Wolverine Studios Community Manager
We continue our dynasty writing advice series this week. Last time, I discussed the most common mistakes that beginning dynasty writers make. Today I’ll be talking about how you get started with writing a text sports sim dynasty/AAR.
Decide what type of dynasty it’s going to be
You might think the most important decision is what team you’re going to play as and write about. It’s not – in fact, that’s actually one of the least important choices you’ll make. Rather, it’s choosing the type of dynasty that will inform everything else.
Generally speaking, there’s four main types of dynasties/AARs
This is the most common one. You play the game, report the results, and talk about what decisions you’re making and the strategies you pursue. This is exclusively first-person (I), with you as the narrator. Every streaming dynasty falls into this category, though some might combine elements of later type.
In many ways, this is also the easiest one to write. You don’t have to think about characters, there’s no need to be concerned with how the story is progressing – you simply just write down your thoughts, commentary, and how the game is going.
What appeals to readers about gameplay dynasties/AARs is seeing the mechanics of the game and witnessing the thought process of the decisions you’re weighing – for example, do I keep my star PF and SG together, or do I trade the PF for an older elite C and draft picks that can be used to both win now and have the assets to try and lengthen my window?
The second most frequent dynasty/AAR type is narrative. Here, you’re telling a story built around a cast of characters in the game universe and the events that happen while you play. This can be any point of view – although first and third will appear the most often.
Here, you have the greatest freedom in terms of structure. For example, many of my dynasties/AARs over the years have used a framing narrative that surrounds the game’s story, which ends up giving readers two main stories to follow – the framing narrative and the one within the actual game itself. Sometimes, they even get more interested in the framing narrative than the game’s! Another example: Tiger Fan’s excellent OOTP narrative dynasty set in the late 1800s/early 1900s that makes heavy use of the epistolary device (i.e. telling the story in letters).
As you might guess, readers are most interested in the characters and story with a narrative dynasty/AAR. The game results and the strategy take a back seat to the drama (or comedy) that’s playing out in the writing.
HISTORICAL / JOURNALISTIC
With a historical/journalistic approach, you’re playing the game and reporting the results without discussion of your decision-making and strategy options. You’re also not putting a spotlight on the story or characters, because they’ll emerge through your reporting.
Examples of this include the History Book genre of AARs of Paradox Interactive games and the newspaper articles that Point Guard uses in many of his Draft Day Sports: College Basketball dynasties (note: he uses a blend of narrative and journalistic, so it’s possible to combine genres).
For fans of this genre, it’s the feeling you get of reading a really well-written textbook, reading a newspaper, or following along with your favorite blog. The story develops organically and you become invested in tracking the results – cheering for a team or player, or getting mad when it’s suddenly reported that the team’s star QB has signed with a division rival.
These dynasties are all about collaboration. It’s not just you who are the creator of this work – it’s the input of others. I’ve seen different takes on this – the most common for sports sims is having other people create players, inserting the players into the game, and reporting how their career develops – and if there’s choices to be made about an inserted player’s career – such as should the player demand a trade? – the decision is made by that player’s creator, not you as a writer.
Other variants – the collaborative gameplay dynasty/AAR, where the writer takes volunteers for different areas of decision-making/strategy choices, or makes the choices a groupthink project, where people vote on which route to take. A classic example of this is Bryan Swartz’s dynasties for different games over the years.
The draw with interactive dynasties is that your readers are able to take active part in the game experience with you. Be forewarned, however: While interactive dynasties obviously have the highest rate of reader participation and comments, you need to be organized and absolutely commit to a timetable to keep things moving.
Pick your team and set a writing schedule for yourself
Okay, so you’ve got your dynasty type in mind. You’ve probably already picked your team, but if you haven’t, go ahead and do that. Now comes the other important part of ensuring you have a long-lasting dynasty/AAR – setting a writing schedule.
This can be as loosely defined as “once a day” or “once a week” or as specific as “Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7 pm to 9 pm”. But you need to set a schedule, and here’s why: The key to creating a readership and making sure you’ll write is to do so consistently.
I’ve worn a lot of hats in my career – teaching, writing, public relations, social media marketing, etc. And the one thing I’ve found is with anything that involves serial writing – whether it’s a dynasty/AAR, a blog, or a social media campaign – is that consistency matters. Stick to the schedule you create and readers will know that, “Hey, it’s 9:30 pm on Tuesday night. Mike Inkwell will have a new post on his Milwaukee Bucks dynasty to go read!”
If readership is your goal, I can not stress the importance of consistency enough. It’s one of the ways I’ve been very successful at helping clients and employers break their website and social media traffic metrics.
Remember, this is for fun and enjoyment
I realize I’m getting heavy into the explanation of theory and craft here, so let me step back a bit and point out that no one is getting paid for their dynasties/AARs (with the exception of streamers who have a large enough subscriber base to rake in advertising and sponsorship dollars). It’s an exercise in fun and writing development – a chance to escape into the world and story you’ve created and share it with fellow game lovers.
We’re out of time for today, so next week I’ll conclude this series with a FAQ and/or discussion of common issues that come up in dynasty and AAR writing. If you have something you’d like to see me address in that post, feel free to leave a comment.