You and Your Blob… errr… Blog

21 04 2008

by Drew “Gaiiden” Sikora
for casualindie.com

Introduction

Running GameDev.net makes it essential I stay in touch with game developers, and one way I do that is by following their blogs.

Here’s four great reasons as a developer why you should blog:

  1. Attract exposure to your game or studio
  2. Build community and fanbase around your blog
  3. Help your morale as an indie developer
  4. Use your blog as a muse and sketchbook for new ideas

I’ll cover these four benefits in detail. First, note that I’ll only be covering two kinds of blogs: Personal and Company. A third type I call Media blogs are ones like Indie Games Weblog or Kotaku. Although I enjoy these as well, for the most part they are beyond what we’re covering.

Personal blogs in this context refers to a blog belonging to and operated by a single individual (such as the ever loveable creator of Crayon Physics Petri Purho). It does not mean that it is a blog used to detail one’s personal life. Although we all have interesting stories to tell about ourselves, and many are suitable for sharing, that trip to the doctor’s office to get the tube inserted into the… yeah uhm, we all don’t need to know about that one.

Company blogs are when a development company owns the blog (like Cryptic Sea) and various team members post to it. No, a Personal blog owned by the sole proprietor of a company (like Petri’s Kloonigames) is not considered a Company blog, as that company is their personal property and not its own entity.

Blog Goodness #1: Exposure

The most obvious benefit to having a blog is exposure. Don’t worry, I’m referring to the decent kind here. How do you get people to read your blog? First, provide blog readers with constant updates of acceptable quality. If you have no content or the content is worthless, you will not draw readership. Now, simply tell your friends. Pass around links to entries you make and solicit feedback. Don’t be afraid to poke and prod to get people to check it out – they’re your friends after all. Once you have your inner circle covered, start expanding your reach and talking to other people who have similar blogs, they’ll most likely list you in their blog roll if they like what you’re doing. Meanwhile, your friends are telling their friends, who are telling their friends – you get the idea. Eventually you could see yourself up on places like Andy Schatz’s website Qatfish, which aggregates high-quality blogs from all over the net.

Blogs do not advertise themselves – people must first know you exist.

Blog Goodness #2: Community

Here’s the next great thing about blogs: the ability to reach out and connect with your audience. People who play your games will feel more attached to the product if they know the developers behind the title.This doesn’t necessarily mean they’re all your buddies, but it does create a user base that will stick around from project to project (so long as you stick around). As I mentioned, you’re not looking to share personal stories with your readers, unless those stories pass along some moral or intellectual benefit and wouldn’t make the average person uncomfortable to read (ahem). Instead, you mainly want to be as open and honest as possible about your company and your product(s). Help build a sense of responsiveness by making sure to respond directly to comments people leave.

People stick with others they can trust. If you’re always honest and open, they’ll have no reason to leave.

Blog Goodness #3: Morale

Blogs can do wonders for your productivity. How could you disappoint your huge blog audience by failing to complete a project? On the same note, how can you ignore all those many pleas for certain game features? How can you deny yourself the glory of releasing your title to many hyped-up individuals? By the time you’ve accrued a decent following on your blog, you’ve essentially created a cheerleading squad for yourself. Use it. You’ll be amazed at the motivation you’ll get from people genuinely interested in playing your game. Had a bad day? Post about it! You’ll most likely get plenty of comments from your readers to help pick up your spirits and carry on. For that last 10% that catches so many developers, having a load of people poking and prodding you along could well be what you need to push through to completion.

It’s not a one-way street. You have to give people something to be excited about! Post lots of cool images and videos and invite random readers to play test at various stages of development.

Blog Goodness #4: Muse

In the same vein as motivation comes inspiration, and not just from your readers, but from yourself as well. Use your blog as a place to creatively dish your thoughts out. Forcing yourself to place your thoughts in order so you can write about them has a way of making them clearer to you. Besides random musings, throwing up simple stuff like sketches and a screenshot of something funny and unexpected (be it a bug or some sort of emergent play) can also generate a lot of feedback from your readers that may lead you to think about things in a new light. Dreams are also great things to get down in your blog, because they don’t commonly last long in your memory.

In Conclusion

Despite all these benefits, blogs only matter if they have a purpose. Do not create a Personal blog for yourself and over time start posting more entries about your personal life (helpful though they may be) than about your project. Do not create a Company blog with half your staff posting about the game and the other half posting about whatever the hell they feel like or nothing at all.

People will come and read your blog for a reason, and although many will probably not admit it that reason is for their own self interest. You’re not blogging about you for you; if there’s nothing in your blog that people can take away and apply to themselves or leave feedback on to feel they are contributing, they will not read it.

Make sure at the very start that you know what you’re blogging about, and stay true to that purpose. Make sure everyone active on the blog also shares and understands the purpose of the blog. Finally, make sure your readers understand the purpose of your blog.

Have fun blogging, everyone! I’m off now to tell all my buddies about this cool new blog CasualIndie.com… in the meantime, kudos to all you old farts who got the title reference. See you around.

Drew “Gaiiden” Sikora is the executive producer of the indie/game development site GameDev.net and is an avid blogger and blog reader.

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5 responses

22 04 2008
Alexander

An interesting read for sure. I’m currently trying to increase visitors to my site again after a lengthy brake, and I find it motivates me a lot when someone has posted a comment. However, just because of the brake I had, much of the content on my site is old and needs to be replaced/updated. Until that’s done I’m kind of struggling with the idea whether or not I should leave a link in comments or forum posts, because just as you say: why should someone come back if there’s nothing to see, or when there aren’t any regular updates?

23 04 2008
Drew "Gaiiden" Sikora

Yea, best to wait until you have some recent stuff up. If people visit and see how long things have been dormant, they won’t be very eager to return.

23 04 2008
Brian

Just wondering if casualindie will have an RSS or Atom feed soon? I like what I’ve seen so far and want to follow along, and having a feed to subscribe to would be wonderful. Thanks!

23 04 2008
joshuadallman

Hi Brian, glad you like what you’ve seen so far. I just added an RSS link on the main page, please check it out. Thanks for the reminder that it was missing! Josh

30 04 2008
Keira Peney

Great site :D Look forward to seeing more of what you come out with. I personally love blogging – it is a tremendous way to make yourself think analytically about things.

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