BoRT: I Blog, Therefore I Am (What, Exactly?)

It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to participate in Critical Distance’s “Blogs of the Round Table” feature, but since this month’s question hits me right where I live, I feel like I’ve gotta jump in:

What is the future of videogame blogging? Has it been usurped by social media and YouTube pundits, or is it still thriving? Is a one-sided conversation one worth having?

On his blog Only a GameChris Bateman summarises a recent ‘blog moot’ between several bloggers. Should blogs be about “exploring my own issues in a semi-public forum” as Corvus Elrod muses, or “something like an 18th century Salon… serious chat with nice folks” as Chris Lepine claims at The Artful Gamer?

Much like the last time I did one of these things, I’m torn between wanting to give what I think is the right answer on behalf of all videogame bloggers everywhere, and how I actually feel – which may or may not speak for anybody else.  In this particular case, I think I’ve got to opt with option 2.

Let me start at the beginning, then, and explain why I felt compelled to start a blog in the first place.

*     *     *

I started running a LiveJournal back in 2000, but didn’t start a videogame blog until 2004, when Gamespot unveiled their blog feature.  I seem to recall wanting to start the blog as some sort of soapbox for ranting and raving about stupid videogame industry shit (in those days, my ire was mostly directed at EA), but in re-reading those old entries, it’s much less of the ranting and a lot more of just day-to-day, “here’s what I’m playing and what I think of it” kind of stuff, which (for whatever reason) I felt compelled to keep separate from my other, day-to-day blogging.

Well, but hold on a second – the “for whatever reason” in the above paragraph is kind of key, as it turns out.  The reason I felt compelled to keep the game blog separate is because, in 2004, I felt like being a 29-year-old gamer was something shameful, and needed to be kept hidden.  To the outsider, videogames were not something to be taken seriously; the stereotypical gamer was either a 13-year-old brat calling you a fag over XboxLive, wholly unaware of irony as he teabagged your corpse in Halo, or a 30-year-old, mother’s-basement-dwelling shut-in playing World of Warcraft for weeks at a time.

And that’s just what I assumed non-gamers thought of me.  Actual gamers were much worse.  I had eventually managed to find a tight-knit group on the Gamespot forums, but that’s because we were all jonesing for some civilized discourse – commenters on most game sites are were just as vile and troll-ish as they were online.  It was impossible to carry a coherent conversation without a bunch of jackasses ruining it for everybody else.

*     *     *

Further to that “for whatever reason” thing above – this is from Tom Bissell’s Grantland piece about The Last of Us:

Despite the yada yada of video games’ growing cultural prominence, the amount of money they make (and lose), and the simple reality that maybe no creative medium has ever moved further faster, most people don’t take video games very seriously. I realize this comes as a shock to precisely no one who doesn’t play video games. Sometimes the fact that games are written off as adolescent nonsense bugs me. Sometimes it doesn’t, because a lot of games — a lot of great games — are adolescent nonsense. And sometimes I think that the worst thing to happen to video games would be for them to get taught widely in schools and reviewed in The New Yorker. As the novelist and critic (and gamer!) John Lanchester once wisely noted, “Respectability is a terrible thing for any art form. People wrote better novels when the cultural status of the novel was contested.”

*     *     *

9 years and 3 urls later, I’m still trying to figure out why I keep doing this.

I’d like to say it’s because I’m trying to “be a part of the conversation”, but the thing about having a blog is that it is, by definition, a monologue.   If I ask questions in my posts, they’re generally rhetorical in nature; I’m not doing this for the feedback.  Sometimes, I’m working out my own critical thinking in this space; other times I’m responding to the analyses of other critics; more often than not, I’m simply trying to keep track of what I’m playing and what I’m thinking about what I’m playing.

This idea of a “blog moot” / “bloot” is interesting to me, though.  Like Chris Bateman says:

… not all blogging is about community. My problem, and presumably Chris Lepine’s as well, is that right now none of the blogging is about community, which is a serious step down from where we were not that many years ago. So the situation going forward needs to be to leave the door open for community, when it is appropriate.

My first real blogging experience was on LiveJournal, which very much was a community.  Sure, it was primarily a place for me (and others) to vent about stupid shit and to navel gaze, but I quickly found a group of people who were venting and navel gazing about the same things, and so even though we were still just monologuing, we were doing it together.  It wasn’t nearly as cacophonous as it sounds.

Is it possible to get a gamer-blog network up and running?  Our own private Tumblr?  Where it would be easier for game bloggers to find each other, to read each other, and to communicate with one another?  Or does turning it into just another social network defeat the larger purpose?

(I think I’m going to continue this in a second post; for now, I want to send this off and see what happens.)

[This post is written for the July 2013 round of Blogs of the Round Table; read other submissions here:]

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