fp-typewriter.jpg [“Why We Play” is a weekly column by NYC freelance writer Chris Plante that discusses how videogames benefit us when we are away from them, in the real world, and what brings us back. This time he makes a call for more game bloggers .]

Two blogs are created each second, but how often does a blog - or more specifically a game blog - die?

If a Tree Falls in the Woods:

Everyone’s a writer. We all see movies, hear songs, and read articles and cannot help, but think to ourselves “I could do that.” “I could create the lyrics to ‘Nevermind;’ I could pen ‘Garden State;’ and I could definitely blog for Kotaku.” It’s a human nature to misunderstand when others make hard work look easy. We could call it the Guitar Hero Effect. The joys of guitar with one hundredth of the skill.

Truthfully, few of us are as talented as Kurt Cobain, Zach Braff, or even Brian Crecente. In January, my ex-roommate and I planned a videogame blog to help us develop our writing, promote our ideas, and make ourselves visible in the ever-crowded gamer community. Blogging looked so easy.

We dubbed our new digital home Hardcasual, a term coined by N’Gai Croal, “to represent the gamer who wants the hardcore experience - the graphics, story, and production values which go almost entirely into gore-heavy epics - to be married with the new casual paradigm - where we can throw a game in for half an hour and get an entirely satisfying experience.”

That’s our About section.


We quickly learned our first lesson: while anyone may create a blog, with no money for promotion or to finance the production of both quantity and quality content, few writers will attract readers. So, to hit the ground running, I pimped Hardcasual.net to every game writer or journalist with an e-mail address. N’Gai, flattered by our title, gave us our first hit count spike, and Leigh Alexander’s linkage gave us the next. Then Simon Carless. Then Maggie Greene.

To further expedite the process I took Leigh Alexander’s advice and I developed a weekly digest, chronicling the Hardcasual’s best posts from the previous week. Knowing most blogs slack off on the weekends (natch), I mailed the digest out Friday, hoping our blog would be cross-posted or linked on major sites on Saturday or Sunday. The advice worked.

Eventually, Hardcasual received the first sign of blogger success: comments. And like many bloggers, I began to check my Wordpress account religiously: Moderating comments, refreshing the hit count, trying to calculate the number of RSS subscribers. The readers had arrived.

Keep One Eye on the Road:

Yet, all this work promoting Hardcasual distracted me from creating actual content. After a few hours creating a digest or contacting journalists, I was burnt out. That’s when I began to commit a blogger sin; I posted for post’s sake. In these rushed posts, I would make big, broad statements that I did not have the time or energy to support. The promotion, which took me hours, went to waste on posts I wrote in minutes.

Blogger burn out had struck. But at least I wasn’t dead.

The Men in the Cafes:

Throughout history, great ideas have come from café communities. Groups of young people responding to restrictive societies and universities met at cafes to discuss art, politics, and science without restraint. They birthed movements like Nouvelle Vague, Absurdism, and, in many ways, the French Revolution.

These activists reacted to the happenings around them—stagnant creativity, domineering societies, war—by discussing and demanding change. They sought to secure and legitimize new ways to experience life, either through art or politics.

It should be no surprise that blog culture has taken shape during a similar period in American culture, one of intense political divide. And as publishers used journals to promote the best café activists’ ideas, super blogs like Kotaku and the Gamasutra network aggregate the best game theory, opinion, and news.

But that sounds so serious. Remember, the café activists were folks like you and me, and, like us, they weren’t afraid to make an ass of themselves. They were quick to fight and quicker to joke. Absurdists dealt with the grim world around them by finding a way to laugh. Today, as the blog community grows dreadfully serious, searching for legitimacy and critics to recognize our ‘art,’ we have the Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw’s and Owen Good’s to keep us grounded.

Even this site, GameSetWatch, offers a lighter, more human, less traditional scholarly look at games. As Simon said to me when I asked for this column, “ludology and narratology are phrases that can make me break out in hives.”

The Community:

My point in this unintentional love-letter to game journalists and bloggers is that we’ve found success in quantity over quality in a similar manner as these café activists. These super blogs, though we may disagree with them occasionally, offer promotion and readers for our opinions. Whether you want to write column or comment, they’re the modern day café and journals, changing the old videogame community into a new, fresh and determined mob, promoting, nay demanding change.

We demand to be recognized and heard; we want our art to be understood. We are game activists, and we excel via this group democracy where the opinions and topics that most interest readers find success, while the rest does not wholly disappear, rather it finds a smaller audience on personal blogs. It’s hard, almost impossible to be heard alone, but working together and under generous promoters solves many problems we face as one.

So, I ask more readers to plug in their keyboard and write. Often I see poignant or funny opinions in the comment sections on GameSetWatch, Kotaku, or LevelUp, only to be disappointed by no link to the author’s personal blog. The more we participate in the gaming community the stronger it will become. No opinion will hurt the community. And while it may be hard to promote a personal blog by yourself, it’s never too hard to send a fellow blogger an e-mail asking for a link or some support. Speak up. We’re all writers.

[Chris Plante is a freelance writer living the post-collegiate pauper life in New York City. By night, you can find him at HardCasual.net. By day, he produces theatre and television.]