Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Find Some Hustle

Since early yesterday morning, I've been arguing with myself not to write this post; but I've lost that fight. So now I'll try to write it with decency.  We'll see how that goes.

In a comment on my post Tee Ball, James remarked rhetorically, "I guess I shouldn't be expecting a review of 5e from you anytime soon?"  That is correct.  I won't be writing a review about any edition, or a review about any adventure module, or campaign setting, or any RPG product of any kind.  Which should be fine.

Yesterday and today, Dyson's Dodecahedron wrote a post about the Proving Grounds of the Mad Ogre Lord; From the Sorcerer's Skull wrote about The Aberration; Barking Alien wrote for a second time about his idea for a campaign based on the Incredibles; Frugal GM wrote about Beyond Skyrim Bruma; Inkwell Ideas wrote another post about 5e Creature Decks; Tenkars Tavern wrote about the White Ship Campaign Kickstarter; Calvin's Canadian Cave of Cool wrote a critique of Noah's Ark; Brighton Roleplayers wrote about 4th Edition; Dungeon Fantastic wrote about the Status of the Ken Shabby Memorial; and No School Like the Old School said a few words on the Lovecraft E-Zine Interview of Joe Salvador.  There's more.  Took me a few minutes to find these.  And this is a typical two day period in the blogosphere.

We ~ and this describes some of us more than others ~ spend our time writing about what other people make, what other people say, what other people do and what money other people want to raise.  It is the flesh, blood and bone of the RPG blogger publishing industry [we can call it that now, more than half of us are sorta doin' it for coin].  It flies because readers will read it.  That's all it takes for journalism to fly: readers.

Coffee and journalism have an immortal bond;
to keep writing, we keep drinking ~ while the readers
drink to keep reading
Writing about what others do has been a time-honored tradition since coffee shop-magazine journalism truly got on its feet with the Restoration ... so I have no complaints, no complaints.  It is certainly a way to make a buck.

In terms of the internet, it is called mainstreaming.  Off the internet, mainstreaming is a perfectly acceptable practice of making things acceptable to the mainstream population.  As a slang term, however, it is "the act of a vampire trying to fit in with human society, such as drinking synthetic blood while being able to be around the human population." [urbandictionary.com]

To put it another way, blogs want the cachet of appearing to be journalists, by pretending to write reviews or call outs of things in the RPG culture.  Unfortunately, it really isn't journalism.  Tenkar's Kickstarter post, linked above, is barely a 30-second radio spot, with Tenkar acting in the role of some actor from a recent high-rated sitcom pitching a coffee bean brand.  Barking Alien's ideas for an Incredibles Campaign is hardly more than a series of spoilers feasting off the familiarity his audience is bound to have with a very popular franchise.  Joe Salvador's name appearing on NSLTOS is a cocktail party name drop from someone pretending to have met the man once at a coin laundry.

That's not meant to be mean.  I only want to stress that these "journalists" are phoning it in.

Journalism is research.  It is explaining something to an audience who does not recognize the name or the product being dropped, who deserve to be informed.  It is relying on details: what is the product, what is it meant to achieve, how is it applies, how does it matter to the reader and why should we care.  Most of these questions are simply passed over, et al, you know who Salvador is because you're a gamer, you care because you're a gamer, you know what the product is for because you're a gamer, it matters because you're a gamer and so on and so forth.  Once the crutch, "Because my readers are gamers" becomes the final word, the requirement to write an explanatory, in-depth, perspective-giving examination of the product, event or person is easily dumped in the trash bin.  The reader already knows all that.  Why bother?

I don't expect to change the status quo.  Most bloggers have nothing else of importance or interest to write about, are basically fan-boys gushing over material that releases dopamine or seratonin for themselves and their readers, and are not legitimate writers beyond the work they were expected to produce in high school for English credit.  The blog is a low bar and it's fun to write, and see visitors, and get comments, and pitch for regular readers to donate a little here and there.  It is great to be liked, and to do something we're liked for.  Blogging offers a sense of proprietary wealth, of ownership, of purposeful self-possession of one's thoughts and feelings.  It doesn't require much skill to get the benefit of what the platform mostly offers for most people.

However, I urge those who want to excel to do a little more research than you're doing.  To think a little more about what you're writing than you have.  To write a little more about the subject with each post.  And thereby, to make each post more valuable to the reader.  This will be, I promise, to your benefit.

The reader is a very bored entity, wandering the internet like a prospector, looking for something that will glint among the rocks.  And while wandering, the prospector will turn over a lot of rocks just to view what's there.  Most "views" are nothing more.  Just a bored reader turning over your rock, only to drop it and move onto the next rock.  To the reader, it's a disappointment.  Is that really the journalism you want to provide?  A means to disappointment?

Come on.  Work a little more.  Be a little more engaged.  Offer more visuals.  Draw them yourself if need be.  Move ahead of the hundreds of blogs that can't be bothered.  Getting ahead of the competition isn't as hard as you think.

Journalism has always been a cutthroat business. The losers have always been those without hustle.


ViP said...

I am not convinced that the bloggers you listed entertain the illusion of being journalists. A few may see themselves as (tiny) community leaders/organizers (Tenkar certainly does) ; all the others use their blog as their own personal table at the pub, where they can rant and review and diss and reminisce without ever being interrupted. Their small circle of friends make a few short comments on the topic at hand, invite each other to their respective tables later, and everyone feels fine. Social stuff for litterate older folks who are not on Facebook.

Anyway you are a right that those who actually produce stuff don't review much (with the exception of princeofnothing and maybe RPGPundit).

Drain said...

They ought to name a cumulus type after you, Alexis, the way you always rain on everyone's parade.

Thing is, you're right, of course; a disheartening slice of the blogosphere amounts to a ponzi morass of non-algorithmically targetted adverts and endorsement.

Alexis Smolensk said...

I fully acknowledge the motivation of most folks, VIP; I even said so in the post. I agree, blogging is fun. And no one is in any way required to take any of my advice. Those who are trying to raise money on Patreon, however, would benefit from picking up their feet a little.

You're right, Drain. I am definitely a dark little cloud. But I want the world to be a better place. I want the blog posts I read to be better. That requires that we work harder.

Adam Dickstein said...

I am a journalist? Who knew? Certainly not I.

I feel you might be missing the point here, though I am not certain you looked for one and I can't speak for any other blogger on why they write what they write.

I can only tell you why I do it. It's fun for me. Now, more specifically, why do I write about the subjects I choose? I like those subjects. I have some ideas for running an Incredibles game because I really like the Incredibles. If other people do too, hopefully they'll be interested in and entertained by my posts. If not...okay.

If you've ever checked out my blog before you'd see I talk about Up gaming quite often. It's kind of my thing. If it isn't your thing...okay.

I am not sure the purpose of this post of ours. It reads as, "I don't care you people talking about subjects I don't care about."

Great. That's cool. I don't usually talk about D&D. Saying that we phone it in...why? Because we were inspired by someone else's creation?

Isn't everyone at some point?

Alexis Smolensk said...

I do understand all that, Adam. Forgive me for putting you in the position where you felt you needed to defend yourself; I'm sure that "phoning it in" crack hurt, since you called it out.

For the record, "phoning it in" is a reference to putting in just enough effort to make something happen, without the compulsion to dig in and suffer working to make it great. That's why we say it about actors: because an actor can take the same part and stretch themselves to the nth degree, or an actor can just like the part and have fun. The difference is noticeable ~ and while the actor having fun might get the same credit as the actor that suffered, the measure of "phoning it in" is made by the audience, NOT by the actor.

Like I've said above, I get that it's "fun." And I encourage you to go on having fun. Why not? Clearly the post isn't written for you. It's written for someone who is feeling a little bored of it now; who doesn't want to quit even though it's not as fun as it was; who is trying to figure out how to make this blogging thing more rewarding.

For those people, the title of the post is the message. Yeah, you've had fun, but as long as you're blogging anyway, try picking up your feet. Make it better for the READER. Put aside your own needs and think of the needs of other people. Disappoint them less.

That's a hard message to hear, if it's something that rains on your parade, like Drain said. But a little rain also makes things grow.

Ozymandias said...

I go looking for D&D blogs every day. Every. Single. Day. I've forgotten most of them; not because they didn't grab my attention with the first post but they didn't grab my attention with the tenth or twentieth post.

It's not a matter of style or presentation. It's a matter of content (though good writing draws me in as much as anyone). It's the substance I'm after. Anything that helps me learn about the world or game design or running a game ~ but when I find this content, it's usually the same tired, repeated old hash, and so I'm on to the next blog.

If I wasn't so obsessed with this game, these bloggers would never attract my attention for more than a single post.

(And while I strive to produce content that brings people back, I fear that I'm no better than the crowd. It's one of a few things that keeps me up at night.)

Alexis Smolensk said...


Your blog, 'Crossing the Verse, is a bit raw and unpracticed, but it's a good read and I think you just need to keep at it. Writing is a muscle that you work, until it is strong enough to carry the load of your thoughts.

You've described what I meant by a reader's disappointment. I feel that same disappointment, constantly. Everyone does, as they look for something strong enough to hold their interest not for just a moment, but for day after day.

When I find someone like that on the internet, it is glorious. As long as it lasts.

Ozymandias said...

Thank you.

I intend for it to last. I struggled years ago with several blogs ~ their gravestones are still in my blogroll as a reminder ~ and it's just been this past year that I doubled down on my resolve. I'm glad to hear that there's promise; makes the time spent on it worthwhile.