Back in my homeland, where I used to live and my employer still does, today is Family Day. If “Family Day” sounds like a weird, generalized holiday that’s because it is. Essentially parts of Canada got tired of not having any days off between New Years Day and Easter, and so in 2013 Family Day was born to much rejoicing.
This year of course I’m celebrating remotely. My household is currently under post-holiday austerity measures for both dollars and calories, so I’m spending this random Canadian holiday … playing video games all day in my pajamas. And not writing blog posts.
Over at Clean Casuals today Arwyn has a post on the difference between “game bloggers” and “game journalists” that I found interesting. In the wake of Massively’s closure there’s been some discussion of whether bloggers could fill the news, interviews, and reviews gap. We can just band together and be the new Massively, right?
Arwyn thinks that isn’t such a solid idea, and I’m inclined to agree. Instead of leaving a giant comment there I thought I’d post it here.
(As a sidenote the Massively folks launched their Kickstarter today for Massively Overpowered, so go support them if you are so inclined!)
Do I think some MMO bloggers “have the same strengths and skills as the paid writers, and could produce the same quality of work”? Yes, totally! A bunch of us have in the past or currently do write for professional game sites on the side. Do I think it’s a good replacement for something like Massively? Naaah.
The vast majority of bloggers have non-freelance dayjobs, which means they can’t write up the hot news when it happens, or watch E3 presentations live, or whatever. A Massively replacement wouldn’t have the same kind of dedicated staff as a site with professional journalist types.
Also I think sometimes people assume that because writing a personal blog is fun obviously writing articles for something like Massively is also “fun”. And sure, it is sometimes, but often it isn’t. It’s a job, and you’re writing about games you don’t care about or you can’t be as silly with your language because you’re a real site with a real ads. You have word counts and mandatory screenshots and professional relationships.
On my blog I don’t care about any of that. Hell, I barely care about forming a coherent argument, because it’s my blog suckas! And that is why I enjoy it so much.
Often people see writing about games, just like developing games, as a “fun” job because we all love video games. And while sure, it’s probably more fun than writing about hammers or something, it takes a good helping of time and dedication to churn out words about stuff even when you’re not feeling the fun. It’s a job, like any other job. Implying that hobby bloggers can just step in and take over with the same level of coverage and quality is vaguely insulting to professional writer types (like me in my day job!).
I actually didn’t read Massively very often, preferring the more loosey-goosey opinions of my fellow bloggers. But that doesn’t mean that the two are interchangeable. A professional game news site would be a poor place for Eri‘s swear-filled rants, and a blog that was just a straightforward listing of patch features wouldn’t be terribly interesting. We need both for a healthy MMO ecosystem.
As you probably noticed, earlier in the week I wrote a fairly tongue-in-cheek post about MMO payment models. It was largely inspired by Syl’s post on the same subject.
In her post Syl linked the Cat Context episode from June, 2013 where she sat down with my and Ellyndrial to talk about payment models. At the time she and I had been having a bit of a blog battle over the whole thing, myself being passionately in favor of subscriptions and Syl defending F2P as not being inherently terrible. (I think that’s a fair summary of our stances!)
When I read the most recent post I tried to stoke some of the old internal fire on this topic. I still don’t trust F2P games, and I think embracing them (by developers and players) has made some areas of gaming pretty messed up. I think the psychology of preying on whales is the same as the psychology behind casino gambling, and that makes me feel squicky. As I said in my brief “last word” post I like subscriptions, and I don’t play MMOs that don’t have some kind of subscription option because that’s just how I roll.
But when I sat down earlier this week to write yet another post on it all I realized… I just don’t care that much about it anymore. Over time in the MMO blogging community you see the same evergreen discussions come up again and again: Payment models, casual vs. hardcore, WoW destroyed MMOs, and so on. And while I certainly encourage folks to continue writing posts on those subjects when they have something to say, after 6+ years I’m not sure I do.
Not only that, but time and the supposed wisdom that comes with it has made me a little more tractable. When I try to adopt a philosophy of “everyone should play what makes them happy”, can I really get all raged up about payment model preferences? I dunno, man, if you’re having fun then I guess it’s all good.
Plus let’s face it, us grumps have lost this battle. My feelings about MMOs changed dramatically after the rise and sudden fall of WildStar. Here was a game that espoused all of the things that we old school, Burning Crusade fans wanted! There was raiding and challenging leveling content and elaborate crafting and subscriptions. And it turned out when faced with this throwback game.. for the most part, and for whatever reason, we didn’t actually want it. So much for pining for the old days. So much for bickering in support of the subscription model. I still feel a little lost about it, to be honest.
So this week instead of fighting the old battles and throwing down with other sites in rhetorical glee, I farmed up a hat for my chocobo.
… Ugh, casual bloggers are the worst.
I like subscriptions, but whatever.
(Editor’s Note: after publishing this post news broke that AoL officially laid off people from Joystiq, WoW Insider, and Massively. I’m sorry to see it wasn’t just a rumor.)
I wasn’t going to write anything about the potential shutdown of Massively (along with sister sites Joystiq and WoW Insider) because nothing has been officially announced and I try to resist writing about unconfirmed rumors. However, this morning I read the extremely grudge-wanky post I Hope Massively Shuts Down over at Keen and Graev and … it inspired me to write a response.
I’m not a big reader of Massively, although I do keep an eye on their Twitter and RSS feeds. I visit the site particularly when I want to get a feeling for how popular or how divisive a game change is. You can learn a lot about the MMO player community just by scanning to see which articles get the most comments.
And I sometimes have issues with Massively’s articles. There have been times when I didn’t think one was particularly well written, or I just felt it was a little too “press release-y”. I have written the occasional post here in the past when I disagreed with an article or I didn’t think the logic held up.
All of that aside, let’s be perfectly clear here: The loss of Massively would be a huge loss for the MMO community.
Keen’s mega-jerky post — because it was, let’s be honest — argues that Massively is bad because it’s “mass media”. Which.. okay, it is. It’s owned by AoL, it’s very popular in the scheme of MMO sites, and it gets attention from publishers based on that. According to Keen, Massively’s popularity turned “hundreds of thousands of people into sheeple”. They write about things people want to read! Those bastards!
Except, the whole mass media pablum argument isn’t the full story. You only had to read the comments on any article about gender equality in MMOs to see Editor-in-Chief Brianna Royce wade into the fray and share potentially unpopular decisions. Massively has also been a HUGE supporter of smaller, indie MMOs. They championed Glitch, a game near and dear to my heart. They’ve written articles about Age of Wushu and A Tale in the Desert and Wurm Online and a ton of other small games that many of us would possibly otherwise have missed completely. And straight up, they’ve linked this blog and Cat Context at least once each, and have a long history of linking other members of the MMO blogging community. Massively is GOOD for amateur blogs.
(Don’t even get me started on Keen’s accusations of fake game journalists. Like, seriously. He accuses them of not even playing MMOs! Are they just pretending to be MMO players because they like the attention?)
Yes, Massively is a business and has to meet certain metrics to be considered successful, including, I assume, page views. And yes, I’m sure at times they’ve written bland stories about hugely popular games almost entirely for the traffic, because that is what professional content sites do to stay alive. Perhaps I am biased as someone who has a job forming words (in marketing! evil marketing!) but I think it’s pretty okay for someone to make a living from writing about games, and it’s also pretty okay for a company to make money from distributing that writing.
All in all Keen’s post reads like sour grapes to me. Perhaps he believes that the demise of Massively will somehow make his blog more precious and special, but the fact is it just reduces the legitimacy of our area of interest. I’m not a huge Massively fan, but it is a recognizable name that can get into E3 and other shows, highlight smaller games, and link back to the community.
MMO consumers are better off in an ecosystem where Massively exists, and to wave your hands and say that good people should lose their livelihood because Massively is (shock) a business that requires a appealing to a large audience to stay alive is short-sighted at best and downright mean at worst.