About five years back the Magpie convinced us to get a trial account for World of Warcraft, a multi-player online game, which has Tolkien, King Arthur and obvious and subtle pop culture references all rolled into one. My wife jumped into it right away and was hooked. I held out for about a month before I 'rolled' my own character and got similarly hooked.
Now, if you're not familiar with the way the game works, your character starts out as a level 1 with few abilities, a crummy weapon, and ugly clothes. As you complete quests and kill 'bad guys' (and most quests come down to killing bad guys), you gain experience points. Gain enough experience points and you see a lovely shower of light around your character and you 'ding', as they say, that is, you gain a level. As you gain levels you get new abilities and powers, fancier clothes, and gain access to more difficult zones and quests, and you need more experience to get to the next level. At the time we started playing, the level cap was 70, and it was a slow process to get there.
I was a total newbie at the time, and the social aspects of the game concerned me. Fearing my own incompetence, I mostly steered clear of group play, until the day I took turns saving and being saved by a fellow Paladin while fighting ogres. Eventually, she invited me into a group with some of her friends to run a dungeons; I threw away my fears, joined and had a great time.
I hit it off extremely well with one of the guys in the party, and over the next few days we ran more dungeons and did quests together. But my wife and I shared the account and she wanted to play, too, so I did not have a lot of uninterrupted time. A few days later, I noticed my buddy was in a different zone and was a couple of levels above me, and running the next tier of dungeons. Within two weeks he was thirty levels or so above me. We still talked, we were still friends, but we couldn't play together. He had left me behind.
I thought of this as I read Nancy S. Thompson's Wednesdaypost this week. Nancy has observed—and published authors have told her—that achieving publication can have a funny effect on your blog: you get fewer visitors and fewer comments, and you may even lose followers and friends. Nancy considers two possibilities, both quite valid: first, there's less time for blogging and cruising around commenting on other blogs for an author who is revising/rewriting under a deadline, and we all know there's a great degree of 'reap what you sow' in blogland. Second is the jealousy angle, that some people can't handle their jealousy and disappear. I admit, I am jealous and envious of Nancy and Lisa and Carrie and Peggy andcetra and so forth—they have agents, they have publishing deals, they have books coming out, and I don't, so I'm jealous. There. I said it. In keeping with the World of Warcraft theme, they're off in a 25-man raid killing Magtheridon while I'm slogging around Desolace killing lizards for gizzards that have a 2% drop rate. I'm jealous, but I can handle it. I envy their success, but I'm happy for them, I don't begrudge them, I know how hard they've worked and I'm not going to stop visiting their blogs just because they're published and I'm not. Not everyone can handle it, however, and some of those people may well disappear. It's an unfortunate part of human nature, but there it is.
But I think there's a third reason for the change in readership, one that may have more to do with the blogger rather than the reader, and it's back to Warcraft for this one. The game at level 70 (actually it's 85 now, soon to be 90 or 95 with the next expansion) is very, very different from the game at 22 going on 23, or 48, or 63. And I suspect that being a published author is a very different game from being an aspiring one.
When I was leveling my character, I'd log in and get right into questing (and I got a lot better at using guild chat while killing stuff, so I could be social AND effective; it made the game a lot more fun once I found some friends), heading out into the dangerous world, following the quests where they took me, working on getting to the next level. Sometimes I'd head back to a home city to train new abilities or to put acquired junk in my bank, or to go to the Auction house to sell or buy, but most time was spent out in the world aiming at the next level.
At level 70 the game changed. Welcome to a new world, the world of raiding. The entry level raid at the time required an extensive quest to get a key to get into the dungeon. You also needed to get gear to help you survive more than 3 seconds in the raid environment, which meant running the top-level 5-man dungeons on heroic difficulty (and some of these dungeons required keys, which required special quests, too). There were daily quests and daily heroic dungeons, and then raids. But there was also a lot more standing around in a city waiting for something to happen, trying to put together a good group to go into those dungeons. There was more time spent in the auction house buying certain gear, or materials to make some specialty item, or going out fishing for special foods or picking flowers for potions, etc.--completely different gameplay from the act of leveling up.
And that, I think, may be what happens in the blog world. Looking at my list of followers, looking at the blogs I follow, there are many at or around the same 'level' as me. Reading about your trials and travails helps me—I'm not alone in my struggles, we share many of the same experiences and feelings. It's encouraging to me, and I try to offer support and encouragement in turn (at least in my comments, if not always in these posts). But what happens when you reach 'level cap'? (and what IS level cap for an author, anyway? I sure don't know) When I publish, will my concerns shift into different areas, and will the nature of this blog change? And if it changes, will you have a reason to come back?
I can't answer these questions from my own experience. I am interested, though. For the published authors out there, has publication changed your style and focus of blogging, and what has that done to your readership? And for the non-published among us, have you seen changes in your favorite blogs once the owners reached 'level cap'?
Thanks for reading and commenting, and have a great weekend.