A sudden increase in real life activities has reduced the options in my schedule to touch base with my portfolio of virtual worlds, vis-à-vis reducing their year-on-year pig populations by leveraging a downward trend in numeric button height alignment to synergise skills with emerging b2b (boar to boar) stabbing opportunities. Coupled with a nasty cold which dramatically reduced my enthusiasm for anything other than possibly giving oral pleasure to those persons who invented balsam-infused tissues and Lemsip, I think it would probably suffice for me to say that gaming hasn’t been terribly high on my list of priorities this past week.
Strangely though, I’ve found ‘absence from blogging’ to be reflected in a more general malaise that seems to be taking hold in the part of the MMO blogging archipelago which I observe. There have been some long-standing names taking their leave of MMO reporting/punditry/enthusiastic babbling/satire recently; Ysh reports from her quantum mechanical blog –which is at the same time both finished and not finished– that Elder Game are moving on from general blog punditry into other areas of discussion. Not to mention the news of the Van Hemlock team hanging up their collective wide brimmed, face-shading podcast hats, possibly temporarily, possibly long term. For now, at least, they’re measuring ‘finished’ on the finished/not finished blog superposition state.
This latter announcement has been quite the blow to my blogging world view. It was m’colleague who truly started me out on the whole blogging affair, so I suppose you have him to blame; other friends were already blogging and offering encouragement, but it was m’colleague who pointed me at first to Tobold, and then Van Hemlock and others, before beginning his own musings while encouraging me to do the same. Tobold’s was probably the first MMO blog that I read regularly, and it was his blog that fuelled my enthusiasm for MMO blogging as a reader, but out of the big-name bloggers at the time, it was Van Hemlock who made me want to blog. I cannot tell you how many times I read and re-read the Ranterbury Tales, the title, theme and content of which appealed to me on many levels, and where the slightly irreverent tone in which the various tales were delivered revealed to me that blogging didn’t have to be all ‘Serieoues Bysinesse’, as Chaucer might have said before the cool kids came along and made the language all terribly confusing with their ‘srs bsns’s. I don’t think there’s any doubt that the MMO space is considerably poorer without the abundant richness of the posts of Tim ‘Van Hemlock’ Dale, and the subsequent evolutionary step into the excellently professional and seemingly effortless podcast banter between himself and the equally lucid Jon ‘Jon Shute’ Shute.
But we mustn’t forget that the blogosphere is a curious entity, entirely different from one person to the next. Since there are far more blogs out there than any one person could reasonably be expected to follow, drawing judgements and portents based on one’s own perspective of the MMO blogosphere is like trying to determine the shape of a pineapple from a pineapple ring. For what it’s worth, however, my own MMO blogosphere is noticeably quieter these days, where the overall level of enthusiasm seems to be the sort of mild head-drooped tail swishing excitement of an old arthritic dog at the prospect of a long walk, where the memories associated with it stir the centres of happiness, but the deep awareness of the inner self knows the truth of it: that it will be more pain and effort than it’s really worth. This stands in stark contrast to the boundless bouncing enthusiasm of the small yapping puppy which, in years past, the blogosphere appeared to me to be. Deep down I feel that I should urge games such as Guild Wars 2 and SW:TOR to not delay their releases too long, lest it be too late. Taking the time to ‘get it right’ is something that most bloggers have preached at one time or another, but I fear that in the time that developers have come to realise the truth of this (primarily through the industry’s own mistakes), the enthusiasm in the MMO space has entered a decline.
In the half year or more it takes for ArenaNet and Bioware to release their games, I wonder how many more bloggers will have left us. I’m not concerned from some foolish belief that the MMO blogosphere is important, that it influences the desires of the playing populace or developers. Instead I hold to the viewpoint that the MMO blogosphere is the mirror-surface on the pool of opinion which reflects the desires of the playing populace. If the people who are enthusiastic enough about a genre to take the time to write about it, for no tangible remuneration, are slowing down and slowly drifting away, then perhaps these are the ripples at the edge of the pool which reflect a deeper disturbance at its centre.
Then again, maybe I’m just miserable from having had a stinking cold for the past five days, and subconsciously I wanted everyone else to feel it too, in which case you can consider this the textual realisation of a runny nose and sore throat; take a couple of paracetamol and it’ll probably all be better in the morning.