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.