I read a lot of blogs. More often than not, I find myself wanting to know about the person behind the website, what they get out of writing, and what keeps them doing it. Then I thought, “Hey, they’re just people, why not ask?” So, today, I’m happy to present the first of what I hope to be many Community Spotlight segments.
Our first guest is one of my favorite bloggers, Darren from the Common Sense Gamer blog and Shut Up, We’re Talking podcast. He’s been at it for a while and is a pleasure to read and listen to. In our little interview, we talk about blogging, podcasting, WoW, and a little of Darren’s life outside of gaming.
Without further adieu, let’s get to know a little more about the Common Sense Gamer…
Chris: First, can you tell us a little bit about who you are and what your blog is about?
Darren: My name is Darren and I live is the cold reaches of Canada where the real beer is made by giant beavers and taste tested by only the finest Moose 😉 The blog is mostly about MMOs, but I try not to restrict myself to just that. I’ve been known to talk about flight sims and strategy games as well. Basically…anything that that I want to talk about, I talk about.
Chris: How long have you been blogging and what gave you your start?
Darren: I’ve been blogging since early 2006. The start just can by when I just really wanted someplace to talk about gaming. I read plenty of blogs at the time and, at the time, I thought it would be a great medium to put my thoughts into.
Chris: Is there anything you enjoy writing about the most? Critique, analysis, humor…?
Darren: I guess you can call most of my blog posts analytical…but I always try to put humor into most of my writing if I can. It is gaming after all…so, I can’t take it too seriously.
Chris: What have you found to be the most rewarding part of your blogging career? What’s your biggest blogging ‘achievement’?
Darren: The most rewarding part of the blog has been the amount of relationships that have been made because of this blog. I can probably say that some of my closest friends are now a direct result of starting the blog.
Biggest achievement? The fact that I’m still doing it 😉
Chris: I listen to “Shut Up, We’re Talking” all the time. What made you decide to start podcasting?
Darren: My first podcast was a review for LOTRO. The next one was for Vanguard. These were just little, 30 minute “reviews” that I thought would be fun to do….and they were fun to do. The intention wasn’t to get into
podcasting but just to try out a new medium. Brent, from Virginworlds, had a conversation with me about the whole “Podcast Collective” idea and we batted ideas that around. Eventually, we came up with the show you now hear.
Chris: I know several people in the community are interested in doing a podcast but don’t really know where to begin. Do you have any advice to help them get started? How about growing a listener base?
Darren: A good place to start is to listen to VirginWorlds #70. Growing a listener base just takes time…but it always helps to get some kind of plug from an established blog/podcast to give it a little push.
Chris: How do you feel your blog and podcast have changed since you began? How about yourself as a content creator and gamer?
Darren: The podcast has changed quite a bit in terms of quality, I’d like to think. You have no choice but to get better at audio editing…so, from a technical perspective, it’s better. The feel and subject matter of the podcast has just evolved as the MMO genre has. The show now feels more comfortable to do…and more importantly, guests know the tone of the show, so it makes it much easier to get everyone talking as if we’re just a bar somewhere. Very proud of how much the show has matured from the first episode. Go listen to the first one…..good gawd.
The blog…hmmmmm. You see, I’m a bad writer. I’m great at math but I butcher the English language on a regular basis. I’ve probably caused many an English major to just jump out of high rise buildings after reading the blog. I write very much like I talk…so it’s a very “conversational” style of writing. The blog really hasn’t improved as much as the podcast has…at least in my head it hasn’t. I still enjoy doing it…but I can’t see how my writing has improved since 2006 because I’m just not motivated to do so 😉
Chris: What games are you playing now? Are there any in particular you’re looking forward to?
Darren: Right now, I’m playing Fallen Earth quite a bit. Very interesting. Crafting is just extremely addictive in that game. I just finished Batman, which I will have to stop talking about before people start to question my sexual preferences ;). Hmmmm….also playing a bit of Eve Online when the need arises. Probably the big winner for me this year, for MMOs, is LOTRO. Extremely well done and I can’t recommend it enough.
Chris: If you could design your own game, what would it be? MMO, RTS, FPS?
Darren: It would be an RTS…simply because it would be easier to do. Actually…it would probably be a a version of Bejewed. Shoot for the stars….get the moon 😉
Chris: You’ve said before that you like to stay current with WoW. Do you think that, this far out of the gate, Warcraft is a good thing for the MMO genre or that it’s holding the industry back from taking risks and innovating?
Darren: Oy…that’s a whole blog post you’re asking for there 😉 WoW has certainly made some unrealistic expectations. I think the last set of people to fall into that trap was EA Mythic with Warhammer. It does seem like the industry is starting to come to terms with the fact that WoW is not, nor will it ever be, the norm when it comes the the definition of “success”. It is certainly holding some from taking risks, but not everyone as seen from Eve (…slow and steady…) and Fallen Earth. Plenty though, are taking WoW and refining it in their image (FreeRealms, Wizard101, etc) and making those the template for their own future titles. Wow, in some sense, was and is a necessary evil.
Chris: Following that question up, accessibility is something more games than ever are focusing on. How do you feel about the direction MMOs are headed in now?
Darren: MMOs might be going a bit too far, but this seems to be motivated more by a shift in the demographics they are trying to hit. Lots more concentration on the 9-15 year old range instead of the 35 year olds….so those “quality of life” issues that we all think are easy mode switches turn out to be critical to hit the kid market. They are not less fun of this, but one wonders if the genre will be recognizable in the next 5 years.
Chris: When I read a blog for a while, I’ll often find myself wanting to know more about the author. Tell us a little bit about you outside of the gaming world. Family at home? Any little Darren’s filling the house?
Darren: Yeah. I’m married with two daughters. Both are in training to be gamers ;). I don’t do many organized sports anymore because I just don’t have the time…but I do hit the gym quite a bit these days to stop myself from becoming “that kind of gamer”.
Chris: Name one thing readers would be surprised to know about you.
Darren: I sometimes like American beer with Anime labels.
Chris: Finally, peanut butter: creamy or smooth?
Darren: Chunky….with the squirrel still in it.
Thank you to Darren for sitting down with us today. Remember, you can check him out at his blog and listen to him on his podcast. Both are updated frequently and provide lots of quality content. Mother approved, Game by Night recommended!
If you’re a blogger, keep an eye on your inbox over the coming weeks as I may just decide to spotlight you!
Until next time!