Gamers’ blog party: autumn 2020 invitation

Before we get wrapped up in cosy blankets, it’s time for the latest blog party here at Later Levels. There’s no better way to celebrate the start of the week as well as meet some new blogging friends and read their awesome posts.

The rules are simple:

🎉   Arrive at the party: don’t be shy and stand in the corner – say hello and introduce yourself in the comments below! Give an introduction to your blog to welcome new readers and let us know what you’re all about.

🎉   Present your gift: think about the posts you’ve written during the past three months and choose your favourite or one which was fun to write. Leave a link to it in your comment and explain why you’ve picked it.

🎉   Show off your costume: Halloween may be a little way off yet but who doesn’t love dressing up? That’s why we’re going with a fancy-dress theme for this party. Tell which video game character you’ve come dressed as and why.

🎉   Mingle: grab yourself a drink, put on a party hat and get to know your fellow guests! Check back on the comments throughout the day to discover excellent sites and meet new bloggers.

🎉   Party all day: the comments below will be open for 24-hours until 06:00 BST on Tuesday, 15 September 2020 so you’ve got plenty of time to meet and greet. Plus your posts will be shared on the Later Levels’ social media channels!

These blog party events are my way of giving something back to the amazing WordPress community and showing my appreciation for all of your support. I’ve had the opportunity to meet some lovely people and talented writers since starting the site at the end of 2016; here’s a little thank you and a way of finding some awesome blogs you may not have come across already.

Have fun – and excuse me while I grab some more ice for the drinks and turn the music up louder!

Frosti-writes: honesty in your posts

One of the hardest things you can do as a gaming blogger is write a review. On one hand, you want to give your readers an honest opinion and let them know if a game is worth their time and money. Then on the other, you want to give the developer credit for their effort.

These sides don’t always play nicely together and can conflict if the release is a bad one. It’s especially difficult if the review is for a game you received via a free key because you might feel a bad critique could damage your relationship with the developer or publisher. Come across a critique which absolutely gushes about a title but doesn’t specifically explain why it’s so good and is extremely far removed from most other opinions on it, and you’ve likely found a blogger who’s experiencing this kind of struggle.

It can be a balancing act, and a lesson I’ve had to learn myself since starting blogging. I now only accept keys for games which are the sort of thing I usually enjoy – point-and-clicks or narrative-based adventures – and I know which public relations (PR) contacts are likely to promote those sort of experiences. Accepting a free code comes with the obligation of publishing a review, and life is too short to spend playing video games you’re not enjoying and then having to write about them.

That being said though, it’s important to never shy away from expressing your opinion even if it’s a negative one. It is your blog after all. But it’s just as vital to make sure you’re able to explain why you feel the way you do. The reason ‘I just didn’t like it’ can sometimes be valid and the only one you can give, but it isn’t enough if you’re trying to give a well-rounded critique to your audience. It also doesn’t give the developer much to go on: if you’re able to provide more details, they then have opportunity to improve their work in the future.

Someone who I admire in this regard is Frostilyte from Frostilyte Writes. His honesty (along with his awesome artwork) is one of the reasons I enjoy his posts and streams as much as I do. If he has a view on a video game or genre that many others are unlikely to agree with, he doesn’t shy away from it. Instead he’s happy to talk about it and always strives to explain his opinion so you can see where he’s coming from, and you can be certain when reading one of his reviews that it’s really what he thinks.

I first realised this when watching him on a Frosti Fridays evening as he began streaming Hollow Knight to his Twitch channel a few months ago. My other-half had attempted to play Ori and the Blind Forest for our GameBlast20 challenge earlier this year, and made a comment in chat about the coordination to play these kind of Metroidvania titles. This moved us on to a conversation about our thoughts on Moon Studios’ release and Frosti wasn’t scared to give an opinion that was quite different to most I’ve heard before.

His honesty during this situation, along with his very kind nomination for the Super Happy Love Award last month, made me think about the way I express my own opinions. Do I ever ‘adapt’ them so as not to be so far removed from general consensus or seem like I’m just trying to be different from the majority? I already know that I don’t like writing negative reviews, because if I’ve not enjoyed playing a game then I’m not going to enjoy writing about it either; is this a part of it too?

Twitch, stream, chat, Frostilyte, Frostilyte Writes

It’s possible that I hold back in my posts without even realising I’m doing it sometimes. This could come in part from not wanting to share my blog with many people in my real life and concern about what they might think if they stumble across it. It can also be hard to say what you truly think about a game or a company when you know so many others around you feel completely differently. For example, I’ve had an idea for a post about Nintendo for a while now but I’ve always been too scared to write it.

Perhaps it’s time to start letting go of the doubts we feel about sharing our thoughts as bloggers and the worry we feel when expressing a different view. Everyone here in our community has different backgrounds and experiences which make us each react to the video games we play in a way which is unique to us. It’s this which keeps our conversations interesting: there’s something to be learned from everyone we speak to and every discussion is a chance to open your eyes to something you might not have considered before.

Talking to Frostilyte during his streams has made me want to be more open in my writing. The thing he has taught me over the past few months is that it’s ok to have your own opinion, even if it’s totally unlike that conveyed by everybody else. But you’ve got to be able to explain it so others can understand why you’ve arrived at this view, even if they don’t necessarily agree with you. It’s certainly something I’m going to try to stick to – as well as tuning in for more Frosti Fridays.

I know what I’m doing this afternoon now. It’s time to finally start writing that post explaining why I don’t like Nintendo.

Gamers’ blog party: summer 2020 invitation

The lockdown may have meant we’ve had isolate ourselves over the past few months, but that doesn’t mean we can’t socialise. Put on your best frock and dancing shoes, grab your laptop and join in with the latest blog party here at Later Levels.

The rules are simple:

🎉   Arrive at the party: don’t be shy and stand in the corner – say hello and introduce yourself in the comments below! Give an introduction to your blog to welcome new readers and let us know what you’re all about.

🎉   Present your gift: think about the posts you’ve written during the past three months and choose your favourite or one which was fun to write. Leave a link to it in your comment and explain why you’ve picked it.

🎉   Get the conversation going: tell us what you’ve learnt during lockdown. Whether it’s a new hobby, an interesting fact or love for a gaming genre you never thought you’d enjoy, we want to hear about it.

🎉   Be sociable: grab yourself a drink, put on a party hat and get to know your fellow guests! Check back on the comments throughout the day to discover excellent sites and meet new bloggers.

🎉   Party all day: the comments below will be open for 24-hours until 06:00 BST on Tuesday, 16 June 2020 so you’ve got plenty of time to meet and greet. Plus your posts will be shared on the Later Levels’ social media channels!

These blog party events are my way of giving something back to the amazing WordPress community and showing my appreciation for all of your support. I’ve had the opportunity to meet some lovely people and talented writers since starting the site at the end of 2016; here’s a little thank you and a way of finding some awesome blogs you may not have come across already.

We beat the record number of posts shared in a single event at last summer’s blog party, hitting 36 articles and 348 comments. Can we beat it yet again? Have fun – and excuse me while I top up everyone’s drinks and turn the music up louder!

The Great Blog Crawl 2020: drinks menu

Update at 10:10 BST on Monday, 22 June 2020:

The Great Blog Crawl 2020 is back! From Friday, 26 June 2020, we’ll be visiting the questions for anyone who didn’t catch them the first time around before heading to the virtual pub from 19:00 BST on Saturday, 18 July 2020. Check out this post over on Ace Asunder for more information.

Update at 15:45 BST on Wednesday, 03 June 2020:

It’s with heavy hearts that we’ve taken the decision to postpone The Great Blog Crawl 2020 virtual pub today. For further details, please see this tweet.

Original post at 06:00 BST on Saturday, 30 May 2020:

Attention, future patrons of The Great Blog Crawl’s virtual pub! We’re pleased to announce the hiring of our official bartender for the evening: the awesome Quietschisto from RNG. He’s just as good at making drinks as he is at writing blog posts.

He’ll be presenting a crash-course in cocktail-making during the event from 19:00 BST on Saturday, 06 June 2020. If you’ve ever wanted to turn your kitchen into a bar and create some radiant refreshments (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic), here’s your chance. Check out his shopping list and join us at our virtual pub on Twitch where we’ll be playing games, sharing Quietschisto’s tutorial videos for anyone who’d like to mix along with him, and revealing the winners of The Great Blog Crawl 2020 quiz.

The Great Blog Crawl, logo, title, writing, beer

There’s still time to join in if you’re not already taking part. Simply download your answer sheet, follow @GreatBlogCrawl on Twitter or Facebook for the questions and visit the 50 blogs mentioned to find the information you need to solve them. Please don’t share your answers though as this will spoil the fun for everybody! Further details and deadlines can be found in this post, check out Solarayo’s article over on Ace Asunder too, and you can always get in touch with us if there’s anything else you need.

An important note: this event has been designed to bring the community together during the lockdown period and celebrate the amazing blogs around us. It’s in no way intended to put pressure on anyone to drink and if alcohol isn’t your thing, then we fully respect and support you. Quietschisto will even be including two non-alcoholic beverages in his tutorials so we’ve got you covered. Absolutely everyone is welcome to participate in The Great Blog Crawl quiz and we hope you have a fabulous time.

Good luck to all our contestants! We’ll be waiting for you at the bar next weekend.

Like The Great Blog Crawl artwork? Check out Heather Agoncillo on Instagram.

What if Later Levels wasn’t about video games?

Here’s a question for bloggers: what would you do if you were no longer able to write about the current subject for your site? Would you take the decision to start again by finding a new topic of interest and, if so, what would you then cover?

This was the conundrum posed to the nominees for a Mystery Blogger Award by The Night Owl from The Late Night Session back in April. I’ve found it one of the most interesting and hardest questions to respond to so far because, since Later Levels started over three years ago, I’ve hardly ever deviated from the subject of video games. Occasionally I’ve posted something about blogging itself and have also written a couple of posts for other blogs about different areas, but I return to gaming consistently.

Locked In A Room, team, lab coats, Kim, Joel, Jake, Pete, Tim, GeekOut South-West

Perhaps I could write about escape rooms instead? As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve grown to love them since trying my first in January 2019 and I managed to complete seven in total last year. It’s certainly a subject I’d be excited about covering but I’m not sure how sustainable it would be for me personally: my other-half and I have now completed most of the rooms in Essex which interest us, so we need to start going further afield. Blogging content would therefore be limited to where and when we were able to travel.

How about other types of games instead then? My enjoyment of escape rooms has encouraged me to try a few treasure hunts, jigsaw puzzles and online detective experiences over the past six months, and this has been particularly convenient throughout the UK lockdown since March. It doesn’t feel like a good enough answer to The Night Owl’s question though. It’s a subject that’s still very close to gaming and one I touch upon sometimes now, so maybe I should be thinking of a completely unrelated topic.

A New Way of Cooking With Chocolate, book, Hotel Chocolat

So what about cooking? You can usually find me in the kitchen when I’m not playing video games; and thanks to some helpful advice from Teri-Mae from Sheikah Plate, I recently started making bread by hand once a week after we were unable to find any in the supermarket during a shopping trip. The thing is though, I’m just not that creative when it comes to recipes. I’m more likely to follow someone else’s and tweak it slightly to my family’s tastes, rather than create an entirely new one from scratch for an audience.

The truth is that I can only ever see myself blogging about video games now. Both hobbies have become so entwined since 2016 that I’m not sure one would exist without the other any longer. If I didn’t have a channel to share my thoughts about the games I’m playing, it would feel as though something was missing; and if I blogged about a different subject, I don’t think I’d get as much enjoyment out of it because I wouldn’t be a part of the gaming community here at WordPress.

Being so narrow in the topic for your blog isn’t necessarily the best way to go though if you’re looking to increase your views and followers. Many professional and casual sites I follow have moved away from video games only in recent years and now cover board games, films and books too. Logic says that the more subjects you write about, the wider your audience will be and surely that can only be a good thing when it comes to attracting readers and generating revenue.

But there’s also an argument for sticking to one topic. I remember reading something about the same time as setting up Later Levels, which recommended writing about a single area only so you could position yourself in the community as an ‘authority blogger’ – someone who’s considered an specialist on their subject and whom others turn to for support or recommendations. If you’re continually expanding your number of topics, how can you hope to become an expert in any of them?

What I’ve come to realise over the years though is this: all that blogging advice you find online is an utter load of rubbish (I’m being very careful not to swear here). You’re better off totally ignoring it and simply focusing on having fun with your site. Write about things you’re genuinely interested in, because you’re the one putting in the effort and that will happen far more easily if you’re enthusiastic about doing it. You’ll also notice the side-effect of creating content that others enjoy as much as you do.

That’s why you’ll find me sticking to video games. I’m grateful to The Night Owl and the Mystery Blogger Award nomination for giving me the opportunity to think about a different future for Later Levels; and I might write about something else occasionally, as well as start posting more bread photographs on Instagram. But gaming is what I’m interested in and excited about, and I can’t think of anything else I’d rather blog about – or another community I’d rather be a part of.

The Great Blog Crawl 2020

Update at 10:10 BST on Monday, 22 June 2020:

The Great Blog Crawl 2020 is back! From Friday, 26 June 2020, we’ll be visiting the questions for anyone who didn’t catch them the first time around before heading to the virtual pub from 19:00 BST on Saturday, 18 July 2020. Check out this post over on Ace Asunder for more information.

Update at 15:45 BST on Wednesday, 03 June 2020:

It’s with heavy hearts that we’ve taken the decision to postpone The Great Blog Crawl 2020 virtual pub today. For further details, please see this tweet.

Original post at 06:00 BST on Monday, 18 May 2020:

What have you missed most during the lockdown period? Many bloggers I’ve spoken to have mentioned one thing and I’m in agreement with them: I’ve missed going to the pub. There’s nothing like popping into my local for a drink on a Saturday evening to enjoy the company and conversation of friends.

So what if we could recreate that experience online? And while we’re at it, what if we could use it to promote some of the awesome bloggers here on WordPress? The lovely Solarayo from Ace Asunder and I have been working on a little something recently, and it’s with great pleasure that we can announce…

The Great Blog Crawl, logo, title, writing, beer

From 06:00 BST today onwards:

No pub is complete without a quiz, so we’re kicking off the event with a competition that will get you ‘crawling’ through 50 of the best sites in the blogosphere. Here’s what to do if you’d like to take part:

  • Let us know about your participation in the comments below
  • Alternatively, use the comments over on Solarayo’s post
  • Download your answer sheet here
  • Follow @GreatBlogCrawl on Twitter or Facebook
  • Keep your eyes peeled for regular tweets and posts revealing the questions
  • Visit the blogs mentioned to find the information you need
  • Jot the answers down on your answer sheet and keep them secret
  • The final question will be revealed at 22:00 BST on Wednesday, 03 June 2020
  • 23:59 BST on Thursday, 04 June 2020:

    Once you’ve answered as many questions as possible, send your completed answer sheet to us at events@laterlevels.com by this date. We’ll get on to marking it right away and you’ll be awarded with a point for every correct answer.

    19:00 BST on Saturday, 06 June 2020:

    Get yourself some snacks, pour a drink (alcoholic or otherwise), pick up your controller and head over to the Later Levels’ Twitch channel for The Great Blog Crawl virtual pub. We’ll be announcing the quiz winners here and awarding them with their badges over a pint or two.

    We’re looking for suggestions of games to play throughout the night so if you have any ideas, please do get in touch. Cooperative titles that allow for online multiplayer or for viewers to participate in other ways would be perfect.

    Got a party-trick you’d like to share with the community? Whether it’s a joke, an impression, a song or something else that’s going to impress us, send your videos and images to events@laterlevels.com so we can share them at our virtual pub.

    A note:

    The 50 blogs chosen to be promoted throughout The Great Blog Crawl were selected at random from those Solarayo and I follow. Please don’t be disheartened if you don’t see your site – it doesn’t mean that it isn’t awesome, just that it didn’t make it through our random-number-generator! We’re coming up with a plan for next year to allow more blogs to be represented, so watch this space.

    Much love to Solarayo for all her support and help with this event, and for a very kind Blogger Recognition Award last month too. Head over to Ace Asunder if you haven’t already met her: if you like video games, cats, sarcasm and punching things, you’re bound to love her as much as I do.

    And good luck to everyone who’d like to take part! We hope you have fun discovering some of the amazing blogs around you – there’ll be a drink waiting for you at the bar once you’re done.

    Like The Great Blog Crawl artwork? Check out Heather Agoncillo on Instagram.