The Trouble with FM Blogs

29 01 2007

After launching a website dedicated to Football Manager blogs, and running my own blog that talks about the game, writing about the negative aspects of these websites might seem rather foolish. But bare with me as I try to examine this recent phenomena. Why do we blog? Is to fill a basic, selfish need, or do we genuinely want to share our material? And why do so many people want to write about the limited topic that is Football Manager?

When you sit down and try to comprehend ‘the scene’, you find yourself facing a rather large headache. Just try it yourself for one minute: at any one time you can expect to find around ten websites open and active (although not always updated that regularly) that do nothing but discuss the game, the other websites dedicated to the game, and future and past incarnations. Then you have perhaps another 10 websites that hold a vast quantity of tactics, player lists, guides, graphics and downloads. Every week or so a couple more sites will appear, and subsequently disappear with the odd exception.

So that’s around twenty websites, with the content split half and half. Yet this content is hardly in need of a vast number of websites to debate and cover it. Football Manager is a PC game (let’s be honest: the majority of the scene hardly even acknowledges the other platforms versions) played only by football fans. Once you’ve discussed the best players, the best teams, the best tactics and the game itself, what else have you to discuss? And imagine another 19 websites all vying for your visitors precious time. One single PC game has certain limitations for writers – although it must be said that content, as a whole, never seems to ‘dry up’.

When you compare just one FM website (take our own, for example) with a general gaming site, you can appreciate how little I have to talk about as both a writer and a gamer. One of my favourite gaming websites, Joystiq, requires at least two visits a day, otherwise all of the content that you have yet to read will be floating around somewhere on page three, with various other articles added in the few hours you’ve been away. It’s various offshoots (including blogs dedicated to every platform) are also quite busy, albeit not home to the large number of daily updates. But this is to be expected. Joystiq can talk about the PC, PS2, PS3, XBox 360, Wii, DS, PSP, Mobile Gaming and retro gaming, not to mention individual titles. We can talk about one small tiny game that is played largely on just one system – a system that isn’t even a dedicated gaming console.

There is a somewhat paradoxical relationship between the game and the scene: as possible content decreases (i.e the one game) the number of websites increases (try and find such a large community for other titles, and you’ll be lucky to find ten other games that have so much hold).

FM Bloggers are lucky, in a way, in the fact that we can write about our game in such a way that is both entertaining, enchanting and educational. We can share our love/hate relationship with the games features, we can enthrall readers with our tales of Champions League winning Aldershot, and we can pass on the knowledge we pick up when playing the game. As a story writer myself, I enjoy reading people’s well written accounts of their games, but imagine if this area was present for other games? I can’t imagine many people logging on to a blog to read with excitement the fact that a gamer managed to kill thirty one people on Grand Theft Auto, yet a large area of the community is taken up by a teenager or young male (or, in some cases, a more, ahem, ‘experienced’ gamer) telling you how they performed in their game. Is this just a case of showing off, or do we as readers just enjoy a good story, thus creating the need for writers to jot down these accounts?

We’ve seen a number of blogs hit the scene recently, and while some have called it a ‘blog revolution’, I don’t quite think that’s the right description. People have always been posting about Football Manager and their thoughts since the internet became so accessible. In the past, people set up free websites on the likes of Geocities, or, for the more extravagant, paid a few pounds of a bit of hosting and a domain. People are very opinionated and ‘blog’ like websites, where the main content is article-based, hark back to the days of CM Star and Ver Stuff, et al. The current trend of sticking a few articles up on WordPress is not really that different to the old scene. It’s just that WordPress makes it so easy to make a nice looking blog – for free – with access to many entertaining writers a few links away. With six websites (including Blog FM) on the recently launched Football Manager WordPress Community – a figure that is bound to grow in time – it’s clear that people want a little space of their own to discuss the game. In the past websites may have had a dozen or so writers, each churning out an article on a semi-regular basis, but with so many writers it became easier for a website to bulk up its weekly content. Now many people will see little point in writing for another site, letting them take the credit, when setting up a WordPress blog takes seconds. And perhaps this is a good thing for the community: it certainly stops petty squabbles about themes and the direction of the website if only one person is working on each blog. But of course this can also cause something of a desert for the stats page – if people have 10 different websites to visit, as opposed to one with ten writers, they may not be prepared to put that much effort in.

But that’s where the FMWC comes in, and that’s already been discussed in this article.

But getting back to the main point of the article, which is the ‘lack of content’ for writers. The truth has already been mentioned – that we have very little to discuss as opposed to general gaming sites – but that’s not stopping people from blogging. Granted, individual writers will have periods where content is not forthcoming, but it only takes one particular talking point to get the scene moving again. Look at the current (although now not-so-current) debate over Throw In. I must admit that after reading about the whole episode I was somewhat spurred on to get back into the writing mood. Since then a number of other blogs have appeared, a few opening with their own interpretations of the event. And while some of these may lay dormant for a few weeks, the more blogs we have, surely the greater level of activity? Three blogs might produce one article a day, but twenty blogs churning out this ratio would give us much more to read and discuss. And so what if the content isn’t especially controversial or even new? Writing about something that has already been covered can be great: almost all biographies and academic books will be full of references to other pieces of work that they have developed on. Just because somebody else has wrote about the team talk options doesn’t mean to say you can’t, so long as it’s not a pure copy-and-paste exercise.

So are there any troubles with the current blogging trend? In reality, no. Granted, we have a reduced area to talk about content wise, but that shouldn’t stop anyone. Afterall, the scene has survived many transformations and is still alive and kicking all these years after the first fansites opened. Blogs won’t revolutionise the scene, nor will they make other websites unnecessary, but they will allow Joe Bloggs to stop his maths homework to tell everyone how fantastic his new training regime is.

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3 responses

29 01 2007
The Trouble with FM Blogs « The Football Manager Wordpress Community

[…] The Trouble with FM Blogs This article was originally published on Blog FM  […]

30 01 2007
16 03 2007
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