Friday, February 02, 2007

Blogging and Good-byes

I was sad to see this week that the gaming community lost two more bloggers. Of course, I am talking about Gone Gaming’s own Yehuda Berlinger, and also Chris Farrell whose analytical mind has produced many essays that I’ve found insightful. These sad departures started me thinking about blogging and it’s relationship to the hobby.

In the big scheme of things I don’t consider the hobby itself very important. Not in the way that fighting hunger, curing diseases, or battling the horrible political movement that you most despise is considered important. Of course, from this point of view professional football isn’t important, no matter how many billions of dollars it generates.

But any harmless activity that creates human joy is not to be scorned. When I told my parents that I had recently played a five-hour game about German parliamentary elections, they laughed in a kind of bewildered amazement. I’m sure doing something like that sounds like a short version of hell to them, and to perhaps to many other people. But the hours I spent trying to figure out how to win Die Macher may have been the most happy of my whole week, Part of that happiness comes from the company I keep when playing the games, but part of it is simply the joy of competitive thinking, as Yehuda recently described gaming.

Of course, blogging about gaming has none of these pleasures—neither the social pleasure nor the fun of intellectual competition. It is essentially a solitary activity. Bloggers choose their topic alone, and churn out their prose alone. Blogging lacks most of the facets of the hobby that make it so enjoyable.

And in America there is something suspicious or obsessive about writing pages and pages without being paid to do so. We rant without tangible reward. If gaming sometimes seems a marginal hobby, blogging can sometimes seem like the ephemera of the marginal. Our prose lingers only slightly longer than today’s conversation, and yet we insist on typing and posting as if our words actually mattered somehow. Are we delusional? Or do we merely have an inflated opinion of our own worth?

I actually think there are rewards for blogging, even if they are intangible.

First, the obligation to constantly analyze sharpens the mind of the analyzer. I spent five or six years in Hollywood as a freelance script reader. I was paid to read and comment on hundreds--or maybe thousands--of scripts, novels, non-fiction accounts, magazine articles, alternative gay comic books, and the odd Scientologist tome. The job forced me to have an opinion, and the obligation to have an opinion strengthened my analytical skills. Slowly. Incrementally. I became better at analyzing stories. Knowing the nuts and bolts of scriptwriting hasn’t been a particularly lucrative mental asset, but I don’t regret the years I spent reading scripts for little money. I still enjoy movies, even if I am more critical than I used to be.

Commenting on gaming has made me more analytical about games. I don’t have the depth of insight of a Chris Farrell or a Shannon Appelcline or Mike Siggins, but I’m smarter about the hobby than I was a year ago. And I expect to be even smarter a year from now. Like gaming itself, blogging sharpens the mind. Ever so slowly. Ever so slightly.

The second benefit to gaming blogging is, of course, the free games. Publishers love to give away free games to anyone who could say something positive about them online. In 2006 Fantasy Flight Games alone must have sent me two hundred pounds of cardboard and plastic.

Just kidding. Had you for a second, didn’t I? I’ve never received a free game. You think I’m Greg Schloesser?

No, I said up front that most of the benefits are intangible, and my second benefit may even be more hypothetical than real.

I’m talking about blog authorship being a calling card in the hobby. I hope gamers read Gone Gaming, although I actually haven’t a clue about how many people click on it regularly. I can say that so far I have received one compliment in person about the blog, and I did get a press pass at Origins last year when I had barely started with Gone Gaming. But if blog authorship makes it easier in the future to meet people in the hobby then it will all be worthwhile.

Perhaps the greatest benefit (besides the ones that come from exercising the writing muscle regularly regardless of the subject matter) comes from developing a dialogue with those who post comments. Those who agree with my views, and (especially) those who disagree have made me think and rethink my own positions. I’ve been fortunate to have intelligent critics post their comments here, and Chris Farrell has certainly been among the most thoughtful.

Yehuda Berlinger hasn’t debated me about weighty gaming issues on the site, but his essays have done something even rarer. He has made me laugh.

I hope Yehuda and Chris believe their hours at the keyboard commenting on the hobby was time well spent. They will be missed.


Yehuda Berlinger said...

Thanks, Kris. But I'm not leaving blogging. I'm just taking a break from Gone Gaming.

I'm too focused on other issues other than gaming, and I'm spreading too thin to come up with something here on a regular basis. Concentrating all of my game material on my own blog for a while is a needed simplification.

I hope you take time to visit my blog once in a while. I'll try to get to some weighty gaming issues.


Mario Aguila said...

I think the boardgames must be taken like a hobby not like a work. If you need to write periodically it's more like a work....

Gerald McD said...

I maintain a couple of personal blogs (one regularly, one sporadically). I enjoy receiving comments, but the general-topic blog is primarily for my enjoyment. Yes, I could write in a private journal and not share the information with the world at large, and I do some of that with certain topics, but occasionally someone comments on my general blog, and the feedback is interesting to read.

Blogging is very much like journaling -- clears the mind, clarifies thinking, exercises the intellect. But, good blogging also requires the additional thought process necessary to make the material readable, logical, and meaningful, since there is a potential audience. Journaling can be unstructured, stream-of-conciousness, emotionally laden. Well, lots of blogs are too, but they would be better kept as private journals, in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Bloggers come and go, but Gaming is always here. I blog from time to time, but I find it too tedious. I'd rather play more games!