1) Blog Walking: I blog on a pretty consistent level, although the quality of my blogs can be debated! :) Either way, I am proud of the fact that I have the time (sometimes) and the imagination to keep blogging. I have been at it for years, and through my blogs/vidcasts/podcasts I have met so many cool people ranging from insiders to players. One of the easiest way for me to keep blogging is to make sure I talk about my experience, and not about my research. While I think research is needed for certain kinda of blogs, mine is one of experience, not of information.
One way for me to get my thoughts together for a blog is too simply think about what I want to write, and write it out in my head like a mental rough draft. The perfect time to do this is while walking my dogs. At the minimum, I walk my dogs for an hour each day, sometimes 2. That's a lot of time to either listen to podcasts, music, or to "write" in my head. Also, it's exercise. Exercise has been proven to do more for brain-power than just reading or doing crosswords. And if you exercise or do physical activities that you have not done before, or do them in a different way than normal, your brain can really benefit from the variety. On a blog-walk I am exercising my brain and body as well as getting some work done!
2) Non-Combat Gaming: That's right, I'm a hippy. Just don't call me that to my face in real life. Gaming and real life do not cross when it comes to beliefs and practices. I have released myself from any limitations by allowing myself to level at my pace, to see exploring as a legitimate use of my gaming time, and for enjoying non-combat skills more than combat.
But let me explain. Non-combat can be anything from socializing to crafting. Non-combat is enjoyed by everyone, and I would go so far as to say that not only does everyone enjoy it, but most enjoy it more than combat. Except for a few types of players like hard-core raiders (that spend most of their time in one area of the game) most players go through non-combat game-play in order to get to the combat. Exploring comes with questing, questing comes along with role-play in many cases (feeling immersed,) role-play is what we are all doing when we play these games. There is no noble or more dignified way to play a video game. There is no "adult gaming" (well, in Second Life there is! hehe) or gaming that is only for kids. Laughing is laughing, no matter who is doing it.
And now more and more games are coming out with more and more ways to spend your time out of combat. Crafting has become a norm, role-play is more popular, and games become more and more immersive. Also, social networking is slowly getting tied into games to allow players to spend hours doing things like hanging out with friends or filling out profiles. Creating a virtual life is the name of the game.
And I love the fact that I can log into many games and spend most of my time avoiding the same old combat that I might see in many games. While I enjoy combat as much as the next gamer, it can become tedious and predictable just like any other part of the game. And if you take most any MMO and add up all the things you can do besides fighting, you will see that fighting is actually a smaller part of most MMO's. Just because a good deal of gamers (if not most) enjoy combat above all, does not mean that they magically arrived at the combat without first going through plenty of non-combat.
I actually read a comment from someone on the Vanguard forums that essentially said that they considered every level below "end-game' (another term I cannot stand) levels to be "low level." In other words, they considered all 40 some-odd levels before the last few to be only training for spending hours upon hours locked within the same dungeon with the same 18 people.
How is it possible that all those levels before, along with all that content before those high levels to be tossed aside as though they didn't exist? Just because a player might go through lower levels faster than higher levels does not mean that all players enjoyed the same speed or that all that content meant nothing. That's the most important content...the stuff that gets you there.
To sum up, I am not playing these games to escape from my real life, most of the time. (A point I have made before.) I am playing these games to ask what I might do if I had been whisked away to some fantasy world. And just like in real life, I enjoy all the mundane little things like dog-walking and gardening, just like I enjoy the exciting parts of life. But if you spend enough time killing orcs, that too will just become boring.
3) EQ2's borrowed idea: I just read an article about EQ2 and the recent addition of writable in-game books. Fantastic stuff, and I can attest to how fun it is to have this option in a game. The social game called There has featured books for years, possibly 5 or 6. I have used them to write poetry and short stories and then I would hand them out to friends or random players. I love the fact that a "normal" MMO has this, which is great for role-players. Imagine receiving a "diary" from a dead friend, only to read it for clues to his death!
We used to use these books for clue games, or for passing on information. Clubs in There (guilds basically) could have all their rules written down, to be accessed in game by the player. Congrats EQ2!