It finally happened.
As Blaugust has ground on, it takes a toll on all the participants, but especially those of us trying hard to reach the Rainbow Diamond reward and get our 31 posts on the board. In 2019, my first and only prior Blaugust, I benefitted from a busy, busy time in MMOs. Patch 8.2 for Battle for Azeroth had launched in WoW the prior month, bringing a new raid, two new zones, a megadungeon, flying, and more. At the same time, Shadowbringers for FFXIV had launched, and there was so much fresh content to discuss there. In August of 2019, so much of the MMO blogosphere was consumed by a single topic – WoW Classic, as it finally had name/realm reservations and launch in August 2019.
This time around, in 2021, we have…well, there is news. The end of July brought the ATVI lawsuit from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. We had the content creator exodus from WoW into FFXIV. This and the lawsuit combined meant talking about transitioning from WoW to FFXIV became en vogue. New World had it’s closed beta and a series of delays. Bless Unleashed just recently launched! I guess the big issue is that we’re in holding-pattern city, or as everyone loves to call it now, the waiting room. Endwalker is up in November. The WoW team gave us a tiny statement that we’d be getting more character customization options (a reversal from their Blizzconline stance) and that they’d come with 9.1.5, confirming the existence of that patch. Guild Wars 2 announced their 3rd expansion!
But I have Blaugust fatigue anyways, for a few reasons, and instead of holding these for Lessons Learned week, I’m going to drop some now in abridged form and then expand upon them during that week.
My Writing Style Means Daily Posts Are Hard
Daily posts are always hard, I should say, especially for a hobby, but I find a lot of challenges for how I write with daily posting. My dirty little secret – I rarely preplan or do an elongated draft > revise > revise > publish pattern. Most of my posts are stream of consciousness based on a given topic, which then gets an edit pass to sharpen observations and check for errors. This is good for reaction content (I tend to be faster than most bloggers I follow to cover news events about the games I write about because of it) but it also means that longer-form analysis and critiques have to be done at a single sitting for me to get it done. If I write a draft, odds are about 90% that the draft dies in my unpublished folder. Right now, I have 62 posts in there even after a twice-yearly draft purge, and I suspect none of those will see the light of day.
So especially in Blaugust, you get posts that are being written usually day of, in response to something very recent or an observation I’ve had that I can expand upon enough to be worth reading. That isn’t to say I don’t research posts or the like – but if I don’t have a core kernel that I can write up to at least 1,000 words about, the post idea dies, even if I sit down and start on it. (My most recent victim was a Developer Appreciation Week post that was going to thank all game developers and discuss labor issues and how positive most developers I’ve met are, but I got about 300 words in and just said “nah” out loud, saved it just in case, and started writing this.)
The Gaming News In My MMOs Is Kind Of Meh or Depressing
FFXIV is a game that is doing exceptionally well right now and having a moment in the sun of the genre, but there’s also not that much happening with it that is new right now. I still could write a post about the Endwalker benchmark, and I will soon put one up about finally getting into Bozja content enough to progress a weapon and how the design of that was an interesting challenge to my engagement, but outside of that – the game is fine, it’s just that we’re all idling in the Endwalker waiting room.
WoW, on the other hand, is depressing to talk about sometimes, and this is the most sometimey sometime in some time. The company structure of Blizzard is a failing mess that is hurting employees, Shadowlands has been a lackluster lore (putting it mildly) and systems expansion (I’ll still argue that the core gameplay strength of WoW is absolutely there, though), the game has been besieged with all manner of delays and pivots, and most players I know are rapidly closing in on their endgame state for the season – more KSMs in my friends list, more people pushing higher in Heroic, my Mythic raiding friends seemingly done or close-to, and even alt leveling seems to have slowed as most folks just settle into their comfortable groove, which is usually minimal engagement with the hamster wheel system mechanics of the expansion, picking 1-2 favored modes of play, and just zeroing in on that with 1-3 characters.
I’m not far enough into Guild Wars 2 to have any strong opinions about it or the upcoming expansion, and I haven’t exactly been playing a cornucopia of backlogged titles, so yeah. There’s a challenge there for sure!
I’m Trying To Balance My Time Better
Writing for this site is always something I set aside around 3 hours a day for, between trying to reply to comments when I feel it valuable, writing new posts, checking metrics, and at least reading the output of a few other writers in the space. Outside of that, a challenge I have given myself is additional non-gaming writing projects, a challenge which I have struggled with. It was a part of the reason I was a cancelled WoW subscription (we’ll come back to that “was” in a minute) and it has been more of a struggle than I would like to admit. A big part of writing a few shorter posts this week was around getting something simple but packed up and then putting the time elsewhere.
Managing the site is becoming a larger time commitment, and I tend to have a tab open most of the day to monitor stats, watch for comments and new posts, and to be able to write whenever the inspiration strikes. Blaugust 2021 has brought me my largest view count days around 4 times now, with a streak of 3 days late last week and early this week where my metrics summited a new peak every day. With it has come some challenges, like a pretty sharp increase in trolling comments or just outright hostile comments (I’ve had to block 4 commenters, and interestingly, 3 of the 4 were FFXIV fans, which I intend to expand upon in a future post!), so for my own mental health, I’ve allowed the ones that are at least somewhat respectful, trashed and blocked the outright assholes, and moved on.
On top of that, my wife and I are still sort of settling in our new apartment after nearly a month, and that demands some amount of time daily, however small, to make sure that things are getting more cozy and setup. I got the rest of the lighting I wanted for my streaming set this week and installed it, we’ve got a couple pieces of furniture to build out still, and keeping things neat and clean during the process has been crucial.
I’m Spending Less Time Playing Games This Month
At the very end of last month, I unsubscribed from WoW and resubbed to Final Fantasy XIV. FFXIV was more time-respectful, but I could still sink hours into it and it was costing me. I then, this week, resubbed to WoW.
Why? Well, it’s easy enough to wrap my head around, and I don’t know if it warrants a post to itself, but here goes: the core issue was the loss of my guild, and last weekend, I made the crucial steps I needed to make to reconcile with my guild and bury the hatchet, with an in-person BBQ with some folks I hadn’t met face to face before (and that helped a lot, so I appreciated that opportunity) and with some conversations I needed to have with the people I needed to discuss things with. I won’t pretend that things are perfect yet, but I think that things are heading on the right trajectory now and a lot of the misunderstandings that occurred were easy enough to clear up by coming back to the table. I’m glad that I was offered that chance and happy that I took it.
The main reason I cited for leaving WoW behind temporarily was that I needed to manage my time better, but I think I need to learn how to better manage my priorities with the game as a presence, because I was just plugging up blocks of time with FFXIV instead. And I had fun with both, and I’ve played a more balanced MMO diet this month while also not whittling hours away in a single sitting, so I am fairly happy with the progress I’ve made on that time management goal overall. There’s more still to do there, certainly when it comes to then using the time in the margins on my project goals, but it is a start, and it doesn’t require me biting my fingernails thinking about maybe wanting to play WoW or FFXIV, or feeling like I have to completely excise either or both in order to reach my goals, given that the unhealthy nature of my relationship with gaming is that sometimes I make an actively self-sabotaging choice to play over projects or other tasks.
Either way, I’m happy that I’m realizing improvements in this area (and that my time in both games is more fun for it) but it also means there’s less to discuss daily or weekly, because I don’t have 38 dungeons worth of anecdotes gathered over 7 days. For my mental health, that’s probably a good thing! – but it does mean that I have to push myself harder when writing here to find things worth discussing.
I’ve Been Active In Other Hobbies
I’ve written a lot about wrestling here in the last month, I’m not going to do too much more today. I will say that being back into watching weekly over the long term with AEW has been interesting and great – it’s broken up my media diet a little more which is a good thing, and it offers me a connection point to my childhood with my father and to the most motivating dream I ever had has an adult, one that led me to lose 108 pounds in 8 months and get into the ring. The month still has some days left, and there are still two full weeks before AEW’s All Out PPV, which is great because this guy they debuted this week needs to get some storyline going:
My Mental Health Has Been Iffy
I’m not going to WebMD you or bore you with details – I’m not seeing a psychologist or psychiatrist and I have no idea if I have a condition that could be diagnosed and treated, but I know I go through peaks and valleys like everyone else and lately, it’s been a valley. I’ve been taking more naps (my biggest warning that I’m in a funk) and generally just been sort of withdrawn and apathetic. Even as I’ve knocked out stressors that I knew were contributing to it, there’s still a kernel of it that remains. It’s something I’ve dealt with in waves for a long, long time, but in the past I had an external direction set from a workplace or something else to at least provide a structure I could retreat into. But, I’m working seriously at being self-employed and a part of that means I provide the structure, and when my mental state slips, that means the structure is gone too and that sucks. The funny thing to me is that even with that, when I’m around anyone else, I can still knock out a hell of a “I have my shit together, actually” performance, which is dangerous because I definitely perform being okay even when I’m not and it means I often don’t ask for help, accept lifelines, or generally engage. It’s a thing I try to work on, but I haven’t broken through the barriers completely, and thus we wind back to the start of this section – I’m undiagnosed and untreated because I perform being okay and deny needing help. Blaugust has, in a way, been an easy aid for that, because I can focus on my writing and I have that one piece of my day predetermined from my signup in mid-July.
The Rest of the Month
With all of that said, I’m still going to be a 31-post warrior for Blaugust 2021. Taking today to write a formless sort of piece about myself and my challenges on the Blaugust journey is a lifeline to power through the last 10 days of August and even do some post-mortems in that first week of September when we all discuss how things went.
For me, the rest of the month is going to be a mix – some WoW stuff (now that I’ve seen the whole Sanctum raid and gone 7/10 Heroic, my thoughts on the gameplay are more fully-baked and formed), some FFXIV stuff (doing the Resistance Weapon questing in the Bozjan Southern Front and Zadnor, doing Castrum Lacus Litore and Delubrum Reginae, and my thoughts on the design and curve of that experience), some meta blogging stuff (talking about the rude FFXIV fans that left some comments and what that might say about the “good community” of the game), and probably another Sidenote or two (I need to find time to read or watch coverage of the Intel Tech day event and the Arc GPU technology in particular). Gamewise, outside of FFXIV and WoW, I’ve revisited some Planet Coaster, played a smidge of MMO Tycoon 2, and I’ll probably dive into the Diablo II Resurrected beta for real (even if Necromancer is still closed for play!).
And that is about it for today.