On Tuesday, widespread reports all but confirmed the imminent closure of 11-year-old gaming site Joystiq. Our leading gaming contributors wanted to take the opportunity to talk about why the closure should not be taken lightly.
Kyle Orland, Senior Gaming Editor: Something new and exciting
Now about eight and a half years ago, Joystiq helped me get started as a full-time game journalist. At the time, I never imagined my career in this industry would last longer than the site it started with, but reports that AOL is planning to shut down Joystiq seem to indicate I was wrong.
In 2006, I struggled to get attention as a part-time freelancer during my hours away from a day job using HTML for NPR’s internal website. I had just graduated from J-school with a huge chip on my shoulder about the lack of quality in writing about games at the time, a chip I shared through the humbly named Video Game Ombudsman blog.
That blog somehow impressed Joystiq’s editor-in-chief at the time, Chris Grant, who thought it appropriate to offer me a job as a news writer at the princely rate of $10 per post. Over the next two years, I dove first into the daily grind of video game news, writing over 1,000 stories for Joystiq, ranging from 200-word news blurbs to 1,000-word previews.
It was still an early era for gaming blogs back then – and for the idea of professional blogging in general. The industry largely (and rightly so) viewed us as upstarts disrupting a world still largely dominated by multi-page glowing previews in glossy monthly magazines. It was often a struggle to get people’s attention or access to the games we wanted to cover; there were more than a few times Joystiq was mistaken for a French site, thanks to the brand’s interesting spelling.
But we differentiated ourselves by developing our own style, adding humor and wry commentary to the news of the day, and pointing readers only to the stories we felt were reliable and worthwhile. Because we had less access to the big publishers, we were less interested in keeping them happy and were often merciless in criticizing the state of the industry. Joystiq was also much faster than those older magazines it survived, even surpassing many of the more established websites of the time in sheer speed and quantity of reporting.
It was an exciting time to cover the gaming space. I got to cover Microsoft’s X06 fan event in Barcelona, where I was one of the first to play Weapons of war. I had to stay up all weekend to put the Wii and PS3 to the test before their official release, then trudge out to interview local gamers waiting in line to pick up their pre-ordered consoles. I had to destroy a Blu-ray disc in a video that somehow became a minor viral hit, almost half a million views to date.
I have to report on the birth of the still nascent indie gaming scene, a taste Braid before becoming a central totem of the scene. I’ve liveblogged everything from ridiculously bad E3 press conferences to one Guitar Herothemed episode of South Park, Of all things. I had to lead our general coverage of the Gerstmann gate leading to massive departures from Gamespot and the creation of competitor Giant Bomb.
Through it all I felt like I was part of a team doing something new and exciting in game journalism, learning from and discussing with colleagues who cared as much or more than I did about the space seriously, but irreverent cover. That tradition has only grown stronger since I went from a Joystiq editor to a Joystiq reader years ago. While the individual voices at Joystiq will no doubt continue to share themselves with the world, it’s sad to see the end of such a strong collection of quality gaming articles.
Sam Machkovech, Culture Reporter: Pulled me back in
By the end of 2004, my video game playing days were pretty much behind me. I had gone cold turkey after a five-year stint as a game critic for a daily newspaper—a tenure that spanned my high school and college years. It was then that I felt like that old, fuddy-duddy prediction that I would “grow out of games” came true.
So what exactly “pulled me back in?” Frankly, it was a new wave of gaming blogs, and Joystiq came out of the gate as a major one – a knowledgeable aggregator of an endless web of changing, growing video game coverage. In the mid-2000s, people started talking about video games in different, important ways, just as Joystiq launched in mid-2004.
I’d personally been dissatisfied with what seemed like bought-and-paid coverage at larger, preview-obsessed outlets—one of the reasons I’d grown tired of writing about games—and was too far from the gaming loop to make my own digging for so many previews, reviews, columns, news clips and more. I was particularly interested in the reports and stories that went beyond the low-hanging triple-A fruit and reached out directly to developers and smaller design teams, long before downloadable stores and social media made it so much easier for them to reach out to fans .
Joystiq and his network of obsessive “fanboy” sites laid the groundwork for the way I still believe games criticism and journalism can work – that is, quantity and diversity of content don’t require compromise on quality. Above all other sites of its time, it also maintained the most respectable policy of keeping all “elsewhere reported” instructions short, with clear attribution, so that I could hop around the internet and see the best in a new, growing world of gaming- journalism . That, plus a lot of internally reported news and reviews, got me excited about gaming again – about the capabilities of the format, about how many paths gaming would soon take.
After seeing today’s sad news, I clicked on my browser’s URL bar and jumped the “page number” on Joystiq to “9000”, to see how well the site archived its old stuff and if I was still wore rose-colored glasses. Sprung up this short from 2005 on an editorial on IGDA that emphasized that “gaming journalism needs to come of age”. It read in part: “Many of the gaming blogs delve into the ‘why’ of game development, rather than the ‘how and when’. The blogs not only dare to dig, they also do it very well.” Thanks to sites like Joystiq, I think game journalism has really come of age.