Tuesday, 10 July 2012

One month in, already looking back

Well, only looking back to look ahead.

When I started this blog I did have an urge, and a bit of direction of where I want this to go. I decided it would be games and history, rather than me. So it excludes a lot of personal stuff, or other interests, like music. Not that I don't want to talk about it, it's just that focussing saves me from getting overwhelmed by stuff I need to write about.

Working on it has sharpened my ideas of where this blog's headed. I've found that even editing blogs I'd written in the past or just adding images is a pretty laborous job. Keeping up a steady flow of posts is hard. One might also wonder whether it's better to have daily updates or a fewer updates of higher quality. I'll have to see. I also need to build up some reserves for holiday gaps.

There's been a lot of discussion on boardgaming sites about criticism, that is in the sense of critique rather than railing against games you don't like. Of course, this has been a longer standing issue from people at Fortress Ameritrash, but it's gaining a wider recognition. Jesse Dean, Pete Ruth and Matt Drake have been vocal recently in that debate.

Interesting about boardgaming (and to a lesser extent wargaming) is that many people fancy themselves as designers and reviewers and to have a game published is a true source of status withing these groups. Designer badges are worn with special pride on BoardGameGeek, some established reviewer have committed followings. That also means there is great support for those attempting to design, write or review games.

However, the enthusiasm is not always matched by critical skills. Many don't go beyond the recapitulation of the rules and most don't give an outspoken opinion about the quality of the game. Of course no reviewer wants to hurt the feelings of a fellow gamer who's spent so much time and effort in creating a game. Others can progress past the failings of their favourite designers.

And if reviewers are outspoken, the reactions by fanboys will quickly put them in their place. It takes some backbone to maintain an independent view and not everybody wants to risk ostracism for his opinions. It's given rise to the "weak 7 / strong 7" rating practice.

But that's not in the interest of prospective buyers, and in the end, also not in the interest of game designers and publishers. Players disappointed by games with really good reviews will be turn away from gaming, or at least from reviews. In the long run, that will lose publishers money and have designers waste time on mediocre designs that could have gone better spent on playing games.

I've found that I'm not exceptionally good as a reviewer, neither of games nor books. I think I'm still rooted to much in the immediate experience and the content to appreciate the way a game or book is crafted. So maybe I shouldn't aim my efforts in that area, but stick to the content and the immediate experience. It's just the way I'm wired. Others can do the criticism better than I can.

Derk's beautifully painted Romano-British 28mm Gripping Beast

So far I'm pretty happy with the level of attention for my blog. All in all over 800 hits in the first month is decent in my book. Given the wide array of subjects, I don't expect everyone to like every post, and I will need to build my tribe one member at the time. I'm not sure I will travel the path of give aways to gain followers, but at least not for the immediate future.

My Dark Ages skirmishing, Waterloo and Last Crusaders posts stand out as the best read with over 60 hits, which says a bit about my distribution. A lot of the traffic comes through Facebook, which is fine. Not so much through Twitter just yet.

Finally, when looking at the future of this blog, I've got a couple of people in mind whose ideas on games I find interesting and worthwhile but who don't want to take on the effort of maintaining a full blog themselves. I have invited a few already to join in here, and I will be asking others.

Also, I do a fair amount of grazing on board and wargaming blogs, so I could occassionally drop a few links here as well.

So, what do you guys think? Am I going in the right direction? Suggestions? Requests?

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