I've just finished reading the Polemarch's recent post on wargame communities, which struck a chord with me in view of the statistics I noticed today while checking my blog stats.
Now, hits are not why I blog (and the greater good of 'the hobby' is not why I play, for that matter!), but it seems that my hit numbers have been going up. The last few months I've been getting between 4000 and 5000 hits, and last month I got close to 6000. While you would think this would be pleasing, my suspicion is that in real terms the number of interested *human* viewers has actually gone down. The stats show that I have hundreds of hits from various 'vampire stats' and 'crawler' sites, but have remarkably few hits (even by my standards!) on actual recent posts.
As an example, when I post a battle report here I often link to it on TMP. Two years ago I could expect to get around 300 hits in the first couple of days, with these then dropping off over time. Most of my older battle reports have somewhere between 400 and 1500 hits, with this presumably depending on whether they were any good, got shared around, turned up on searches or whatever.
But lately I am lucky to get 100 hits from TMP over the first couple of days, and will end up with between 100 and 300 hits in total, from all sources.
This leads to several possible conclusions:
1) my reports are a lot worse than they used to be (quite possible!)
2) people know me, dislike me, and now know not to click (highly possible!)
3) gamers have changed their habits and tend not to click on external links, or are content to see just the 'teaser' photos on the thread (quite possible)
4) there is considerably less traffic on these TMP threads than there used to be (probable)
If the latter is true - and I certainly see a lot fewer posters on the ancients boards than I remember from the past, and recent posts seem to get fewer hits than older posts - then I have to wonder what it is about this hobby that seems to lead to fragmentation. It happens with yahoo groups and it seems to happen with forums.
Why is it that we split into smaller and smaller cells? I guess bloggers are the ultimate in 'one cell' groupings, and probably contribute immensely to the decentralisation.
Is it that we are too individualistic and argumentative to put up with forum rules? Is it that we get bored? Do we like to differentiate ourselves from others? Is it that we get a sense that something is dying and move on to somewhere else? Do we like to pick up our (metaphorical) ball and go home? Is it that (God forbid) we give up wargaming altogether?
Now, I am not a big believer in virtual 'community' in any real sense. I'm too much of a cynic probably, though having said that I do greatly value the personal connections I've built up with fellow enthusiasts over the time I've been (virtually) involved with gaming.
But I do think that a loose conglomeration of gamers who drop in and out of a virtual communal clubhouse is a very good thing for the hobby because it is a VERY good thing for individual gamers. It is no exaggeration to say that I wouldn't have become a gamer without the information, advice and, at times, encouragement I got (and still get) from TMP.
Assuming it is not just a figment of my imagination, it seems to me that this tendency to fragmentation - even if it is natural and cyclical - is not a thing to celebrate.