Getting started as an Ashen Glow Gaming blogger

Who is this for?

Anyone is welcome to become a blogger for Ashen Glow Gaming (www.ashenglowgaming.com). It’s easy. And free. Anyone can do it – though some better than others.

What is Ashen Glow Gaming?

A website dedicated to PC gaming, created by an enthusiast PC gamer, Cassius Sonoda – that would be me.

Why does Ashen Glow Gaming need me?

Cassius started Ashen Glow Gaming in 2017, but came to grips with the reality that he couldn’t do everything on his own.

Does it cost anything to join?

Not a cent – it’s totally free.  I’m looking for like-minded people to help with the Ashen Glow Gaming project, and in return, I’ll help their blogging careers.

Will I be compensated?

This is a call out to the community to join in a creative, collaborative project, not a job advertisement.

Blogging about games is supposed to be a privilege and a passion, not a slog you need to be compensated for! 😮

All blog articles you write are credited to you.  You’re getting free access to my blogging platform and free technical and creative support from me, so if anything, I should be compensated.  But off course, I don’t ask to be!  🙂

Is there a selection criteria?

The only the application criteria for our bloggers are simple: you are passionate about PC gaming, and you are motivated to write about it. You have good command of the English language and write well – though Cassius is here to help with proof-reading and editorial feedback.

What to expect from Cassius

I look forward to supporting all your blogging activities, with all technical and creative aspects to the best of my ability, though it is expected you can also be somewhat independent. I am committed to providing the resources and backing you in a practical and morale sense.  And I expect it’ll be a two-way street.

How do I get started?

If interested, contact Cassius using the online contact form.
Cassius

Ashen Glow Gaming Blogger’s Starter Guide

Prelude

Welcome to Ashen Glow Gaming!  If you are reading this Starter Guide, you are either thinking about, or have already discussed with Cassius your desire to become an official Ashen Glow Gaming blogger!

To get started, it is presumed you have been given access to a blogging account with Ashen Glow Gaming.  If you have not received one yet, you may request one, for free.  The login details will be sent to you by email, but ask Cassius if you have not received these yet.

The Blogging Platform/CMS

wordpress logo

We use WordPress, the most popular blogging platform in the world, which powers an astounding one-third of the world’s websites.  So if you aren’t familiar with how to use it, rest assured – it is the easiest blogging tool to use, is rich with features, and you never need to go far to find self-help material online.  You can also ask me, Cassius, if you need help with anything blogging-related, as I consider myself a seasoned user of WordPress, and indeed, I designed this website.

Scope of the blog

We are a blog on all matters PC gaming-related.  It is as narrow and as broad as that, to the exclusion of console or mobile-exclusive games.  Of course, there will be PC games that overlap with other platforms, and that is fine and falls inside the scope of this blog also.

You can blog on real-world gamer or gaming industry affairs, or games themselves.  It can be informative or opinionative, light-hearted or serious.

Why blog for Ashen Glow Gaming?

The advantage of blogging for Ashen Glow Gaming, is that someone else – namely I – have put in the hard yards to design, maintain and constantly improve a blogging website specifically for PC gaming.  This is so you don’t have to worry about web dev and administration, and someone is here to support your blogging activities and lend their time, free of charge – so you can focus on blogging.

Don’t take for granted how painstaking it is to design a blogging website, down to the little features, such as the JavaScript that renders the name Ashen Glow Gaming every time it appears on this website.  Or the contact form replete with email validation.  Or the styling and formatting of this blog down to every little individual detail. Or the way this website all comes together and is organised that involves coding and back-end finessing.  It took a good part of a year.  A year of pulling out your hair that someone else has spared you!

I also have grand visions for this blog, and for a gaming channel more broadly, and you’re going to be right in the middle of a pretty big breakthrough if I can turn this vision into reality.

How the blog is organised

agg home page

The sidebar to the left displays recent posts in thumbnail format. The central column represents post excerpts. The right sidebar displays accessory widgets such as a subscribe form.

The Home or Index Page displays Post Excerpts

All posts appear on the main index page you see when you land on ashenglowgaming.com.  Note that at the present time, prominent excerpts for the 3 most recent posts will show on the front page, with the remainder being displayed in order and accessible using the page navigation buttons at the bottom of the website.

On the home page, there is also a “Recent Posts” widget on the left sidebar which displays the several most recent post titles, their associated thumbnail, and post meta data (PC game category, content type, etc).

Pages

Pages represent static content which is core to the website, such as the Contact page or other information pages, like precisely the one you are viewing right now.  You don’t have to worry about these, as they fall to web admin, which in this case is me.

Single-post Pages

Posts only appear as excerpts on the home page, which serves as an index page, but on following through, visitors may view a dedicated page for the post with the full article displayed.

Category and Archive Pages

Category pages return a listing of all posts that fall under a given category.  Archive pages return a listing of all posts that fall between certain dates.

Steps in getting started

Step 1. Logging in

Go to https://www.ashenglowgaming.com/wp-admin/

You will be greeted with a login screen prompting you for your Ashen Glow Gaming username and password.  The details will be emailed to you once you are inducted by Cassius.

login screen

Step 2. Supplying an avatar to appear on the blog

You will need to pick a real-life photo to use as a blogging avatar. This is mandatory, and is a part of the public profile you will build for yourself throughout your blogging career.  You can change your photo any time.

The photo should present you in a professional and presentable way, and prominently feature your face.  Remember the avatar is quite small, so we really only want your face.  It may be possible to crop the photo once you’ve uploaded it – the media uploader will give you the opportunity to do so.

To set up an avatar, in the WordPress Dashboard, go to Users > Your Profile, scroll down to where is says “Avatar”, and upload a photo.

Note: there are two fields for profile pictures – ignore the Gravatar-associated one which directs you off-site; you want the one that actually says “Avatar” and provides you with ability to upload an avatar right there and then.

Step 3. Filling in your bio details

While you’re there, please also fill in your:

  1. Biographical Info: a short biography about yourself and focus quite a bit on PC gaming and your PC gaming angle (150 words soft limit).
  2. Biographical Excerpt: a short one-line author byline, e.g. “Dog lover, competitive Major League gamer, and stamp collector” – what you do and how you identify in other words – it literally is the shortest list, nothing more than that.
Step 4. Contact Details

The byline may also include social media buttons (for Twitter, FB, etc), and an email button.  You should supply these details in your user profile section, as as a blogger, you need to have social media presence, and be contactable for collaborations and media solicitations – yes, other media may approach you, or publishers keen on you to cover their games, if you are that good.

Apart from this, I need to have a reliable way to contact you, by instant messenger, mobile, and email.  These should be conveyed to me privately at some point, and won’t be displayed on the website.

Step 5. Familiarising yourself with the WordPress Dashboard

As a blogger on ashenglowgaming.com, you will only be concerned with “Posts”, rather than “Pages” inside the WordPress Dashboard.  Pages are off limits to you, and don’t really concern you.

You can access the Post tools by hovering over Posts, the first item on the menu sidebar, or equivalently, by hovering over the +New button on the navigational bar at the top.  Here you can add new posts, and view and edit existing ones.

Please do not edit other peoples’ posts, and don’t don’t edit the Categories, Tags, Content or std_or_youtube taxonomies.  To clarify, I want you to use the taxonomies (more on that later), but I don’t want you to edit them (add or delete terms in the taxonomies) – leave that to me, and ask me to edit them as needed.  This is because it affects everyone, not just you.  Don’t worry, I will try to make it foolproof.  I’ll try to make it so you won’t have permissions or access to anything you’re not supposed to change anyway.  But if in doubt, ask first.

Step 6. Blog away!  (The Post editor)
wp post editor

A screenshot showing the post editor you will use. Don’t tamper with the Format panel seen to the right; leave it on Video as it’s broken for the theme we use. ^^’ On the other hand, you should select from Categories, and fill in the Content, std_or_youtube, and Tag fields (explained later).

Inside the Post editor, you will find a basic Word-like environment with familiar features allowing you to edit and format your blog post.  I’m going to proceed under the assumption you as a computer-literate person in the information age, can use a text editor with practised ease, but if you need any help, just ask.

Classifying your post – mandatory

When writing a post, you need to consider how your post would be classified.

Labels of various sorts are important in helping the website visitor to quickly sort through articles and have a flavour of what an article is about.  This is more important than you think in a blog this diverse.  If the reader can’t figure out what a blog article is about, within a few seconds, then they will leave.  That is bad for you and it is bad for the website.

The options for classifying your post appear as a stack of panels to the right-hand side of the text area.

When it comes to classifying your post, don’t use the “Format” panel if you can see it: it doesn’t work with our theme, and I’ve been trying to switch off that option.  Only use the below classification schemes.

I have devised some post taxonomies to allow posts to be organised and labelled, and may add new ones in future.  If you need me to add categories or items within categories (such as games or content labels not currently covered by the taxonomy), just ask Cassius!

There are 4 post classifications or taxonomies this website uses:

  1. Category (refers to game title): this is a category called “Category”, but really it should’ve been called “Games”.  Type in the PC gaming title your blog relates to, if applicable.  It must match the formatting and spacing exactly as it appears below.  The “Uncategorized” term is currently used for non-games – a post about a subject other than a game.  At the present time, it’s only possible to select one game per post, although this might have to change in future to accommodate posts relating to multiple games at once.
  2. std_or_youtube (refers to post format).  The next category is called “std_or_youtube” and basically means “post format”.  Unlike Category, the field type is text entry rather than a radio button selection.  Type in the one which applies, again exactly as it appears in the left-hand column below.  You should only enter the one that most applies.  If your blog post features a YouTube video by you, the choice is obvious – enter in “youtube”.  Otherwise if it is a short post, enter “aside”, and for anything else “standard”.
    Post FormatDescription
    asideThis is a very short post
    standardThis is a regular blog post
    youtubeThis is a YouTube feature
  3. Content (refers to content type; genre): the type of article from the expansive list below.  This should give you plenty of ideas about what you can blog about!  Again, type your selection into the field exactly as it appears.  Here you may enter multiple types, separated by a comma.
    Content TypeDescription
    article part (see within about other parts)This article is part of a series
    cosplay featureA cosplay feature
    development/publisher featureThis article features input from the actual gaming developers/publishers. Typically trying to obtain insider insight about the state of upcoming games
    esports featureThis is an article about competitive esports
    fan art featureA fan art feature
    first impressionFirst impressions. The presenter gives his or her authentic reaction to a game first encountered
    for advanced-level playersThis is an advanced-level article
    for beginner-level playersThis is a beginner-level article
    for intermediate-level playersThis is an intermediate-level article
    funny articleFunny material, humour, or comedy; entertaining
    gameplay highlightsThis article features gameplay highlights
    gamer affairsThis is an article about gamer affairs
    gaming guideGaming guide
    how-toHow-to. The emphasis of this article is to provide a step-by-step go-to reference on how to do something
    interviewThis article takes on an interview format
    introductionThis article is an introduction
    newsGaming news
    off-topicThis article strays from strict content relevance - it indulges in non-gaming affairs
    part of a seriesThis article is part of a series
    playthroughThis article features a playthrough
    program featureThe article is part of a formal channel program
    reviewReview article
    spotlightThis article is a spotlight. Typically, spotlights are cast on heroes and champions in MOBA games, character classes in RPGs, and races/factions or units in 4X and real-time strategy. The specific attributes of the character or class are considered along with pros and cons
    tipsGaming tips
    troubleshootingThis is a troubleshooting article
    video production and streamingThis is an article about aspects of video production and/or video game streaming
    walkthroughWalkthrough. Linear beginning-to-end coverage of a game or a level within a game, with emphasis on completion and objectives
  4. Tags: this is completely open-ended and up to you – devise a list of highly-relevant, discriminating keywords which will help people find their way to your article.

It’s important to get the post classifications right, as these labels actually appear on the post, sometimes with fancy icons and such.  Failing to specify classifications results in unpredictable displays on the front end which will be off-putting to website visitors.

To summarise, there are 4 classifications to choose from.  They can be found as a stack of panels to the right-hand side of the post editor.  They can be understood as such:

TaxonomyMeaningNumber of termsNumber to pickField Type
CategoryPC gaming titleAbout 10
(subject to change)
1 onlyRadio button selection
std_or_youtubePost format31 onlyText entry
ContentPost content typeAbout 30
(subject to change)
As many that applyText entry
TagsArbitrary keywords you make up yourselfUnlimitedAs many that applyText entry
Featured Image
featured image panel

We don’t use the Featured Image for its intended purpose, only as a fall back for the thumbnail widget, for post articles without inline images.

We don’t really use this feature for this theme; it’s not designed to use it properly if you ask me.  Except in one case, where we do use it – as a fallback image for the thumbnail widget.

In various locations on the website, posts have a chance of appearing in the thumbnail widget, and in that case, it relies on having an image to call on.

If your blog does not contain any images inline – that is, inside the article itself – then it is advisable to upload a image that will serve as the thumbnail for that post.  Better than a blank space in the post widgets, if you ask me, because the widget falls back on the Featured Image if it can’t find any inline images.

Importantly, though counter-intuitively, if you are using a Featured Image in this way, set it to hide – “Yes” – in the Hide Featured Image panel, or leave it empty as it will default to hide.  (The theme otherwise displays a big ugly version of it above the post title, and we only wanted it for thumbnail purposes.)

Making use of the “More” divider
More divider screenshot

The More divider’s location in the text editor interface, shown for both Visual and Text (HTML) mode.

This is an invisible divider that tells WordPress where the excerpt should end – that is, the excerpt that appears on the Index page, Category and Article Archives.  The excerpt is everything up to the point in your document where you insert the More divider.  The More divider can be found on the editor’s toolbar.

It is important to use the More divider.  Your excerpt should be as short as possible, whilst providing enough of a flavour of what the article is about and acting as a hook to reign in readers.  If you excerpt is good, the reader will click on the “Continue Reading” link and proceed from the Index/Category/Archive page to the Single Post page.

Failing to use the More divider has SEO implications.  This is because the more content overlap there is between two pages, the more heavily penalised your pages will be in search engine listings.  Therefore insert the More divider at the earliest point that it makes sense to in your article, to minimize the amount of duplicated text between pages.

Handy WordPress plugins to know

Plugins are accessories or extensions that provide the tools to enhance your blog articles.  I’ve installed several useful WordPress plugins which will serve you well to know:

  • Universal Star Rating – visit the plugin page for instructions on how to generate 5/10/etc.-star ratings to display in your reviews.
  • The Hearthstone Cards for WordPress plugin is amazing.  It displays cards on mouse hover over the card names.  The vast majority of cards are covered by this plugin, but please note that certain cards do not have a hover, perhaps because they are not “collectible”, are recent releases not yet added to the thirdparty database, or there is some other reason leading to their omission.
  • TablePress is a basically our go-to plugin for creating tables in HTML.
  • Footnotation is a plugin that will allow you to append elegant footnotes where your asides and reference material can go.  Visit the the plugin page to learn how to use it.

For all these plugins, you typically use a shortcode to invoke the feature of interest, a star rating, a Hearthstone hover card, a table, whatever it may be.  Although new plugins can and will be added, there is a tradeoff in making the website slower for every plugin that is added, so it has to be worth every millisecond, as I am an SEO freak!

Knowing/learning HTML and CSS
HTML text tab for editor

The editor features a HTML Text mode, which allows you to harness HTML in its full glory. This is offered as an alternative to the Visual mode, which requires no knowledge of HTML.  Using Visual mode is fine for most purposes, but misses out on the huge power afforded by HTML to customise your blog post.

Though not strictly needed, knowledge of HTML and CSS puts you leagues ahead of anyone who doesn’t know it.  And though a form of code, it’s nowhere as daunting as learning a programming language, and gives you incredible powers as a blogger to format and style to the next level.

(If you are going to use HTML, make sure you are entering it into the text editor in Text not Visual mode, as Visual mode will not render the HTML as intended.)

Here’s an example and a tip.  To break the monotony of longer articles, diverse formatting is very effective.  I often like to use a popular stylistic feature found in many professional blogs and media articles: take a bit of text that is to act as an attention-grabbing highlight and format it to stand out.  In this instance, the formatting included drop caps, font enlargement and italicisation.

So I added class-specific style which I named “text-feature”.  As an in-the-know blogger on Ashen Glow Gaming, you can take advantage of this, by labelling any HTML element with the class=”text-feature” (e.g. <p class=”text-feature”>Your text.</p>), which will then plug that element into my styling sheet to receive the following formatting:

.text-feature {
font-style: italic;
font-size: 120%}
.text-feature::first-letter {
float: left;
font-family: Georgia, serif;
font-size: 75px;
line-height: 60px;
padding-top: 4px;
padding-right: 8px;
padding-left: 3px;
}

The effect?  See for yourself:

Text feature style

Optimising images for web consumption
WP media uploader

The WordPress media uploader allows you to upload and manage images.

A key feature of the WordPress editing interface is the ability to Add Media.  From the WordPress Dashboard, the Media section can be accessed from the left-hand menu selection.  In the post editor view, it’s just above the text editor itself, in the guise of an “Add Media” button.

It’s advisable to pre-optimise your images before uploading them, and to have them only as large as needed, otherwise it will affect your page loading times and deter traffic to your blog articles.  If you need help with this, ask Cassius.  If you have Adobe Photoshop, note that it has a Save for Web & Devices… option which allows you to set the quality and size of images.

In Adobe Photoshop, I typically save my images as JPG on “medium” to “low” quality. JPG is the go-to format and will be used for most of your images.

If a transparent background is needed, then you will need to save your image as PNG-24, as JPG does not support transparency.  Note that PNG tends to be larger and slower to load, granted they are crisper and better where you need clarity of text in your images.  PNG-8 offers a compromise, by lowering the number of colours for a smaller file, at the expense of transparency.  (Transparency in PNG-8 looks hideous, especially when you have feathered edges.  You may have to use PNG-24 if transparency is important.)

GIFs and even animated GIFs are also supported, but note that animated GIFs are burdensome on web pages and will affect loading times.  But I understand the appeal of animated GIFs and have used some myself.  To minimise the size of animated GIFs, lower the number of colors, reduce the dimensions, and clip off any redundant material at the start and end of the clip – this may be done via Adobe Photoshop.  You can also play with many other GIF parameters in the Save for Web & Devices… option in Adobe Photoshop, if you have it.  A quick search on Google will throw up many free-to-use online tools to optimise animated GIF images.

As a good practice rule of thumb, animated GIFs should remain under 500 Kb or 0.5 Mb.  Occasionally exceptions might be made, but understand the implication is that you are sacrificing search engine ratings and may be negatively impacting traffic to your pages the more cumbersome and slow your page is to load.

SVG, although a highly-merited vector format, isn’t very well supported by WordPress and is difficult to style in html/CSS.  SVGs also poses security issues as malicious code can be embedded inside them.  Therefore SVGs are not supported at this time.

In general, images should not be much more than 100 Kb or 0.1 Mb.  Again, exceptions, exceptions, but if you want a guideline to aspire to, there it is.

Before publishing (and Saving your work!)

You will be responsible for your own posts, but it must be proof-read by Cassius before being published.  With respect to images, media, and formatting, it needs to pass through me for multiple reasons.

First, it needs to pass editorial quality and public relations checks.  Second, it needs to conform to the website’s overall look and standards.  Cassius is the best person to clear all these checks.  He usually does so in a very timely manner.

Over time, as your trustworthiness becomes apparent, and as you become familiar with the blog’s formatting, these checks can be relaxed considerably and you will have much more autonomy in publishing your own posts.

saving your work

Make use of Draft and Pending review statuses, rather than publishing right off the bat.

To save your work, you will be using the Publishing panel, which gives you the following options:

  1. Publish: Hey, not so fast!  Have I seen your work yet?  As a new recruit, you generally want to leave the publishing to me.  Later when you’ve proven yourself trustworthy, you can publish without going through me.  It’s not just that I don’t trust you; there are formatting standards which you can’t know as a new recruit.
  2. Draft: Not ready for review yet, but save for another time.
  3. Pending Review: This alerts the editor, me, to the need to review your work before it progresses to publication.

Additionally, you can Preview the final look of your work, which is generally much more polished than it looks in editor mode.

Blog Policies

And now, it’s necessary to do some finger-wagging, but I’ll keep it short and to-the-point.  By taking up the mantle to be a blogger on Ashen Glow Gaming, you agree to abide by our policies, which are really every decent establishment’s policies – not just ours!  Common sense, if you ask me, but I have to say it to cover my backside, and so you can’t plead ignorance later for acts of naughtiness.

Anti-Spam Policy

You can’t spam or link to off-site material for promotional purposes.  Cassius will make allowances and provisions for you to promote your business if applicable, but it needs to be done in a restrained and professional way.  Discuss with Cassius first. Please note Cassius needs to approve first, and if your post is deemed too commercial or spammy, it may not be approved.

Censorship Policy

Please don’t court controversy or bring disrepute to yourself and Ashen Glow Gaming.  For this reason, Cassius needs to approve of all content before it is published, until such a time as you are deemed trustworthy to bypass these checks.

In no way do I want to stifle freedom of speech, but the blog’s reputation and credibility is at stake when you make distasteful statements in public – and that is exactly what a blog is – a medium of public broadcast – try not to forget this.

Conflict of Interest Disclosures

If you are reviewing or promoting a product that you are profiting from, this needs to be made clear and upfront in your posts.  Simply include a conflict of interest disclosure statement at the beginning of your post, which says you are selling or profiting from whatever it is you are reviewing or otherwise promoting.  For example, if you hold shares in a triple-A game publisher, whose game you are reviewing.

Plagiarism and Copyright Violations

One does not simply plagiarise on AGG (meme)

Just don’t.  It won’t do anyone any good and you’ll be found out.  Quoting is fine, as is fair use.  But do your research, ask me for my opinion, or read authoritative fair use articles on the web on what is acceptable.  Attribute to artists and get their permission.  We have a credits page which can be accessed from the footer of every page on this website.

Congratulations

You’ve completed reading the Starter Guide for new Ashen Glow Gaming bloggers.

I hope together we can make positive ripples in the world of PC gaming.

It’s my hope one day that Ashen Glow Gaming will be a major PC gaming media outlet, a crowd-funded projects powerhouse, an esports club, and perhaps even a computer hardware franchise whose sponsorship will help keep the esports club and media outlet viable.  All of these activities would cross-promote and support each other, and make Ashen Glow Gaming’s existence viable and robust.

I want to wish you well in your blogging career. I can’t promise you a job as we are simply not earning much from what we do, but if my vision comes true and we make it big time, we can start considering possibilities.

It may be that you’ll raise your profile here with Ashen Glow Gaming, which could lead to a gaming-related career elsewhere. When you become a big shot in the gaming industry one day, remember it all began here! I hope to grow Ashen Glow Gaming’s clout in the coming years. Be a part of the next big revolution in PC gaming! Cassius