Aug 21, 2015

Posted by in Editorial | 3 Comments

Selecting Blog Topics And Voice

There are as many reasons for blogging as there are insects on this planet. It’s a little creepier comparison than saying “stars in the sky”, but we also need to stand out from the crowd if we want people to come to our niche on the Internet when folks have so many blogs to choose from.

What we write is a factor of why we write. This is a blog devoted primarily to the hobby of video games, but also other geeky activities, so you’ll almost never find a post about finances or child raising or nutrition. While I like money, have a child of my own, and worry about what I eat, I don’t find those topics exciting enough to spend my time writing about them. My primary hobby is video games and other geeky stuff. I talk about it with other people. My social media circles are decided upon based on how their interests align with those hobbies. Talking about other things is often times like speaking a foreign language to me: I might recognize a few words here or there, but I can’t hold an entire conversation about them like I can if you want to discuss geekdom.

Choosing a topic that fits my interests is actually kind of difficult, though, because while I like talking about geeky stuff, my reasons for wanting to talk about it vary. When you really love something, you want to talk about it, and I see that a lot in posts other people provide on their own blogs. Sometimes I want to talk about something exciting I experienced, and sometimes I want to talk about something that makes me angry. Most of the time I wax poetic, which is a way of saying that most of my posts contain baseless assertions projected onto a greater population. Calling it “poetic license” avoids having to own up to writing “kinda bullshit”.

Despite blogging under different URLs for over fifteen years now, I still don’t feel that I have a voice of my own, or a kind of platform from which to speak. What’s my angle? I’ve decided that simply loving this hobby isn’t enough. Writing recaps of what I played always seemed like a cop out to me if I couldn’t extrapolate the run-down to some greater allegory on the state of the genre or something highfalutin like that. Why would anyone want to read about what I’ve done? There’s already a lot of contention around why someone would watch someone play a game instead of actually playing that game themselves, so reading about someone playing a game is better how?

What’s been my alternative? Praising and lambasting the community by turns worked out well for a while. I got a lot of compliments on my “come together” feel-good posts talking about how we need to buck up and “let the sun shine in” when faced with vile behavior of those who want to control the narrative of our community. I like writing those; I hope they lift someone’s spirits to read as much as they do mine to write, but if game recap posts are hybrid cars, then those feel good posts are the F350’s on the road, measuring fuel consumption in gallons per mile. I can’t just churn out variations on the “we can do it!” theme day after day. There’s only so many ways I can write what is essentially the same thing, and even with the greatest of efforts, not every day is a day where I’m feeling the love I want to spread. It gets tiring to write those posts and not feel like I’m trading on emotional manipulation, even though I believe in the reasons for making the attempt.

I certainly don’t want to get all negative. Rants are the lowest form of getting a point across, since all one has to do in order to post something like that is mash the keyboard with a forehead until unconscious. Liking things and admitting that you like them is hard compared to just shitting all over something, but where’s the fun in being negative? Seriously, where’s the fun when all you focus on are negatives in your hobby? After spending a lot of time trying to be upbeat, and seeing how little traction it garners, I find that it’s actually all too easy to be cynical and jaded. I don’t want to be That Kind of Blogger.

What I know I lack is conviction to work at blogging. I post a lot. Often twice a day. One might think I have a lot to say, and I guess I do, although it’s not always (read: rarely, judging from my stats) things people are interested in reading. I can tell you this: I do very little research (GASP! I know!) for my posts, and spend even less time editing them (DOUBLE GASP! Are you light headed yet?). My posts are all shot from the hip, written from top to bottom with an image tacked on and kicked out the door like a problem child on his 18th birthday. In my mind I like what I’ve written, and sometimes I go back and read my own posts weeks or months later and find things here or there that impress me, if I do say so myself. But it’s not myself I need to impress. It’s you. More importantly, it’s people who aren’t you, and who aren’t me. The people I don’t reach with the topics I currently choose and the voice I currently affect.

I need to figure out how to be a better blogger. I’m certainly not the best writer out there, although no one has come right out and called me on it. My topics don’t seem to resonate with many, at least not in the way I always hope they do. If they do, then people are internalizing their emotions and not sharing or commenting on the posts. I’m not going to get all down on myself and scream “why!?”, but I will just assume I need to do a better job of picking topics and approaching those topics in ways that attempt to generate more engagement in the hopes that doing so results in fewer drive-by readers.

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  1. Some Idiot Without A Clue says:

    “There’s already a lot of contention around why someone would watch someone play a game instead of actually playing that game themselves, so reading about someone playing a game is better how?”

    Because if you spend 30 minutes sorting your inventory while playing, it’s not going to take me 30 minutes to read about that. Instead you’ll say “Inventory management is kind of a hassle in this game.” and if bad inventory systems bug me, I will have learned something about how good a fit that game is for me.

    • That’s assuming a post is more in the “review” vein. I’m talking more about the “I played X this weekend. I killed lots of mobs. Got some loot.”…You know, recap stuff.

      Yes, if you’re looking for a rundown of pros and cons, text will serve you better UNLESS the video maker is conscientious of what he or she is doing and edits/doesn’t dick around. But watching someone just PLAY the game compared to someone recapping the game they played…if you don’t want to WATCH someone play, why would you want to READ about what someone played?

  2. We all write both for ourselves and for our readers. I guess my stance is that this is a hobby and we should first write for ourselves and hope the readers follow. Unless you are willing to specialize to attract readers, I’d focus more on comments and how you feel about your writing.

    Trying to be a better writer is certainly a worthwhile goal. Spending time improving your posts (when you aren’t on a Blaugust deadline) is worthwhile. Feeling judged by you readership (or lack there of) isn’t useful.

What do you think?