With the folding of Massively and the rise of Massively Overpowered, I’ve seen some interesting conversations focusing on whether the community really needs another Massively, or if hobby bloggers could jump in and do the same job. Scree discusses the viewpoint where bloggers have the same strengths and skills as the paid writers, and could produce the same quality of work. While Kunzay argues that it just wouldn’t work.
My thoughts on it… game hobby blogging ≠ game journalism.
Let me explain why I feel this way.
It’s because I’ve done both! 😀
I’m a professional technical writer by trade. That is my full-time paying job. I’m a hobby blogger on the side, mostly because I love games, I love to write, and writing about games keeps me from getting too rusty due to a job that focuses on a more technical, dry writing style.
Before working where I do now, I spent years as a freelance writer that created content for various online website. Let me tell you, it’s a tough job. Lots of freedom, but your pay is always in your hands, based on your ambitions and work drive.
Part of what got me my freelance gig was a series of articles that I wrote for MMORPG.com many years ago. At the time, I was into Istaria, and I wanted to support the game more. I saw that MMORPG.com had an Istaria section, but the news was fairly negative and pretty outdated (the game has a rough history, but it has survived!).
So on a whim, I sent in an article (you could do that back then), which they accepted, paid me for (not much), and requested more. I was given an Istaria Correspondent title, which I still have today. The dev team at Istaria took notice quickly, because it was good exposure that the game needed. It was exciting to be that writer, to see my published work, and be acknowledged by the community manager.
This opened the way for communication between me and their community manager. I got to do fun things like walk with the dev team behind the scenes through their newest end-game dungeon. I got to discuss what providing a free to play option meant to the game, and reported on the major revamps to the game’s early content. Riding on the coattails of the “How to Train Your Dragon” movie release, I discussed Istaria’s most original claim to fame, their Dragon race.
Now the point of this wasn’t to give my old articles at MMORPG.com a bunch of link love. I wanted to give some background that shows I’m not just spouting a bunch of fluff without any experience.
Blogging vs. Journalism
First up, I want to say that I feel there are many skills that overlap between bloggers and journalists. Do I think a hobby blogger can write just as well as a journalist – absolutely!
But I also feel there’s a lot of differences, especially taking in an individual writer’s personality. Funny enough, I find many of us bloggers are on the shy side. We write because this is a “safe” way of expressing to the world what’s in our hearts. We want to open discussion and meet like-minded people, but we’re introverted, and it makes this difficult. Writing works to reach out and build bridges to other people.
Journalism shares writing and reporting skills, but also requires a lot more social skills. It’s about making strong, lasting connections with the “source” – be that a community manager or wherever the news comes from- as well as the audience. It takes a lot of courage for a shy person to, for example, work up interviews and to have that connection that makes the interview possible to start with!
It also takes a huge amount of organization and filtering information. New stuff comes riding in in waves, and you’re rushing to get out good quality work in a timely way. There are deadlines to contend with that hobby blogging just doesn’t have.
Another quick story about my adventures in blogging/semi-journalism.
I got really, really into breedable pets in Second Life a few years back. So, I created a news blog dedicated to my love of Second Life pets. I had no idea how much work this would eventually become.
What started as a hobby quickly turned into following over a dozen RSS feeds, joining twenty-something in-world groups, juggling dev submissions and media releases – all just to stay on top of the newest releases from all the various breedable pet developers in game. I was also interviewed by CNN iReport, and sent a cease and desist warning. Not because I did anything wrong, but because a breedable I reported on was using a copyrighted name… and the ones taking legal action couldn’t tell a blog apart from the actual developer site. Even though I had a disclaimer. Go figure. 😄
While I still do keep up with breedable pet news, I had to cut it back once I launched this blog. It got to be very, very stressful trying to keep all the information and newest releases organized. And this was just for a group of developers that numbered less than 20 – not a huge gaming world like journalists at Massively had to cover.
Then you had to cover things without bias. For example, maybe you really didn’t personally support something about developer XYZ. But to be fair and report honestly, you can’t make that known. There were some developers I didn’t want to cover and offer exposure. It would have been pretty obvious if I’d just left them out, though, that I was shunning a certain breedable and talking up another.
There’s just not the same freedom in writing unbiased news as there is flopping your opinions out there as a blogger.
And the Final Big Questions
What happens when your hobby becomes your work?
What happens when you’re not writing because you like to, but because it pays the bills?
It’s not always a terrible thing (I love my job), but you can’t shrug off writing on days when you “don’t feel like it” when it keeps the lights on.
My Final Take
So, to sum it up, do I think a hobby blogger can attempt to take on the job of a game journalist? Sure, have at it.
Do I think hobby bloggers should have ambitions to overtake the spot of a large game journalism site? Well…
Would we want to…? That might be the better question.
Though we write to the same community, I think both serves a slightly different purpose. One purpose is not more important than another, just like one writer isn’t better than another due to the site they post on.