Goodbye Massively

So yeah, there was a post recently in the MMO blogosphere that basically trashed Massively. I guess they’re entitled to their opinion, but it didn’t make any sense to me.

I liked Massively for the exact reason that this other blog trashed them: They didn’t take themselves too seriously. I always felt like there were human beings behind their articles and podcasts. Real people doing the best they could with clearly limited resources in a super fast-paced environment.

I get the feeling that people expect gaming news sites to have the same sort of gravitas that CNN or The New York Times has. That seems unrealistic to me. Most of these places are operated by gamers. That’s sort of like having The Times staffed by writers who are simultaneously running for Congress. I never viewed Massively as a hard-hitting news journalism site. I never view any gaming news as hard-hitting journalism. Mainly because they talk about games. It’s inherently a frivolous topic. There are a lot more important things in the world to worry about. If you haven’t learned that yet then, well, I envy you.

I don’t think it was a secret that Massively was always a purely editorial site. To me, they were essentially a regular blog with multiple writers who just happened to have a corporate sponsor and an expensive web platform. They wrote articles with opinions, and I never saw them try to hide that. I didn’t always agree with them, and I liked some of the writers more than others, but their voice was what I liked about them. They never pretended to be a lofty, objective source of pure facts, because such a beast doesn’t exist, especially when you’re talking about games. The Massively staff clearly liked some things and didn’t like other things, which makes them pretty much the same as you and I.

There have been complaints that Massively just re-printed press releases. Maybe they did and maybe they didn’t, but I don’t understand why anyone would take issue with that. I mean, press releases are supposed to be printed as news items. That’s why they call them press releases, you know? Everybody reprints press releases. It takes a lot of time and energy to research the credibility of every single press release, and most online news sites just don’t have the manpower. Even big places. That’s the world we live in. It’s mostly up to you the news consumer to sort out the facts nowadays, if it’s something you really care about. If you let someone else do it for you, you’re almost always going to be misinformed.

There was some mention of the poor quality of the Massively comment section. This is another topic that baffles me. As a blogger, it probably doesn’t behoove me to mention this, but I rarely read or participate in comment sections. There is a very popular philosophy that a web site is only as good as its comments, but I don’t necessarily subscribe to that philosophy. I look at web sites not as communities to visit, but as publications to read. That makes me a Luddite in today’s Internet, but that’s just how I am. (Part of it is that I’m not very good at writing off the cuff, and I usually need time to cogitate on my ideas and edit my writing before I feel confident publishing it. This very post is driving me crazy because I feel like I’m rushing it out the door too soon.) Anyway, the point is that I almost never read any comments on Massively, but the ones I did didn’t seem any better or worse than any other site’s comments.

That being said, I’m fully aware that commercially viable web sites need a thriving community to sustain a web-based business. It probably doesn’t matter if the community is for or against you, as long as people post comments. It’s the most visible metric of how successful a web site is. Therefore, it makes excellent business sense to post articles that will generate conversations; good, bad, or indifferent. Let’s face it. Most people are jerks. If you give them a chance to write a comment, they’re probably going to write a jerky comment. (That might be cynical.) I recently mentioned a Massively Soapbox article that I didn’t care for. But it did its job perfectly: It generated conversation, both in its comment section and in the blogosphere. And that’s exactly what a sustainable for-profit web site is supposed to do.

Beyond all of that, the only way I can think of to moderate comments is to delete the ones that aren’t appropriate. But that goes against the idea that more comments equates to better commercial success. It also takes a lot of time and energy to moderate, which again is something that most news sites don’t have. I wouldn’t expect them to be able to do more than skim through the comments and take care of the most obvious offenders.

The other things I enjoyed about Massively were the podcasts and the streams. The Massively podcast was the most laid-back, unpretentious podcast about MMOs ever. Most of the time it was just @Sypster and @nbrianna sitting around chatting about games. Usually one of them had a much higher volume than the other, which drove me crazy as I kept having to adjust the volume in the car, and every week I wished somebody over there would learn the value of audio compression. (I wish that for most podcasts, actually.) Anyway, I loved how the two of them represented polar opposite viewpoints about MMOs: Syp usually favored the soloing, gaming parts, while Brianna usually favored the roleplaying and economy parts. It made for great discussions.

Massively streams were great for giving us a look at games before we had to plunk down some money for them. Most recently, I learned from watching MJ on the H1Z1 streams that I had no desire to pay money for early access to a game where random strangers are going to run up and actually speak with voice chat at you. *Shivers* I also found it fascinating to watch how MJ plays MMOs… the things that she finds interesting in a game is incredibly different from me, so it gave me some perspective on how other people play these games. Mike was also great at streaming (and Jasmine before the cutbacks). They all sort of form the template for how I think game streams should be. Informative, inclusive, entertaining, but not shock-jocky.

So all in all, they weren’t perfect, but they did a pretty good job in a tough business. Also, based on what I’m hearing in a Repopulation stream from MJ, I have a feeling we’re going to see them again in the future, which is awesome. For me and the genre.

P.S. The Repopulation has nice visuals. I’m somewhat impressed.

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