Save point: January 2021

Welcome to January’s editorial post, a monthly progress report which rounds up all the happenings here at Later Levels in case you missed anything. With 2020 behind us and brighter days hopefully ahead, let’s have a quick recap of recent events.

Blog life
Followers:

  • WordPress:   1,725
  • Twitter:   630
  • Facebook:   94
  • Instagram:   236
  • Twitch:   208
  • Posts:

  • Total published:   13 posts
  • Most popular:   Taking note: keeping records during video games
  • Most liked:   The curious case of the Xbox Series X
  • Most discussed:   Taking note: keeping records during video games
  • My favourite:   Do walkthroughs make you a bad gamer?
  • Traffic:

  • Views:   3,074
  • Visitors:   2,026
  • Likes:   459
  • Comments:   189
  • Best day:   06:00 on Mondays
  • Other posts worth checking out:

  • Have you seen this Man? by Darkshoxx from Darkblox
  • Being an Active Audience by Elise from Game Praisers
  • To Be A Gamer Dad by Toasty from Games With Toasty
  • Critics and Casuals In Gaming by Emily from Monsterlady’s Diary
  • Scariest Horror Games by Chris from Musings of a Grouch
  • January is normally when I make arrangements to attend the annual gaming expos – but this isn’t a normal year and blogging is becoming more difficult. I’m writing more reviews nowadays as both events and releases are postponed, and the only thing to do is stay home and play existing video games. I’m grateful for community events like EXP Share, for which I wrote about my recent experience with Yakuza 0 this month, and hopefully things like this will keep me working towards my 2021 blogging goals.

    All this extra gaming is very good practice for GameBlast21 and there’s less than a month to go until our streaming marathon for SpecialEffect. The games we’re going to play were announced on Wednesday and we’re halfway through our fundraising targets for the charity, achievements that wouldn’t have happened without your help! I’m pleased to report that efforts to find a Pikachu costume for Pete are underway and he’ll be wearing it on stream for 24-hours from 08:00 GMT on Saturday, 27 February 2021.

    Before that though, the annual #LoveYourBacklog starts on Monday – and this time it will be taking place over a month rather than a week to give everyone more opportunity to appreciate their backlogs! The event is now in its third year and was created with Ellen from Ace Asunder in 2019 to encourage us all to be grateful for our pile of games rather than feel guilty about them. Keep your eyes peeled for more details on how you can get involved next week.

    Gaming life
    Games played:

  • Blacksad: Under the Skin
  • I Love You, Colonel Sanders!
  • Post Mortem LA: Death in La-La Land
  • Quern – Undying Thoughts
  • Shadow of Memories
  • The Eyes of Ara
  • The Long Dark
  • The Sojourn
  • World of Warcraft
  • Several demos from The Big Adventure Event 2021
  • Games previewed or reviewed:

  • Call of the Sea
  • Post Mortem LA: Death in La-La Land
  • Quern – Undying Thoughts
  • Röki
  • World of Warcraft
  • Yakuza 0
  • Since working our way through Call of the Sea’s series of beautiful escape rooms in December, puzzle games have featured heavily in our gaming line-up and you can read about my recommendations here. Looking back over our notepad of scribbles and gallery of photographs afterwards made me realise how much I enjoy taking notes while playing video games. It also made me see that you shouldn’t feel bad about checking a walkthrough if you’re stuck: better to complete a game with a bit of help and enjoy it, than get frustrated and put it down.

    Other puzzle-orientated releases completed have been Röki, a lovely fairy-tale for this time of year and Quern – Undying Thoughts, perhaps the closest we’re going to get to playing Myst for the first time again. We also enjoyed a physical detective thriller in the form of Death in La-La Land as it felt like we’d been dropped straight into our own noir story. My favourite game of January however was Blacksad: Under the Skin and I’d love to see the protagonist return for a crime-filled sequel.

    These titles reminded Pete and I of how much we like playing puzzle titles together because they’re the sort of games we bonded over when we first met. This realisation caused us to think about our streams and we’ve decided that we’d like to showcase more adventure and narrative releases; not only do we enjoy them, but we’ve found a great bunch of people on Twitch who love them as much as we do. Let us know youre recommendations so we can add them to our wishlist.

    Real life

    The COVID-19 lockdown continues here in the UK: the situation currently being reported in the news is that this is going to be the case until at least March. While I understand that such measures are important and required for keeping everybody safe, the days are starting to merge into one another and it’s hard to plan anything to look forward to in the future. Perhaps I need to start being more positive and seeing the good in small things to get me through it, like my stepson’s has done with his Xbox Series X.

    The thing that makes this difficult is that several relatives are slowly starting to buy into the conspiracy theories about the infection and death rates not being as bad as reported. I know it’s a reaction to how long they’ve spent in lockdown but I can’t justify their opinions or actions: I just don’t get how you can think that what’s going on isn’t real or that the state of emergency declared by our local hospitals is exaggerated. It’s meant we’ve had to make some difficult decisions lately but we’ve got to do what’s necessary to keep our family safe.

    Speaking of my family, who’d have thought that Pete and I would be able to put up with each other as husband-and-wife for two years? We celebrated our second anniversary in a low-key but enjoyable way, by playing World of Warcraft with Ellen and Phil and eating KFC. At some point in the future we’ll celebrate properly once the lockdown is over. In the meantime we’ll continue playing video games – and trying to drag Ethan away from his new Xbox every once in a while.

    Coming up
    Events:

  • 01-28 February: #LoveYourBacklog Month 2021
  • 01-28 February: EXP Share: Topic #4
  • 04 February: Shadowrun stream
  • 18 February: Shadowrun stream
  • 19-20 February: BlizzConline
  • 27-28 February: GameBlast21 for SpecialEffect
  • Take a look at the Side-quests page for more!
  • Posts planned:

  • A round-up from The Big Adventure Event
  • An escape-room-in-a-box review
  • The worst pick-up lines used in video games
  • A post dedicated to my backlog
  • Our GameBlast21 press release
  • And now over to you guys: what have you been up to lately, and what have you got planned for the coming month? Is there anything the community can help with or get involved in? Let everybody know in the comments below so we can show our support. Thanks for reading!

    Save point: goals for 2021

    In Wednesday’s post, I looked back at 2020 and how Later Levels had done during its fourth year. Publishing the figures was a little scary but sharing this information will help me to grow as a blogger and might be of some use to those around me too.

    It’s now time to look ahead to the coming 12 months. It’s hard to predict how the blogging landscape may change in 2021 because we’re living in strange times right now and so much is unknown about the future. But I’ve said that I hope to see a return to the community aspect and more collaborations, and if that wish is going to come true then I’ve got to do something to give it a helping hand. So let’s see what I’ve got planned for Later Levels during 2021…

    Start: making The Great Blog Crawl an annual event

    The Great Blog Crawl came out of a discussion between Ellen from Ace Asunder and I about the things were missing most during the COVID-19 lockdown. We decided to create a community event where we could recreate an evening spent with friends in the pub, while at the same time promoting the awesome bloggers in the community. Participants were sent on a ‘scavenger hunt’ around 50 of the best blogs before joining us for a ‘virtual pub’ stream, where Frostilyte from Frostilyte Writes was declared the winner.

    Ellen and I would like to make The Great Blog Crawl an annual event and increase the number of sites involved to perhaps 100. The only things standing in our way are the risk of low interest from members of the community along with our energy levels – which, let’s face it, were both been hit hard during 2020. But we don’t know if we don’t try and therefore it’s important we give it a go, so look out for further details about a 2021 event during the first quarter of the year.

    Do more: commenting on other posts

    blogging, laptop, hands, keyboardSomething I was incredibly guilty of in 2020 was leaving likes on posts I’ve enjoyed but not comments. After deciding to stop spending so much of my life online in July, the amount of time I’ve devoted to reading blogs and my enthusiasm for digital discussions has decreased. But the community aspect of blogging is all about conversation so this is something I need to change for 2021; and I’m therefore going to make more of an effort to comment on articles and chat to their authors.

    Continue: streaming and raising awareness for SpecialEffect

    JustGiving, LaterLevels, GameBlast20, SpecialEffectOne of the highlights of last year was completing our 50-day challenge for GameBlast20. We knew it was going to be demanding in terms of time and effort, and we weren’t sure we’d make it through the entire period, but reaching the end was an amazing feeling. I’ll continue to support and raise awareness for SpecialEffect, a charity which helps physically-disabled people to experience the joy of video games, and can’t wait for everything we’ve got lined up for GameBlast21 in February – including seeing Pete in that Pikachu costume.

    Do less: admin for The Support Role

    Last January was the beginning of The Support Role, a Discord server created by Luke from Hundstrasse and myself through a desire to make it easier for bloggers to get advice and support each other. It has now grown to include over 75 members and 20 channels on a variety of blogging, streaming and gaming subjects, and it has been lovely seeing members of the community interact in discussions and collaborations. Thank you to everyone there who helped make it what it is.

    It’s time for us to step away from managing the server however, as both Luke and I have increased work commitments coming up in 2021 and need to take a step back so we can focus on other areas. We won’t be disappearing completely though and this isn’t the end of the group: the reigns have been handed over to the very-capable Gaming Diaries and Dan from nowisgames.com so please make them feel at home! New members are welcome and you can join the server using this link.

    Stop: posting weekly #BloggerTalk questions

    #BloggerTalkThe #BloggerTalk weekly community event also started in January last year and saw a blogging question posed to the community every Thursday. Although I’m grateful to everybody who joined in and shared their experiences on Twitter, it didn’t encourage as much conversation as I’d hoped for and some weeks were very quiet. I therefore don’t think there’s much to be gained from repeating the event in 2021; but who knows, it may make a return at some point in the future if the mood feels right.

    Hopefully I’ll look back on today’s post this time next year and feel a sense of accomplishment at having completed some of these goals. Saying that though, it’s important to remember that blogging should be fun and this has always been the ultimate aim for me. As long as I can say I’ve enjoyed myself over the past 12 months, then I’ll consider them to have been a success – and that’s just the incentive I need to keep moving forward and carry on writing here at Later Levels.

    So what have you got planned for 2021? Whatever your goals are, I hope they’re within reach and bring you much happiness this year.

    We’re taking part in GameBlast21 to support SpecialEffect, the gamers’ charity.
    Making a donation will bring you great loot, increase your XP by +100 and make you immune to fire.*
    (*Not guaranteed.)


    Save point: a review of 2020

    Tomorrow is the final day of 2020. It’s time for taking stock, looking back over our achievements and being proud of the fact that we made it through such a strange year. It’s also the perfect opportunity to consider where we want to go in the future.

    I decided to publish a proper end-of-year review for the first time in December 2019. It was something I was initially nervous about because I’ve never really taken resolutions and goals for the blog that seriously, but then I realised: sharing this information wouldn’t only help me grow as a blogger, it might be useful to others out this too. Now I’m back with the 2020 edition to look over the past 12 months so let’s find out how Later Levels did and think about how this could potentially shape the site in 2021.

    2020 overview
    Followers:

  • WordPress:   1,667
  • Twitter:   627
  • Facebook:   92
  • Instagram:   236
  • Twitch:   200
  • Posts:

  • Total published:   221 posts
  • Most popular:   The Longing: knowing Shade
  • Most liked:   Blogging awards: breaking the chain
  • Most discussed:   Keeping my blogging to myself
  • My favourite:   Never growing up: too old for gaming?
  • Traffic:

  • Views:   33,075
  • Visitors:   18,958
  • Likes:   4,682
  • Comments:   2,298
  • Best day:   06:00 on Mondays
  • Achievements:

  • Raised £600 for SpecialEffect as part of GameBlast20
  • Participated in game-swaps with several blogger-friends
  • Hosted The Great Blog Crawl with Ellen from Ace Asunder
  • Mentioned during a SpecialEffect stream
  • Made more good friends through both WordPress and Twitch
  • Games played:

  • Played:   85 games
  • Completed:   56 games
  • Demos played:   42 demos
  • Previewed and reviewed:   39 games
  • Kickstarted:   10 games
  • Games of note:

  • Favourite played:   The Painscreek Killings
  • Favourite of 2020:   The Longing
  • Least favourite:   Thomas Was Alone
  • Favourite Kickstarter:   Chinatown Detective Agency
  • Most looking forward to:   Book of Travels
  • 2020 charts: blog

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    Views, visitors, likes and comments

    Although the average views per month has increased every year since Later Levels started in December 2017, a strange trend occurred in 2020: the number of views and unique visitors increased substantially since June. I believe I know the reason for this however and give an explanation in one of the sections below. The statistics might look good but the data is so skewed that it’s hard to get a true picture of how well the blog performed this year, because I can’t tell how many of these hits are from ‘true’ readers.

    The only thing I can say for certain is that the number of comments left on posts is dropping and COVID-19 has had a huge impact on the blogging community. At the start of the lockdown period in March, we saw an increase in the number of people turning to blogging and video games to fill their hours; then many moved over to more interactive platforms such as Twitch and podcasting as they sought social interactions; and now people are taking time out for themselves as they become digitally-drained as a result of lockdown-lifestyle.

    I understand this very well, having felt a similar way back in June after organisers of many of the annual expos decided to take their events online rather than completely cancel. In July I made the decision to take a break and I stopped spending so much of my life online. The hours I now devote to reading blog posts and commenting on them has reduced as a result; and as I’ve written before, how can you expect anyone to leave messages on your articles if you’re not doing the same in return?

    Best days and times

    Like 2019, the best time of the week for Later Levels visits remains on Monday morning – although the time has changed from 06:00 to 07:00 in the past year. The blog parties still seem to be a driver for this as they take place at the start of the week and these posts always receive the highest number of likes and comments. In an attempt not to skew the data any more than it already is (see above), I’ve removed these events from the overview table given at the start of this review.

    Saturday, 29 March 2019 is still the day that had the best views ever and I’m still unable to work out why. No posts were published on this date and, although there were a few big blogging events on the site that month, they all occurred well before or after. The best I’ve been able to come up with looking at the WordPress statistics is that a particular visitor from the UK checked out an awful lot of posts on that day – although I’m unable to say who this was and what they were looking for.

    Popular posts

    The most popular post during 2020 by far was The Longing: knowing Shade. Now why on earth would an article about a small indie game that really won’t be to everybody’s tastes have done so well? I think have the answer. In digging through the WordPress Stats and Insights, I was able to discover that a link had been placed on a somewhat dodgy-looking website where you can apparently find places to download the game for free. Sorry to anybody who found the post this way: you’re not getting any pirated freebies here.

    The next most popular posts were Twitch tips: advice for new streamers and Good games for non-gamers. As mentioned above, many people have turned to streaming during the COVID-19 lockdown and are looking for guidance on getting started; and non-gamers have been searching out new pastimes to fill the additional free hours. I’m sad to report once again that there were no rude search terms for this year – and I have no idea how 53 people managed to find the blog after entering ‘amazon’ into Google.

    Friends and commenters

    The WordPress statistics show an average of 10 comments and 21 likes were left for each post published during 2020. The lovely people mentioned in the tweet opposite deserve a round of applause: between them, they left a total of 221 comments so we clearly had a lot to talk about. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Frostilyte from Frostilyte Writes and Nathan from Gaming Omnivore through their streams after our game-swaps; and Ellen from Ace Asunder has become a good friend this year thanks to a shared love of cats and memes.

    It’s hard to predict how the blogging landscape may change in 2021 because so much is unknown. I’m hoping we’ll start to see a return of the community aspect and more collaborations over the coming year but perhaps that’s a little too much to ask for, considering everything else happening in the world right now. The silver-lining of 2020 has been the bloggers whom I’ve had a chance to know better and being able to support each other through these tough times.

    2020 charts: Twitch

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    Streaming statistics

    New for 2020, I’ve added statistics for the Later Levels’ Twitch channel into the review post as we started streaming consistently this year. This began when we decided to attempt the 50-day challenge for GameBlast20 throughout January and February: a stream of at least an hour each day for that period rounded off with a 24-hour marathon. Although it took a whole lot of effort and sore thumbs, we managed to raise awareness and funds for SpecialEffect and made us realise how much we enjoyed playing games on Twitch.

    There’s an obvious dip in the figures for June and this correlates with my decision to take a break. As a result of the lockdown, I felt as though I’d been living too much of my life online – work, socialising and entertainment – and needed to step away for a while. This resulted in me writing a short series of posts about our experiences with streaming in July and, as mentioned above, one of them turned out to be the second most viewed article during 2020.

    We’ve decided to stick to a streaming schedule going forward because it feels like the best way to keep ourselves motivated. But this comes with a caveat: since the summer, we’ve agreed to give ourselves the space to be able to pull out of a scheduled stream if something arises or we’re just not feeling it. Streaming should be fun and it won’t be that for us if we start treating it like a job; statistics don’t mean anything if you’re not enjoying yourself, raising awareness for a worthy cause and spending time with friends.

    So there you have it: a round-up of Later Levels’ performance over the last 12 months. But what does this mean for 2021? Come back on Friday for a post sharing my blogging goals for the coming year and in the meantime, have a very happy New Year’s Eve tomorrow.

    We’re taking part in GameBlast21 to support SpecialEffect, the gamers’ charity.
    Making a donation will bring you great loot, increase your XP by +100 and make you immune to fire.*
    (*Not guaranteed.)


    Save point: December 2020

    Welcome to December’s editorial post, a monthly progress report which rounds up all the happenings here at Later Levels in case you missed anything. With Christmas now behind us and thoughts turning to the new year ahead, let’s have a quick recap of recent events.

    Blog life
    Followers:

  • WordPress:   1,662
  • Twitter:   627
  • Facebook:   92
  • Instagram:   235
  • Twitch:   200
  • Posts:

  • Total published:   20 posts
  • Most popular:   Gamers’ blog party: winter 2020
  • Most liked:   Gamers’ blog party: winter 2020
  • Most discussed:   Gamers’ blog party: winter 2020
  • My favourite:   The best games to play at Christmas
  • Traffic:

  • Views:   3,605
  • Visitors:   2,112
  • Likes:   486
  • Comments:   314
  • Best day:   06:00 on Mondays
  • Other posts worth checking out:

  • Everyone in Brothers is an Asshole by Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost
  • Looking Back: Art of 2020 by Frostilyte from Frostilyte Writes
  • The Correct ‘Game Of The Year’ 2020 by Toasty from Games With Toasty
  • Exclusive Santa Statement by Mr. Wapojif from Professional Moron
  • Our 2020 Games of the Year! by William from WCRobinson
  • Later Levels reached its fourth birthday last week after another year of blogging was completed. 2020 has certainly been a weird time for both the site and WordPress community in general, and it feels like we’re all ready to let out a collective sigh of relief at being able to put the past 12 months behind us. Hopefully 2021 will be a little bit brighter and we can all get back to doing the things we love with renewed enthusiasm after having a well-deserved rest during the Christmas break.

    That’s not to say things have been quiet though because several celebrations took place in December. First, I took part in the 30 games tag after being inspired by Nathan from Gaming Omnivore; and then came the #CreativeChristmasCollab from Chris Durston, which gave me the chance to share what makes one of my blogging-friends so great. And we gathered at the winter 2020 blog party during which 23 amazing posts were shared, and I’ll be rounding off the year with a full review of the year on Wednesday.

    Gaming life
    Games played:

  • Call of the Sea
  • Dishonored 2
  • DOOM Eternal
  • Greyhat: A Digital Detective Adventure
  • Horizon Zero Dawn
  • Quern
  • Röki
  • Sea of Solitude
  • The Night Before The Night Before
  • World of Warcraft
  • Yakuza 0
  • Games previewed or reviewed:

  • VA11 Hall-A
  • December’s EXP Share hosted by DanamesX from Tales from the Backlog was all about the gift of gaming so I looked back over some of my favourite gaming memories for the occasion. Several of these involved my stepson Ethan as we bonded over gaming when we first met. Our mutual love of video games has made it easier to talk about how to use them responsibly over the years – and I think Pete and I will be putting that to good use, now that the teenage years are upon us and he’s starting to play game online.

    A big thank you to the awesome Frostilyte from Frostilyte Writes for giving me my final game-swap of 2020. I’m not sure I would have played VA11 Hall-A if it wasn’t for his selection and would recommend this one if you’re a fan of visual novels and personal stories. For more game suggestions, why not find out what my blogger-friends are playing during the holidays in this month’s collaborative post or check out the great titles I selected for this year’s beginner’s guide to indie.

    I’ve spent most of my free time this month playing Yakuza 0 and I’m firmly blaming Nathan from Gaming Omnivore for this. Watching him stream part of it made me want to try it for myself, and now I’m kind of hooked…

    Real life

    So here we are back on lockdown, with a lot of the UK now under tier 4 restrictions. It’s certainly been the weirdest Christmas we’ve ever experienced; not being allowed to socialise with people from other households meant Pete and I were unable to see our families and spent the holidays alone. The only silver-lining was that we had video games and chocolate to keep us company, along with a few blogger-friends who joined us on Twitch.

    I’m not sure I would have believed you if you’d told me I’d still be working from home in December back when the first lockdown started in March. On one hand, I’m finding myself missing London and it was lovely seeing parts of the city in Watch Dogs: Legion; but on the other, the talk of returning to the office in January scares me more than I’d like to admit. The events of 2020 have made us all more aware of our mental health and how to manage it better, as well how video games are a positive thing for our wellbeing.

    We’re still battling away with my old PC and the poor thing is clearly on its last legs. Pete has been keeping his eyes open for the parts he wants for a new machine and we’re hoping to have this sorted by the time GameBlast21 comes around in January. We’re asking for everybody’s help when it comes to deciding on which games to play during our 24-hour charity stream for SpecialEffect, so head over to this post to cast your votes and help arrange our schedule!

    Coming up
    Events:

  • 01-31 January: EXP Share
  • 07 January: Shadowrun stream
  • 21 January: Shadowrun stream
  • Take a look at the Side-quests page for more!
  • Posts planned:

  • Blogging goals for 2021
  • My stepkid’s excitement over the new Xbox
  • Call of the Sea review
  • Getting fit with zombies
  • More GameBlast21 updates
  • And now over to you guys: what have you been up to lately, and what have you got planned for the coming month? Is there anything the community can help with or get involved in? Let everybody know in the comments below so we can show our support. Thanks for reading!

    Save point: November 2020

    Welcome to November’s editorial post, a monthly progress report which rounds up all the happenings here at Later Levels in case you missed anything. With Christmas now on the horizon, let’s have a quick recap of recent events.

    Blog life
    Followers:

  • WordPress:   1,603
  • Twitter:   617
  • Facebook:   92
  • Instagram:   233
  • Twitch:   189
  • Posts:

  • Total published:   17 posts
  • Most popular:   Blogging awards: breaking the chain
  • Most liked:   Blogging awards: breaking the chain
  • Most discussed:   Blogging awards: breaking the chain
  • My favourite:   Why I fell in love with video games
  • Traffic:

  • Views:   3,699
  • Visitors:   2,449
  • Likes:   332
  • Comments:   108
  • Best day:   Wednesdays
  • Other posts worth checking out:

  • Why inclusivity in gaming is a good thing by Duane from Bar Harukiya
  • Extra Life 24-Hour Marathon Live Stream by Jett from In Third Person
  • Musings on the word ‘geek’ by Katie from Musings of a nitpicking girl
  • The 5th Retrospective Blogger / Creator collab by Jonez from NekoJonez
  • Framing the issue of photos in video games from The Gaming Dashboard
  • After receiving a blogging award that required nominees to share their origin story and guidance, I was stumped: I was all out of new advice and I’d already explained how the blog came to life in previous posts. Sure, some awards do make for great writing prompts (like this one about explaining horror game storylines to children in a way that doesn’t scare them). But a lot of them seem to be nothing more than an SEO exercise – so is it time to finally break the chain?

    I know this sounds incredibly cynical. 2020 has been a rollercoaster, sucking much of the motivation and enthusiasm out of many of us. A post for World Kindness Day didn’t garner as many responses as I’d hoped for and I wonder if this is a sign that blogging isn’t such a community-orientated hobby any longer. Perhaps events such as the new monthly EXP Share hosted by DanamesX from Tales of the Backlog and the Five Game Challenge from Naithin over at Time to Loot are just the sort of thing we need to draw us back together.

    Gaming life
    Games played:

  • Bejeweled 2
  • cyperpunkdreams
  • Dishonored 2
  • General Horse and the Package of Doom
  • Horizon Zero Dawn
  • Interrogation Files: Port Landsend
  • Jessika
  • Related
  • Tetris Effect
  • The Light Remake
  • The Suicide of Rachel Foster
  • The Talos Principle
  • VA11 Hall-A
  • World of Warcraft
  • Games previewed or reviewed:

  • General Horse and the Package of Doom
  • Harvester
  • Murder on Space Station 52
  • Related
  • Shivers
  • October’s trend continued as Kickstarter once again featured in posts this month. At the start of November, I backed Made from Strings’ campaign for Murder on Space Station 52 after its mysterious storyline appealed to me and its promotional video made me laugh. I then found myself making a pledge towards Fractalcatz’s project for Related a couple of weeks later, after playing the first episode and agreeing with the Steam reviews which praised it for its incredibly creepy atmosphere.

    Staying with the point-and-clicks, I revisited some classics. Playing Shivers again for the first time since its release reminded me of just how much it scared me as a teenager, even though it’s actually pretty tame. Trying Harvester wasn’t so successful though and I came away cringing and feeling confused. The star of the month however has been new adventure General Horse and the Package of Doom by Spektar Studio and Porcupine Parkour – as crazy as it was, it’s a contender for my game of the year.

    Real life

    While everyone was excited about getting their hands on the next-generation consoles this month, I left the hype behind and focused on charity. Get-Well Gamers UK deserved a mention because donations of unwanted PlayStation 4s and Xbox Ones will mean they can provide more equipment to hospitals; and SpecialEffect finally opened registration for GameBlast21. We’re now officially signed up for the event and have revealed our plans, Zelda made a brief appearance in the promotional video, and we even got a lovely mention in a SpecialEffect stream!

    In other news, I decided to splurge on a treadmill after wanting one for ages and doing a lot of saving up. I may ache all over now after signing up to several interactive running and hiking series but I’m completely addicted to this thing. I’d love to be able to train up and gain enough endurance to be able to complete an extended distance one day so who knows: maybe I’ll find myself completing a different type of marathon as part of our fundraising targets for GameBlast21.

    Coming up
    Events:

  • 01-21 December: Christmas Community Collab
  • 01-25 December: Great Run Solo for SpecialEffect
  • 01-31 December: EXP Share
  • 10 December: Shadowrun stream
  • 14 December: Gamers’ blog party
  • 23 December: Shadowrun stream
  • Every Thursday: #BloggerTalk
  • Take a look at the Side-quests page for more!
  • Posts planned:

  • London in video games
  • Cyberpunk bartender action with VA11 Hall-A
  • Why so much negativity in gaming?
  • The annual beginners’ guide to indie
  • More GameBlast21 updates
  • And now over to you guys: what have you been up to lately, and what have you got planned for the coming month? Is there anything the community can help with or get involved in? Let everybody know in the comments below so we can show our support. Thanks for reading!

    We’re taking part in GameBlast21 to support SpecialEffect, the gamers’ charity.
    Making a donation will bring you great loot, increase your XP by +100 and make you immune to fire.*
    (*Not guaranteed.)


    Blogging awards: breaking the chain

    Blogging awards usually involve sharing guidance for other bloggers. This is the case for one I was nominated for recently: the rules stated I’d need to give Later Levels’ origin story along with five pieces of advice before nominating five to 12 other bloggers to take a turn.

    I was totally stumped and had no idea what to write. Drafting a response post to a separate award nomination just the week before meant I was all out of new advice and I’d already explained how the blog came to life in previous posts. Hoping it might give me some inspiration, I decided to stop staring at the blank screen on my laptop and instead figure out where this current award had originally come from because it wasn’t one I’d ever heard of in my seven years of blogging.

    blogging, laptop, hands, keyboard

    Tracing back through the chain didn’t take long at all because it had only been in existence for several weeks. In their originating post, the author explained how the award had been created to build links within the community and collate a pool of useful tips that everybody here could benefit from. I struggled to see how it was different from the other honours doing the rounds though; its rules sounded awfully like several other existing awards and I wasn’t sure what this new one added.

    I then noticed that the creator had given their own guidance for new bloggers and had mentioned search engine optimisation (SEO) in one of their tips. Anyone who’s ever read a website or book about the subject will be familiar with the practice of improving your search rankings by getting a link back to your blog on as many good sites as possible. A blogging award where nominees are required to give up to 12 nominees of their own along with a link to this original post seemed very convenient right about now.

    I realise just how cynical I sound. My negativity is in part brought on by what we’ve experienced over the past eight months because the ever-present risk of COVID-19 has done a wonderful job of sucking the motivation out of me. Combine this with recently looking at how blogging had changed over the years and the disappointing realisation that it’s far less community-orientated than it used to be, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that this award had an almost chain-letter smell about it.

    I realise that such recognitions are meant to be a sincere way of celebrating our blogging efforts and I really am honoured each time Later Levels is included. But let’s be honest with ourselves: it’s time to finally admit that they’re a pain in the butt. As mentioned above, it can be difficult to give advice you haven’t already shared, provide different answers to questions you’ve been asked several times or tell your origin story in words you haven’t used before.

    blog, award, awesome, epic, trophies

    There’s also the fact that it becomes increasingly difficult to nominate someone who hasn’t already been recognised because we all have friends in the same blogging circles. And once you’ve finally managed to choose your people, it’s impossible not to put them under any pressure to accept an award no matter how much you try. Nominees usually feel obliged to publish a witty response post because they don’t want to be considered ungrateful, unfriendly, or unwilling to get involved.

    I’m not sure I’m ready to do what others have done and put a badge up on the site declaring that it’s an award-free zone though. The truth is that it’s always nice to be recognised – everyone likes to receive a compliment occasionally and hear that their content is appreciated. I’ve also found that the more creative questions asked as part of some awards make for great writing prompts, like this one about explaining horror game storylines to children in a way that doesn’t scare them.

    I just think that there’s got to be a better way of showing your admiration for your blogger-friends than giving them the Blogger Appreciation, Blogger Recognition, Liebster, Mystery Blogger, One Lovely Blog, Real Neat Blog, Sunshine Blogger, Unique Blogger, Versatile Blogger or any of the other awards out there. (I took up almost half a paragraph there just listing those I could remember off the top of my head, and I’m sure there are hundreds more out there.)

    The best thing you can do to show your appreciation for someone’s content is to share it. If there’s a post you particularly enjoyed, don’t keep it to yourself: leave a comment to further the conversation and share the link with others. Write a post about the same subject if you’re feeling inspired to do so and get in touch with the author directly if you’d like to talk to them about it. There’s no need to wait until the next round of blog awards to give a deserving blogger a pat on the back for their hard work.

    make kindness the norm, World Kindness Day

    World Kindness Day is coming up again on Friday and drafting this post has given me an idea for a celebration: a way to give a shout-out to the bloggers we admire and the posts we’ve enjoyed. It’s just a small thing considering everything else going on in the world right now, but maybe a little bit of positivity may be just the thing we need to give ourselves a boost in time for the weekend. Check back later this week to find out what I’ve got planned and how you can get involved.

    And I promise: you won’t need to give your origin story, several pieces of advice or nominate 20 bloggers.