Good morning, fight fans, and welcome to the first match of Blogger Blitz: Shipping Wars! This year’s event is all about putting the love shared between spouses, friends, lovers, family members, and even pets to the test through a series of wacky events. Our first event focuses on that most intimate of moments that two people can share: wiping snot off of your shirt after your friend or partner sneezes their brains out. Today’s match features competitors both old and new: in the red corner we have the pair of Commander Shepard and Ashley Williams sponsored by Around the Bonfire, and in the blue corner we have Tyrande Whisperwind and Malfurion Stormrage sponsored by Flameflash at the blog Monk of Mists.
For those brand new to the Blogger Blitz, this is how things go – on Monday, both competitors posted their submissions for the competition based on the writing prompt provided the week before. You can see Bonfire’s submission here and FlameFlash’s submission here. At that point our esteemed judges – Jace of Zen Mind Zen Life, Andrew of Serial Book Seller, and Heather of Just Geeking By – spent a few days reading over the posts and compiling comments based on the judging criteria for the competition. Competitors are judged on three categories: post structure and writing style, the portrayal of the shipped characters, and compliance with the terms of the event. The judges all submitted their votes for the winner, which I then deliver to you the audience in the form of this results post. While you don’t necessarily have to read the submissions of the competitors to appreciate this post, you’re probably going to get a lot more out of it if you know what two article are being compared.
So now that all of the introductory nonsense is out of the way, let’s get to what you really came here for: a knockdown drag-out battle between the worlds of Mass Effect and World of Warcraft!
I’m going to start in the category of event compliance, because as it turns out I have a bit of a confession to make here. Blogger Blitz is an event that has been going on for about three years now, and while the judges this year were tapped to provide a bit more help than usual, most of the behind-the-scenes mess of the competition is handled exclusively by me. I’m still learning the ropes in some ways and a lot of this is trial by fire; it’s only after the fact that I can look back and say “huh, that was maybe not executed as well as it could have been.” The event description for Sick Day Savior is one of those times.
Sick Day Savior specifically calls out that the effects of the sickness which has afflicted one member of each shipped pair should be “kooky.” Now that’s all well and good – the Blogger Blitz is nothing if not zany in nature – but looking back, some of the best event submissions we’ve ever seen were ones that dared to take the characters and the event prompts seriously. Whether it was the grim fate of Claire Redfield beneath the ship of the dread pirate LeChuck, the torture of the Shadow Broker at the hands of Frank Fontaine, or Lightning Farron’s tragic sacrifice to save the life of Baby Peach, Blogger Blitz has always welcomed and rewarded a more serious take on the event prompts. With Sick Day Savior, I created a situation which specifically punished a more serious take by costing a competitor points in the event compliance category. I incentivized being funny or goofy rather than giving competitors the opportunity to choose the tone of their own article.
If you’ve read the articles competing today, you can probably guess where I’m going here. FlameFlash submitted a lovely short story about the mighty Malfurion Stormrage losing total control over his shapeshifting due to a magical cold, and watching Tyrande’s antics as she attempts to remedy this disaster is as fun and kooky as one can imagine. Bonfire chose a very different but no less valid approach – in their submission we get to see the concern and admiration which Commander Shepard has for Ashley Williams as she risks her own life to save those of her comrades from a dangerous illness. Unfortunately, because the judges primarily have my event description driving their decision where event compliance is concerned, Bonfire’s more serious take ultimately led to FlameFlash being the clear winner in the category of event compliance. Jace mentioned here that “there wasn’t any mention of a kooky side effect,” and Andrew went on to agree: “they both hit the guidelines technically, but I think FlameFlash did a better job of it.” My apologies to Bonfire in this situation – my phrasing created a situation where your creative options were limited. But the battle is just getting started, so let’s move on to the second category for this match: structure!
One of the best parts of anticipating a Blogger Blitz match is having no idea what kinds of posts you’ll be reading on Monday. We’ve had short stories, bullet lists, sea shanties, play scripts, and even a PowerPoint presentation all make appearances over the course of the last two years. The competitors of Blogger Blitz are some of the most creative bloggers out there and they demonstrate that in spades through the articles that they write. Just as we had two very different approaches to the nature of the illness that afflicted the couples, we saw two very different post structures come into play to describe it.
FlameFlash chose the structure which has proven to be the most popular format for the competition, the short story. This is very much the safe play and it fits with the style that we saw on display from FlameFlash during last year’s competition. However, to say that it is standard is not to say that it is weak. “Can’t beat the classics” is an idiom for a reason, and FlameFlash demonstrated through his storytelling that he’s no slouch when it comes to weaving a yarn! Our resident World of Warcraft expert particularly enjoyed the touches which might only resonate with WoW fans, saying “he’s shown a great understanding of the whole universe and current events.” Of course, you didn’t have to be a WoW player to enjoy what FlameFlash brought to the table. Jace stated that “I like a story that can make you envision what’s going on.” The vivid descriptions of the environment did an excellent job of establishing a peaceful scene for Malfurion to later wreck with his raucous sneezes.
Bonfire chose a different approach that matches pretty well with the setting of Mass Effect: their post is formatted as a series of personal logs from Commander Shepard. These logs give us a direct look into what Shepard is thinking and allow us to experience the outbreak from his perspective. The logs were a big hit from a formatting perspective – Jace stated “I really like how it was set up as a series of personal logs!” Andrew agreed that the logs were “unique and clever,” but added that structure alone isn’t everything. “While the logs were clever and definitely earned points, I don’t think they were formatted particularly well.” Perhaps as a method of conveying Shepard’s military background, Bonfire chose to have the logs in long sections which lacked some traditional formatting tools like paragraphs or spacing. Heather described that it “reads more like a formal military log,” which she felt made it more difficult to empathize with Shepard’s emotional experience because the text had to convey a professional distance.
This brings post structure to a desperate tie: FlameFlash chose a safe structure but executed it with skill that prevented it from feeling boring while Bonfire used a very clever approach that, due to some missteps in the execution, fell just short of its full potential. This leaves FlameFlash with a slight lead thanks to the event compliance category, but the third and final category is a key one that could change the game drastically. Let’s dive into the portrayal of the characters and their relationships!
FlameFlash chose to portray Malfurion Stormrage as being afflicted with a sickness which took away control of his shapeshifting abilities, and this allowed us to see Tyrande’s calm demeanor as she dealt with the issue. She doesn’t allow the humor of the situation to pass her by either, enjoying the irony of a master shapeshifter being mercilessly thrown from one awkward form to another. Andrew stated that he quite liked the relationship displayed in FlameFlash’s submission. They “seemed like a couple who listened and were comfortable with one another…someone I could read more about.” Unfortunately, because FlameFlash put so much of his word count towards establishing the scene, these moments were maybe not as fleshed out as the judges would have liked. Heather elaborates: “I feel that all the effort put into the creative masterpiece I just described meant that Flameflash didn’t quite do it justice in terms of the ship. It’s clear that there is a relationship, however, without prior knowledge of the game, it’s really not obvious how deep their relationship goes.” Heather felt like her existing knowledge of the couple gave her more context to appreciate the relationship moments happening – without that context, it would be much more difficult to see how much these two cared. So while the romance did come across at least in some degree to our less WoW-educated judges, they felt that more attention could have been given to the back half of the submission, even if it had cost some of that excellent worldbuilding on the front end.
So how did the relationship between Commander Shepard and Ashley Williams come across? Bonfire chose to portray that relationship primarily from the perspective of Shepard, describing Shepard’s thoughts about the relationship after the fact in logs rather than giving detailed descriptions of the moments themselves playing out. “The ship doesn’t have to be romantic,” Andrew stated, “but there’s nothing from Ashley other than ‘she volunteered to host the cure.’ I think it could have been more fleshed out.” Heather agreed that “there is hardly any sense of emotion,” likely a side effect of the formatting choice. Shepard certainly describes the emotions that he feels and we get a sense for the his respect for Ashley’s sense of duty – Jace describes them both as “pretty cool” even though “I know nothing about the characters.” Yet while their coolness shines through, the full impact of the relationship between them gets lost in the details.
While FlameFlash and Bonfire have both been quite different up to this point, they both fell in the same trap at the end – such was their focus on establishing the setting and background that the judges felt time allotted for the relationships themselves was a bit lacking. It’s the subtle blade of the Blogger Blitz word count plunging in at the final moment, and neither competitor was able to avoid being cut.
So let’s review. Bonfire created a cleverly structured article with cool characters. Bonfire chose a serious tone for their story that, while condemned by the event description, was an interesting twist on the prompt that showcased a different aspect of the relationship between Shepard and Ashley rather than the typical romantic one. However, some weaknesses in the format of the post and a lack of emphasis on events as they happened created a distance that made it more difficult to empathize with the characters. FlameFlash chose the classic short story approach and crafted a believable, enticing world with his evocative descriptions. Those descriptions came back to bite him when the word count forced him to cut some relationship elements from the tail end of the story, but despite that he managed to show off the way in which his characters listened to one another and were comfortable in any situation. Only one of these competitors can come out on top, and this time, that competitor is:
FlameFlash and Tyrande Whisperwind! Our judges this year have chosen to give numerical scores along with their comments and FlameFlash scored a solid 3.5 across the board. Bonfire averaged out at 2.5, giving FlameFlash a decisive victory in the first round. While both writers did not quite get to spotlight the relationships of their characters due to a focus on other details, FlameFlash still conveyed the essence of the bond between Tyrande and Malfurion while Shepard’s professional distance in his logs made it difficult to understand the full depths of his care for Ashley. It was a tough first round and both competitors fought hard, so congratulations to FlameFlash and commiserations to Bonfire for a battle well fought!
I want to give one last thank you to our judges for all their hard work this week – particularly to Jace who sent me comments despite having final exams! Next week we’ll be back at 9 AM EST on Friday for the second match of the competition, so be sure to come back and visit Adventure Rules for more Blogger Blitz action. In the meantime, go check out both of our competitors from today’s match as they are great bloggers with plenty of excellent content to enjoy. Thanks for reading, fight fans, and have a wonderful weekend!