26/02/2020

Content Creator Discontent

I'm seeing people talk about SWTOR's Content Creator Program again. People sometimes ask me why I'm not in it... so let me tell you a little story.

First off, I flat out didn't like it much in its original incarnation, back when it was called the "Influencer Program". I'm not a huge fan of the word influencer, and in a gaming context it tends to be associated with streamers and YouTubers. That didn't feel like my kind of jam at all.


Early last year Bioware gave the whole thing a revamp though, changing the name and generally improving it significantly. They actually started giving content creators shout-outs on social media more regularly, and even featured some of them on the game's launcher, which I thought was incredibly cool. The idea of maybe seeing my own character up there one day seemed about equal parts exhilarating and terrifying, and after much umming and ahhing I eventually sent in an application.

I did not get an immediate response, but given the increased exposure of the programme after the big revamp they were a bit swamped with applications, so I patiently bided my time, only sending a reminder email after two weeks, based on some other content creators' advice.

Three weeks after my original application I received confirmation: I was in - on a trial basis, that is. Being a trialist didn't actually give you anything and was clearly just meant to be period for you to prove yourself: showing that you were a good community member (in the sense of not violating the Terms of Service, spreading hate speech online or anything like that) and that you could produce content regularly.

The latter felt a bit silly to me considering that I have a blog right here that shows that I've been writing about the game at a rate of several posts per week for more than eight years, but I get that these rules are likely the same for all types of creators and do make sense for something like a streamer for example. When you're trying to join an exclusive club, you don't start your application by moaning about how they should have different rules for you.

Another thing I was supposed to do was send them a little "report" once a month about things like what I thought about recent happenings in the game and the community. Again, perfectly harmless and sensible... but once I started doing it (I only did it twice), I didn't really like it much either. Again, I think it's because of the format in which I produce my content.

It would be highly unreasonable to expect Bioware to follow every single stream that someone puts out for example, so it makes perfect sense for them to request a simple summary of notable events. But all the content I create is already right here on the blog - if you wanted to know what I thought and did in game last month, all you'd have to do is take a look at the front page at the end of the month and scan the last ten headlines or so. I felt like my reports mostly came down to writing CliffsNotes of my blog posts for them because they couldn't be bothered to actually read the real thing, which felt bad.

As it happens, I also chose the worst possible time to apply to the programme, as all of this happened last summer, shortly before I was hit by a severe funk in regards to my attitude towards the game. My lack of interest at the time caused me to never actually send that final report to finish off my third trial month.

When my excitement for the game returned with Onslaught's release not long afterwards, I thought about whether I should try to pick things up where I had left off. Flunking out of my trial was not a good look, but I wondered whether I could explain it away as having had an awkward month (which was not untrue) and be given some lenience on that front. I suspect that they probably would have been fine with it. But ultimately there was something else that made me hesitate.

You see, I'd also started to experience a certain feeling of discomfort during those two months when I was quietly "on trial". I want to be 100% clear that there had not been the slightest hint of being asked to not be critical of the game or anything like that. Frankly, based on the things I've seen and heard from some official content creatores in the past, I'm pretty sure Bioware doesn't ask people to censor themselves in any way. But I was feeling weird.

Again, it may just be a side effect of the sort of content I create, but when I write a post criticising something about the game for example, I tend to see it as serving three purposes: personal venting, engagement with/entertainment for my readers, and giving feedback to Bioware. In regards to the last one, I don't necessarily expect anyone from Bioware to read my writings as I put them on the page, but I still feel like I'm giving them feedback by putting things "out there" so to speak. If someone at Bioware went "hm, I wonder what people think of the Veteran's Edge removal" for example, they could do a Google search and find my post about it. If being in the Content Creator Program gave me a direct channel for feedback that I could use as an alternative though... was I then doing anything other than moaning and spreading bad vibes by also making public blog posts about the things I didn't like?

In other words, even without any prompting from Bioware's end, the idea of being closer to them and being able to give direct input made me feel like I shouldn't then turn around and say bad things about them on the blog. Even if they were relatively mild "bad things" anyway.

So I decided to not send that third report after all. Because the feeling of being able to use my blog to talk about anything I want and whenever I fancy it is too important to me, and I don't want to feel like I should be altering my writing for Bioware's sake. I'll say it again though: this is in no way Bioware's fault. "It's not you, it's me" really does apply here.

I hope they keep working with other content creators to maintain the programme and keep up with what's happening in the SWTOR community. I just prefer to retain my independence and not be beholden to anyone, which is something I wouldn't have known if I hadn't at least given it a try.

9 comments :

  1. I completely agree with you. Not that anyone's asked me to join anything similar but over the years, particularly back in the 80s, when I was a prolific prodecer of and writer for comics fanzines, I had several opportunities to take the next step up, something quite a few of my friends of the time went on to do. I thought about it a lot at the time and came to very much the same conclusions you have - even though no-one is explicitly asking you to have certain opinions or address certain issues, you, the very act of accepting an invitation to be part of something that you don't directly and exclusively control has implications you have to either accept, ignore or oppose.

    It's solipsistic, sure. Arguably it's antisocial. And it can be a little galling to see others gain recognition or preference for doing pretty much what you've been doing. In the end, though, the sense of ownership and independence makes it worthwhile.

    Not to say it would always be a bad idea to participate in some larger enterprise but it's something I would never leap into without forethought. Plus in a purely practical sense it's committing yourself to work - and usually unpaid work at that. Not something I favor!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't feel I'm being particularly antisocial - I still chat with other content creators on Twitter and on blogs, and among the smaller ones I wouldn't even know which ones are part of the programme and which ones aren't without checking.

      But yeah, I definitely started to think some work-like thoughts during the trial period - you could argue that I already make work for myself by wanting to stick to a certain posting schedule, but that's entirely up to me and therefore different.

      Delete
  2. For those of us that still prefer reading to listening or watching, by my estimate this is far and away the best source of detailed SWTOR commentary. I particularly enjoyed your posts on the post Iokath content after I played through it for the first time myself. No-one else has covered that content as well as you did (imo).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! I really enjoy doing those story write-ups and looking at what worked well and what didn't.

      Delete
  3. I don't know how i feel about this.

    I only ever wanted two persons to be part of the content-creator-program: MacGeiler and Shintar.

    Both have a naturally layed back attitude to the game and life. As far as i can tell. And i can feel their love and passion for SWTOR.

    Mac also had a "severe funk" episode in his streaming career. But he left the game eventually.

    The other content creators are not bad or anything. But for me they lack something. Swtorista surely has love and passion for this game as well, she does a huge amount of great work. But something is missing. Sorry, but i can't really describe what i mean. Maybe it's her more casual approach to the game.

    I would have like to see you in the program, Shintar. But your decision does not change anything for me.

    But the coincidence that both Mac and you put an application in to ultimatley withdraw is baffeling me.

    At last: one german youtuber got accepted for the content creator program. I was surprised, that Bioware picked one from the german community. His name is Theodolor.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Does it really make a difference to you as a reader though whether someone is in the programme or not? :)

      Delete
    2. Does it make a difference? No, of course not.

      I got the Shintar i need and deserve.

      Delete
  4. One of the biggest pluses for streamers, I think, is getting free cc to use for giveaways, which increase viewership. But you seem pretty happy with the level of engagement you get, and hosting a giveaway on the blog is different from hosting one on a stream. It won’t make people read the whole blog.

    (Which doesn’t mean you couldn’t do interesting things with that resource, Swtorista has done a lot of reddit giveaways about encouraging people to engage with the game in different ways. But it’s very different from how doing a giveaway every fifteen minutes can get people to watch your stream for a couple hours)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've had a couple of giveaways on the blog over the years actually - twice out of my own pocket and another time because Swtorista had been given a bunch of codes to hand out to other people to use as prizes, whether they were in the programme or not.

      But those were mostly done for fun, because like you say engagement with a blog is quite different and not as easily "bought". It's a good point though that this sort of thing matters more depending on how you engage with your audience.

      Delete

Share your opinion! Everyone is welcome, as long as things stay polite. No sign-in required. I also read comments on older posts, so don't be shy. :)