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What Makes A Good Gaming Blog?

August 25th, 2008 by Troy Goodfellow · 7 Comments · Blogs

I saw this linked by Andrew Sullivan, and I thought I would pass it on. I especially appreciated these two:

Good blogs reflect focused obsessions. People start real blogs because they think about something a lot. Maybe even five things. But, their brain so overflows with curiosity about a family of topics that they can’t stop reading and writing about it. They make and consume smart forebrain porn. So: where do this person’s obsessions take them?

Good blog posts are made of paragraphs. Blog posts are written, not defecated. They show some level of craft, thinking, and continuity beyond the word count mandated by the Owner of Your Plantation. If a blog has fixed limits on post minimums and maximums? It’s not a blog: it’s a website that hires writers. Which is fine. But, it’s not really a blog.

Gaming blogs, like other blogs, are everywhere now. It seems to be the preferred form for what would have been just another gaming website ten years ago; I can easily imagine my two favorite general gaming blogs (Rock, Paper, Shotgun and Fidgit) existing in a pre-2002 online world. Same with Game Politics, easily the best gaming blog that isn’t about gaming.

News blogs were the new big thing for a while. Kotaku and Joystiq clones that tried to cover a lot of material, and existed mostly to link to other people’s work or ideas and providing little original insight. At their worst, news blogs are just RSS feeds with more writing. At their best, news blogs offer the sort of commentary that was germane to the blogger’s original purpose – freeing individuals to write about what interests them and provide unique insight into an ongoing story.

Bit by bit, though, people are coming back to the focused “here’s-what-I-think” format for gaming blogs, either on particular genres or particular issues. MMOs are the heavily blogged genre because there is a lot to talk about and a lot of human drama and have always been popular blogging subjects. Then we have video blogs, which have the weakness of irregular updates and the fact that most people have no idea how stupid they look on camera.

So, gentle readers, what do you look for in a gaming blog? And, if you write one, what do you try to do to keep your readers happy?


7 Comments so far ↓

  • Justin Fletcher

    I look for what you’ve already identified in your post: focus, insight, and good writing. I don’t need another Joystiq, which is my go-to site for “just the facts ma’am” blogging.

    Focus allows for a greater depth of analysis on a topic, as all Flash of Steel readers know. Insight offers different perspectives that might give me a reason to care about something they would have never been on my radar otherwise.

    However, I look for good writing most of all. You can be an expert in the field with a unique understanding of gaming, but if you can’t string two sentences together, then it’s not gonna penetrate no how. The sad truth is that most gaming blogs (and blogs in general) comprise people who have something to say but don’t know how to say it effectively.

    Then there is design: If I can’t stand to look at a site, I’m not going to read it. I love Rock, Paper, Shotgun, but I always flinch when I click over to its tab in Firefox. I can’t put my finger on what bugs me about it other than I wish that it were “simpler.” Flash of Steel and Fidgit are two of my fave raves in the layout department.

  • Corvus

    I’ve learned that trying to focus on what my readers want isn’t the optimal route (that’s a bit of an in-joke on my topic of the week) to follow with my blog.

    My readers seem to be most entertained, engaged, and participatory when I’m writing on topics I’m really passionate about.

    Which is a pretty nice win-win situation to be in. My readership rocks.

  • Troy

    Of course, Corvus. Good blogs draw a particular readership because they have that sort of passion, and changing content to address what you think your audience wants is self-defeating.

    And you do have a high class readership. The discussions in your comments make my head spin.

  • Scott R. Krol

    Originality. Nothing is more annoying than clicking through all the “news” blogs to see the same story repeated over and over again. It’s one thing if it’s in reaction to a current topic that has everyone buzzing, but far too often it’s just the usual cut-n-paste press release entry smothered in a dose of hepcat sarcasm.

    Then of course there’s just the undefinable quality of “hey, I like this guy/gal/group” and what they write. There are far too many blogs out there to keep up with even a fraction of them, so ultimately the ones I go back to (outside of the “news” blogs) are going to be the ones that entertain me, for whatever reason.

  • Darius K.

    I try to write about areas where I feel like have some expertise, or possibly where I have a unique take on something common. Obviously my networking articles fall in the first category. Usually when I write about a video game, it’s about my own personal history with a game, be it my history of watching the development of Braid, or my intense personal interactions with Everyday Shooter. Also in the second category is industry news about semi-obscure game developers, or things happening in the Boston game industry.

    I started my blog aiming to write about game design. But I realized that I’m not really an expert on that, and even when I say something smart, it’s usually been said elsewhere by someone smarter than me. So about six months after I started my blog, I wrote my first networking article. In fact, the original intro to my networking series began:

    “Many people have told me that I’m good at networking. I guess the fact that (1) I know many people, and (2) that they think highly of me in at least one regard, is circumstantial evidence enough to corroborate this.”

    In other words, I decided to write about networking because of my expertise in that area.

  • James Allen

    You know what I hate? Blogs that pretend they are review sites. Especially ones that don’t have any screenshots or graphics. What the heck is up with that?

  • JonathanStrange

    I like variety and originality mixed with personal opinion, commentary and references (either links or allusions) to other games and related topics.

    I like second looks at old games and discussion of probably trivial details of new games: what they portend, what it means, why it’s great, why it’s not.

    I like introspective posts on why a certain game failed to thrill one; though I tire of sarcastic putdowns. I want to understand why something was done a certain way or how the critic thinks it should have been done.

    I enjoy opinions that defend with passion (but not anger or contempt) games ignored or out of favor.

    Gaming forums often stifle dissenting opinions on games by ganging up on the minority or simply ignoring them: take a position but defend it passionately. Don’t pretend you’re an objective “just the facts” reporter.

    But have a variety of topics, and stay current. If you update less than once a week, I’ll visit you less than once a month.