So, I love this game. Stardew Valley has been able to provide me with hours of fun and addicting entertainment. Although, I don’t think I love it quite as much as other people on the internet.

I had high hopes for this game and it somehow exceeded them. I’m only a minor fan of Rune Factory and Story of Seasons (saying other game to look smart), but I really enjoyed my time with the games. They were fun and involving, and the socializing aspect really thrilled me. So when I heard that Stardew Valley encompassed Rune Factory’s combat, Harvest Moon’s farming and socializing, and Animal Crossing’s fishing and town growth for only 20 dollars Canadian, I was sold. But what I didn’t expect was an obscene level of polish.

What I spent too many hours of my life doing

I’m a huge fan of sprite art and this game does not disappoint. Pelican Town’s colours are vibrant, but also distinct enough so you can tell what objects are at a glance. The deserts look like deserts and the skies are blue and beautiful. When the seasons roll around, the atmosphere of the game is ramped up as well. Summer days have drier grass and last longer, while spring is vibrant and has more flowers on the ground. The visuals are both visually appealing, but suiting to the situation as well. The game utilizes so many affordances and quality-of-life mechanics that it boggles my mind. For example, you can select a tool by opening your inventory and clicking on it. However, you can also hit a number on your keyboard, or click on it while it is on your toolbar to use it. Like, in Minecraft for example, if there wasn’t text to tell me what certain objects were, I would be completely clueless. Stardew Valley’s pixel art is so detailed that, honestly, if I didn’t even have guiding text, I would be able to tell what objects are. Even areas like the mine use contrasting colours between generic brown and greys for stone, and the distinct colours for ore and enemies. The player always sees exactly what they want, and no matter what, they pop out. It is why object strewn on the beach are visible; the beach is almost completely white, and even colours that are close to that palette are visible. Stardew Valley’s visuals are incredibly impressive.

Beautiful visuals of Stardew

Stardew Valley doesn’t have an ending, so the game is best enjoyed at a relaxed pace. When I first played, I spent all of Spring just tending to my farm, fishing, and exploring the mine. I didn’t even bother to socialize or give any NPC’s a gift. I think I had a single heart with 1 NPC, which i’m fairly certain was Linus. I had 1 heart with him because I was like “hey, he’s homeless, he probably wants some food!” and I was right. Protip: if you have the slightest idea of what a person wants based on their appearance, you’re probably right. Abigail has purple hair, so I thought she liked Amethyst. I was right. But she doesn’t like grapes. She’s too complicated for me I don’t get her. Abigail this will never work. But I guess this just shows how much I bothered with the social interactions.

The worst thing that happened to me was the Potluck in Spring. See, I assumed that it would be a general potluck in real life. Everybody brings a dish and they all sample each others, right? So, in Stardew Valley, I got a Chocolate cake by completing a quest in the Town Center, and I thought “I’m gonna kill it at this potluck, i’m finally going to get people to like me, and they’ll ACTUALLY want to dance with me at the Spring Dance next year!” Well, in Stardew Valley, the potluck is every villager contributing to a giant vat of soup. This means that everybody has to bring an ingredient to add to the soup, not a whole dish. And, since this was early in the game and I had no idea what I was actually doing properly, I had no inventory upgrades because I was too busy buying seeds and stone like an idiot. So when it came to the Potluck and I needed to contribute to the soup, I threw a rock in there. And then they tried it, and said it was awful and a villager ruined it. And then the day automatically ended. I felt terrible.

My Greatest Shame

But, the fact that I genuinely felt shame for ruining a tradition for Pelican Town is a testament to how powerful the game’s atmosphere is. Stardew Valley makes me ACTUALLY care about the people in it. The characters in Stardew Valley add a lot of charm to the game. When you aren’t meticulously designing your farm to min-max profits…well you’re doing a lot of other activities but you are also talking with the villagers. I feel like, at first, they all hate me. Or, rather, they’re indifferent to me. Except Alex. He asked me once if I think he could be a professional athlete, I said yes, and he would never leave me alone again. He was the first person, I ever got to 2 hearts out of 10 in our relationship. You mean slightly a bit to me, Alex.

Alex you hunk of man

But as you give people superficial gifts and never, you know, actually socialize and see what interests and beliefs you share, they start to open up to you more. And this was fascinating to me. Characters’ demeanor improves over time and you learn a lot about their history. Shane is a depressed stock boy at Joja Mart, which is essentially Wal-Mart. While he is cold to you at first, you can infer a lot about his character based on initial appearances. I knew he was an alcoholic because he is at the saloon every night, but I didn’t know the reason for it, and I applaud the creator, Eric Barone, for this subtle writing. See, at the beginning of the game, your character is shown to be working at Joja Mart, which is a Soul-Crushingly boring office job with little sense of employee comraderie and human value. The whole reason the player moves into Stardew Valley is to escape this life. So when you see Shane working at Joja Mart, the player is able to make connections. Without even talking to Shane, I understood the way he was because of the envrionment around me. So while raising affection with people may be slightly shallow, allowing others to open up and understand their hopes and dreams was so rewarding.

Corporations are spooky

Speaking of rewarding, let’s talk about the farming! It’s really good. Like, really really good. I own both the PC and PS4 version of Stardew Valley, and while I do prefer the PC version, the farming is quick and excellent for each. Every input is rapid and receptive, and it is all very convenient. There are plenty of crafts such as sprinklers and scarecrows to spruce up and improve the farm. In fact, if you are smart with your crop and sprinkler placement, your farm can become completely automated. You never need to water your crops and waste precious time and stamina. The fact that the farming runs deep enough for the player to construct an actual automatic operation is boggling to me. The farming looks simple on the outside: till with the hoe, plant the seeds, water, repeat every day until it harvests. Yet, within this simple system, there is so much possibility for creativity. You can use fences and pathways to beautify your farm and segregate livestock and crops. Maybe you have grass growing outside and you want your livestock to have a place to chill. Maybe you want to build a home for your pet cat. Maybe you want a scarecrow empire to fight off a crow phobia. There is so much room for expression that was unavailable for me in Rune Factory and Harvest Moon that it’s probably one of the best parts about this game.

Now personally, I played this game like Animal Crossing for too long. I had a fishing addiction. In Animal Crossing, I was a fishing and bug-catching tycoon. It’s probably a good thing that Stardew Valley doesn’t have bug catching, or I would probably dedicate even more hours of my life to earning virtual dollars. I would fish and fish and occaisionally try and do quests for people. Thankfully, unlike Animal Crossing, people in Stardew Valley can actually pull their weight. People are grateful when you do something nice like remember their birthday and the first line of dialogue isn’t them just asking you a favour. They don’t see that you have an egyptian urn and offer to give you a walgreens t-shirt for it. People in Stardew Valley adhere to a schedule and have daily routines. Knowing these routines is awesome and realistic. After all, my day always starts with coffee and breakfast before I go to school or work. Why would I stray from that when i’ve become so molded to it? Yet, I realized that the greatest profits lie in farming, not in fishing, But hey! when you’re waiting for your crops to grow, it is a perfect alternative to maintaining a constant income. Just don’t be like Linus and eat and sell flowers you find on the ground.

Another thing I like is the amount of villagers. I feel that there is the perfect amount for all of them to be distinct. They all have a lot of dialogue and understandable personalities that just seeing their presence and starting up a small converstion puts a smile on my face. The people make this game feel like a genuine community.

Did somebody say community? Because I say community center! It took me way too long to find out this thing existed. I saw that the messages in the room were written in halabaloo alien desu spirit, and I was like “this is too hard, I can’t figure out a second language, I tired with mandatory French in high school and wanted to nuke Montreal off the face of Canada”. But after visiting the wizard, and having him teach me the language of the little cute spirits, the community center became another integral part of my Stardew Valley experience. Two seasons in, that is, I was halfway through Summer when I saw the option for Spring foraging, and I realized tht I completely missed it. I got demotivated to continue. Until I realized there was a community center area for fishing and I became the greatest resident of Stardew Valley.

The community center looks like Garbage initially

Seriously, people insult you all the time, but they should honestly be praising you. Before you, Marnie had the only farm in town, so she was pretty much the only way anybody could eat. Sure, there was Willie fishing. but when you talk to him, he says that “the art of fishing is dying”, so it doesn’t look like anybody cares much for that either. Marnie’s farm doesn’t even specialize in crops; she uses livestock for her profits. So I guess everybody ate animal products like eggs and meat, but even though there are only 28 residents, does she have enough animals to feed all of them, every day of the year? Why does Pierre even sell seeds when nobody buys them. I suppose they could import their crops, but I feel that me and Marnie should be getting some more respect. When Haley is like “ew, farming, that’s ratchet” I get really offended because I’m doing so much for this town and it goes unappreciated.

But I guess that’s not really the point, the point is to relax and enjoy the pastoral farming town. Becausefarminginreallifeismuchmorestrenuousthanitisinfictionandvideogames.

I am also a mining fiend. I said before that I like the contrasting visuals in the mine, but there is something so addicting to the system in Stardew Valley. The fact that you get a shortcut every 5 floors, and the fact that each subsequent floor is hidden in a random stone makes it an exciting gamble. What am I going to find in the mine next time? How much copper will I find to upgrade my tools to make farming better? I better find a billion iron ore to make them quality sprinklers to automate my farm. Combat in this game is uh, a thing that exists. It’s nothing to write home about, other than you need to have MLG zoning and spacing. It is a good thing I bought this Razer Death Adder for Stardew Valley. With ergonomic buttons and ergonmic clicks and ergonomic holds I can be the best slime slayer.

But even with all this praise, I haven’t even gotten to the best part of Stardew Valley. The arcade game. But it seems like everybody hates this game. They’re like “oh nolan you’re so stupid this game isn’t for classy people like me and my 4K monitor and GTX 1060”, but, I don’t know I really like it. it’s just a dumb, Binding of Isaac-esque game where you shoot stuff.

The arcade game: Journey of the Prairie King

But all is not perfect with Stardew Valley. See, when I played this game, I just assumed that it would have 30 days like Harvest Moon does. I knew that it had the 4 seasons instead of 12 months, but I didn’t know Stardew Valley had 28 days instead of 30. So, like an idiot, I planned a huge harvest of crops for the 30th day of Spring. I didn’t unlock the backpack upgrade, and this was going to be the big day where I finally got my paycheck. I was thrilled. I went to bed on Spring 28th, anticipating how I would build my coop and what animals I would put in, only to see Summer 1 pop up, and be shocked that my entire field was dead. All of those seeds, all of that sweet profit, evaporated. I stopped playing the game for a month after that, because I was so devastated. And the worst part, is it was my fault. I was to presumptuous. I thought I had Stardew Valley all figured out.

Speaking of, when you think you know everything to the game, something always surprises you. You always find some neat, little factoid about the game. Something like, digging in the ground can get you a book, which you can bring to the museum. I saw this for the first time like yesterday, and it blew my mind. It feels like i’m always being surprised by some social event, or some new artifact I dig up, and it is amazing. All of these surprises feel emergent and natural in the game, which is very impressive. Little touches like these can add so much to the players experience. Even on your regular daily routines, you have the possibility of discovering something. I love it. Even through a self-imposed regiment, Stardew Valley’s freedom and discovery blossoms.

Oh, and did I mention that this game gets new content constantly? Yeah, I took a break in May of this year and came back to it later and there was apparently an option to start with different farm types? That feature was made pretty much for me; a veteran who wanted to return but also wanted a different experience. There is just so much content and so many secrets that I honestly haven’t even scratched the surface of this game. If you haven’t guessed, I want you to buy this game. But, I doubt you need me to tell you that. Everybody has sung the praises of this game, and its absurd level of polish. I’ve only played two games that came out in this year, Stardew Valley and Overwatch, and I highly recommend getting Stardew Valley. You can easily get hours of entertaining and incredibly polished gameplay for 20 dollars Canadian, 15 US. I know it really seems like I’ve gone in-depth with this game, but there is so so SO much more. Buy it. Just buy it. Show the indie community some love with this purchase. You won’t regret it one bit. If you want games similar to Stardew Valley, I recommend Rune Factory 4 on the 3ds, and Animal Crossing New Leaf on the 3ds. Unfortunately, games like Stardew Valley are very niche, and you won’t be likely to find one with similar polish on Steam.

A quality farm I will never attain

 

I apologize for the lack of content on this site in the last few days. I have been very preoccupied with Bloodbor – I mean, the holidays! Yeah. The holidays.

But for real, there has been a lot of family business going on, and I really do have a lot of projects! I am working on a short, Downwell Video and a Stardew Valley review. I was also thinking of discussing Bloodborne’s art design and how graphics do not make a game but rather art direction can make up for raw graphical capability. I also have a Life is Strange Analysis incoming. So trust me, I have a ton i’m working on right now, and they will arrive.

I’ve also contemplated board game reviews! I have been playing a lot of small, fun card and board games with my friends and I want to provide reviews for them. I was thinking Tales of the Arabian Nights, Nightmare (night is a common thing), Love Letter, Munchkin, and Sushi Go. So if those interest you, then feel free to subscribe to the blog or check it up periodically!

I just wanted to be transparent with everybody, because school + work does make me go on these small hiatuses, and I apologize for that. I love entertaining you guys with these articles and videos, and I hope you are enjoying them too.

“Wow, Nolan didn’t you just write about the mistreatment of voice actors in video games?” 

Yes, I did. Voice actors are incredibly important to AAA games. A big budget game with tons of marketing not having a voice acting team is unheard of. Voice acting connotes a level of polish, a representation of gaming trying to be like movies. But, video games are games, not movies. And voice acting limits the potential of narratives in games.

Having a game like Wasteland 2, or Planescape: Torment that have massive narratives influenced by player choice require way too much work with voice acting. More choice in a game means more variables to accounts for. More variables mean more lines that actors will have to dub over. With the rate that games need to be pushed out now and the poor working conditions for voice actors, the narrative aspect of games has been relatively stagnant for the last 10 years. If you look at the dialogue system from Mass Effect compared to a 1998 PC game, there are still the relatively same amount of choices. Big Budget video games are caught in a vicious system that discourages experimentation and creative freedom. As the cost for games increase, so does the inability to experiment.

The dreaded “sarcasm” option in Fallout 4

This problem of voice acting harming narrative became apparent to me in Fallout 4. The dialogue system in that game is bad. You will always be presented with four incredibly vague choices, and these choices will be spoken by the main character, who has a voice now. In previous Fallout games, the main character had no voice. Because of this, there was a greater capacity for role-playing in the older Fallouts. Your character in Fallout: New Vegas would usually have many options. Sometimes new options presented themselves depending on what skills you had. It was a great system that worked because there was no voice acting. The player could assume whatever type of role they wanted, and it was amazing. Sometimes there were 10 dialogue options, and sometimes there were just 2. There was flexibility.

Games offer the player choice, which can tell narratives that no other medium can. The player can explore areas of their own volition, which can be deliberately designed to accommodate this freedom. Although voice acting does show a level of polish and care, the strengths of video game storytelling can be emphasized by more freedom and variety. The entire game does not need to be voice acted; there can be silent cutscenes and that can work well for freedom of choice. All I’m saying is not everything needs to have ridiculous production values, as gameplay and enjoyment for the player should take priority over move-like cutscenes.

  • People ask me all the time (nobody does), Nolan, why is Final Fantasy 9 your favourite Final Fantasy game? I scoff, and open my mouth to give a pretentious answer. And yet, I don’t have the words. Because the actual reason FF9 is my favourite Final Fantasy, is because it was my first one. I know. Very anti-climactic, but I will try and at least explain why this game means a lot to me. It’s not purely sentimentality fueling my love. Final Fantasy 9 is a really good game, and even 16 years after its release, it is still a fantastic game.
  • Getting All of the Negativity Out of the Way
  • So before I start with my gushing, let me be a negative sour puss. The first flaw is how jarring the characters look on the pre-rendered backgrounds. This flaw is not native to Final Fantasy 9, as many ps1 rpg’s have this flaw. These games looked phenomenal during their time, so it was more than servicable to an audience during that timeframe. However, if somebody who has never played an RPG before, and has been conditioned by modern graphical standards pick a ps1 rpg up, then I understand if they would be repelled by the graphics. Plenty of retro games turn me off because of how ugly they look.
  • And the last flaw is how slow the battle system is. I didn’t notice this when playing it when I was younger, but when Darkkefka discussed the sluggishness of battles starting, I began to notice it. I wish I never heard that complaint, because before that, I was living in blissful ignorance. Now I can never unsee it, and with games like Bravely Default which have a fast-forward function for battles, Final Fantasy 9’s cause is not helped very much. Random battles are not particularly difficult, so they end up taking a much longer time than they actually should.
  • Very first battle of the game, and what becomes a very sluggish experience
  • And that’s it for my complaints. Those are pretty much the only problems I have with the game. Sure, there are things I wish were better, but those aspects are already good, so I don’t feel they are worth delving into.

 

Wordiness

Earlier I said that PS1 rpg’s would be tough for a modern audience to play for the first time. Outdated graphics are a reason for that, but another reason is the translation of some of these games. The translation of text from Japanese to English is something that is vital for RPG’s with novel’s worth of text and dialogue. If the translation is botched, it can seriously affect the player’s immersion. Final Fantasy 7 and 8 have mistranslations and awkward animations that do not reflect what the characters are saying. Again, I did not notice these when I was younger, but knowing what I do about the English language, some lines can come off as sketchy. Some characters have these jerky movements and odd mannerisms that reach into the uncanny valley. This was a product of the late 90s, and game companies did not value translations as much as gameplay and graphics. Console games were still getting used to the idea of a massive narrative.

Final Fantasy 9 came out in 2000 and finally had a great translation. Animations actually matched what characters said, dialogue was believable, and mistranslations were finally gone. Like the font of an article, or the editing of a video, the translation is only noticed when it is bad. If you, the player, do not question the dialogue during a game that was translated to English from Japanese, then the translators did a good (although thankless) job. This part of game creation is critical, as a botched translation is jarring to the player and can lead to a disconnected feeling. Sometimes this feeling of discomfort inadvertendly adds to a game. Silent Hill 2 is an example of a game that sets you on edge because of its odd and distant dialogue. However, for a large, RPG which is dependent on its story, proper translation is imperative to an enjoyable experience. Thankfully, Final Fantasy 9, and most RPG’s after it had a great translation.

Identity

Final Fantasy 9 knows what it is and is very confident about that. This sounds like an odd point, but remember in Final Fantasy 10, how there’s this really weird conflict between Tidus and Yuna over who the main character of the story is? That game struggled to really follow the tale of the protagonist at points. It wanted to be a person’s journey of acceptance, but it also wanted to be a “save the world” plot. This lack of assuredness diminishes enjoyment of the game, and shows that the developers were not confident in their product.

Final Fantasy 9 knew what it wanted to be and stuck with it. It was a story with multiple arcs, but it was ultimately a save the world plot. Everything the player does contributes to unifying the world and beating the big bad guy. Not very complicated, but that’s not a bad thing. Final Fantasy had a very traditional fantasy setting and had characters who were engrossed in the “Final Fantasy” motif. Character jobs were traditional, leveling was simpler, and there were less cumbersome systems. FF9 is so engrained in pure, raw, Final Fantasy, that I believe it is a perfect amalgamation of the series. There are black and white mage costumes, there are a group of colourful characters with differing abilities, and it takes place in a vibrant world that becomes worse as the game goes on. It employed so many tropes of old Final Fantasy games, that it acts as the perfect entryway into the series. This is a great game to start with and then move onto other Final Fantasy games. Other games in the series like Final Fantasy 6 and 7 are more revered by its fans, and I understand why. However, they all have fairly complicated plots and systems that may be daunting to a newcomer in the series. I would even go as far to say that Final Fantasy 9 works as a great stepping stone into the fantasy genre as a whole. Although one can percieve its tropes as bland and traditional, I believe the old Final Fantasy conventions still have charm. Final Fantasy 9 is incredibly confident in itself, and it becomes a much more appealing game because of this.

Beautiful Sights

I know I harped on the visuals of old PS1 RPGs earlier, but FF9’s locations are steeped in raw atmosphere. This is the ultimate game to play if you are having a rough day and need to get engrossed in a world. All of my troubles melt away when I play this game. Looking back on it, there isn’t a lot of actual locations you visit in this game. There are only a handful of towns and dungeons. However, each one of these has a ton of effort put into it to evoke a feeling from the player. This game takes a “quality over quantity” approach  The capitals of the world feel huge, because they have large buildings, people walking around, and fitting music playing. Lindblum really does feel like the capital of a continent and Treno fits that seedy slum aesthetic perfectly.

I feel that the pre-rendered backgrounds add a lot to the immersion in environments. I know that these backgrounds are essentially just jpegs, but by utilizing a static portrait as a background, the artist is able to have more control over an environments aesthetic. There is a location early on called “Evil Forest”. Yes, that is the real name. But even with a name as generic as that, the environment design adds a ton of atmosphere to the area. There are plenty of story events that happen here, but it acts as the perfect contrast from the kidnapping of Princess Garnet and the escape from Alexandria Castle.

When you go from an area that looks like this:

To an area that looks like this:

then the player won’t be bored. These two areas are completely different, and are symbolic of a fall. Zidane falls from being a member of his crew, Garnet falls from aristocracy to a swamp-like forest, Steiner falls from being a Knight’s Commander to just a grunt that nobody takes seriously, and Vivi falls from his comfortable ignorance to the knowledge of his purpose as a weapon.

However, like most of the game’s story, there are glimmers of hope. Although Evil Forest starts with a swampy aesthetic, it gets better, when the player encounters this sight:

A beautiful spring with a Moogle that will save your game. A break, and a respite for the player. Not only is this sight gorgeous and memorable, but it is a place of peace. Now, not every location in this game accomplishes this. In fact, I may be over analyzing the game design, but suffice it to say, the beauty and atmosphere of these backgrounds hold up incredibly well, even 16 years after this game’s release.

Mooooosic

Final Fantasy games, regardless of their quality, tend to have strong music. And Final Fantasy 9 is no exception. The music is phenomenal. Like Final Fantasy 10’s soundtrack, it is both atmospheric and great on its own. Every tune has me humming it while I am playing. And also like Final Fantasy 10, there are no ambient noises in the background so the player is left to their own thoughts while playing. There is also no voice acting in this game, so each character sounds just like the player envisions. Anyways I’ve gushed about music before so let’s move on.

Story

I won’t act like the total package of Final Fantasy 9’s story is flawless, because it isn’t. In fact, the story takes a nose dive in the very last level, which is sad, because it was very strong up until that point. I won’t go into specifics, but anybody who has played the game knows what I am talking about.

However, the moment leading up to that nose dive is really great. The story balances simplicity and a complex narrative very well. It is always progressing, and unlike Final Fantasy 13’s, it never feels the need to take a detour. There is always a constant goal to be fighting for, so it makes the story involving. There are breaks, of course, but these breaks serve as time for reflection for the player.

One of my favourite parts of the game are at the beginning of disc 3. Disc 2 escalates a world conflict so much and has so many story events that is very intense. The thing that the player needs is a moment of respite, and the game is paced so well that it knows when to deliver that.

The story is able to stay optimistic, but that’s because it needs that for the emotional moments to hit. Big, sad emotional scenes don’t work if the player does not care about the characters. Final Fantasy 9 makes you care about them, as they grow and begin to understand their flaws and improve them. Freya’s stoicism and reticence holds her back from communicating with others, but as she hangs with Zidane, her anti-social shell shatters.

In fact, Zidane is what holds this story together. He is an incredibly important main character, as he serves to help them understand their problems and flaws. His easy-going nature allows for the stuck-up party members to open up more, and become stronger friends. He is the glue that holds this story together. It is why when moments where he gets sad hit hard. And it is also equally touching when every party member is there to support him.

Final Fantasy 9’s story strengths come in its character relations and their growth. It was the first main line Final Fantasy to include additional cutscenes which provide insight into party members lives. For most of the game, you don’t even have every party member together. They are often split together or have other duties to attend to. This is what makes the unity between them all on Disc 3 and onward so strong. Even when the story can get weak at times, the character drama is always strong.

Conclusion

I hope I could articulate why this game is one of my favourites ever. There was a lot of gushing, I understand that, but this is a very biased review. Just know that, if you want to get into the Final Fantasy franchise, I highly recommend starting with this one. The version on Steam is really good.

 

Featured Image Source: http://hachiimon.deviantart.com/art/Final-Fantasy-IX-Ice-Cavern-Fanart-499386023

Intro:

This Fall semester has been a tumultuous time of discovery for me. After taking this course, I realized that my passions lie in informal, online editorials rather than archaic English texts. I learned that Publishing extends much farther than merely books, and can encompass the most innocuous piece of writing, such as a forum post. I have extended my knowledge of social media integration, algorithms, and the importance of audience. But most importantly, I have a desire to pursue blog posting and journalism further in my University studies.

Publishing Knowledge

Although I may not have accrued stellar technical expertise from this course, I understand WordPress’ functionality and proper website design. By being encouraged to think about affordances and how my site may look to the casual viewer, I was able to make menial adjustments to tailor to my audience. These small changes include font type changes, font size changes, improving the navigability of my site, and its general aesthetic. While I am still trying to wrap my head around metadata and CSS code alterations, I believe that the progress I made with WordPress has been substantial over a 13 week period.

Although my background image may have initially violated copyright rules, I learned to change it to a similar background that encapsulates the energetic and comforting vibe I envisioned. In fact, most of my content dances dangerously close to the copyright flame, which required me to learn what constitutes Fair Use and what does not. My posts discuss a medium that is very detached from reality, so I wanted my site to encapsulate the same escapist fantasy that nerdy communities can provide. Thankfully, I had a firm grasp on my audience at the start of the semester, and the 25 USD to create this site paid dividends for me. Although I do not have an audience, I believe that the content I make can tailor to a demographic of analytical nerdy people who want casual reads that are absolved from hate speech and cursing.

Publishing my content was nowhere near as easy as I thought. Learning Google algorithms and how they favour constant content was daunting because work, University, and relationships halt my progression to grasping the Google System. But as I learned from Jesse Thorn’s article, my content can be original and passionate, and still maintain a loyal fanbase. Looking at my pathetic Google Analytics numbers does not discourage me. If I have a day with 10+ visitors, I view that as a monumental success. I stopped expecting instant fame and realized that my dreams take a lot of work and passion. Thankfully, I genuinely love writing content for my audience, and I will continue to promote it on Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit until I gain a sustainable following.

How I used to perceive Google Analytics

Google Analytics’ statistics were always confusing to me until I realized what all of it meant. Words like “drop off” and “retention rate” were all jargon to me before this class. Even on my YouTube channel, I never bothered to look too deep into the analytics. However, I now have a critical mind when looking at data, and grasp a firm understanding of my audiences on this site and my YouTube channel. I see which videos and pages have the strongest retention time, and understand if people explore my site and content more. For example, when I noticed that there was a huge drop-off rate on this post because I linked it to social media, I added in a “related posts” function to encourage more active readership. I am grasping Google Analytics and using all of its tools to better my site and brand.

Personal Growth

This online presence I have instigated a part of myself that I was always afraid to express. I grew up watching YouTube, and I always wanted to be a content creator, but I never had the drive to do it until this course. I loved writing, but I didn’t know what I wanted to write. I fluctuated between poetry and attempting (and failing) at writing a novel, However, I now have a passion and a purpose, and despite my site’s lack of originality, I believe it can offer content to an audience who is curious to read it.

I focused heavily on the readings and bettering this site this semester over any other course because the other courses were not as engrossing for me. PUB101 has given me a purpose of pursuing Publishing as a career, and maybe even a co-op job as well.

The Future:

If it was not obvious, this site is something I wish to update continuously. I want to learn about plugins and other resources provided by Reclaim Hosting and better my site even more. I may even undergo a theme change or a complete overhaul of the aesthetic.

I was contemplating getting my girlfriend and friends to help create content. I know that I will struggle to maintain a following on my own. I may go on vacation, or I may just grow apathetic and stop posting. I do not want to get into a disinterested state and shatter everything I have been trying to establish. Future content does not even need to be written or an article; it can be a piece of art with a caption, it can be anything, as long as it pertains to the theme of this site. I think what is critical is finding a specific audience and tailoring to it. If I wrote a “Nolan” blog, it would be incredibly boring, as I have grown indifferent to many world issues and topics. However, by cultivating my passions and similar passions of other individuals, I believe this small piece of my life can become a major factor in my identity.

In terms of Google AdSense, I would like to integrate it soon. I decided that I will see how much revenue I can accrue to really gauge how possible turning this site into a business is. This is why I need additional support for my content; to keep it relevant and always churning a profit. I do not want my site to end up like The Toast, where it was unable to sustain itself due to AdBlock and infrequent posting. I will try my hardest to avoid irrelevancy.

Rest In Peace The Toast.

For future content, I want podcasts, video series, web comics, and just a lot of different types of mediums in which to express content. That cannot happen on my own. I am not a very talented artist, audio engineer, or composer; I am just a student and a writer, but with the knowledge of this course, I can better this site and promote it efficiently and effectively.

 

Conclusion

This fall semester has gone incredibly fast, and I have learned so much. I have learned about Google analytics and its integration with my site; I learned about audiences and my passions; I discovered a lot about where my true love lies, and I contemplated switching my major and minors to better pursue these dreams. It has been a tumultuous journey, but there has not been a second where I did not love it.