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What I Learned About Blogging From Years of Playing Dr. Mario


Never dismiss a potential source of inspiration or wisdom just because you have some sort of preconceived notion about that source. The key to success in blogging, just like the key to happiness and fulfillment in life in general, is to keep an open mind. You don’t have to agree with everything that you hear, see or read (nor should you), but you’d be amazed at the kinds of lessons you can glean from the most unexpected of places. Like playing Dr. Mario for nearly 30 years.

Great Content Is Great Content

Can you believe that the original Dr. Mario puzzle game was first released way back in 1990? Top movies that year included Dances with Wolves, the first Home Alone, and Pretty Woman. “Nothing Compares 2 U” by Sinead O’Connor and “U Can’t Touch This” by MC Hammer topped the charts, South Africa freed Nelson Mandela after over 27 years of imprisonment, and Stefan Edberg defeated Boris “Boom Boom” Becker in five sets to claim the Wimbledon title. Needless to say, a lot has changed since then.

And yet, all these years later, Dr. Mario has found new life in the form of Dr. Mario World for iOS and Android devices. The developers took the same basic formula — arrange two-sided capsules to eliminate viruses of different colors — and adapted it to the contemporary mobile environment. Versions of Dr. Mario along the way have typically been met with moderately positive reviews (think in the 7/10 range), good enough to keep the franchise alive and kicking some three decades later.

That’s staying power. In blogging, if you can start from the right basic concept, if you can start from offering a unique “character” with a strong brand, you can set yourself up for years of success to come too.

Failing to Plan Is Planning to Fail

On some level, it’s fair to say that I generally prefer “twitch” gaming over the kinds of games with more drawn-out planning and strategy. I’d rather zoom around in Mario Kart, reacting to dangers in the moment, than to take a strategically stealthy approach in Metal Gear Solid. Even so, puzzle games can function as both, as you need fast reflexes as well as a framework to plan around.

It’s not enough to simply think about this one capsule and that one virus in the game. You need to think ahead, ensuring that you’re not “blocking” yourself for future opportunities, working such that the pieces will fall in an advantageous kind of way. I find this to be even more pertinent in Dr. Mario World, now that they’ve added more layers of complexity.

Again, blogging works in much the same way. Do you use an editorial calendar to plan out your content? Are you using the right tools to research keywords? Are you planning ahead for where your blog will go next?

(Almost) Anything Can Be Fixed

Pardon me as I sound like I’m essentially contradicting my previous point, even though I’m really not. Here’s the thing about planning. Very things ever go completely according to plan. Life would be pretty boring if everything always worked out exactly the way we thought it would. Planning is good. It puts you in the best possible situation, based on what limited knowledge and experience and outlook you may have. And then, when something goes awry, you adapt and keep going.

That’s how Dr. Mario works. You’ve got a plan about how you’re going to approach this stage or this opponent, and then you make one wrong move that “blocks” your progress. The situation starts to look dire, as you start to question how on Earth you’ll be able to unearth or otherwise reach the viruses you need to eliminate. But, you can build. You can persevere… sometimes. Most of the time, even. You can overcome and get right back on track.

With blogging, you’ll face setbacks. You’re at the mercy of social media algorithms and that means the bottom can fall out of your organic reach overnight. The same is true with SEO and getting that Google search traffic. But, if you stick with it, if you roll with the punches, you just might land a viral hit tomorrow. Or, you might uncover a yet untapped or under-utilized source of traffic. There’s always room to “fix” it.

What Else Can We Learn?

Like I said at the top, keep your eyes and ears open for where you may be able to apply lessons to your professional life online. You’ll be amazed at how much you can learn from playing Street Fighter, watching cheesy romcoms, and even from listening to Kanye West. Genius can be found almost anywhere. You just have to know where and how to look… just like scoping out where you’re going to place that next red capsule.

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