26 Mar 2010

Amusing the Muse

About a week ago Windsoar from Jaded Alt was celebrating six months of Warcraft blogging. In order to celebrate hitting this milestone she offered herself as a muse to anyone who asked. While I’m still new to this myself I thought that it would be fun to try, expecting something related to magecraft. Unexpectedly, the suggestion from my muse was a completely different.

I peruse a lot of new blogs as I welcome new bloggers to BA. Yours was one of those that really stood out–professionally laid out, and quick, tight posts right from the start.

What’d I’d like to know is, why’d you start? When I read a post, I feel like you’ve been doing this forever, but I know darn well that I only welcomed you to my reader in the last couple of weeks! Curious minds want to know.

It’s true, I’d only started blogging about Warcraft at the beginning of the month. I’d been playing the game since the day of release here in Europe, but only now felt that I wanted to write about it? It definitely sounds unusual, and like most unusual things it has a bit of a tale behind it.

The journey that led me to creating The Mana Obscura is a haphazard one that probably starts before I even started playing Warcraft. I was involved with a couple of hobbies and used to make little community websites for them. Forums, galleries and the like – helping them to keep in touch and share ideas. Some of them are still running, although most have been handed on. It was a start, allowing me to build up experience in how to develop content-based websites – how to lay them out, what information to put where and so on.

When I started playing Warcraft Earthen Ring famously didn’t have a realm forum. An enterprising player created one, but it went out of service once Blizzard gave us an official realm forum. Part-way into Burning Crusade a crackdown started on the same official forums, with raidguild recruitment threads being locked or deleted. In response I banded together with a couple of other players and set up EarthenRing.EU. It’s a project I’ve since handed over to other players, but it’s still used and has some interesting content.

So this explains the technical stuff but not the writing. For that I need to pull on a different thread.

For my job I write a lot of technical documentation, with most of it being designs for new telecommunications products and services. It’s mostly translating an image that I hold in my head into words on a page, explaining how whatever it is would work so that other people can go off and build it. Sometimes my blogposts sound a bit like an excerpt from one of these documents, particularly if I’m trying to explain something. It has it’s own form of language – quite formal and unemotive – that can creep into whatever else I’m doing.

I’ve worked on Wikipedia, in creating new articles and cleaning up existing ones. It’s something that’s fun for a while, but it started to feel restrictive to me. I wanted to express my own opinions on what I was writing about, but was limited to quoting other “reliable sources”. Eventually the limitations, coupled with an ongoing degradation of the community, persuaded me to call time on it.

I’ve also blogged before, keeping a geekBlog of all things technology. While it was an ambitious project, it was also fairly restrictive. I ended up having to research everything heavily just to justify the opinions I held, referencing everything out and spending a heavy amount of time on each blogpost. In the end it became a chore to update, and as a result I’ve put it on hiatus. I would like to restart it at some point, but it’ll probably have a new format and shorter, snappier posts.

While I was working on the geekBlog I also did some guest blogging for Media140. This was great for me as it taught me the value of editing – chipping away at an article until it’s honed to perfection and polished to a shine. While my own editing is nowhere near as good as the the professional editor I wrote for, I like to think it taught me a few things.

Looking back on it now, it feels almost inevitable. I had a desire to write about videogames (particularly World of Warcraft, but some other stuff from time to time), but I also wanted to have fun writing it. I wanted to feel like I was having conversations with people instead of presenting a formal argument or specification. I was also thinking that I got a lot of fun out of playing games, and that writing about that fun would give me a chance to relive it.

So there you have it – the story of how The Mana Obscura came to exist and why I started to blog about Warcraft. I wonder now if my tale lived up to my muse’s expectations…

(image credit: Parnassus by Andrea Mantegna, currently held at the Louvre)

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