7. Contact Creates Conflicts of Interest
Every indie game I reviewed prompted direct response from the developer. With one exception I genuinely liked every fellow I met. They were my kind of people – honest, earnest, interesting and humble. The Ogre guys even drove traffic my way which just made me like them more.
None of this was a problem until I happened to not like a game after already making a relationship. As I was playing Ogre a sinking feeling gathered while I mentally wrote the review and thought of the developers. I have no desire to hurt their livelihood or make them feel poorly for something they’ve worked on for 5 years. It feels unfaithful, like talking badly about a friend.
I felt anxiety for three days after submitting the review. I still feel anxious whenever I open steam for the first time each day and check my messages. None of which means I should erect a wall between myself and the developers. Early access to titles so I can provide day-1 reviews is valuable to me and my readers. It just means vigilance is warranted.
8. Pick a Side
With the anxiety from #7 I felt a very strong urge to just skip the review. Lying wasn’t an option since I set my integrity bar in #5 (Don’t Get Greedy for Views). But not saying anything is not the same as lying. The only person who’d be hurt by pretending the game didn’t happen would be me for wasting the 15 hours it took to play it, and I was fine with that.
But that’s not true. I’d hurt every person who wouldn’t have bought the game after reading my review. I had partially learned this lesson when giving my first bad review, but in that case the developer was such an ass that it wasn’t hard to fall on the side of the consumer. This was messier.
So, right after integrity I placed “the consumer” as my next most important determinant for making decisions. It can get fuzzy at first because your readers don’t seem to care while the developers notice you and engage immediately. I can’t tell if it’s symbiotic or parasitic, and I can’t tell who exactly is feeding on whom but it corrupts and I instinctively don’t like pressure of any kind. Being on the side of the consumer makes it all clear and easy to navigate.
9. Not all Views are Created Equal
I’m guessing new bloggers look at three primary site stats when trying to figure out how well they’re doing: unique visitors, pageviews and bounce rate. Pageviews is literally how many pages were viewed on your site. Bounce rate measures the percentage of people who left after a single article.
You hope that your site is interesting enough to make viewers pokes around and reads stuff other than whatever article brought them there.
Two of the three biggest sources of traffic resulted in by far the worst bounce rates. Reddit visitors who came in looking at a list of non-steam games bounced back to reddit the moment they finished perusing the list. The facebook and twitter visitors who came in off the back of Ogre’s marketing did the same.
My bounce rate had been hovering at around 50% which from what I read is very good for a blog and about average for a normal, mature site. Those two days of “bad” traffic brought it up above 70%. Aside from making me feel bad it throws off the metric and makes it harder to see what article is good or bad.
10. I’m Changing My Own Viewing Habits
I’ve always been an invisible net citizen. I consumed but never contributed or interacted. I never pressed a like button or shared an article or wrote a comment. I’m shy and had a weird assumption that if I was reading a site it was probably very popular which created a sense of “why bother”; there were literally millions of other people doing the same thing.
Now I realize how these tiny interactions are the motivating life-blood for the people who create the content I consumed all these years. So few people interact that each sign of life is appreciated. Hopefully nobody gets into niche blogging for the money. I think most do it because they want to share something and nothing feels like more of a rejection than no-one caring about what you’re sharing.
11. Everyone is Really Nice
I don’t want to sound like a naive optimist. I see articles every day that demonstrate how harsh and cruel the internet can be. My experience thus far has been inside a niche of a niche. Aside from a single dramatic developer every person has been extremely nice.
Reddit, with it’s rough reputation has been the greatest source of unvarnished opinion and reassurance. The various Steam users I friended have all been interesting, able to carry on meaningful conversations about the broadest set of topics.
Maybe I’m the beneficiary of unconscious privilege – I’m a man writing in apparently native english. I would have loved to see an experiment where a variety of minorities create similar blogs and compare the reaction after two months. Obscure indie games are also not the most passion inspiring of topics. So this is not a counter to anyone who has experienced difficulty on the net. Just an observation that toxicity is not all pervasive and that plenty of people treat their online interactions as they do their real life ones – with civility and consideration.
12. Find My Voice
To make compiling the daily news easier I spent a day adding many gaming sites to my feedspot. I was in quite a daze after reading often repetitive articles for five hours when I stumbled onto Indie Gamer Chick’s blog. Her own distinct voice was so clear and engaging that I was first jealous then determined to make more effort to find my own.
There’s so much media clamoring for attention, some literally written by robots. What cuts through to me is uniqueness and honesty, not polish and gloss.