In less than one week from the time this article is posted, it will be the year 2020. For Adventure Rules, the very end of the month of August will mark five full years since the beginning of the blog. Five is a number with arbitrary significance in society with the fifth anniversary being the next “milestone” after the first, but it’s a number that is significant for me personally in many ways too. Five years for a guy under 30 is still a pretty significant amount of his life – anything that I have done or stuck to for five years could be said to be a major part of my life up to this point. Five years is as long as I have had a child, five years is longer than I went to college (a hugely formative time in my life) – it’s longer than I have worked any one job and longer than any dating relationship I have experienced except for the one with my spouse. Adventure Rules and I have been together for a long time, and it’s interesting to think about how much has changed during that time.
When I originally started Adventure Rules, my vision for the site was to use it for practice. At the time my ultimate career goal was to become a novelist and I saw blogging as training for that goal. Getting into the habit of writing on a regular schedule, having a live audience for that writing where I could get feedback and learn to improve – I felt those things would sharpen my abilities as a fiction writer. I chose video games as the topic only because I felt that video games were something that I could talk about with great frequency. Originally, the blog’s concept was “Video Game Advice for Real Life Problems,” and the earliest articles on Adventure Rules are goofy ones about cooking your kids lunch with spells from Ni No Kuni or using the morphogenetic field to pass a college exam.
As my career goals changed, Adventure Rules changed. For roughly a year of the blog’s existence I looked at it as one potential way to get out of warehouse work. I hated my job and entering the field of game journalism seemed like as good of a way out as any. I decided to make my articles more “journalistic” and focused hard on doing reviews, covering news releases like E3 and Nintendo Directs, and cut out anything goofy as well as anything related to fiction writing. I actually did apply during that time for a couple of small websites hoping to get on as a writer, but didn’t have any luck at that. That time was a miserable period in my life for a lot of different reasons, so it is perhaps not shocking to learn that I wasn’t particularly happy with where Adventure Rules had ended up.
2017 and 2018 were probably what I would call the golden years of Adventure Rules up to this point. The change to the blog resulted from a change in philosophy. I shifted perspective from thinking of Adventure Rules as a career jumpstart (in 2017 I was working full-time at an entry-level position in the agency where I am now a supervisor) and instead decided to double-down on the idea of Adventure Rules as nothing more than a hobby, an outlet for me to do fun things and connect with creative people. I set goals that were not follower related or really numbers related at all and instead instilled three values: Community, Consistency, and Quality (quality technically came later, I think at the start of 2018). I felt that the most important thing I could do to get the blog really going was to post on a reliable schedule and to interact frequently with other bloggers. These are the years where I formed many of the blogging friendships that I have today, and from a stats perspective both years resulted in massive growth.
2019 has been a rough year because the majority of it has been spent battling with depression. I first realized I was probably experiencing mild depression in late 2018, but in March of 2019 I had a breakdown that brought me to my metaphorical rock bottom. Adventure Rules had to take a break during that time and in some ways I don’t feel like it has ever come back to what it once was. But the thing is, I’m not the same person. Over the course of the last nine months Robert Ian Shepard as a person was stripped down to the very core, every aspect of his identity brought into question. Some stayed the same but many shifted, some in small ways and some in deeply impactful ones. What my new self hopes to accomplishment – heck, my perspective on what accomplishment even means or how one should strive for it – has shifted, and Adventure Rules with it. I think now I have a healthier vision of what it means to balance this website with a busy life, and how it can be used as a tool to build supports for my mental health rather than serving as a contributing factor towards burnout. It means something that this was the first year in three years of Blogger Blitz where my mood didn’t bottom out for weeks after it was over.
I’m going into 2020 with a healthier perspective on what it means to be a blogger, with more manageable expectations about what that means in terms of workload. I’m also more open to the idea of Adventure Rules moving in directions that I don’t anticipate. Maybe the kinds of posts that I write will change. Currently I write three articles a week taking in-depth looks at two or three video games that I am currently playing, but maybe that won’t always be what I find interesting or fun. And that’s okay. This blog is my hobby – it immediately becomes worthless when it creates more stress than it relieves. It loses value when the act of maintaining it reduces my opportunities to connect with other people instead of increasing them. With that perspective in mind, I think I can push Adventure Rules in a new direction that may not be the “right move” in terms of followers, likes, or SEO, but will be a better fit in the life of the happier and healthier person that I am striving to become.
Jett at In Third Person asked as part of the Charming and Open event here on the blog what my blogging bucket list looks like. What do I hope to eventually achieve as a content creator? I hope what I have shared in the article up to this point brings some context that helps to add to that list. The ideas I am going to share, the visions of the future, are not things I want to do because I think they’ll make Adventure Rules more popular or because I see moving into the realm of “content creator” as my ultimate career goal. I want to create content that I find to be fulfilling and fun, and these ideas seem like things that I would deeply enjoy. So with all of that as the backdrop, let’s look at some things I hope to accomplish on Adventure Rules – maybe not in 2020, but at some point in the future of the blog.
1. ADVENTURE RULES AUDIO ARCHIVES
This is a project that I announced back in March of 2019 – in fact, I announced it the very day that my brain decided to cash in all the chips that it won betting against itself for years of my life. The Audio Archives were an unfortunate victim of the worst part of my depression, but now that I’m back to normal and pushing to create an even happier new normal, it may be time to start being serious about bringing audio content to Adventure Rules on a regular basis. My motivations for why remain the same: I find audio content more convenient to engage with as an audience member and I want to create accessibility options for the site. My short-term bucket list goal for this one is to have audio content regularly scheduled just like written content – my long-term goal is to have every post that isn’t a site update or an out-of-date news article paired with an audio version.
2. TABLETOP RPG ACTUAL PLAY
One of my favorite hobbies I’ve discovered in my adult life is the tabletop roleplaying game. The joy of sitting around a table with friends telling stories in fantastic worlds is one rarely matched by any of the other activities that I do, and it’s something I’d love to do with the folks I hang out with online. I have a passion for being the game master of tabletop games, the one who guides individual players on their journey by describing the world and portraying the NPCs. I particularly enjoy being the game master for players who either have no RPG experience whatsoever, or whose only experience is with a mainstream game like Dungeons and Dragons. What I would love to do on Adventure Rules at some point is have a recorded actual play of an indie tabletop RPG with a group of fellow bloggers.
This is a little trickier than the Audio Archives because it requires more factors to work together. Actual play podcasts are not as popular as Twitch streams but in my case they are probably the more logical starting point, as I already have serviceable audio equipment. Still, connecting multiple people online using a virtual tabletop or a conversation app like Discord presents unique challenges, and I have zero experience recording audio for multiple people. But to share my love of tabletops with my online friends and to get to teach them about one of my favorite games from the indie scene would be fantastic, so it takes a prominent place on the bucket list.
3. PRERECORDED VIDEO CONTENT
Video content related to video games comes in two primary forms: prerecorded videos on sites like YouTube, or livestreams on sites like Twitch or Mixer. I have visions for what both could look like but have the most experience watching prerecorded content and the most ideas for creating it. I enjoy putting my voice to work portraying different characters and think it would be a lot of fun to do Let’s Plays of narrative games like the Phoenix Wright series or Zero Escape series, as well as dialogue-heavy RPGs like Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door. Being able to break these games down into manageable chapters and portraying all the characters to add life to the game sounds like a fun time, particular if I had another creator or two to lend their voices and the unique sounds they could bring to the table.
I also like the idea of creating video guides for games. Some concepts are difficult to express in writing and could be demonstrated more easily visually. Alternatively, video versions of some of the guides I have already created could expand the audience that they reach. One game I think it would be particularly fun to do video guides for would be the indie strategy game Into the Breach. Each of the game’s mech squads benefit from different tactics on the battlefield, so being able to visually show a complicated concept like the best use of the cryo cannon’s freezing feature would probably help players to engage that game more effectively.
In 2019 I made my first ever streaming debut on In Third Person, doing some Pokemon battles with the very man who posed today’s question to me. It was a really fun stream and while the process behind the scenes gave me a small taste of how complicated streaming can be, actually being live and talking to Jett and the chat was a deeply enjoyable experience and one I can see myself wanting to have again in the future. Streaming live has the most barriers for me as far as equipment needs and skills/expertise, so this is the part of my bucket list that I see happening the farthest in the future.
What kinds of games do I think would be fun to stream? I’ve spoken before how one of my dream streaming projects would be to stream some of my favorite childhood games that I played on the Nintendo 64. Weird titles like Mystical Ninja and Mischief Makers were big childhood games for me, so to share how quirky and odd they are with a live audience seems like a fun time. I also think it would be fun to stream online play with friends, things like the Pokemon battle stream that I did with Jett or other online multiplayer opportunities like playing Super Smash Bros.
WHAT ABOUT WRITING?!
You’ll notice that my bucket list has nothing on it about new writing projects – does that mean writing may go away on Adventure Rules? While I can never speak in concrete terms about the future, I have serious doubts that I would ever bring an end to written blog posts. Remember that I mentioned 2020 will be five years since I started writing on Adventure Rules, and that anything that has been a part of my life for five years has been pretty significant for me? Writing as a hobby is something I’ve done since I was ten years old – almost twenty years ago now. Throughout my life I have felt the desire to express myself through writing. For a long time that meant fiction novels or short stories and more recently it has meant blogging, but no matter what writing has always been a core piece of who I am as a person. A specific type of writing project may not be on the Adventure Rules bucket list but that doesn’t mean that writing is going anywhere; being a writer is one of the core pieces of myself that remained the same even as other pieces shifted or disappeared completely.
Many of the things I described above are long-term goals, or fun ideas for things that I want to try out. I may very well try my hand at recording video content and decide that it isn’t for me. I may stream a few more times and determine that the reward isn’t worth the effort. But writing has already been tried and tested in the way those other hobbies have not been. I know I love it. And while it is very possible that engaging with content in other ways could simply be phases that come and go, I think writing will likely remain even when those interests are gone. It is a key way in which I engage with the world and the people around me, and I have no plans to reduce its significance here on Adventure Rules.
The end of one year is a good time to think about the direction of the coming year. I have goals and ideas that drive me forward, some of which you may start to see here soon and others which will still take some time before they pass. Writing this post has been a good opportunity to reflect on 2019, to think ahead to 2020 and beyond, and to help me get perspective on how I feel about Adventure Rules and the many things that it entails. Big thanks are owed to Jett for asking this question, and if you don’t follow In Third Person I recommend you head over there and rectify that. He’ll have a Charming and Open response to a question which I posed to him, so be sure to check that out. This post has been a reflection on Adventure Rules 2019 from the perspective of my role as a blogger – if you’re interested in a reflection on Adventure Rules 2019 from the perspective of the many games which I have played this year, be sure to come back on Monday, December 30th at 9 AM eastern to see my final post of the year!