It’s widely considered that Cataclysm is Blizzard’s worst World of Warcraft expansion to date. I’m not going to go into another diatribe about that because it’s cliché by now, but its impact on server communities, guilds, 25-man raiding, PvP balance and freedom of questing is all well documented by now.
What isn’t well documented is the impact on the community outside of the game, specifically on bloggers. While “blogging” is a bit of a paragon term for podcasting, videocasting and the writing of web logs themselves, it appears to me that all of these mediums have taken pretty significant hits in volume.
It would appear that “the cataclysm” has struck outside of game, too.
For my part, there are a lot of blogs that I stop in on either during the day or during the week, because I find reading what someone has to say about the game to be the most interesting. Some really good written commentators lose all of their charm when they go down the route of making their actual voices heard, either by Podbean or YouTube. Sometimes its nerves, sometimes it’s a struggle with language, but at other times folks just aren’t that interesting to listen to. One of TankSpot’s former authors, the priest Aliena, is a prime example of this – she clearly knows her stuff and is clearly a good player, but her video guides were bedevilled by an utter lack of natural charisma.
I did a quick tot up of the blogs I’ve enjoyed reading throughout my time in WoW, and had a quick look at how many still function. I really was in for quite a shock.
My own personal reading list was decimated by Cataclysm.
“Personal” is a key word here, as the type of thing I read is typically very warrior-centric. My favourite bloggers of all time were Veneretio and Kadomi, both of whom have moved on from World of Warcraft altogether and left pretty big holes in the warrior community. High up on my list you’ll also find bloggers like Linedan or Belghast who, again, have both moved on to life beyond Azeroth. A good bucket list of warrior blogs (where you also found yours truly) was posted on Tank Like a Girl after Deathwing said LOLHAI to the World Pillar, and a full 80% of those blogs no longer function.
Now of course, that’s not me saying that there are now 80% less warrior bloggers. Such a conclusion would be asinine. Truthfully, we have no idea what happened to these authors unless we know them personally; they could just as easily have moved domain or changed focus as they could have quit WoW or just quit their warriors. The rise of Facebook or (particularly) Twitter as a popular conversation medium has undoubtedly hit conventional web logs pretty hard. And despite all that, some people might just find podcasting or videocasting to be quicker, simpler and more convenient – not everyone can touch type.
But all that said, there is still a startling drop in unofficial warrior commentary on the part of the community.
I tried to make a check against this when I created Piercing Howl, a warrior-centric blog that invited other authors to get involved and enjoy the relative freedom of blogging. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out because the authors themselves just didn’t feel compelled to get involved in the format. This isn’t a personal slight on any of them, they just clearly didn’t feel the vibe of blogging and couldn’t move past the first stage of finding a subject to talk about. Was the web log format itself the problem? Was writing walls o’ text too dull or contrite? I’m inclined to think not, given that all of these authors were more than comfortable contributing huge swathes of time to the official forums where they discussed warrior topics at length, and in detail.
More and more, I think there are two things at play here:
1) Blogging, in many ways, is like working out. When you start off, it’s typically a long time before you see any results.
2) Taking ownership of your own space can be daunting, especially when the onus is on YOU to come up with topics.
I think the first point is a given by this point, and little needs to be said on it. Most blogs have small readerships and any comments that accompany them are few in number and usually encompass just a few individuals. When you see the success of places like Spinksville, that must undoubtedly be demoralizing.
But I’m coming round to the notion that writing your own blog isn’t just unforgiving, it’s hard. Contributing to a thriving forum community is relatively simple because you can get involved with discussions that are under way, while you can pick and choose what you want to talk about. Depending on the forum, you’re also guaranteed an audience because there are (potentially) thousands of people looking over these posts. This strange phenomenon first hit me when I looked over the sometimes staggering post counts for members over at MMO-Champion. We’re talking about scores and scores of sentences put into these posts, but very often the number of opening posts from these individuals is pitifully small.
Again, this is not an insult on those with high post counts. I’m not implying that it’s spamming, trolling or just generally totting up numbers with inane “lol” addendums or the like. All I’m saying is that it’s infinitely easier putting your thoughts down into existing discussions that you’re not responsible for moving on. They’ll go on with your input, and said input isn’t what will keep the discussion going.
The problem with a web log is that you’re presenting a piece of information that you find amusing or compelling, and hoping a conversation springs from it. You’re basically saying to people “this is what I think, and why I think it’s important”. Should nobody reply, it’s easy to chalk the post up as a failure irrespective of why nobody replied.
In short, blogging is simply not as rewarding as forum haunting and requires far more effort.
Thinking about that, I often wonder how my own blog is doing and whether it’s “high quality” or not. There are guides all over the place about how to make a good web log, but I reckon that most (if not all) of the blogs based on such guidelines just end up too formulaic for readers. Sure, there are ways of maximising traffic to your site but is that really an indication of whether it’s any good or not? The most popular of my blogs was The Dead Good Tanking Guide, written as a Protection warrior who ran a relatively casual guild throughout Wrath of the Lich King. A lot of time went into it before it became popular (helped along by inclusion on WoW Insider a couple of times), but I was a very different blogger then. I was still relatively new to the theory-crafting side of things and, indeed, raiding in general, so my own trials and tribulations became something of a shared laughing ground for players who wanted to improve, but weren’t necessarily interested in server leading schedules.
Essentially, the blog was an explorative resource but with a bit of noobish charm tossed in by accident. My favourite blogs, Tank Like a Girl and Tanking Tips both shared that characteristic of being both a resource, but also charming and engaging for the readership (far more so than my own effort).
But as time has moved on, “being a resource” has become far harder; the game has simplified, needing less poring over, but bigger sites such as WoW Insider, TankSpot and Learn2Raid have really taken over. Their traffic volumes and membership manifests dwarf even the greatest of blogs, meaning that someone coming to your little corner of the World Wide Web has probably already gotten their dose of class-related discussion. Much like supermarkets such as Tesco or Asda have crippled smaller community businesses in the realm of shopping, many smaller blogs have been trampled underfoot by TankSpot branching out from their original concept of raid encounter video guides.
Yet, small successes remain. By hook or by crook, authors have stuck with it and either become resource monsters in their own right, or simply got down and embraced everything.
People still enjoy visiting Spinks because of her capability to discuss wide-ranging MMO issues without alienating anyone, and retaining that weird girly charm she always had. Children of Wrath has recently become one of my favourite blogs, because the Renaissance Man chats about more lore related topics (his series about Thrall is wonderful) and encourages more esoteric discussion as a result; it’s thought-provoking and can’t be boiled down to numbers. As much as I personally dislike the author, I enjoy reading Need More Rage because it showcases a player who simply logs in, has a laugh, and shares that with everyone else.
You don’t have to be a resource if you have enough charm to keep people interested.
This isn’t an “I’m done with blogging” post or anything like that, it’s more my musings on why so many seem to have departed the format and why I think that might be. Personally, I love blogging – I have no issue taking responsibility for my own words and am comfortable that not everybody will agree. I enjoy writing down what I’m thinking as a personal library, but I also like the idea that even a couple of people might read my commentary and consider it for a while.
I just wonder if the community in a broader sense has evolved beyond web logs and embraced more convenient vehicles for making their voice heard. If so, then it’s maybe something I’ll have to have a look at and see if it’s a route worth travelling down.
If no, then where the hell did all the bloggers go?