A Milestone at Brooklyn Wargaming

100KviewsThis week, this site rolled past 100,000 views and 56,000 visitors since its launch in July 2013. While Brooklyn Wargaming is by no means one of the more popular gaming sites out there, I am constantly pleased I garner so many visitors every day around the world coming to check out what’s new with me and my hobby.

Over the past few years, I written over 200 posts, played over 100 games, paid visits to numerous historic sites and museums, modeled a lot of terrain and painted a ton of miniatures. My blog has served as not only a diary of my gaming passion, but also as a way to share my love for this stuff with people who have visited my site from almost every country on the planet.

Here are some lessons learned and observations about blogging about gaming over the past two years:

Be Early

One of my earliest successes was from a post I wrote about the passing of famed wargamer and author Donald Featherstone in the autumn of 2013. Just as the story was breaking on the morning of September 4, 2013 in Europe, I noticed there wasn’t a lot of coverage in the United States as of yet. I work for a company that works partially in breaking news, so I know the value of being first to a story. By the end of the day, my traffic had spiked to nearly 200 visitors, by far the best day for my site which had just launched a couple months before.

Be Timely

As a historical wargamer, posts which tie in with anniversaries of particular battles and campaigns are great generators of traffic. My best examples are the two articles I wrote about modelling the Guards Armoured Division during Market Garden. Many months after originally posting them, the Flames of War website made the two posts featured articles in their weekly site update celebrating the anniversary of Market Garden. Traffic flooded in and each have seen about 3000 reads over their lifetime.

Be Unique

Now and then I write about my early years of gaming with my Retro Gaming the 70s & 80s series. In these posts, I look back at games from my childhood and teen years when I was just becoming passion about the hobby. Often times, these posts are love letters to obscure games which appeal to only certain people. While many of these articles get just a few views from my nostalgic visitors, I’ve been surprised that my piece on Crossbows and Catapults has become a popular post day in and day out since it was published in July 2014.

The Crossbows and Catapults article lingered in obscurity for a few months, but several months later the traffic started picking up. Since then, this piece has been getting about five reads a day. I find this to be an interesting stat given the game is not especially well-remembered nor is it played much today. What I think makes the post strong is that it is one of the few comprehensive articles about the game you can find online. The article contains a detailed history of the game and its subsequent editions plus lots of photos and scans of the original rules included in the game. Other sites have linked to the article over time, directing traffic to my site daily with people with fond memories for this game. Unwittingly, my written childhood memories have now become a go-to article online for Crossbows and Catapults.

Be Instructive

As a hobbyist, some of my favorite articles online fall into the ‘how-to’ category. It shouldn’t be surprising then that my posts which outline detailed descriptions, step-by-step guides and lots of illustrative photos are among my most popular. Over time, I’ve added more in-process descriptions and pictures of my painting and modelling projects, garnering traffic day in and day out. Whether it’s modelling 15mm Western European terrain, micro armor projects or my recent build of Pegasus Bridge in 15mm, these ‘how-to’ posts are visited multiple times day after day. The great thing about a solid, detailed instructional post is they have long ‘evergreen’ lives as both new and old hobbyists alike seek reference posts as they work their own projects.

Be Connected

People don’t find stuff online on their own, so connecting my blog to like-minded folks is an important way to get others to read my posts. Posting modelling projects and after action reports links to The Miniatures Page is the number one generator of outside traffic for my site. After that, connecting posts to various groups, museum, historic site and manufacturer pages on Facebook is the second best way to find readers. Facebook also gives the most ego-boosting immediate feedback as the likes, shares and comments flow with almost every post. Posting my articles directly to forums on manufacturer websites, like Flames of War and GHQ, also drive pretty significant views from people invested in a particular niche of the hobby. As a member and president of Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY, my posts also flow directly to the club’s homepage for current and prospective members to check out. I also use my Twitter account and have dabbled in Reddit, although each of these only see a trickle of visitors to the site. It’s a bit of work, but I definitely need to push my social media connectivity to keep my traffic boosted.

Getting to the next 100,000 visits…

So, with this first milestone at Brooklyn Wargaming, I’m asking myself where I go next. I’m certainly going to be continuing to post projects on a regular basis, and I’d like to break into miniatures of more eras beyond my core interest in World War II. I’m going to keep bringing reviews and plays through new board games to the site as I’m introduced to them. I’d also like to get into more feature articles, and I’ve got a few ideas churning away in the back of my head.

As a kid originally from a tiny rural Western New York town who’s been pushing little miniatures around tables and rolling dice for over thirty years, I’m grateful to my tens-of-thousands of readers who have come to my site over the past two years. Keep checking out the site, and, if you’re ever in Brooklyn, let’s play a game.

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Gaming In The Shelfie Era

Pianosettlers

Photography has been a personal and professional interest of mine for more than twenty years. One particular area of photography that has long fascinated me is frontier photography of the United States. I was turned on to the period in the 1973 classic Wisconsin Death Trip by Michael Lesy which frames a late 19th-century town’s life in photos ranging from the deeply personal to the macabre. Given the complexity and expense of early photography, I’ve always thought of the personal, logistical and financial choices made in people capturing images in the late 19th through early 20th century.

Photographs of American frontier people and their possessions have always held a big pull for me. In the photo at top (from the Nebraska State Historical Society’s Prairie Settlement collection) a family has chosen to hire a photographer to document them on the new frontier. Aside from the family in the foreground, the photo is filled with possessions. What the family owns occupies more than three-quarters of the photo — land, cattle, horses, mules, hogs, wagons and a prominently placed piano right in the middle of the family. So large are the family’s holdings the photographer has needed to climb to the top of a hill or perch on a ladder to take it all in with a shot taken from a godlike point of view from above. The photo conveys much including survival and success not only with the portrait of the family itself but in the wider portrait defining the family by what they own.

SodHouse

A picture of another Nebraskan family from the same period (above) puts what is among their most valuable possessions — a team of horses — on an equal plain with the family. One of the family’s cattle stands above them all on the sod house’s roof, a quirky accident placing the ownership of livestock not only on equal par but above the family in terms of importance. A table decorated with a blanket has also been hauled out of the home and set with food, and it appears some celebration is being documented. The family’s possessions — the house, the animals and the land — dominate the photo. As with other frontier photos of the period, the celebration of success is what’s captured in the photo. It provides a document that says, “Here we are. Here’s our stuff. We’ve made it.”

PhotoBooksPhoto books of people and their possessions by Peter Menzel and Gabriele Galimberti

People, and seemingly Americans in particular, have a long tradition of defining themselves by what they own. From the 19th-century frontier until relatively recently, photos of what we own have largely been for the benefit of ourselves and perhaps the closest of family and friends. In the era of mass self-documentation of even the most mundane activities, meals, possessions and “selfies” distributed through Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Reddit and other social media platforms, what people own is now widely available for all to visually consume. Some sites critical of the trend, such as Rich Kids of Instagram, point out the more absurd edges of what we’ve all come to accept as just another part of our digital day-to-day. Photojournalists have taken a more documentary approach in such series as Material World: A Global Family Portrait, Toy Stories: Photos of Children From Around the World and Their Favorite Things and Personified: A Photo Series on People and Possessions. It’s clear for many of us, we are what we own.

Last year I became highly aware of the trend among my own gaming subculture. Many of the online groups I had joined to share historic knowledge, miniature modelling techniques, learn about game industry news or discuss rules were quickly filling up with a photos of people’s stuff. As a subset of the “selfie,” the “shelfie” is popular among gamers as a way of showing just how committed they are to the hobby the the sheer size of their collections. Some of the photographed collections border on historical archives of out-of-print games collected over decades in the hobby. More often than not though, many of the photos appear to be presented with a flair of a “top this” subtext or alternately a “this is all I have” apology to the virtual crowd. Things amped up during the past winter holiday season with a torrent of online photographs posted to gaming sites I frequent depicting a virtual arms race of heaps of games received as gifts or bought for themselves.

BNRedDotThe Barnes & Noble “red dot” clearance sale is wildly popular with gamers

This spring the US-based bookseller Barnes & Noble is running what I quickly came to learn was an annual 50%-off game clearance sale, and there was enormous online gamer excitement and chatter in the weeks leading up to the event. Gamers plotted elaborate routes to multiple locations, connected with employees for inside connections, shared inventory reconnaissance (or lack thereof) and even concocted complex plans of buying from one store and returning at another store for a higher value of store credit (an idea not supported by many online). Others, living far away from a B&N store, lamented jealously they were being left out of the sales rush. As the sale period progressed, complaints also arose in a mix of comments on poor local selections or having to settle on buying something the person didn’t really want. Buying something — anything — was critical to many, lest a gamer somewhere feel left out during the sale. In the weeks following, photos of “the haul” have appeared in social media displaying stacks of games purchased (often in multiple copies for gifts or re-sale). Again, photos and shopping stories were met with comments ranging from congratulatory to jealousy to the feelings that this was simply another example of how life isn’t fair.

The emotions wrapped around photographic documentation of the acquisition of games are not limited to the holidays or special sales by corporate retailers. People who post pictures and tales of finding bargain second-hand games in local thrift stores are likewise met with digital slaps on the back or lamentations that some people’s thrift stores are unjustly better than others. Reviews of gaming conventions are increasingly dedicated to celebration or criticism of purchasing opportunities, and in the past year I’ve seen an increasing number of photos showing not only the fabulous games played at a convention but also of all the stuff a person managed to buy while there.

IMG_3025My own “shelfie” taken in mid-2014

I’m a lifelong collector of many things, including comics, books, model trains, music, toys and, yes, games. My comic book collection paid for a lot of my college education. My parents are collectors, too. So was my grandmother. I have great memories and stories about an insane find at a flea market, working for years to track down a long-sought item or hours of relaxed browsing through dust boxes at a yard sale. It’s in my blood — I love collecting.

Gamers I’ve known for decades are also more often than not cut from similar collector cloth. There’s always something new to buy – a board game expansion, a new army to paint, a campaign module, a new edition of rules or the latest hot release. The hobby naturally attracts collectors. I know people with more games than they will ever play or even open for that matter. I also know people who are no less passionate as gamers with small collections of games.

Within the endless stream of online photographs and stories of consumer victory and defeat in the gamer community, there’s a lot of personal information that rises to the surface from comments. Couples have babies or get divorced. Jobs are lost and others find new careers with richer paychecks. People relocate for a variety of reasons, sometimes willingly and sometimes not. Some owe taxes or are buried in household bills while others spend their hefty refunds or max out credit cards. Narratives vary, priorities shift, lives are lived and another game is purchased.

Like most games, life has a time limit. We do what we can to play the game right and by the rules, celebrating our victories along the way (sometimes with a bit too much passion) and hopefully learning from our mistakes. Like those families struggling to show in photographs how they had made a life on the 19th-century American frontier, we all want to show we’re not only surviving but thriving. The photos of shelves and hauls gamers share (again, sometimes with a bit too much passion) may possibly just be the way we’re all trying desperately to communicate, “Here I am. Here’s my stuff. I made it.”

Downloading: Wargame Blogging With 35 Million Images

Embed from Getty Images

I’ve written previously about my longtime career in the photo and film licensing industry, starting out in the mid-1990s as a historic photo researcher. One of my former employers, Getty Images, made a surprise announcement this week that it was making available for free some 35 million images for non-commercial use in social media and blogging. The press release stated Getty Images’ acknowledgement of the widespread use of images without proper licensing, and the new system will allow for data-gathering and one would think some form of monetization long-term.

Using the new functionality is easy with a quick image search and copy/paste of the embed code into a website like Facebook or blog platform like WordPress. Images are importantly displayed with the proper photographer and collection attribution. The Getty Images logo is also prominently shown along with buttons to share the image via Twitter or Tumblr. Clicking on the image itself returns the user to the Getty Images website for full caption information. Because the image is never actually uploaded to the blog’s hosting site, there’s an additional cost savings in storage space. It’s all fast, neat and, again — free.

For wargame bloggers, there’s an enormous amount of iconic and more obscure photographs, maps, posters and illustrations available. The black and white and color historical offering is deep. Contemporary photos of equipment, re-enactments, memorials and sites relevant to military history should also be useful for reference for wargame bloggers like myself. Not every image Getty Images represents is available for free through the embed code, and users should be careful not to grab an image requiring a license fee.

Check out the below for just a glimpse of the breadth and depth in the Getty Images offering which may very well be popping up on some of your favorite blogs very soon.

Ancient & Medieval Warfare

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American War of Independence

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Seven Years War

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Napoleonic Wars

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American Civil War

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African Colonial Wars

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World War I

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World War II

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Cuban Revolution

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War Concepts

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