be split between many things and I can’t focus on everything all the time. This means less time for gaming, so there’s less to write about and so on. It’s a cycle that has been on-going for my entire blogging career, and generally I don’t mind spending less time on it, though I still want to keep it going.

Going forward, I think some changes are in order. First of all, I have paused my Humble Monthly subscription. The service is a great value, but I keep getting games I already own or games that I’m not interested in to the point where it feels like it’s not really worth it. I’m just piling games onto the collection where they won’t get played. I may unpause if the next early unlock is worth my time, but otherwise I think I might be done with it. I’ll still be getting free games from my Playstation Plus subscription, so it’s not a total loss. As such, you can count those monthly posts out. I will be keeping my War Report (MTG) and State of the Game (gaming roundup) posts going, on no particular schedule, because they are long running and I feel like they serve their purpose. Of course there will still be filler posts in between when something comes up that is worth writing about.

There is something on the horizon that might change up the amount of free time I have. I have also been in talks with a friend about the whole Podcast thing, as I really want to start a new one but it’s been something I’ve procrastinated about. If the big change happens, it’s possible that it will come to fruition, finally. I should also have more time to devote to my hobbies, which include gaming and writing, so you may see more activity from me in the coming months. If not, you can expect the handful of posts that I’ve stuck to for the past few months. Needless to say I’m not going anywhere, just wanting to be open about what is to come.

I’ve also spent some time cleaning up the blog a bit. There were some dead links on my sidebar and I’ve added some new bits to the top navigation, which will allow you to see my major columns without any of the filler. I’m only leaving the Couch Podtatoes stuff up for the time being until I figure out the next podcast, and then those bits will be updated. Perhaps if I get back to paying for hosting, I’ll upload the old episodes so they are back online again. Time will tell.

I spent more time cleaning up my Steam and Playstation libraries. I’ve gone through and deleted a bunch of games I’m simply never going to play. There were a lot of those — games that I picked up on sale with the intention of playing but never got around to it. I used to get hung up on making sure that I beat every game I purchased; at this point it’s easy for me to realize that I’m not going to play something, or that I simply don’t like it and away it goes. With nearly 350 games on Steam, it’s clear that those that have been beaten can be removed from my hard drive, and those that won’t ever be played should also be parted with. There are games that I want to play through that will stay, but I’m going to make efforts to start clearing them out because it’s time to stop spending the money and not actually enjoy the games I’m buying. I’m also spending more money on Magic than I’d like to admit, so that cuts into gaming funds, so perhaps this will keep me from buying new games and just play the ones that I have. So perhaps a new series about clearing the backlog is in order. We’ll see what I come up with.

Just wanted to touch bases with everyone. Glad to see that some familiar faces are still around, and I hope that you all find enjoyment in your free time. Happy gaming!

12 Years of Blogging About Nothing

12yearsToday marks the 12th anniversary of this humble blogging establishment. I’m celebrating 4,380 days of writing about nothing. And by nothing of course, I mean whatever-the-hell-I-want-to. It’s been a long journey, and I’m surely not the same person who started this blog 12 years ago. Thinking about that in itself is a trip down memory lane. Reading some of the things that my 22 year old self wrote is practically embarrassing, but I see glimmers of the writer I would become. Despite the fact that I have had inconsistencies with my frequency of posts, jumping around between writing about the personal to writing about gaming and even sports, I’ve managed to maintain a regular reader base, and for that, I am proud. So thank you for helping to keep me motivated to share my journey through life — in the real and virtual worlds I travel.

I’ve always said that I write for myself, first and foremost. But without an audience, I don’t know that I would have kept on for as long as I have. See, when I started I was literally sharing my personal life and wasn’t being read by anyone, save for some close friends and family. Even then, engagement was low and it stayed that way for a long time. It wasn’t until I started talking more about MMOs that I became a part of something bigger, and the real catalyst was the NBI, thrusting myself deep into a community of *mostly* like-minded individuals. I made friends. I played games with people I’d never met. I formed a podcast and helped form a podcasting network. I started streaming and making the occasional YouTube video. It’s been an amazing adventure, and I wouldn’t trade some of these experiences for the world.

But writing, podcasting, recording and editing are all large time sinks, and sometimes real life will throw you curve balls. I’ve had periods where I gave up the blog and called it done, just to come back six months later. I’ve had periods of time where I could only muster 5 posts in a month. Sometimes, there really isn’t much that’s worth writing about. Sometimes you spend so much time unplugged enjoying real life that you forget about this alternate ego; this hobby that you nourished into a monster that eats away all of your free time and then some. Sometimes you feel overwhelmed with it all, and need to take a step back. But once you do, you realize that you really enjoy these things, and you soldier on. At least, that’s been the experience for me. Your mileage may vary.

Needless to say, hitting this milestone makes me want to see year 15, where I’m still blogging and creating content on the Internet. Having no podcast to produce has been a nice way to gain extra free time, but now that I’ve not produced an episode in a few months, I really miss it. I’m struggling to find the motivation to rebuild a brand and an audience, though I know some of that will come just from the recognition of my original show. Still, I do miss it, and I do want to put together a new show. I think I’m done with trying to do anything with YouTube, as videos take too much time. I’ll still share the occasional video, but it’s likely just going to be to feed the blog. But podcasting, providing I can figure out a decent format, that’s something that I can bust out fairly quickly and would like to do again. I know I’ve said this a few times already, but I’m starting to feel like the motivation is there again. Keep an eye on this space for more on that as it develops.

So long rambling story short, I appreciate you for your support throughout the years. Here’s to many more to come.

Thank You To Discord #NBI2016

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nbi2016discordAs the month of June rounds out, the final days of the Newbie Blogger Initiative are upon us. It has been a grand gesture from the community despite its impromptu nature! Despite being called “NBI Lite” by some, I feel that the new format of the initiative — the merging onto a Discord Server rather than primarily relying on forums — moved things into an even more interactive experience for all. Through the use of the main website linked above, Twitter and Discord we were able to spread the word, and keep the original vision of the program alive, and the community has been thriving once more. People are gaming, and people are sharing, and connecting in new ways, and that what makes this thing so damn special. Thanks for another great year!

Thoughts on Writing and Format

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Just the other day one of our veterans, Rambling Redshirt wrote an article about choosing how to format your posts. In it, he gave his opinion on whether or not he thought it was a good idea to have single or multi-topic articles when writing for your blog. As one of the long tenured bloggers in our little community, I thought I would give my thoughts on the topic as well.

To me, blogging is a form of journalism. How many of you veterans have written a blog post that would be worthy of a larger scale news site? I’d wager most of you have. Some bloggers that run in this circle have already spread their work out onto other sites like MMOGames, MMORPG.com or even Massively Overpowered. If you pay attention to those types of sites or even more traditional news sites, they tend to have designated columns for designated subjects, which can be either single or multi-topic. News sites tend to focus on one story at a time, but then have columns such as “not so massively” which is a semi-off-topic post that collects news stories about various games that wouldn’t fill up a whole post on their own.

It is my opinion that you can have both single and multi-topic blog posts on your site, just like these news sites tend to do. What I have done over the years is to think about the things that I’d like to write about, and then proceed to determine if a single or multi-topic post is more appropriate. I have also come up with running columns that have been dedicated to both single and multiple topics. If you head up to the top of this blog, you’ll find the “ongoing series” tab, where I have collected these columns for easy access.

I write about more than just gaming so I feel that having a column with a particular name will indicate to your readers if this next post is going to be something that they would be interested in reading. For example, my “By The Numbers” column is all about professional football, so if you aren’t into that sport you can skip those posts. I had a similar column about Fantasy LCS. I have also had a column called “State of the Game” that was a round-up post of sorts, where I collected information about all of the games I was currently playing that week and talked about them all in short bursts.

The general rule of thumb, is to find the word count that you are most comfortable with writing and releasing. If you tend to write 1k word articles, you may want to get really in depth on one topic, or talk about multiple subjects to fill up that word count. If you write smaller articles, you might find that single topics are all you have room for. Generally speaking, it’s what you want to write about, so there aren’t any rules to follow. I have just found that my preferred option is to write about 1,000 words per post, so I tend to make single and multi-topic posts that are about that length. There are exceptions to every rule of course, and this post is likely falling short of that 1k mark, but that’s okay.

If you want to follow my lead, then figure out what length of posts you prefer. From there, you can determine how many topics to include depending on how much you want to say about the subject. If you tend to write about a similar subject often, try to come up with a catchy title and make a little banner for the top of those posts so that your audience knows what to expect when those post titles come up. That’s really all there is to it. Hope this helps.

Gender Swapping Heroes

This is another one of those hot button issues that’s making its rounds today. Again, leave it to Twitter to make me aware of another bit of outrage that the gaming community is up in arms about. I don’t make it a habit of talking about every single big deal on the Internet, but I have some thoughts on this particular issue. Be warned that this is a touchy subject, but you all should know me well enough by now that I don’t shy away from controversial topics. It’s political, it’s got some feminist angles, and there are most definitely two sides to the story. Let’s try to remember that I’m just one person full of opinions, and that doesn’t make me right or wrong, it just makes me a member of society and a person who thinks about big picture issues, even when they pertain to something as insignificant as gaming. With that said, let’s get into it, shall we?

Every year it’s the same story. Some game developer says or does something at a gaming conference, when all of the media is paying attention, and things get reported. Once the denizens of the Internet get their hands on the story, it’s game over. This time the developer in the fire is Nintendo, and the subject at hand is the fact that there won’t be a female version of Link in the new Legend of Zelda game. Here’s a link to a story that I saw on Twitter, where this conversation first developed and the issue was first brought to my attention. Read it here. I’ll wait.

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I get part of the issue. Women want representation. So-called Minorities want representation. LGBT groups want representation. There is nothing wrong with wanting representation, to having someone you can relate to in the games that you play. A hero to look up to, no matter who you happen to be. I also have no problem recognizing that there are plenty of White Male “CIS” characters, and I am totally on board with a level playing field. That said, I do think that the gender swapping of iconic characters is wrong. Here’s why.

Remember Anita Sarkeesian? Yeah, you know who I’m talking about. If you don’t, a cursory google search will give you all the information you need. She has this little YouTube channel called “Feminist Frequency” and on it, she critiques video game design while looking through a feminist lens. At this point in time I wouldn’t call myself a fan of Sarkeesian, mainly because she has let the spotlight go to her head and I do believe that she’s more in this for the money than the actual betterment of society. However, she has played an important role in my life. Believe it or not, there was a time when I was a little less open-minded and a little more nonchalant about being an asshole towards anyone who was different than me. Between several blogging friends, Sarkeesian’s work, and some of my own research and desire to be a decent fucking human being, I feel like I’ve come a long way towards being a nicer and more tolerant person. But let’s get back on point.

Sarkeesian created a video nearly three years ago called “Ms. Male Character,” in which the main point was that creating a character that was a tweaked version of the male character is detrimental to the “new” character. The most prominent example was that of Ms. Pac-Man, which was simply Pac-Man with a bow affixed to his head. I’m paraphrasing here, and there was much more to that video, so I suggest you head over and watch it with the link provided above.

Let’s take a moment to think about this. Wouldn’t a female version of Link then, be exactly the same sort of concept? You’re merely changing the gender of the character, while the game remains the same? During the discussion on Twitter, points were made about how Link was always “gender-neutral” or that Link isn’t a character but rather a “postition,” so gender doesn’t even matter. I would argue though, that the original Legend of Zelda game was merely a version of the oldest trope in the book – the “damsel in distress,” and that Link is clearly a male in that instance. He felt pretty male in all of the games I played, but that could just be me projecting. Either way, it’s not just about Link here. If we zero in on the minute details of this one particular story, we’re ignoring the big picture, and that’s where Twitter conversations tend to derail. Hence, blog post.

We can look at more real life situations too; take for instance the recent Ghostbusters movie. In the original movies and even a cartoon show, all of the ghostbusters were male, and in the new movie, they have changed them all into females. For me, this wasn’t that big of a deal because I’m not a fan of Ghostbusters. On that same token, I’m not a fan of Zelda games or Nintendo in general either, so that has little affect on my mood either. Still, these examples correlate because you’re taking iconic, classic characters with lore and a fanbase and then turning them into Ms. Pac-Man. Ghostbusters with a bow affixed to their heads. You see where I’m going with this.

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There… I fixed it.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems like people are arguing for and against the same thing. I think the larger point here, is that there are games being created, games coming out in the not so distant future featuring awesome female leads. Horizon: Zero Dawn is one of them; one look at that gameplay trailer and I was floored. Not only was this a strong and capable woman, but she was dressed sensibly and fought like a bad ass to boot. I’m not complaining that it’s a female lead, I’m embracing it. Wouldn’t you prefer developers who are taking risks and creating new and wonderful things over developers who affix bows to the heads of their male characters? I’m not a woman, but I imagine that’s what I would want.

Thoughts?