Thursday, March 20, 2008

Sort of a Rant - Gaming Blogs

I recently visited BoardGameGeek and noticed a list of gaming blogs. It's long. It's really, really long. There are so many game reviewers, it's no surprise I don't get as many review copies as I did when I wrote for Knucklebones. And since all those people are drowning out my awesome voice, I'm going to rant about it, be hypocritical, and point one finger so the other three are pointing back at me.

When I decided to create this site and update it regularly, I figured I was really on to something. I've been writing game reviews for years. I've even been paid to write them. I've reviewed games you've never heard of, and lots of games you're glad you don't have to see. I went to GenCon 06 with a press badge and wrote the official convention recap for Knucklebones Magazine. I interviewed and wrote about Richard Borg, and I'm on a first-name basis with marketing people and game designers at dozens of game companies. So I figured I had the rep and the pull to make a site like this work.

The good news is, I'm making it work. I do get the games I need to make this thing fly. The bad news is, I've got lots of competition, and they're making it hard for me to be taken seriously. After all, when there are 100 other guys writing game reviews, isn't my little site just another drop in the bucket? Sure, I've got between 300-500 regular readers, but that's really not that impressive. When I reviewed for RPG.net, my reviews would get a thousand reads in a day.

Which brings me to the topic at hand. Why on Earth do we need this many gaming columns? Could all these people actually have something interesting to relate? Are we all just talking to hear our own voices?

Actually, I know the answer to that last one, and the answer is 'yes.' Most bloggers - including myself - write stuff because we like to write stuff. We like that we can get our words published. It makes us feel important to see our names in print. And it gives us something so we can sound pompous around other people - 'Well, that game is OK. I reviewed it for my blog. Allow me to spend the next thirty minutes boring you with minutia about my crappy blog that nobody actually reads.'

Not only do we love to spout off like we know stuff, we love to act like rock stars. We're not rock stars, we're nerds, and we know that, but we can pretend we're rock stars. We can show up at game nights with games you've never seen before and talk about the aesthetics and mechanics like we know stuff you don't. We can have people ask us questions about games and respond with comments like, 'I didn't care for the combat mechanic' or 'the components were a little drab' or 'I hate everything because I think that's cool.'

I want to make sure nobody thinks I'm slamming all the other gaming bloggers and not including myself. I like to feel important just like anyone else. I love when people ask for my opinion about a game. I thrive on people laughing at my stupid jokes, and it's especially great when I can get the designer of a game to read my review. But just because I'm guilty of this self-absorbed nonsense doesn't mean I'm the only one.

There are exceptions. Tom Vasel has to be the most likable game reviewer ever. He talks about board games because he loves them, and wants you to love them, too. Shannon Appelcline is not just a good game reviewer (he's forgotten more about games than I'll ever know), but he's a good writer, and he's incredibly professional. The guys at Fortress Ameritrash aren't really game reviewers, but they're damned brilliant writers, and they amuse the crap out of me. I don't come close to the audience these writers can generate... but I sure beat hell out of a lot of others.

I'm going to step out of the self-incrimination now and talk about the enormous quantity of dross that floats to the surface and refuses to die. I'm not naming any particular sites, mostly because I don't visit them more than once. But suffice to say that there are far too many crappy gaming blogs, and it's making kick-ass sites like mine get lost in the shuffle. These guys will have 1000-word game reports that give you a blow-by-blow account of the most obscure games you never saw, or they'll spout some drivel about their podcast, or they'll just type like trained monkeys with Ritalin dependencies.

If you read most gaming blogs, you'll notice something important - they suck. They're boring. They drop punctuation, they misspell words, they leave sentence fragments and they mix their subject/verb agreement so badly that dead English teachers wake from their graves to hunt them with metal rulers and heavy dictionaries. The authors are just gamers who decided one day that they should pontificate about something, and settled on talking about games because it's all they do with most of their lives.

But you know what? Those guys think their sites kick ass. They don't like that there are hundreds of gaming blogs. They think the other sites suck. In short, except for language you won't hear on kids' cartoons and endless parades of stupid jokes, they're just like me.

And I don't care. After all, it takes a lot of confidence (or arrogance) to decide that your ideas are worth committing to a permanent record and showing them to the entire world. Anyone that arrogant (like myself) is going to assume his stuff is better than anyone else's stuff. People as cocky as I am are going to go ahead and write, and to Hell with the hack writers who run those other sites.

So you want to know why there are so many gaming blogs? It's because we're all cock-sure and full of ourselves. We like to feel important. We think our opinions matter more than other opinions. Even when we suck, we won't ever admit it, because we couldn't possibly suck more than everyone else. We're really just petty, overconfident, self-absorbed assholes who want you to read our words and ignore whatever anyone else is crapping out after a big taco lunch.

And I'm the worst of all of them.

5 comments:

Wytefang said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wytefang said...

While I realize that this is written slathered by a heavy dose of tongue mixed with cheek, I think the difference between your blog and others are the following key points:

1. You possess a great grasp of grammar, syntax, and punctuation - concisely speaking, you actually know how to write well.

2. You're great at infusing your writing with a self-awareness and sense of humor that are, sadly, missing in many, many similar gaming blogs.

3. While this term can come across insultingly, I'm using it without that insinuation - you're a know-it-all who has earned the right to use that tag. You actually know your stuff and have paid your dues. People would rather read someone's opinions with your level of experience behind them than Joe Dicebag, just starting out.

Keep up the good work, you already have more readers than most blogs. I can definitely understand the frustration, however, with the massive glut of blogs these days. Everyone has something to say, right?

PS. I deleted my original post because I wanted to edit a portion of my comments and couldn't find a means to do so. So I just re-posted it in a corrected format.

Hendal said...

I just like your style of writing, it makes me laugh.

Now what do you think about a site like BGG - do you have a problem with all the reviews over there?
Cause I love reviewing games myself, but to be honest I want to have played them at least 30- 50 times so I have a serious grasp of the game. For some games this is faster then others. But I read so many reviews from people who grasp the game and the mechanics, but they have played it 1-3 times - and I just think how well do they actually know the game?

Matt Drake said...

Actually, I think the BGG reviews are awesome. They're generally posted by people who, unlike myself, are not interested in earning accolades, and instead just want people to know about the game. That's one of the best review sources I know, especially because many games have multiple reviews. Unfortunately, that means you have to go to BGG, but in the immortal words of Captain Kirk, that's a chance you'll... have to take.

For really good game reviews, look for Appelcline and Vasel at RPG.net. Every Wednesday you can find a bunch of board game reviews, and if Vasel or Appelcline are writing them, they will be quite balanced. They won't be as interesting as mine, but they'll do a much better job of informing.

Truth said...

I think it is very easy for many other reviewers to be too kind with their reviews. Many reviewers become spokesmen for the games they are sent because they think that will get them more games. This may ring true for some like Tom Vassal because he got in on the ground floor and established himself, but for most it makes them just another voice in the crowd.

You don't fall into that trap, in fact you sell yourself on your shrewdness. That is what I think, in part, will lead the way for you to stand out... Though no one will want to send you their games. :D