Every blogger has a different reason for beginning to write. For some, it’s an outlet for the creative words inside of them; while for others, it’s wanting to meet and interact with people who have similar interests. And for one person I know who got drunk on a Friday night, then woke up on the Saturday morning with a new blog and an incoherent first post.
Whatever your starting point, blogging can be thoroughly rewarding and have so many positive effects. And the WordPress community is a great one to be a part of: everyone here is so friendly and supportive. The lovely Charlie from charliechatters very kindly nominated Later Levels for a Blogger Recognition Award last month and I couldn’t be more flattered, so this post is dedicated to her.
As part of the award, nominees are required to share the story of why they started their blog as well as provide some advice for new bloggers. Here goes…
A long journey
On a weekend back in February 2013, I happened to come across a book entitled 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die. I mentioned this to a couple of friends the following day after work and boom: the idea for our first blog was formed. We decided to attempt to play all the titles listed within those 960 pages and post our thoughts on them on our own little corner of the internet.
We gradually got a bit of a following and over time began chatting to a fellow blogger named Ben. It turned out he worked in a nearby area so what better excuse to meet up for a drink? We hit it off like a house on fire as soon as he stepped through the doors of Meltdown and over several pints and conversations about video games, it became obvious this was going to be a beautiful relationship. Our team of three grew to four.
The first few years of that first blog were good and I had experiences I’ll never forget. I met Ragnar Tørnquist and Martin Bruusgaard, developers I admire very much, and was invited to go to the pub with them. We interviewed Barry Meade about The Room series and he made us feel very welcome. And we struck up relationships with awesome people such as the Flix Interactive and White Paper Games teams, and it’s lovely to still see them now when I go to expos.
Unfortunately though things didn’t work out in the long-run. I’m not afraid to admit that although adult responsibilities and busy lives had something to do with it, the main problem was our attitude – both to the blog and to each other. As our popularity grew we became cocky and over-ambitious, and certain people in the team were unfairly left picking up most of the work. That’s why Ben and I finally decided to call it a day in March last year.
Obviously we didn’t stop blogging completely! After taking a break from writing, we started Later Levels and came back stronger than ever at the end of December 2016. We changed both our mindsets and the focus for our writing; and right now I’m having the most fun I’ve ever had blogging. It can be hard trying to fit it all in with hectic jobs and busy families but I wouldn’t want to change it for the world.
I wouldn’t be able to do it without the support of a few amazing people. Ben may not have has much time to write as he once did, but he’s still around and gives great advice when you need someone to listen. My other-half does so much from me: he talks about ideas for articles, proof-reads my work, and even dresses up when he really doesn’t want to. My stepson Ethan is a constant source of laughter and inspiration for new posts.
And then of course, there are you guys. I can’t thank you enough.
I mentioned above that first blog didn’t last partly due to our attitudes. You know what they say about pride coming before a fall? That’s absolutely true: if you start thinking you’re better than everyone else and don’t need any support, you will fail. One of the most important bits of advice I can give is that community and collaboration are key to this blogging malarkey – and building relationships with other writers is one of the most rewarding things you can do (lesson one).
Keeping the community-vibe going, be aware there’s a way to voice your opinion and still treat others with different views with respect. There’s always a new controversy going but that doesn’t mean you should allow yourself to be dragged into it and down with all the vitriol surrounding it. Write about the things which are important to you and be honest but, putting it bluntly: don’t be a dick (lesson two).
Focusing more on gaming blogs now, here’s a practical tip: don’t feel as if you can’t cover an event just because you don’t have the correctly-coloured wristband on your hand. Over the years I’ve learnt that press passes aren’t required to get the most out of an expo. Professionalism works better than any pass you can get hold of and attending as a regular ticket-holder can give you a better insight into what the event is all about (lesson three).
As your popularity as a gaming blogger grows, developers will take notice and there’s a good chance you’ll be added to a press mailing list. This means you’ll start to receive requests for reviews but be aware: free keys come with certain obligations. If you’re not willing to put in the time and effort, or don’t want to feel obligated to play a video game you’re not enjoying, the best thing to do is not accept them (lesson four).
Following on from the above, the hardest lesson I’ve had to learn in my years of blogging is that you should play for playing’s sake. When you write because you need something to post rather than because you have something to say, blogging changes from a hobby into a chore; and when you pick up a video game because you feel you have to, you forget about the joy that comes from simply playing (lesson five).
And the final piece of advice I can give you? Keep learning. Being a blogger gives you the opportunity to meet so many different and wonderful people, and you can learn something new from each and every one of them. The world of blogging is an incredible place and we all have something unique to bring to it.