2019 is rocketing towards a conclusion, which means that soon we’ll be living in the 20’s. It’s a new decade, the opportunity for a new era in many ways. Just one of those myriad ways is in the world of game blogging collaborations, an activity that has changed quite a bit just since I started experiencing them as both creator and participant in 2017. Think back with me, if you will, to the good ole days. Question of the Month was a monthly blogging “competition” of sorts where the fans chose the winning submission. The Well-Red Mage posed a series of big questions which anyone in the community was welcome to answer. Both of my biggest community events, Charming and Open as well as the Blogger Blitz, found their start. But perhaps most importantly of all, NekoJonez organized a Legend of Zelda retrospective that has now become the hotness for community blogging projects.
This post is one of many as part of my own Charming and Open community event. This is the third time I’ve done Charming and Open in as many years (not counting when I experimented with a monthly format where I asked for questions on social media instead of on the blog proper). So it seems appropriate that as part of this community event, fellow community event creator and all around awesome blogger Kim from Later Levels asked me what the heck is gonna be going on with community events in the future. It’s an interesting topic to tackle, partly because in two cases I am aware of (and perhaps more), we already know some of the events that are coming in 2020!
Remember that Zelda retrospective from NekoJonez? That model is now the basis of an absolutely colossal Super Mario collaboration organized by The Well-Red Mage. I’m just one of countless bloggers who are submitting articles about one of the massive number of Mario games out there in the world. While everyone is writing their submissions this year, they’ll actually be released next year, with Red doing the grunt work as far as getting everything onto a central hub where folks can navigate to each article. This approach of working in 2019 on projects that will actually unveil in 2020 is the same philosophy driving the other big game-blogging collaboration I know about: The Characters That Define Us.
Organized by the always-ambitious Normal Happenings, The Characters That Define Us is the natural expansion of his truly impressive The Games That Define Us project. In 2018, Normal Happenings was wholly dedicated for a single month to posts from other bloggers who shared about video games that marked defining moments in their lives. The character project expands that into an entire year, with each week featuring a different article as well as featuring themed articles based on the character submission being highlighted that week. Normal Happenings has been working furiously behind the scenes to bring together all of the articles composed by other members of the blogging community.
Both of these gargantuan projects are truly impressive (or will be when we see them finally released), but they also go to show exactly how much effort it takes to organize a collaboration of such a scale. The work going into the biggest collaborations of 2020 is already happening in 2019 – so what does that mean for other collaborative projects in 2020? Do I anticipate that every community event I participate in next year will actually be loading up something to be published in 2021?
The answer to that is naturally no. These are massive projects hosted by bloggers who planned ahead and prepared for the degree of work necessary to make these projects happen. Not everyone will have the time to create projects on that scale. And realistically, how many community-wide projects can us bloggers really handle anyway? I’m barely getting my submissions for Charming and Open done on time, let alone the articles I’m writing for these other collabs. There’s a sustainability problem with community events that we have to be wary of as creators – burnout is a real concern for people who are doing all of this writing as a hobby rather than a career move.
So then, to address the meat of Kim’s question: what do I expect from the blogging collaborations of 2020? I’m going to share two predictions I have as well as the anecdotal evidence which lead me to my conclusions. This is also a great opportunity for me to talk about Adventure Rules collabs and some of my ideas for the types of events I may host in the coming year, so I’ll be incorporating that perspective into each point as well. Before I jump in though, there’s one last caveat I want to include. The game blogging community is vast, and really to say that every single game blogger is part of one “community” is a bit naive. We all have pockets in which we operate, little biomes in the massive ecosystem of game writing in which each of us know different people and engage in different ways. The followers of Adventure Rules are one pocket, sure, but I as a person also exist within the pockets of other creators that create interesting crossovers. I’m going to speak on trends that I see among the writers that I interact with the most, but that’s only one tiny part of all the people writing about games. So take my ideas for what they are – the perspective of one guy who hasn’t seen everything there is to see.
1. Blogging Collaborations Will Expand into New Mediums
One thing I have noticed in 2019 is a general decrease in participation in the community events of some of the blogs I follow as well as my own blog. It feels like the interest in these events are shrinking, that people are not as excited to collaborate as they once were. I once jokingly attributed this on Twitter to everyone being either busy or depressed, but in reality a different phenomenon was taking place. Collaborations weren’t ending – they were changing shape, and that shape is leading them to a different place than where I used to see them.
August 2020 will be the five year anniversary of Adventure Rules, but 2017 is the year when I really started taking the hobby seriously and engaging the group of folks that I now refer to as my “blogging community.” At the time, we were pretty much exclusively writers. Sure, on occasion someone would do a charity stream or something, but our main tool for communicating our passion for gaming was the blog post. As time has gone on, I’m seeing more and more of the folks that I used to blog with now be the folks that I watch streaming on Twitch, or listen to their podcasts, or subscribe to their YouTube channel. A lot of these projects are already collaborative in nature. See for example Magecast on The Well-Red Mage, or Boss Rush hosted by In Third Person. Many of the folks making appearances in these other mediums also have blogs, but their collaborative work is happening on screen or over a microphone. The interest in community events didn’t decrease – the collaborations are simply happening in different places now.
I expect this trend to continue in 2020. Blogs may be more accessible to start than those other mediums, but they have less reach. Society as a whole watches and listens more than they read – that’s certainly my experience, at any rate. So it’s only natural that those of us who want to continue getting our ideas out there are starting to do so using other outlets. The biggest written gaming publications also have podcasts and YouTube channels and Twitch, so us smaller outfits model that in an effort to better engage our audience. Earlier in 2019 I experimented with audio content on Adventure Rules and that’s something I probably will begin again when my circumstances are a bit friendlier to recording. I’ve also recently made an appearance on stream with In Third Person and definitely want to do stuff like that more often, so I can see myself being a part of the group moving towards this form of collaboration.
2. Blogging Collaborations Will Better Manage Their Scope
“Ian, are you sure about this one? You already talked about two gigantic community events that are happening in 2020. How is that ‘managing scope?'” Great question, adventurers! Managing the scope of a project doesn’t always mean dialing the scope back. What it does mean is acknowledging what a realistic timeframe looks like given the available resources. Normal Happenings didn’t roll up yesterday and say “hey, next year I’m doing a collab with a new intensely personal article every week, can ya’ll get on that?” For a community event lasting all of 2020, Normal Happenings has spent all of 2019 preparing. That’s what I mean by managing scope – now that most of us have a collaboration or two under our belts, we get the work it takes and are starting to better understand what works and what doesn’t.
I had a major learning experience with Blogger Blitz this year. I’ve done the event essentially the same way for three years, but this time it truly became clear how the Blogger Blitz model is not particularly sustainable. The issues apply primarily to the people behind the scenes. Judges realistically only have two weekday evenings to read two different articles and put together intelligent commentary on those articles – it leaves effectively no room for discussion or deliberation. For me as the host, I get one evening to write an article that involves reading two other articles, all the judicial commentary, filling my piece with links to other blogs, and creating unique art using the worst drawing tool known to man, MS Paint. It is horrific and impractical in a way that I can recognize with the benefit of hindsight was leading to burnout every single year – the time right after Blogger Blitz has always been a rough one for me.
If Blogger Blitz is happening in 2020, it will look radically different than it has up to this point. I will not run the event again in a way that is stressful and destructive for myself or for anyone else involved in the competition. I don’t know what that means as far as how many participants or judges there are, what the timeline for the event looks like, or if the community event born out of it is even still recognizable as “the Blogger Blitz.” But I’ve learned both from negative experience with my own event and the positive examples from bloggers who are running their events more strategically that learning to manage to scope of a project is an important skill in making these collaborative efforts successful.
It’s going to be interesting to see what 2020 brings to the table as far as blogging collaborations. I expect Adventure Rules to go through some changes as my own ideas for what a fun, sustainable collaboration looks like begin to shift. It seems that the whole community is shifting as well – maybe not all in the same direction, but with the same philosophy of pursuing new avenues that we are excited about. Someone whose blog was most active in 2017 may be tempted to shake their fist at the sky and decry how collaborations aren’t what they used to be – it was certainly my instinct when I saw interest in my own events dwindling – but I think that there are fantastic things happening in the community. I for one am excited to see where collaboration goes in 2020, and I hope my followers and friends are too.
A big thank-you is due to Kim for bringing up this topic as part of Charming and Open – be sure to head over to Later Levels to see her response to the question that I asked her. If reading this article has you itching to collaborate right now, you’re in luck: Charming and Open is still happening and you are more than welcome to submit a question which I will answer in a blog post much like this one. Click on this link to get started. Thanks for reading, adventurers, and I hope to see many of you coming up with amazing collaborations for the start of a new decade!