Saturday, September 3, 2016

Shot to Pieces

It has been explained to me that this blog is a necessary and critical complement to my wiki; since this comes from one of my strongest and most honest patrons, Scarbrow, I am inclined to believe him.  I do use the blog to promote the wiki.  I do that because if I write rules on a wiki page, I'm 99% certain that no one who reads my blog is ever going to see it - and because I'm stoked about what I've just written, I'm geeked out about it, I want to share it and be sure others do see it.

Phil DeFranco, who I don't listen to but whom my daughter loves, tells me that I shouldn't just copy content from one platform to another.  I should invent individualized content for each platform that I touch on - twitter, pinterest, facebook, whatever - because the people who choose to follow me on those platforms deserve it.  And because it is good for promoting myself.  Truth is, DeFranco gets millions of views for his videos and that's hard to dismiss.  I'd find it easier to embrace that advice if DeFranco didn't sound like a smug, weedy, insincere asshole in the recent internet tradition where every popular channel creator sounds like an overblown parody of a 1965 sports/news announcer.  My daughter and I have had vicious arguments about this delivery pattern, as it applies to people like Markiplier and Jacksepticeye, both of whom make me want to dig out parts of my brain with a melon-baller.  They're equally popular to DeFranco and likely to be equally full of good, wonderful advice about how to be popular on the internet, which may be because of their content or perhaps because they speak in frequencies that resonates with my daughter's age range.  I have no idea.

I've been puzzling through this "how to popularize yourself" problem for some years now, not especially fooling myself about it.  James Maliszewski, who wrote nothing but brain-dead pap on his blog for years, mostly regurgitating other people's work by holding it up to the light and saying, "See? Shiny!", remains more popular that I will ever be as a D&D blogger despite his sordid disappearance and apparent failure to produce the content promised for the money he was given (a personal fear of mine).  I continue to read links to his shit on other people's blogs with a sort of "ooo! ahh!" vibe that fails to make itself clear to me.  Why, precisely, was this guy so popular?  Is it - as many people around me have postulated - because he was so bland and tedious that he was beyond threatening anyone with his opinion?  If that's the case, I can think of about fifty RPG blogs on the net that deserve the sort of notoriety and deep, passionate respect that Maliszewski got.

Don't misunderstand me.  I know precisely the hole I dug for myself from the get-go.  I started this blog with the refrain, "This is shit and this is shit and this thing over here?  That's shit too."  I wasn't holding back at all, I was expressing decades of frustration and disappointment that I had felt combing the shelves of game stores looking for rules that were worth my money, that I had felt listening to people gush about game modules and such that left me cold and staggered at the level of juvenile effort and design that went into their creation, that I had felt sitting at game table after game table for years run by assholes who goose-stepped their callous superiority over players in a desperation to prop up their inadequacies - in a world where I had had few ears towards which to voice those feelings.  I leapt onto the blogger page with an idea to finally find someone that would relate to my feelings about the disaster that D&D had grown into over thirty years.

I should not have underestimated, however, the sanctity with which people held most of their nostalgia memories about when they started playing D&D as little children.  More than anything, I have come face to face with the notion that D&D is never as good playing as an adult as it was when we were nine.  As with most things, I do not remotely understand this.  Maliszewski's popular schtick drips with it.  "See?  We were only nine!" could have been his tag-line.

All this comes back around to what I'm doing here with this blog and with my perspective on D&D.  The message on the blog has steadily changed from what's wrong with the game towards what could be right with the game - but I'm digging out of a deep hole with regards to my potential audience.  The wiki is evidence that the work can be done on a world, the rules can be created and they can be easy enough to make sense and solve problems rather than create them.  The trio of books I wrote about gaming continue to sell and I feel that most of those readers have gotten a lot out of them.  And for those people brave enough to take the classes, I'm providing a content-rich experience that isn't just blowing smoke up the ass of someone who's given me money (unlike everything that's ever come out of the WOTC).

None of this makes me popular.  I have some amazing, driven, wonderful people who feel a deep attachment to what I say, that I owe the world to and that I find myself thinking about with every word I write; but this blog will never be as popular as lotfp, whose every post is just an advertisement on what's being sold this month, or ddwps, whose every post more or less comes down to, "Look at this thing I shat out today - isn't it pretty?"

Even as I have softened over the years, I'm still threatening.  Or I ask too much.  Or I write too much.  Or it's just all too much to incorporate seriously.  Or it's my bed and I've got to lie in it.  There are lots of good reasons for people to see in me the same thing they saw five years ago and hated - because I am, fundamentally, still the same intolerant person that hated everything popular back then.  I have made my bed.

The fantasy book, The Fifth Man, that's supposed to be my doorway.  I'm shot all to pieces with the gaming community, for the most part, but I haven't managed to destroy my reputation with everyone who has ever bought a fantasy fiction novel, not yet.  I have my fears and concerns about the success of the book; or even that I can be successful.  I have the same feelings that any writer or artist feels about their eventual success. They'd like to have it.  They'd like to know that all the effort wasn't wasted.  They'd like to think that some kind of fame and respect is still possible.  Those who give up hope in those things give up working.

Whether I use the blog to promote the wiki, or copy the wiki into the blog, does not really matter. The main thing is to keep working, keep evolving, keep hammering as I said a few days ago, keep changing minds when I can and always, always, produce the best content I can.  Using the blog as a frontpiece for the wiki sounds important, but I already know that the audience here is the same audience there.  You reading this, you're part of a small group who, like me, are willing to keep moving forward.  You've gotten through all this post so far, when most of the people who foolishly came round to see if I was still here or if I had changed stopped reading when I insulted Maliszewski.

(When I really want to see what people think of me, I look my name up on Reddit).

That's what I meant when I wrote the post about quitting the blog at some point.  Not any time soon, just the understanding that as the world changes and people stop coming around to read the blog, it will be more practical to just put the energy elsewhere.  Who knows what time will bring?  I'm fairly convinced right now that my surprising jump in page views that started about six months ago has come about because of feeder sites like Feedly (where people read me but can't/won't comment) or from bots.  Feedback matters to me - when I'm not getting it here any more, I'll move on.  And it won't matter where, because I'll still be me and I'll still write things like this.


Keith S said...

There's an inherent conservatism that grows in most people as they age. Change is something bad. And, the old ways are the best ways. I've always found this conservatism frustrating. Keep rattling the cage, Alexis.

Vlad Malkav said...

Il hope you won't quit the blog, 'cause you're my favorite author and the greatest insight giver that I know. I adore your work, your thoughts and your ideas (your infrastructure and trade and World building still fascinate me ^^).

And youyour students have made very interesting blogs, so you're definitely making great progress I think.