By Edo Steinberg
When Telecom Ph.D. candidate Travis Ross co-founded the blog “Motivate. Play.” in the fall of 2010, his expectations were modest. He and his co-founders, Cognitive Science Ph.D student Jared Lorince and former Telecom MA student and current Stanford Ph.D. student Jim Cummings, wanted to create a space where they could write about their shared interest in games and social scientific research. According to Travis, they wanted to express ideas “that we didn’t think were necessarily publishable in a journal but that we wanted to communicate.”
“Motivate. Play” started with the three founders writing about game-related research. Then, they started inviting guest authors to contribute to the blog. Most of them have been from different departments at IU, including Isaac Knowles, Teresa Lynch, Ken Rosenberg and Matt Falk from Telecom, but some are from other universities. The different contributors come from different backgrounds and are interested in different aspects of games. Ethnography, psychology, economics and cognitive science are just some of the diverse perspectives from which this topic is explored on “Motivate. Play.”
The blog has a lot of unique content that cannot be found anywhere else. Some of its posts have been featured on Reddit. Travis and other contributors have also had their articles featured on the main page of Gamasutra, a leading video game industry website. The founders have encouraged contributors to get their content featured by high-traffic sites, since it significantly increases traffic to “Motivate. Play.” When posts are featured on Reddit or Gamasutra, or when big game industry events are covered by the blog, readership can reach between 500 and 5000 hits a day, compared with 15 to 100 hits on a regular day.
While their initial goal was to build a web presence, Travis, Jared and Jim quickly discovered that being a media outlet has its advantages. As a blog covering video games, they were able to obtain press passes to conferences such as the Game Developers Conference (GDC), the largest annual professional convention for video game developers. Without a press pass, one all-access ticket to the conference would have cost $1800.
It is not known who the blogs’ readership is, but it is aimed at gamers and researchers alike. Travis would like to know more about the people who visit “Motivate. Play.” One of his short-term goals for the blog is “figuring out how to get people to start commenting on our posts without having to push our content away from our site to other sites, such as Gamasutra.”
There are also a few other goals Travis and his partners have set for the site. In the short-term, they would like each contributor to post at least once a month and to continue receiving press passes to important conferences. In the long-term, Travis has other plans once all co-founders receive their Ph.D’s. “It’s not an official plan yet, but I have this idea of possibly setting up a consulting service on the side of this, to have people who are available to talk to companies that are interested in the area of expertise that we have. I think we can have a wide range of expertise.”
In addition, Travis is planning a “Motivate. Play.”-themed panel at the Digital Games Research Association (DiGRA) conference. The panel would be cross-disciplinary, featuring research from the diverse perspectives of blog contributors.
When asked whether or not other graduate students should establish a blog about their area of interest, Travis is ambivalent. “It was a great experience for me. I used it as a tool for networking and getting press passes. I also know that our writing has been read by some pretty important people and that we’ve been contacted by individuals for opportunities based on having the blog. It took a lot of work, though.” It takes a lot of time to manage contributors and conduct web programming. “If you have the time, it’s definitely worth it.”
Telecom grads and faculty members, if you have a personal or professional blog, tell us and we’ll add it to the blogroll. Who knows, we just might write a story about it, too! Just e-mail us at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.