The worst mistake I think you can make in any creative endeavor is to wait until you feel like you’re good enough. Like, if I had done that with this, all of this never would have happened.
~ Adam Ragusea
You might be wondering why I’m starting a TCG post with a quote from a YouTube chef, but if you’re familiar with his channel, you’ll know that when he posted his first videos, he absolutely didn’t expect to be doing that full time years later. And much in the same vein, when I made this blog over 5 years ago, I also didn’t expect that it would stick around this long, much less that it would actually mean something. Over the years, I’ve noticed that people have all sorts of ideas about how exactly the path to successful content looks like, and many of them kinda miss the mark by a long shot. So to satisfy some curiosity and hopefully help out others who want to start making stuff for the Weiss community, I thought I’d make this post to mark the blog’s 5th anniversary. I’ve been planning it for almost a whole year now, and while thinking of the point I wanted to get across the most, I happened to stumble across the above quote – and I knew that was it.
I guess this is part advice, part a self-indulgent trip down memory lane. But if you’ve ever wondered how I started this and kept it alive, or you want to know how you can do the same with your ideas, this is for you!
The Success Triangle
For starters, I wanna introduce a concept I like to call the success triangle. I heard a while ago that for any given thing, there are a few key factors that determine its success. For Weiss Schwarz content, I’d say there are 3 such things:
- Being good at the game
This one’s pretty straightforward: it means you’re a good player with lots of experience, a detailed understanding of the game, and probably a sizeable list of excellent tournament results to match.
- Being good at making content
This refers to the quality of whatever content you put out, both in topic and production. Whether you’re making blog posts, podcasts, videos or even a series of Tweets, it means that the topics you’re covering are valuable for the community and that you’re able to present them in a manner which creates a pleasant consumer experience.
- Being good at managing content
Probably the trickiest to exactly pin down but basically, it’s about how you place your content within the bigger picture. This can be anything from timing certain topics so they’re as relevant as possible, seeking out empty niches to fill, improving your format, shilling your content in all the right places, actively incorporating community feedback, keeping up an online presence, etc.
And there are two almost opposite mistakes that many people make when thinking about creating content: either they think they need to have all 3 factors covered, or they think that simply being good at the game will carry everything else.
But the thing with any set of such key factors is that you never need all of them to succeed. If you somehow happen to have all, that’s great: you’ll probably have a much easier time. But for everyone shying away from making what they wanna make because they think they don’t have what it takes, I can’t stress this enough: you do not need all of them. But at the same time, you do need more than one, and while being good at the game arguably holds the most weight and will carry a lot, you still shouldn’t rely on it to carry everything. In the long term, as long as you’ve got any 2 of these factors, you can be successful at making Weiss content.
Really? Isn’t just being good at Weiss enough?
Even if you’re the best player in the world, your content will need to be at least decent, or you’ll need to have at least some skill with how to manage it. Admittedly, Weiss is the kind of community where just being known for good tournament results will open a lot of doors for you, which gives you time to work on content-related skills after the fact, but you will still need to put in some amount of work there, because those doors won’t just stay open forever.
This is by no means a lecture to the many successful content creators who are also good players – I’m pretty sure they’re all well aware of it already. Instead, this is aimed at at the people whose approach to entering the world of content creation is along the lines of “oh I’ll win regionals and then I’ll start my blog/channel/podcast.” Don’t get me wrong, that’s not a bad idea. If you want that credibility to rely on, absolutely, go get it before you start sharing stuff with the community. But don’t just expect that everything will magically work out once you have a shiny gold medal and your name misspelled somewhere on Bushiroad’s deck recipe page. And while getting your desired accolades might need to wait until you’re good enough to actually win, content quality and management are skills that you can and should already be working on in the mean time. Practice how to write in a way that’s fun to read, learn how to make better videos, gather topic ideas, start participating in different groups and servers that you can eventually share your content too, etc.
That said, do you actually need to win something big to qualify as being good at the game? No, I don’t think so. Maybe it’s not peak Weiss player performance, but you can still have lots of relevant experience and a good understanding of the game even if you don’t have a firsthand collection of every world finals promo from the beginning of time. You can be low-key good at the game and again, as long as you have at least one other factor covered, you can be successful at making content. Whether that means posting your shaky low-res video ramble to the most active groups or making a really a really well written post and just letting it out aimlessly into the void for whoever stumbles upon it – you’ll get an audience for sure, if you stick with it for long enough.
Okay, so what if you’re not good at Weiss?
For all this talk about being a good player, surely, that factor would be a prerequisite, right? Well, probably much to everyone’s surprise, it’s actually not. When I said that you need any 2 factors, I meant exactly that. Now, full disclosure, don’t get too excited here, because the so called “content skill combo” is by far the hardest to make work, with “good at the game + good at making content” probably being the most useful, and “good at the game + good at managing content” falling somewhere in the middle. But my point is that if you want to make it work, you most definitely can. And how do I know that?
Because 5 years ago, content skills were all I had. And even now, you still won’t hear me say that I’m anything more than possibly above average when it comes to player skills – and that’s on a good day. In fact, I’m here preaching about needing 2 factors but in all honesty, I didn’t even have that much when I started Weiss Tea Time – I had like one and a half. I was decent at shilling stuff and not too bad at picking topics that I noticed would get a bit more attention than others, and the writing itself was okay even if the actual value of what was being written was close to null, if not in the negatives.
I started playing Weiss in the summer of 2015 – and I use the term playing very loosely here. Long story short, I got hooked on a Madoka trial deck at a time when my local scene had no active player scene at all, just me and some friends learning stuff together from scratch. We got more people into the game, started organizing tournaments every now and then, found a locals to play at, and things kinda picked up from there. Nowadays, I wouldn’t hesitate to say that we have at least a few very good players. But back then, my Weiss experience was more or less completely limited to our wonky locals, which were kind of a time capsule where even in 2015/16, Madoka was easily the top deck, because most people just played random decks of series they liked.
That, together with the fact that Weiss is easy to learn but very hard to master, resulted in past me from 2016 landing somewhere on the Dunning-Kruger curve where I was kinda loosely aware that there was probably a lot I still didn’t know, but I severely underestimated just how much of this game was flying way over my head. And when I say severely, I mean severely.
For the sake of this post, I decided to subject myself to the trauma of scrolling back through all of my posts, and I can say with absolute certainty that for the first 2 and a half years (so about half this site’s current lifespan), there isn’t a single piece of content there that’s worth a damn. If I squint, there are maybe 2 or 3 ideas that were genuinely good, but got butchered by my utter lack of any meaningful game comprehension. Everything else though? Waste of Weiss content space. Comparing it to level 0 vanillas would be an insult to the vanillas.
So if I was noob enough to even develop a bit of a reputation for shitty content, why am I telling you that being a good player isn’t necessary? Well, the thing is, my content wasn’t bad because I was bad at the game. My content was bad because I was bad at the game while I was specifically trying to make content which required me to be good at the game. Which brings us to the next important part …
Types of Weiss Content
You’re probably thinking about blogs vs. videos or something like that, but that’s not what I mean. This part isn’t about the format, it’s about the content itself – the content of the content, I guess. For any TCG, the most standard type of content are probably deck techs followed by advice about gameplay and explanations about rules and game mechanics. And to the best of my memory, that’s exactly what the Weiss content scene was like in 2015/16 – lots and lots of deck list blogs, deep dives about topics like when attack order does or does not matter, rule tips about once per turn abilities and similar stuff.
All those things, without doubt, require you to be good at the game. You can’t make good and reliable decks if you’re not good at actually playing, you can’t make articles about things you’ve never thought about before, and you most definitely can’t give rule advice about things you’re misplaying yourself. And it’s very, very easy to look at these three types of content and conclude that they’re either the only existing types of content, or at least the only types of content that matter, and I think that’s why so many people who want to be part of the community and want to create content feel like they have to wait until they get good enough before they’re allowed to try making something.
For some content, that’s definitely how it should be – though personally, knowing myself, I’m happy that I headed into Weiss content creation with all the confidence of someone who had absolutely no idea what she was doing. Because like the quote at the start of this post so boldly screams, I truly believe that had I been aware of how little I knew at the start, I never would have made this blog. I never would have kept writing things. Weiss Tea Time wouldn’t have happened, or at least it wouldn’t have stayed. The only reason it ever stumbled off the ground, persevered and eventually began to thrive is because by the time I realized how bad most of my content was, I was already way too deep into this mess to abandon ship even if I wanted to – and trust me, I wanted to, multiple times. But I have a predisposition for being stubborn as all hell, and I guess sometimes that’s a good thing.
Moving on from content you can’t make
Not gonna lie, realizing that something you really like doing isn’t as meaningful or good as you thought it was kinda hurts. Or maybe that is the wrong feeling, maybe confusion is a better word for what I was feeling about my content in 2017/18. I loved this game and its community, and I wanted to contribute to it, but everywhere I turned, there was just more and more content that I now knew I couldn’t replicate without coming off as a complete joke. So I stopped writing for a while, I focused on other things in life, I tried to actually play more of the game and spent more time lurking in the community to gather experience and most importantly, ideas. I was hell-bent on finding something that I could do well because after all, not everyone can be a DPS, you need supports too. Given that I’ve always worked better in background support roles for pretty much anything, I figured that there must be something like that waiting for me in Weiss as well – or at least something that can use my set of skills, even if those skills don’t include being a good player. And after a year of looking, I kinda found both.
The earliest post of mine that I’m actually proud of is the Eren rant from late 2018, where I essentially just complain about people being lazy with their deckbuilding by expecting every new set of spoilers to have something broken. Admittedly, it still edges dangerously close to something that a good player should be giving their thoughts on, but nonetheless, I felt like it was in the realm of things that my observation and commentary skills could reasonably cover. But even so, I remember the terror of sharing that to the Facebook groups: I essentially hovered over the post button thinking this is it, I haven’t posted in like a year and now I return with this hot take and zero cred to back it up, they’re gonna eat me alive. Except what happened was kinda the exact opposite. For the first time, something I made not only had lots of feedback, but lots of mostly positive feedback! It was crazy, I couldn’t believe that out of everything I could be doing, a good old community meta rant was the way to go. Because those were skills I actually had in abundance, that was content I could make!
At about the same time, I also started compiling the spoiler sheets, and while the Eren rant kicked up a lot of dust, it was the spoilers that truly manifested Weiss Tea Time back into existence and kept it there long after the dust settled. But for the next few months, again, I was in a pit of confusion, because I sat back and watched as a few spreadsheets continued to do better numbers than almost all other content I’ve ever made. It kinda stung to know that the best I can contribute to the community is the menial grunt work of copy-pasting text into Google Sheets. It seemed like that wasn’t good enough, like if I wanted to do something meaningful, I should go back to chasing the high-experience content which I already knew was out of my reach. But at the end of the day, the numbers don’t lie and neither does the community feedback.
So what if “all” I was doing was a bit of copy-pasting every weekday morning? No one else was doing it, and yet people seemed to be using it more and more. So I got off my high horse and accepted that even though it wasn’t high brow or flashy or sprinkled with statistics, I found something I was good at and something that was also very well received. For almost 3 years now, my keyboard is rebound in a way that makes copy-pasting the easiest thing to press, half my bookmarks are full of spreadsheets, and if I open Excel for work without thinking for 2 seconds, I’m already on auto pilot typing in the image formula: I’m the one with the spoiler spreadsheets, it me.
Ain’t much, but it’s honest work.
And after that, I just kept finding more and more things that I could do with the skills I already had. If I can’t make good deck techs of my own, how about giving other people a space to share theirs and letting me do all the production work of getting the content out? Check, covered stuff from the local WGP qualifiers that same year, and the next one. Complaining some more about the Cardcaptor fiasco? You got it. Badgering people for months to gather BSF/BCS stats and have them published faster than Bushiroad? I tried, and it worked. Parsing the Comprehensive rules into something actually comprehensive? Still ongoing! Rolling eyes at the Batman Ninja salt, examining the luck vs. player skill debate (from a perspective of someone who tends to have neither), trying my hand at a JP banlist graphic and finally going back to my roots with the coolest ever Madoka review – that’s just some of the stuff I’ve managed to put out in the past 2 and a half years. It’s all over the place, but that’s exactly the point – I want to showcase how many different types of content there are to make, and how much you can do while still being the person who forgets to move their Rimi chaser to the front row even when that’s the only obvious play.
And the best part about sticking around and actively participating in that kind of support role? Inevitably, you’ll get better at the game too, that’s just how time works. For all the shade I throw at my old deck techs, you can see that I still post them every now and then – and they’re probably still not the best they could be, because I’m still far from being confident in my deckbuilding skills. But they’re heaps better than they used to be, and I’ve improved a lot when it comes to explaining decks instead of just going over what the cards do. So while I probably can’t give you the top meta list for every set I get into, I think I can at the very least provide a good starting point of what to look into – and that seems to be good enough, so I’m once again rolling with it.
If there’s anything I’ve learned on this journey, it’s the importance of other people’s input. I think one of my early mistakes was also the fact that I subconsciously saw myself and my readers as two separate things: essentially, I was creating content for an audience, not a community. And with a thing like Weiss (or maybe card games in general), that doesn’t really work that well. So if there’s one piece of advice I can pass on, it would be getting other people’s input on your work in all of its stages. Submerging yourself into a community of other players will you help become a better player yourself. It will give you ideas for what content is needed, and it’ll be very important for figuring out when and where to share that content, and in what context.
Do whatever it takes to get that input. If there’s a specific person you want advice/opinions/help from, just ask them. The people already making Weiss content are generally super nice and very patient – I would know, since I habitually nag many of them for feedback about my content plans, and as far as I’m aware none of them have my DMs muted (yet). But if talking to people isn’t your thing, even lurking still has lots of value: it’s honestly all I did until about early 2020, because I suck at initiating connections and just sitting quietly in crowded discord servers was all I could comfortably work with. And there really is a considerable amount of input you can get that way too, without asking for it or having it be tailored to you specifically.
So once you’ve identified which side of the success triangle you’re on, once you’ve figured out which types of content you can make, once you’ve acquired some input from the community … is that it? No, not quite yet.
And at last, perseverance is your friend
Next to everything I’ve talked about so far, you’re also gonna need lots of patience. Or stubbornness. Or whatever else gets you to clench your teeth, roll your eyes and persevere through the times when things just aren’t working. Especially if you’re new to making content and you’re starting this whole thing from zero: even with the best possible qualifications and circumstances, you’ll still have to go through a beginner period of your work being kinda shitty, or at least subpar. It likely won’t take you two and a half years like it took me, but still – there will be some amount of time when you’ll be stumbling around in all the wrong ways, some number of content pieces you’ll have to produce before you find your own stable footing. And that’s okay. It’s inevitable. If years later, you can’t stand to look at your questionable beginnings, the delete button is always there. And don’t worry: even if you’re laughably bad, people won’t remember that a few years down the road – tried and tested advice.
Worst case scenario, you can just visually rebrand your entire site and it should work just fine.
But even once you’re already years into this content making gig, perseverance is still super important. Because you will still make mistakes, you will still have bad days, you will still have to deal with the fickle flow of new ideas, changes in the game, changes in the community – or who knows, maybe you’ll plan out several extensive tournament circuit posts, and then the world will shut down.
Dear 2020 and 2021 trios/singles stats, I still weep for you. Point being, it never stops. The ups and downs of content making never stop, and so you too will have to learn to continue through them.
And so far, that’s the part of my journey I’m personally most proud of. To me, where I got isn’t as important as just the fact that I got somewhere. That I’ve wanted to quit a good few times, even hovered over the “delete site” button on rare occasion, but alas, I didn’t click it – and that enabled me to get somewhere, to continue on a journey that’s been very dear to me from the very beginning, and still is. I’ve learned things, met fun people, even made some great friends. I may still not be excellent at the game itself, but I like to think I’m at least winning the game of content – and I’m more than happy with that.
So to all the people who continue to help me, thank you for the patience.
To all the people who continue to read, thank you for the interest.
And to me from five years ago, thank you for being an overconfident idiot. If you hadn’t been … all of this never would have happened.
Until next time …