Blogging: looking back, and looking forward

Realising this morning that I’ve now written over 700 posts for the blog came as quite a surprise. I didn’t think the number would be so high; Later Levels might have been going for almost four years but it doesn’t feel that long at all.

A lot of things have changed for my hobbies during that time and many for the better. Most gamers now accept that women pick up controllers; we’re more likely to see female protagonists in new releases; and the importance of narrative and the ability of video games to share experiences is understood. And as for blogging, it’s still something I’m enjoying and I don’t see that stopping, but it’s interesting to take a step back and see how the community has shifted over the past year.

MoeGamer, title, website, blog, homepage

Someone who I bet has seen a few changes in his blogging history too is Pete from MoeGamer. Since his first post in April 2014 where he said he was hoping his site would be ‘a safe haven for those who enjoy and are passionate about Japanese interactive entertainment’, he has become well-known for his interesting conversations and good advice. After his very kind nomination for a Blogger Recognition Award last month, I thought I’d take this opportunity to share some thoughts on what’s happened in the last four years.

Later Levels was started in December 2016 after a previous blog ended several months before when it didn’t work out as planned. Ben and I decided that we wanted to create a place online where we could share our opinions on video games and no longer feel as though we had to fight to stay current or review every single release. He eventually had to step away from blogging due to family and work commitments but remains a good friend, and I’ve been plodding along here on my own since early 2019.

I’m obviously talking about my own experiences from inside my individual bubble, but back at the beginning it felt as though the hobby was very community-orientated. It was common for bloggers to reach out to one another with suggestions for collaborations, but it wasn’t just done to increase their followers: it was more about increasing conversations and possibly even making some new friends. It was generally accepted that if you went it completely alone, you were more likely to fail.

This then started to change and the difference has become particularly noticeable in 2020. If I had to put my finger on why, I’d say it was because we all felt overwhelmed or exhausted by such projects. They’d grown in number, length and effort, and it was impossible to take part in all of them even though there was an unspoken pressure to do so. There are far fewer collaborations happening this year and those I’m aware of are being run by smaller groups, such as the game-swaps I’ve enjoyed with individual bloggers recently.

WordPress, reading, blogging, posts, articles, titles

There seems to be less conversation happening in comment sections now too. I’m guilty of this myself, as I’ll often bookmark blog posts with the intention of coming back to them later in the day but I never seem to get around to it. I’ve had more available time since the start of the UK lockdown in March but it still feels as though it’s a struggle to fit everything in. Perhaps it’s a case of being digitally-drained though: it’s tough to work up the motivation to return to my laptop when I’ve been in conference calls all day.

Moving on to trends in the subjects covered by gaming blogs, new sites are more likely to focus on covering the latest news rather than taking a personal tone and I think this could be the cause of their shorter lifespans. The trouble with staying on top of everything is that it’s impossible – plus it’s not fun for you or your audience. Potential readers are highly likely to have already heard about the latest developments in the industry from the major gaming websites, and regurgitating press releases doesn’t fulfil a desire to be creative.

Many long-running blogs have shifted away from covering only video games to now talking about other media such as films, books, comics and board games too. For some bloggers, this may be because their hobbies have broadened during the extra free hours brought by the lockdown; but for others, it’s to do with increasing their views and followers. Logic says that the more subjects you write about, the wider your audience will be and it’s a method if you’re looking to attract more readers and generate revenue.

Speaking of other media, bloggers are branching out of WordPress too. You’ll find them streaming on Twitch, publishing videos on YouTube and recording podcasts. Those who are willing to put in the time are finding new ways to express their creativity – but others expect their readers to follow them over to their new channels and it simply doesn’t work like that. I’ve also noticed established streamers set up blogs, and then abandon them just as quickly when they realise their viewers just aren’t reading.

blogging, laptop, hands, keyboard

I’m required to give some advice for new bloggers as part of the Blogger Recognition Award nomination from Pete so I’m going to base it on the observations I’ve made above. Quite simply: all that blogging guidance you find online is a load of rubbish. You’re better off totally ignoring it and simply focusing on having fun with your site and doing what suits you. Write about things you’re genuinely interested in and get to know other bloggers in the community, and blogging end up being one of the most rewarding things you do.

The lockdown has affected us in so many ways, some of which we’re not even aware of right now, but I think a few can be seen within the blogging community at the present time. The feeling of isolation has caused us to turn in on ourselves and focus on what’s happening inside our immediate circles, while many individuals are turning away from their laptops at the end of the day after being stuck in front of a screen for work. We’re finding it hard to concentrate, stay motivated and remain positive.

Although I’m not saying that blogging in 2016 was better than the present, I do miss the level of collaboration and conversation within the community from back then. Maybe these are elements of the hobby which will slowly return once we’re all in a better place and the world isn’t so chaotic. But that’s not to say there isn’t support here for those who need it: all you need to do is reach out and you’ll find plenty of bloggers who are willing to talk, answer questions and tell you all about their favourite video games.

The only thing we can do is take it one day at a time. Things will get better eventually.

9 thoughts on “Blogging: looking back, and looking forward

  1. Being digitally drained is definitely a thing… although when you think about it, it’s kind of strange, since for a lot of people all the “work from home” thing means is that they’ve swapped a computer screen in their office for one in their home. That said, I guess if you have access to everything in your home, you’re more likely to get distracted by things you wouldn’t have access to in the office, whereas at work you can pull up WordPress Reader and from a distance it might look like you’re doing something useful 🙂

    I agree 100% on being a “news” site not being fun for readers or writers. There’s absolutely no point trying to compete with the established names who do it as a full-time job, and it kind of baffles me why there are some people on Twitter who do it, too. The advantage of blogging — and social media — is that you can bring your own unique voice to things and talk about them in your own way. If you’re just regurgitating press releases, which is all most “news” stories tend to be these days, then there’s little scope for putting your own spin on things.

    This is also why I tend to cover stuff that’s been out for a while. Hype has died down and there’s no pressure to quickly churn something out in the pursuit of clicks. Instead, I can take my time, explore something in detail and create a body of work that anyone can dip into at any time and enjoy, rather than something that is only worth reading while it’s “current”. A newcomer to my site can jump in anywhere and not feel like they’ve “missed out” on something, because everything I’ve covered is still there, and isn’t tied to a particular time or place. I much prefer doing things that way; I guess you could say it’s approaching things a bit more like writing a book than a “blog”.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Morning Pete! Thanks so much for the award and giving me the chance to look back over the past several years. It’s been interesting see how the community has shifted in that time and how in some ways, it has come full circle.

      The personal aspect of blogging is the probably the thing I miss the most right now. I rarely bother to look at blogs which just post the ‘latest news’ and it’s kind of funny when you see press releases re-published word for word, when you’ve already received them via email yourself. I want to read someone’s opinion and see a subject from their point of view – not just read what some PR person has put together.

      So thanks for sharing your voice with us and making content you clearly enjoy creating. Keep up the excellent work. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Having previously written for a collaborative site, the time that unexpectedly appeared this year got me to try making my own side venture and I am really enjoying that; I do prefer features and reviews over news, as it allows you to express yourself and your personality which fits blogging well. Just from a few months really getting into a regular schedule has been rewarding, and now I am trying out more video/audio too. It’s a really fun aside to the work that otherwise brings in the money and one I am planning to stick with. The community has been very welcoming too 🙂


    • Oh yeah, it’s definitely the community which has keep me going for as long as I have. Most of my real-life friends nowadays are people I’ve met through blogging in one way or another – and they’re the best people to talk about video games with. 😉


  3. I don’t have to much to add as I still feel relatively new to the whole blogging thing, but decided to stop and leave a “Good Afternoon” comment rather than simply liking and moving on. I find myself usually taking more time to comment on blog posts while sitting at my pc in my off hours, versus during the daytime when I’m going through and catching up on WordPress posts while working…🙃


    • New? Are you joking? You’re one of the #CoolKidsofWordPress! 😀

      Commenting on posts is the thing I really need to improve on right now. I always intend to leave a comment on those where I feel I can add something or want to ask the author a question, but just never seem to get around to it nowadays. I’m trying out a new daily routine this week so I’ll see if it helps.

      Liked by 1 person

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