MMO Games and Character Blogging

I’ve recently gotten into game blogging in a big way. And I’m not talking about game design blogs like this one; no, most of my time has been spent in the WoW blogosphere, reveling in the hundreds of personal blogs that spring up every month to celebrate and share someone’s play experience, specialized knowledge, or weird little project. I tend to think of these as character blogs: instead of being about “games” or even “WoW”, they are primarily about “my character” or “my experience” in the game.

I prefer MMO games to single player games in large part because of the shared experience. My game experience is more exciting — more important! — because I am adventuring in a shared world where I can see and interact with other players. Character blogging extends that shared experience; it allows me to share not just the virtual world and the big events that happen there, but also the smaller personal events: buying my mount, the battleground I did this weekend, a trick I learned for raising my weapon skill. To turn that around, reading other players’ blogs allows me to connect with them whether or not they play on my server. It gives me more personal (and often more trustworthy) views of other classes, factions, and perspectives.

I also find that character blogs tend to highlight the diversity in our games. Sure, there are lots of twenty-something guys with night elf hunters who post about their twice-weekly raids and PvP pwnage. But there are also a disproportionate number of women blogging about their game experiences, as well as older folks and even families who both play and blog together. We know these people are out there, of course, but these blogs — while perhaps not exactly representative — do help make the diversity of our audience more personal and immediate.

If I were running an MMO team right now, I’d be seriously thinking about how to leverage this character blogging to the benefit of my game’s community. Some basic ideas:

  • Spotlight useful blog posts on the game’s official community page. I would focus on particular posts rather than an entire blog: it’s much easier to vet a single post, and since it is also much easier to write the occasional brilliant post, you can hit a wider variety of blogs this way. You can also spotlight interesting stories or opinion pieces, but your bread-and-butter should be informational posts: how-tos, tutorials, game info, and so on.
  • Provide and promote some simple tools for blogging players. Some games already provide fansite press kits as well as desktop backgrounds, so you could easily extend this with some simple blog theme elements. Imagine, for instance, a game-themed RSS icon or some sample header graphics. And don’t make the rookie mistake of taking down your theme elements after your expansion-pack promos end, like some games I could name. Blogging keeps your players engaged even when nothing big is happening in the game world, so support that by giving your bloggers tools even during the slow times.
  • Aim an occasional contest at your character bloggers. Even if you don’t have a prize, you can suggest a topic (a la “My Favorite Zone”) and assemble a list of blogs who respond with a post on that topic before the deadline.

Really, these ideas come down to encouraging your players to blog about their experiences and then helping your blogging players connect with each other. By fostering this kind of extra-game community you help keep players positively engaged with your world.

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10 Responses to MMO Games and Character Blogging

  1. Jason says:

    I tried this in WoW with a little blog called “Sneaking Sixty”. The idea was to take a rogue and level him entirely without fighting, and instead focus on exploration and non-combat related quests. Sadly, it turned out WoW thought of that and level bounded exploration experience so that even if my level 9 character survived and managed to explore the entirety of the Western Plaguelands, he would earn no exp for it. Which I did, and he didn’t.

  2. On that topic (character blogging), I think a twitter-style RSS feed for your MMOG character that you can post on your blog would be really cool. We already have live WoW gear and skill updates via the Armory– why not have that information available via a code snippet that would say things like “Gork dinged 47 last night in STV!” or “Gork is thrilled with his new Amulet of 1000 Death Beetles!”?

  3. Sandra says:

    Jason: There’s an undead priest/gnome rogue currently trying the same basic project, although you’re right that the exploration experience isn’t enough on its own. Reading the list of delivery quests he goes through is always inspiring.

    Cameron: That’s an excellent idea, and probably not nearly as complicated to set up as Vanguard’s auto-screenshot/blog feature (which I really should have mentioned except I forgot about it).

  4. Azaroth says:

    Spotlighting this kind of thing is a fantastic idea. It’s all about commuunity.

    Of course, I’d probably do it on a specialized page with the player’s post and a little picture of their character, or whatever. Name recognition is fine, but actually linking to a blog may not be a good idea. Suddenly people start doing it for money, putting up ads, griefing with the old witty post -> gay porn switch out, etc.

    Okay, those things probably wouldn’t happen. At least all that much. But the first time it did, especially if you’re, for example, working on WoW – you’ll very much regret linking 30,000 grandmother/granddaughter teams to replicas of goatse.cx when the lawsuits start to roll in.

  5. Grimwell says:

    It’s only because I like you that I say this….

    I. Hate. You.

    Stop saying things that make sense when I don’t work with you any more. :(

  6. rmckee78 says:

    I enjoy reading character blogs, and even (sort of) have one myself. I never was interested in them before, but since I have been playing WoW I find that they are actually the best way to get a sense of community from the game. The boards are a total mess and the in game interaction with other players is limited (mostly due to its fast pace I think). Now my WoW community consists of people on a bunch of different servers, in fact in consists of a bunch of people who are playing other MMOs too. I have learned a lot about games I have never really played in order to appreciate their achievements.I feel like I have gone back to the times where we were all playing single player RPGs and talking about them online.

  7. Talyn says:

    I, too, enjoy reading character blogs and may include them someday on my own blog. Vanguard has an auto-blog feature that takes a screenshot when you ding certain levels (or maybe every level) and I thought LOTRO was supposed to take that idea and expand upon it, but I don’t think it’s ever materialized yet.

    One idea I had was, when we create our characters we can also select various settings for personality, then an actual blog entry will be automated per that personality in a similar manner to the way 360voice.com works. The player would have the option of manually editing any entries, and of course changing personality descriptions to change the “tone of voice” the blog was written in. This could cover not only levels, but pretty much everything you did from which town you began in today, to talking to which NPC’s and where you traveled, which quests you completed, which gear you decided to wear, how much gold you earned/lost… any number of things could be auto-recorded, and yes, the obligatory XML feed for inclusion on your own site.

  8. Bryant says:

    It’s a huge win, and blogs can satisfy a ton of different urges. For a while I had a completely IC blog for my RP character. Currently I’m keeping a record of my raiding optimizations for my warrior; it’s a forum thread, but it should be a blog when you get right down to it.

    If I were feeling deeply radical, I’d consider taking the Livejournal codebase (which is open source) and implementing it as a replacement for forums. Generate an account for each game account, and let people post there instead of forums. It’d be an interesting experiment in community. I don’t think you’d have the same sort of broad community that a forum generates, because there’s no reasonable expectation that anyone will see your plaintive post.

    And that alone might be sufficient to keep players from buying into it. Hm. Perhaps a couple of complaint/suggestion communities to provide that outlet?

    I can imagine a community with stronger social links among smaller networks, rather than the sort of pyramidal structure you get with forums (a small number of frequent posters dominating).

  9. Pike says:

    I’m rather flattered to see my own blog there as an example. I do enjoy reading these types of blogs and writing these types of blogs, and further incorporation between blogs and the game would be truly something I would enjoy– I would love some WoW-related blog themes.

  10. Sandra says:

    Hey, Pike! Great to see you here. :>

    Bryant: I think both structures have their place. Forums are often a good medium for quick distribution of news, whereas it takes a lot longer for news to percolate through the blogosphere. And forums are excellent for getting questions answered quickly. (Well, the medium is good for it; the answers may not be very good. *grin*)