Category Archives: Community

Invisible Audience: What your Podcast Stats Won’t Tell You


It’s 2.5 years now since I joined Syp and Steff on the adventure of podcasting about MMO music. Without fail, we have recorded two episodes per month – about 2.5 hours of time spent on Skype and a couple more hours to actually prep for the shows. Battle Bards is somewhat more time intense than other podcasts I have participated in because the entire concept is based on thematic challenges between the three of us, meaning research must be done in advance and picks must be shared and prepped. That sounds like a lot of work for a niche podcast but we’re obviously really into the subject matter or we wouldn’t be doing it. Same as for blogging, you have to podcast for yourself first.

Intrinsic motivation or not, it doesn’t mean you don’t hope for a degree of feedback and positive reception. Blogging and podcasting in a public space are social activities and about connecting with kindred spirits. So whatever content you put out, you hope it’s somewhat useful to somebody else, informative or entertaining. Most of us assume it is at least a tiny bit, but we rarely get unmistakeable “proof”. For one, much fewer people tend to comment on blogs than there are readers; no matter a positive or more critical comment, feedback is therefore valued and appreciated. About half of my frequent commenters are bloggers themselves who understand this very well.

In my humble experience, podcasting is a similar beast yet different from blogging. It takes time to establish a podcast, get the word out and build a backlog – that last part being a major factor both for blog traffic or podcast downloads. It’s very easy to misinterpret podcasting stats by mistaking monthly downloads for individual listeners; as long as you remain active in whatever you do, you’re bound to get more hits and/or downloads over time because of a growing archive. This is especially true for episodic and thematically narrow podcast formats where individual episodes aren’t subject to time / decay of interest. It actually takes dedicated services like Libsyn for more accurate analysis if understanding your podcast’s growth and audience are what you’re after. Often it’s all you can do and even then, you can’t track downloads from other platforms such as iTunes.

Battle Bards is maybe a curious case insofar that our first two episodes were both downloaded 1000 times when they came out, looking at libsyn. I personally did not expect this and put it down to several factors including the three of us being longtime bloggers (which is three times the advertising power) as well as novelty and curiosity (“let’s hear how these folk sound in real life”). Our initial numbers didn’t remain steady – they went back to an average of 300-500 downloads per episode in our first year. Today, our first ever ten episodes all range between 800-2000 downloads each which demonstrates what has happened over time. The backlog is still being listened to.

Roughly from Q1 of 2015, our average downloads per episode have now doubled from what they were in year one. This means there must be a bigger audience but it’s difficult to say how many regular listeners we have, joining from start to finish. Really, who IS our core audience? When do they listen to Battle Bards and from where? Cold numbers give no feedback.

We receive comments from time to time and emails which are always a highlight. They’ve become more rare of late which to me indicates that our more vocal listeners have already made themselves known. Podcasts don’t really inspire continuous interaction the way blogs do; our format certainly raises no big questions to be debated and there isn’t synchronous interaction happening in a comment thread. If someone leaves us a message, it can take up to a month before we reply on air.

So generally, unless you’re part of a super popular podcast with a huge following, you have to deal with the silence of an invisible audience. Stats can tell you that you’re still alive and going but they won’t tell you anything about who’s listening. They also won’t give you a thumbs up and say how much they enjoyed that last episode. Your absence may be noted but as long as you’re always on schedule, your listeners are counting on you silently. Or so you hope.

And that’s okay. It’s still really sweet whenever one of them steps out of the shadows to announce they’re still there, though.

Thanks, Scott!

Who are the MMO Core Players?

brief exchange today between myself and Gazimoff on WoW’s fluctuating player base, got me thinking about the often referenced „core players“ in MMOs. Although there’s unfortunately no data on who today’s longtime WoW subscribers are and when they started playing, it’s reasonable to assume that WoW has a core of the faithful, made sticky by longtime relationships, memories and trophies accumulated over the years. Social ties and virtual property are an important glue for MMO retention and WoW hit the market like a blazing star in 2004.

But really all sarcasm aside (I’ll try!), who are the core players in WoW? Are they the ones who never unsub, never fluctuate? Are they the all-abiding, undemanding that Blizzard need never worry about? Are they the so-called fanboys and fangirls?

What constitutes core and how many core players are there in an MMO like WoW? Is it enough to remain subbed for a certain amount of time to qualify or invest a certain amount of money? Is it the current 5 million players or much less than that – 1 million, 500’000 players? More importantly, how long until we’d find out, how long until the last non-core player is ready to quit WoW and never look back?

What does it take to reveal an MMO’s core?

Questions, questions!

Some Days, Twitter Wins the Internet (also: Fallout Shelter!) [#Blaugust 20]

I’ve been playing Fallout Shelter this week and 30 dwellers in, I find it an increasingly creepy experience in bad pickup lines and breeding babies. The game is well-designed no doubt but I can see it getting old before long (which means it’s perfectly timed for that Fallout 4 launch later this year if you happen to be an android user).

Of course that was before Liore gave me ideas on twitter and well…turns out Fallout Shelter is ten times the fun when you start breeding the MMO blogosphere! Once my evil plans were set in motion, this happened –


Click to enlarge!

If you’re wondering why I am on twitter, this is it. I don’t know how well the joke transports over in retrospective but I’m still laughing my ass off and I wasn’t the only one. Some days, the madness is boundless. Fallout Shelter just got so much better (and else there’s 10 more messed-up ways to spice things up) – thanks y’all!

On wearing Masks, Online Avatars and Truth [#Blaugust 18]

A few days ago Jeromai mused on the uses of social media and people wearing masks for different purposes. He elaborates on why masks are actually a good thing and that every mask represents a different but potentially true aspect of an individual. I agree with him completely although the word “mask” still carries the somewhat negative connotation of “cover-up”. I think what we agree on is that human beings are multi-faceted and can take on many different roles, none of which are necessarily fake. In a sense we are all our roles although some of them we may feel closer to than others.

“Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.” [Oscar Wilde]

The post reminded me of a draft I have sitting in my blog’s backlog since 2012 on online communities and why I love MMOs. I never got to finish it and after returning, I can see why (the ramble monster got me!). There is however one paragraph there that still speaks to me today:

“Those geographical lines that are supposed to divide us and tell us how different we are of nature, of values or faith – how imaginary they are. In MMOs we get a chance to be just people. We can make friends or enemies but we do it only as people. It’s said that the anonymity of online gaming let’s people hide and slip behind a veil but more often, the opposite is true. We get to see behind the mask, the outer appearances, the labels – and all we find there is a bit of ourselves.” (my unfinished post)

I believe most of us who have an internet life go there to unwind and be themselves rather than the other way around. Sure, there’s a whole cyberworld out there of scammers and con-men, of fake identities and dangerous promises. When I think of my time within MMORPG communities however, of the people I’ve met online and stayed close to (and some I even met offline later), the “roles” they got to play through their player characters felt more real, more unrestricted than the person they returned to by day. Avatars can give us courage to be ourselves – they can give us wings. They will take us places we never even imagined we could go. They may lend us a voice we never heard before.


We are the total sum of our masks/roles. But there is also that strong feeling (and need) of when we are truest or when we are genuinely ourselves. Some of the social studies on identity building I came across as a teacher, suggest that the greatest degree of personal unhappiness is inflicted on an individual when their social environment does not reflect the image they have of themselves (disparity between self- and external perception). People who manage to be around others that do not only recognize them, but accept and support them in their true self, will prosper indefinitely. This is naturally also an important field of study for developmental psychology when it comes to the effects of unconditional love on children’s upbringing (and later success in life).

We long to be accepted. We yearn to be recognized. All of that suggests there’s such a thing as a true self (which is not to say that can’t change over time). Applied to online gaming and with Oscar Wilde’s above quote in mind, I conclude this means our online avatars really are the masks we use in order to tell others the truth about ourselves. I’m kinda happy to know that MMOs can serve such a powerful purpose.

Blaugust Kickoff: Happy Street Gang

So Belghast initiated another round of #Blaugust for this August 2015 and in one last-minute act of madness, which was totally not instigated by other bloggers on twitter, I decided to join the crazy company (you can still do so btw!). I always said blogging on a daily basis is not for me and since I usually end up doing the things I say I won’t do (like never joining twitter or playing Tera), I might as well lose whatever credibility I got left. Twitter is where your resolutions go to die.

I figured this is a good opportunity for me to get back to a more frequent posting schedule and also get over that raging post-vacation malady. Also, I hear there’s a tattoo involved for all those that beat the Blaugust challenge.

Join the Happy Street Gang!

A while ago I was looking for more mobile games to play on tablet. I have since tried out and un-installed a long list of titles, most of which have proven to be disappointing one way or another to no one’s surprise. My search did however yield one unexpected gem I’ve been playing since and that you should look into if you’re up for some solid casual fun on your phone or tablet: Happy Street.

Happy Street was developed by french team Godzilab which is really two guys living in Europe and the United States. It’s been around for a few years and is totally not inspired by a certain popular community simulator by Nintendo. Think 2D-Animal Crossing with different maps, very straightforward town building and some quest-based crafting and you’re almost there, cool outfits and hats included! What sold it for me were mainly the following points:

  • It is incredibly kawaii. The buildings and sites are a pleasure to behold and the characters are adorable, or as this article said it best: “So what makes Happy Street so awesome? It’s super-cute.”
  • Level 17 and going, the game is still completely casual without any increased pressure from timesinks or IAP gates. There is a virtual currency that’s very optional and easily acquired through other means, if you really wanted to. There’s no obligation to spend real money and plenty to do otherwise.
  • The game is addictive in its simplicity; as more and more options unlock, you’ll be hard pressed to choose from a plethora of decoration themes and combo options to make your town and villagers look hot and keep tourists spending cash in your shops. From puke-monster balloons to gameboys and rock guitars, everything is on offer!
  • Certain mushroom concoctions will launch a “Fiesta” in your village, putting everyone in a mental state of spending frenzy accompanied by this track. Need I say more?


Also optionally, making an account and adding friends in Happy Street will allow you to save progress, earn some free currency daily and help each other out with resources (or send rude mail). By now, there’s a small group of MMO bloggers who have found their way into my Happy Street neighbourhood, so if you’re curious about the game drop me an email or tweet sometime and I’ll provide you with all the info.

Join the Happy Street Gang today – we have mushroom grog!

Life is a painful journey but we can walk together

This is an editorial post unrelated to gaming, MMOs and all the silly things that also make me happy.

Last Friday night I got together with my oldest friend for dinner after a long stretch of radio silence. Silence not just from my side – ever since worklife has caught up with us after leaving university, the periods of not seeing each other have grown longer. I’ve come to accept this about adulthood; that we all get caught up in our private and professional lives, people moving away or getting married, changing jobs and struggling with all the daily tasks and responsibilities. We all do our best to stay in control but there are times when it’s hard to muster any more energy after the day is done. Before we know it, we start existing and stop living. That is especially true for those who are used to shoulder much more than just their share.

The overlaps of history between my friend and me are remarkable. Not only has life insisted on continuously bringing us together time and again ever since we were both 9 and 10 years old, as if our own winding paths could never part for long, I have also never known anyone to share that much of my own biography, so many experiences and constellations that made us who we are now. It’s this kinship that wipes whatever time away that may have passed between meetings. As long as we keep having these regular brushes, even per SMS or email, our friendship endures. That said, longer stretches of silence are usually a bad sign. That is certainly true for the extrovert types that we both are, who insist on functioning no matter what and have never learned to share their own pain, only share in the pain of others.

The moment she stepped into my new home, I felt it. She looked pale, she talked differently. She was like a tired shadow of her other version. I showed her around, I poured a drink wondering how best to catch up. And as usual, it didn’t take long – over the course of dinner I got to tell her what a rotten year lies behind me, how my partner finally started therapy for a complex case of childhood PTSD and how things are slowly improving for the both of us, step by step. I don’t hold back on these topics anymore; I’ve come to know too many wonderful people struggling with anxiety disorders or depression, to maintain any sort of shyness or tolerance for stigma around these discussions. Fuck stigma. Fuck the whole masquerade. Life is raw and deep and painful whenever it stops being easy.

I’m done wasting my time with false pretenses. When my partner decided to tell the world (as in all relevant environment such as friends and the workplace) that he had been suffering for over thirty years and that he was dealing with things now, in a serious manner by whatever help necessary, my heart ached with pride because he decided to stop hiding. When I think of how medication-based therapy enabled my mother to build a second life from scratch after the age of 55, when the alternative would have been death or hospitalisation most likely, there is only thankfulness in me and empathy. It’s such a huge step to get yourself help and turn your life around, no matter a more introvert or extrovert type of personality. Only you can do it and the pain tends to get worse before it gets better.

Opening up about these issues broke whatever fabric my old friend had wrapped around her pale exterior. She’s been going through her first ever rough patch that is in fact about herself. She’s a nervous wreck, she can’t sleep at night for all the noise in her head, she’s experienced several anxiety attacks at the new work place. Her body is acting up. After a life of achieving and caring and carrying, she’s finally stretched so thin that her entire system starts revolting. She’s being forced to focus on her own needs and she has no idea yet how to do this. Her first instincts are probably to write a list of priorities and weigh the pros and cons, so yeah she needs help…I was very glad to hear she’s already reached out about this to her GP.

It’s all so familiar. The moment my partner finally and earnestly got into therapy (which took three attempts), my energy levels completely rock bottomed. I got sick with serious infection several times in a row and my nerves deserted me even on trivial tasks. I have never felt as spent. That is the aftermath of overcoming hardship more often than not – it’s not sunshine and cheerfulness, it’s a deep well of exhaustion. Before you can move on, you have to breathe out and recuperate.

We’ll learn. Today I believe in baby steps, in cherishing lighthearted moments when they occur. I still look forward to things but I don’t plan so much anymore. I let things happen rather than making them – I am learning to chill. My friend is currently at the stage of debating whether she should tell her superior or not and if she can get a grip with “just a few GP sessions”. She worries about coming across as unprofessional when sharing too much about her life and well-being and I don’t blame her. But I also know that there are things you cannot hide from others. You can try of course but it won’t do you any good. When you reached the point where a condition or illness temporary or otherwise, manages your life, it is an impossible task to maintain the act. More importantly however, you are missing out; you’re missing out on reactions that will surprise and humble you. From the moment we open up about what is essentially our human condition, people around us will come out and connect. I have co-experienced this twice now and it’s stunning. Truth liberates, there is magic in being truthful about yourself. It also means you’re taking back ownership of your life by switching on the light in those dark corners. What we keep in the dark makes us sick. When we further isolate ourselves from others, we cut away all opportunity.

No matter where you are, in this moment there are people around you with the same struggles, keeping quiet about the same things. The minute you come forth, there’s a high chance of experiencing togetherness, empathy and support from unexpected places rather than rejection. And inadvertently, you will become someone else’s spring of hope, too. It’s as if everyone was just waiting for a chance to chime in. This is life and it’s happening to everybody! If you think you’re immune to it, I say give it time.

I am glad I was able to support my friend in her time of need. She’s already tough but now she’ll also learn to be human – and that is an experience worth having. Last night my partner and I came across Wil Wheaton’s contribution to the “UR OK” project on youtube and we were both deeply moved by his words that describe much of what we’ve been through. It’s not over, every day is another step on the journey. There will be days of pain and more growth and there will be days of joy and not feeling bad, until we realize that this journey is really just life. And we can all walk together.

Liebster Leser….errr Awards!

Liebster Leser, besten Dank dass Du wiedermal bei mir reinschaust….
Oh wait, that’s actually “Liebster Award” – I blame Sig for this one! While chain letters are the worst, community memes are kinda rad which is why instead of publishing that upcoming post on Valve’s zomg-Vive, I am going to respond to Sig’s questionnaire and challenge seven next bloggers to tackle my own list further below!

In case you’ve never run into Sig by the way, that’s probably because he hardly ever blogs (slacker!) but he’s a great presence on twitter and he has a beard! So thanks, Sig!


My Answers for Sig
1. Frogger, Dig Dug or Space Invaders? – Frogger!
2. If you were frozen in a block of ice, and miraculously were found alive after thawing out 10,000 years later, what is the first thing you would do? – Visit the next Arcade and jump into that full-VR metaverse suit of awesome!
3. Do you like slurpees? – No. I prefer eating calories over drinking them.
4. How many video games do you own that you’ve never played? – If you count that 107-games gameboy module, 50?
5. What is your favorite color? – Blue. And yellow.
6. If you bought me a beer, what kind would it be? Tactical Nuclear Penguin.
7. Yo ho, yo ho! A pirates life for me! Fill in the blanks you scabrous dogs!
“We’re rascals, gypsies (duh), villans, and knaves,
Drink up, me hearties, yo ho.
We’re devils and black sheep, really sexy beasts,
Drink up, me hearties, yo ho.”
8. If someone has multiple personalities and threatens to commit suicide, is this considered a hostage situation? – Umm, wut?
9. What is your favorite kind of hot sauce? – Sriracha. Even glue tastes better.
10. Do you even lift? – Every day, one finger at a time!

Apparently Liebster has various rulesets, so you can really nominate as many or few people as you like. Without wanting to seem greedy, my nominations are:

And here’s my 10 questions for you guys and gals (no pressure… really, pressure):

1. If you could learn a new language over night, which would it be?
2. What is the first MMO you’d want to visit in full VR mode?
3. If you got to invite a dead person over for tea and biscuits, who would it be?
4. What kind of biscuits would you serve?
5. Who should go down first: House Lannister, House Frey or House Bolton?
6. Justice means:
– a) everyone gets what they work for
– b) everyone gets the same
– c) everyone gets what they need
7. If you could see one of your favorite games get a sequel, it would be….?
8. If a person were to split a pot of 1000$ between them and yourself on condition of you accepting their first offer, would you rather accept 100 bucks or both go empty?
9. Which ingame MMO place/location do you consider a home to return to?
10. Favorite midnight snack when nobody’s looking?

Happy weekend, everybody!

[FFXIV] Random Acts of Kindness are Contagious

“The unkindness of your own relations has made you astonished to find friendship any where.” [Sense and Sensibility; J. Austen]

One of the few things that weren’t tuned down in FFXIV compared to its more unforgiving predecessor FFXI, is that dying still remains a firmly inconvenient affair in terms of getting your character resurrected. Granted, the harsh EXP penalty is gone but in lieu of graveyards or self-rez options in FFXIV, players can either return to their homepoint (which is frequently on the other side of the world because you only die on those field trips off the beaten path) or well, lie around and hope for someone to rez them that has the required ability. In order to be found, a shout in zone chat is necessary together with <pos> to tell potential saviors of the day your exact position. This is of course fairly embarrassing but will save you time and money in case you are heard.

And to my great astonishment, I am always heard. No matter what time of the day, no matter the zone I am in, ever since embarking on this journey the community in FFXIV has been nothing but quick to respond, friendly and supportive. The few times I have died on my glass cannon caster, it took no more than 20 seconds for a player to get back to me via whispers, letting me know they are “on their way”. Never have I been mocked, always am I being welcomed to the game and buffed up by the usually far more advanced players. I don’t know if it’s just Cactuar or the general culture in this particular MMO but yes, everyone is suspiciously nice in FFXIV and I can’t help but wonder along with my fellow bloggers: what makes this one so different?

A typical FFXIV encounter.

A typical FFXIV encounter.

The player from above conversation who rezzed me so graciously, then also went on to invite me to their linkshell and insisted I accept a 25’000 gil welcome present to help this newbie on her further travels. I cannot remember the last time this happened to me in an online game; it’s both humbling and sad to realize I’ve forgotten how such random acts of kindness feel in MMOs.

What influences server culture? Is it about content and game mechanics, the way social play is encouraged or rewarded? Is it about more niche audiences versus jaded mainstream ones, as suggested by Liore? No doubt, it’s several factors come together that must work in unison longterm to make cooperative culture a thing – and yet, as a newcomer who knows precious little about rewards and the social engineering in FFXIV at this point, all it takes is a handful of positive experiences to make me want to become active part of a better community! I want to add my share not because of tokens and rewards and achievements but heck, because this feels like a world of human beings and I’m learning how to be one again myself. That’s awesome! Need a rez, anyone?

OTC – Good is Good enough Edition: Massive Opportunities, the TGEN Tribunal and Why I’m not playing WoW anymore


OTC is a multi-topic category on

By now everyone’s heard of the layoffs by AOL which will affect MMO community news hubs such as WoW Insider and Massively who have since been able to open up. Massively is to close its doors by February 3rd 2015 – that’s two days from now. The news of these shutdowns came with a peculiar, not to say unnerving timing for me personally, the type of uncanny jinx-sensation when you’ve just said or thought something that comes to pass shortly after. Only 2 weeks ago while recording the next Battle Bards session, did I bring up the topic of the future of MMOs and how that may affect places like Massively with Syp on skype: were there any worries on their front as to what may happen with the genre and by extension, the website? But Syp was all positive and cheerful – the genre might be going places but as far as Massively is/was concerned, the page has only ever known growth. For those that only care about numbers, Massively is doing better than ever. Too bad good ain’t good enough for multi-billion companies like AOL – because reasons- (insert generic corporate speech).

I’m sad to see Massively close its doors like that. I’m sorry for its staff that poured all their love, time and enthusiasm into keeping it running. I wasn’t the closest follower of Massively at times but it constitutes one of only few constants in the MMO community, graciously linking back to bloggers like myself. I would visit to read Eliot Lefebvre’s strong opinion posts and of course Sypster’s Jukebox Heroes or Perfect Ten. I always marveled at how Syp could juggle his Massively “job” with Biobreak, several podcasts, his real life job and a family – but such are the workings of a labor of love. My jaw dropped when he told me his monthly quota was 90 posts, which makes Syp the real superman as far as I’m concerned.

When one door closes, another opens. Sometimes life’s endings and goodbyes are just a great new opportunity we cannot yet perceive. What Massively doesn’t lack is a following and talented writers; I am more than positive they will be able to recover and build something new from here, with help of the community.

Introducing the TGEN Tribunal

Our network of gaming and MMO-related podcasts has just launched the first episode of the TGEN Tribunal, a quarterly exchange between different co-hosts from all eight shows. In this first episode we are discussing our individual experiences getting into podcasting, from the more technical aspects to general advice for podcasting newcomers. I happily consider myself a complete amateur in this field but it’s fascinating to hear others talk about the future of this particular medium. Speaking of which, this is the first show I’ve been the producer for, so if there’s something wrong with the editing or sound quality, you know whom you can blame (but hey, I think it’s good enough!).


Why I’m not playing WoW anymore

My recent FFXIV:ARR shares on the blog and twitter may have given away that my sudden, unexpected WoW-comeback of last November was somewhat short-lived. I had immense fun re-discovering Azeroth for a while, getting in touch with new old zones, my holy priest and the Garrison but after a few run-ins with the more toxic sides of its community, I have quickly realized why I’m over this MMO. Hell is other people and WoW is singular in amassing a crowd of elitist jerks, overbearing endgame achievers and forum kids ever since 2004. Even if you’re doing your best and focus on yourself only, someone is going to unload their frantic achieverdom on you sooner or later, trampling all the roses.

I’ve said it before – I am over this. And I feel ancient when met with the endgame crazy of raiders (in LFG too) and min-maxers. The hardcore vs. casual debate is alive and well in WoW and listening to some of the conversations or reading yet another condescending list of tips or srs rules written by a young person with lots of time on their hands and no notion of good is good enough, I find myself utterly disenchanted with the World of Warcraft and how it holds no escape. Maybe worse, there is that humbling self-awareness, never depicted with greater accuracy than in this recent Dark Legacy comic #471: A Decade of Love and Hate.


srs WoW players in LFG.

It is the horrors of full circle I am feeling whenever I venture too close to Azeroth’s deafening underbelly. We can have our rationalized “fun vs. satisfaction” and playstyle debates all day long on our blogs – it won’t change the fact that there was a time when I too made other players (and guild mates probably) miserable in WoW for wanting to play the game differently or not being as good or good enough according to an arbitrary measure, through an overbearing raiding queen attitude and caring for progress and riches over people. I know this and for that I am sorry.

This is not a message for those who are still in WoW striving for glory irrespective of cost; by all means, knock yourself out. You have your own path to follow and maybe it will lead you to a similar place, maybe not. But I am not that person anymore, I am glad that I’m not. Friendships are precious and fragile – many people are worth knowing and caring for outside our immediate realm of ambition. So long WoW, you have nothing left to teach me.

Bloggy Xmas Day 14: Transcontinental Kinship and the International Language of Music

Gaming and community is a very wide and open subject which is why I chose it for the #bloggyxmas event. Depending on whom you ask and where they come from, people have very different stories to tell but almost without fail, gaming folk will name the internet as the one big game changer, that amazing space of connecting across geographical boundaries and finding kindred spirits with more ease. A lot of geeks are lonely as far as their interests are concerned and living in a place that is all about stability and pragmatic productivity, I found myself in a fairly isolated spot too before the world wide web happened.


Ever since getting involved in a blogging community, my ride has been almost entirely a positive and enriching one: I’ve been able to find and talk to people who love the same things I do and worry about the same things. I’ve written about difficult subjects like geek pecking orders and gaming stigma, only to find my sentiments echoed by others. And I’ve been educated by smart and brave female and male bloggers on social issues I was struggling with myself in the past.

Besides this inner journey, I’d like to believe I have grown as a writer and thinker thanks to all the critical feedback and countless comments I have received over the years. I started out as a rather self-conscious second language blogger in this international but English-speaking blogosphere and few years later, I find myself confident enough to write long articles in one sitting and invited as a vocal participant to podcast round-table discussions. I never dreamed of making youtube videos or podcasting when I started writing but so many fellow bloggers have shown me nothing but support when it came to finding my voice (with the “funny accent”!). For such unexpected kindness I will always be thankful.

The International Language of Music

For my personal Bloggy Xmas post, I want to talk about Battle Bards and how this global neighbourhood has opened up new avenues for a very niche interest of mine: videogame music. Gamers are used to be counted among niche geek culture and certainly, MMO players have always been regarded as niche by the gaming mainstream. World of Warcraft has had a positive impact on this image but the way things are going, traditional MMOs are disappearing next to a mass of next-generation online genres.

Battle Bards, the brainchild of the inimitable Syp from Biobreak, is an oddity among gaming podcasts, no doubt a niche inside the niche. For someone like myself who has collected videogame and movie soundtracks since the early nineties, sometimes with a tape recorder, our podcast is in equal parts an enthusiast’s dream and labor of love. I was already happy to know of a handful of MMO bloggers who shared my musical interests, writing about them every now and then. But it is off-the-charts amazing that such a thing as Battle Bards exists and that I am a part of it! I enjoy each of our shows and recordings in the full knowledge of how special an opportunity this is and the fact that we have a die-hard core of listeners is, well….hard to believe and very humbling. With 400 downloads on average per episode, Battle Bards may be a tiny podcast compared to many others but it’s waving its geek flag loud and proud. We’d be doing it just for the three of us but knowing there’s somebody out there who shares our passion, makes our time spent all the more rewarding.

Our listeners have made us laugh, think and consider the things we share on our show. We’re not just talking amongst ourselves but to an audience that is as international as we are and who will hear our voices on their way to work, while preparing dinner in the evening, killing time on yet another airplane ride like Rowan or when in the car with their family, like my friend Redbeard. Knowing Red and his three musically gifted kids tune in to Battle Bards regularly because they love videogame music as much as we do, makes me want to put all the more effort into our podcast. For Christmas in 2013, I got a Xmas card with the three of them on the cover playing their instruments; I still keep it on my desk like a token – a reminder of all the great things that have come from gaming, blogging and connecting with other people’s lives since publishing my first post in 2010.

This is community for me. It’s a micro-cosmos, a niche inside the niche. It’s the people we let into our lives, select individuals whose strength is not in numbers but in the way they touch our life and give us hope. We all need to know we are not alone.

Thanks to all of you who have been interacting with me these past few years in the blogosphere and via other social media, all the readers and commenters of MMO Gypsy and my fellow bloggers and friends! Thanks to everyone who has supported Battle Bards and TGEN this year – we know you are there!