Out of the crash comes innovation

I lost my earphones for my smartphone just before Christmas, and with all the busy-ness of the holidays, I never managed to buy a new pair. I do all my podcast listening from my phone on my daily train commute, or while I’m running errands on the weekends, and I didn’t listen to anything from about mid-December until this week.

During that time, EGM folded, 1UP laid off a ton of people, and the my podcast landscape changed. I finally got new earphones, and I spent part of my afternoon rounding up some of the refugee podcasts from the EGM/1UP fallout. I gotta say, it’s pretty damn encouraging to see the former EGM and 1UP employees getting so much love and attention for their new ventures.

First, I was stunned to see that the guys at eat.sleep.game (Anthony Gallegos, Arthur Gies, Phillip Kolar and Nuck Suttner) amassed $11k in donations to support their ongoing content creation. I think they were stunned as well. There’s already a couple podcast episodes up, called Rebel FM, and they’re buying equipment with the donated money to make more stuffs.

Second, I’m happy to see the old producers of the 1UP show in a new home, Area-5, and launching a new show called CO-OP.

Third, Ryan Scott dusted off his seldom-updated blog, The Geekbox, and has recorded the first episode of a new podcast, with lots of friends. They’ve received great community support, over 10,000 downloads in the first 29 hours, the #1 podcast in iTunes Video Games category, and the #8 podcast on iTunes overall.

*Edit* And while I was posting this, Dan “Shoe” Hsu announced a new startup with other EGM/1UP alumni. It’s so new it doesn’t have an official home yet, but it will be announced on Shoe’s blog, if you want to pop in into your RSS reader and keep an eye out for a launch.

I hope some smart person with deep pockets is noticing how much support these folks have in the gaming community, and they can figure out a way to fund their continued content creation without requiring them to work in some sort of dead-media old school format. The King is dead, long live the King. Hopefully we’ll see some innovation and great new media ideas arise from the ashes of the old print business. We could give a damn about the old magazine or website now, to be honest. We fell in love with the personalities who worked for the magazines or websites, and I’m excited that so many of them are already back doing what they love.

There was a great comment on Twitter (username justinmcelroy) that said “I wonder was it was, exactly, UGO was buying if not 1UP’s personalities? Aren’t they what made the whole network?” Hell yes, Justin. UGO’s gonna be wondering the same thing soon. It’s like Circuit City firing all their top sales staff to “save the company”. Yeah, that worked out well, didn’t it?

Speaking of Twitter, I saw that comment on a YouTube video that collected a bunch of Twitter comments about the EGM/1UP debacle. It’s worth watching, to get an idea of the scale of the impact the EGM and 1UP personalities had on the lives of the gamers (and game developers) who listened and watched them. Obviously, there are a ton of people happy that the end of EGM and 1UP isn’t the end of great video game commentary, and I’m one of ’em. I’m already looking forward to my train ride home!

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Shifting sands: EGM and Threshold MUD

By now, you’ve all probably heard that EGM will no longer publish magazines, and the 1UP network has been sold to UGO.

You also may be aware of the Threshold MUD entry being removed from Wikipedia (thanks for the pointer, Muckbeast!).

Both events remind me that we’re still living in the dawn of the digital era, and the videogame era, and the only thing constant is change…and Blizzard topping software sales charts, I guess.

It makes me wonder what the future holds for our hobby, and for the people who enhance our enjoyment of games by talking about them, playing them, and offering us an insight into their gaming lives. UGO is a owned by Hearst, and I wonder if the 1UP employees who were allowed to make their passion their job will be able to retain and express that same level of passion, either at UGO if they were kept on, or in other endeavors if they were let go.I fear that as gaming publications are swallowed by corporate media behemoths, they’ll lose some of what the game community loves so much about them, at least in their printed formats.

I also wonder who will be the gatekeeper for the first 20+ years of videogame history. Clearly, Wikipedia doesn’t want to offer MUD history a digital home, and with corporations buying, selling, and closing game-related magazines and communities, who’s going to take a stand for history, instead of investing in these properties solely for profit? Maybe it’ll never be print media…the death of print is trumpeted loudly from rooftops, although I sometimes wonder if the death of print is more about corporate media conglomerates unable to figure out how to publish at a sufficiently profitable level, instead of people not wanting to read magazines any more.

Back to 1UP and EGM, and the people who participated in their podcasts over the last few years.There are literally thousands of video games that I’ll never get to play. The amount of free game-playing time any human possesses is dwarfed by the sheer magnititude of available game-playing hours. I wasn’t a subscriber to EGM (like Pete over at Dragonchasers, EGM began publishing when I was already in my 20’s, and already a PC gamer, rather than a console gamer), but I listened to the 1UP podcast faithfully. Even though they often talked about games I hadn’t played, or couldn’t play because I didn’t own a console, I shared their passion for gaming, and I could listen and enjoy their commentary for hours. They helped me realize that my hobby, which started in basements and playrooms when I was a kid, had grown into something none of us might have imagined 20 years ago. We’re part of the largest and fastest-growing phenomenon in the entertainment business, and I learned that I have more in common with gamers from around the world than I ever realized when I hid my Dungeons & Dragons hobby from my “cool” friends back in high school.

As our hobby matures and overtakes the revenue from movies, videos, music sales, and books, I’d expect that the coverage of those games, and the history of those games, would be given more serious attention through major media outlets. That’s not happening yet. I don’t expect a company to operate at a loss to preserve that history, or to encourage that community, but there has to be a method, a model, for taking the life and legacy of the videogame industry more seriously than focusing solely on profit.

Every end is a new beginning, I guess. I know I’m not the only one to consider the best way to preserve MUD history if Wikipedia feels that doesn’t meet their standards. If for-profit businesses are going to  focus only on the bottom line, that leaves opportunities available to people who might want to focus on everything else that gamers enjoy…the history of the industry, the personalities who design amazing games and worlds for us to enjoy, the cultural impact of videogames on a generation of people, worldwide.

I’ve got to decide on a Master’s thesis sometime in the next couple years. Maybe that B.A. in History won’t be wasted in a career in technology after all 🙂 And who knows what the future holds? I have lots of ideas…let’s see if I can stop playing games long enough to try and put some of them into action 🙂

Jeff Green posts about Warhammer

If you don’t have Jeff Green on your blogroll, he talked about playing Warhammer at E3 last week. What he wrote on his blog is short enough to copy entirely here, but I’ll give you a link back to his blog just because I was a history major and I like to cite my sources. Plus, I think Jeff and the guys from CGW are now making their living on page views instead of magazine sales, so it’d be cool if they got lots of hits and kept writing good PC coverage and recording great podcasts.

Anyway, here’s the Warhammer quotes from Jeff, lifted from the link above.

I need to be careful what I say here because I am on the closed beta right now, which I can’t talk about, but I did see it at the show, which I CAN talk about…but I have to remember what I saw at the show and what I am playing, which is hard when you’re old and stupid like me. However! I can tell you that, really, truly, it’s looking great, with a strong emphasis on PvP that, somehow, is not sacrificing the solo experience at all. And the public quests are the best MMO innovation I’ve seen in a long time, from a genre that really, at this point, needs all the innovation it can get. I get very skeptical about new MMOs, but with this one…I’m a believer.

Glad to have you aboard the WAR wagon, Jeff 🙂