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Board Games and Broken Dreams: Fading Into the Digital Abyss

You may have noticed we haven’t been reviewing or posting very many new pieces on our website.  The motivation to do so has almost been entirely sapped out of me over the last few months. Not because our love for board games or writing reviews is gone but because it’s all beginning to feel a little bit pointless, okay… extremely pointless.

This pessimistic view about our content all started when Google decided to roll out a new update, and things began spiraling downward very fast.  I know, I know, this is a board game website and you probably don’t want to hear me ramble and vent about algorithms, but this is mostly a selfish way to get some hurt off my chest, and also let our few dedicated readers know why we have dropped off the map.  

A few short months ago A Pair of Meeples was at an all-time high in terms of visitors, thousands were reading our reviews every month and I was ecstatic.  For the first time in a long time, it seemed like one of my many endeavors was actually going to work out and I was loving every moment of it, even if it had taken an absolutely ridiculous amount of work to get here.  

And by succeed, I don’t mean financially which is clearly evidenced in the whopping total of roughly $50 in Amazon Associates earnings, 0 product sales, and the hundreds of dollars of costs running a website I had incurred throughout the almost 2 years of working on A Pair of Meeples.  I mean succeed in terms of having people enjoy the content we were putting out into the world.  

So thousands of hours of writing, probably well over 200,000 words of content, and hundreds of personally taken and edited images on our site appeared to be valuable to those who found themselves browsing it, and I was pretty proud of that.  Sometimes I questioned if it was worth it (especially today), but even knowing what I know now, I would probably still do it all over again.

Even though a couple of months ago, the number of website visitors took a huge nose dive.  Even though ever since that Google update, our traffic has slowly trickled down to almost zero.  Even though everything I worked so hard on now seems absolutely worthless… I can fairly confidently say I would do it all over again… I just don’t know if I can keep doing it anymore.

It’s hard to create content for an audience of zero.

Website Traffic

I can’t decide if it’s time to give up on this project and move on, but trying to please the algorithm just isn’t a fun way to write and provide information to our readers. I’m not going to shut down the site, in hopes that what is still on there can be valuable to those few who Google allows to see it, but the amount of new content we publish is likely going to be quite sporadic and limited if nothing changes.

We appreciate everyone who has supported or even just read our content and hope some of our stories helped you learn more about a board game and maybe even made you laugh.  

Venting Session Over…

Well, that was cathartic.  For those of you who don’t care about the details, thanks for pandering to me on my soapbox, but honestly, don’t feel obligated to continue. If you’re bored though I think there is some pretty important information that you can gather from what A Pair of Meeples experienced.  We’ll try to keep this discussion as board game-oriented as possible.

The average internet user probably has barely noticed the shift in search results, but I can assure you, thousands if not hundreds of thousands of sites just like ours have been completely wiped from search results, and I myself am probably partially to blame.  

Before starting A Pair of Meeples, anytime I googled if a board game worked for two people, I would add the simple word “Reddit” to the end of it.  This would give me an array of opinions, albeit not very detailed about whether a particular board game worked for two people.

I did this for a lot of search queries as I’m sure many others did because the internet has become quite the heaping pile of garbage lately.  Our hypothesis is Google picked up on this and now has quickly emphasized forum results, over information or niche websites.  

There’s no denying these websites do have a lot of value and give some great information, but a 1 sentence response from a Reddit user I would like to think is a bit different from the type of content we post, and there should be a place for both on the infinitely vast internet.  If you search any board game related query on Google today, the first block of results will most likely be YouTube videos, then the BGG forums, then the related Reddit Results, a store related to the board game, and then maybe some independent websites with related content.

This means you have to do quite a lot of scrolling to find us or many other smaller sites in the search results.  This isn’t just in the board game searches, it’s widespread across the internet. It’s fine, things change, but this will have a larger effect than most likely realize.

In summary, independent content creators like ourselves are quickly disappearing from Google, which accounts for 92% of all internet traffic.  Those huge losses in traffic are going to eat at the owners of those websites and blogs, until just like us, they question if there’s any point in doing it anymore.  Like we said, it is hard to stay motivated to write for an audience that doesn’t exist.

In all reality, most will stop, and those who don’t will likely begin to create bot accounts to advertise and try and drive traffic from Reddit and other forums to try and survive.  Before you know it the internet will become a much different place.

Opinionated pieces and information from independent sources will no longer exist in any significant way.  This itself has a lot of downstream effects (especially in terms of AI) but we won’t take this conversation that broad.

Let’s take it back to a micro level and something that we know about, board game reviews.  Say you want to look for a board game review after this new internet landscape has set in.  You have a few options left that might give you what you are looking for:

  • A lengthy YouTube video that is hard to “scroll” for information quickly.
  • Social media influencers and accounts that may or may not be paid to promote the games.
  • A Reddit post that you will have to scroll through to gather a bunch of different opinions and then make your own.
  • Product reviews on the game’s site or other shopping websites.
  • AI-generated responses that use information from all these sources.
  • Posts from the few large websites that survived the Google reckoning

At first glance, these don’t seem that bad, but they all do have some problems.  Reddit is extremely useful but people don’t realize it takes a lot of time to read all the comments and then try and form your own opinion, even more so once spammers and advertisers flood its user base.  Product reviews on shopping sites can be faked and negative reviews are often removed by website administrators.  

YouTube is fine for some, but from our research, it seems like most still prefer written long-form content for board game reviews in particular.  Social media is good for quick information but the authority and biases of its users are somewhat problematic.  You can read more about our thoughts on this topic here.

AI-generated responses will slowly become worse as there are fewer individual and independent opinions posted on the internet.  The big websites that survive are probably the best place to get mostly unbiased information but they survive by covering a wide range of topics, so you may actually not consider them an expert in the topic they are publishing about.  

We get it, things change, but in our opinion, a less varied internet is a worse one and that’s where we think it’s heading.  A space where only the big players thrive while the small guys like us slowly fade into our abyss of the roughly 160,000,000 Google search results for “Two Player Board Game Reviews”.

In all honesty, I doubt many people care, and if they do I don’t think there’s much we can do about it, but writing this has made me just a little bit lighter. A lot of anger, despair, and sadness made its way out of me and into this post, so I apologize to those who suffered through this personal journal entry of mine and thank you for being a reader of A Pair of Meeples.

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