Saturday, February 23, 2013

What 1UP Meant to Me



I was very saddened this week to hear that one of my all-time favorite gaming sites, 1UPwas shut down by it's parent company, Ziff Davis. As I mentioned in some recent blogs, 1UP was one of the few sites out there that was providing unique discussions on gaming, as opposed to the press-release driven news cycle that a lot of other sites are stuck in. I feared that they wouldn't be able to sustain their approach, and sadly I was right.

But rather than dwell on the fact that 1UP has come to end, I want to focus on their legacy. I am not at all exaggerating when I say that this blog, the Secret Identity podcast, and my own time as a gaming journalist would never have happened if it weren't for 1UP. Allow me to explain.

I started Secret Identity with my podcast co-host Matt Herring in March of 2006. At that point in time, there were two podcasts that I listened to religiously--1UP Yours and This Week in Tech (TWiT). It was because of these two shows that I had been thinking for some time about starting a podcast of my own, and I eventually convinced Matt, who didn't even know what a podcast was at the time) that we could start our own show focused around comics and other areas of our geeky hobbies. The driving factor for me was that I enjoyed listening to discussion about things I was passionate about. These kinds of discussion reminded me of the way I used to talk about games and comics with my friends at the arcade, the comic shop, the game store, etc. I wanted to create a podcast that felt to our listeners like they were hanging out with us every week at the comic shop. And so, Secret Identity was born. We will be recording our 500th episode next week, and we've been going strong for seven years.

In 2008, my love of 1UP had been at a fever pitch for years. In addition to the stellar 1UP Yours podcast, I was listening to CGW/GFW weekly as well, and devouring the 1UP Show videos that are still today considered the standard for visual discussions on gaming. I wanted to try my hand at being a game journalist, as I was exploring different avenues to take with my writing. Through a friend I had made through Secret Identity (Dan Evans), I reached out to Jonah Weiland at Comic Book Resources, arguably the most respected comic news site on the web, and pitched the idea of covering comic-related games to him. He accepted, and what followed was a two-year stint as the coordinator and primary content creator of gaming coverage for CBR. That was a once in a lifetime opportunity, as I was given freedoms at CBR in terms of our approach that I never would have had as a freelancer for a gaming-centirc site. Getting to cover some of today's major franchises like Dead Space and Batman: Arkham Asylum from both gaming and comic perspectives was exactly the kind of coverage I wanted to be a part of. When I left in 2010, it was for no other reason than I simply could no longer keep working for CBR in addition to some of the other commitments in my life. I still hope to return someday.

Which brings us to Co-Op Critics. It's no secret (no pun intended) that I would love to do more gaming coverage on Secret Identity, but our audience is largely comic readers, and a good portion of them aren't gamers. So, I decided to start doing "special episodes" of the podcast dedicated to gaming, where those who were interested could enjoy them, but those who just wanted comics could listen to the regular weekly shows. Because the Co-Op Critics podcasts are infrequent though, I was still itching for more games discussion, and so the blog was born. And although it's taken a good year to really get up and running, I am loving where Co-Op Critics is at right now. The discussions are exactly what I hoped they would be--about our experiences with the games we put so much time into. Old games, new games, console games, mobile games--it doesn't matter. Whatever we're playing, if we have something to share about it, we can do that here. This approach is both in response to what I don't like about a lot of current games coverage, as well as inspiration I took from the recent incarnation of 1UP, and their wonderful Cover Stories series.

Which is why it's such a bummer that 1UP is closing its doors. I fear for the direction that game journalism and gaming sites are heading right now, and every time we lose a unique voice, it makes me a little more afraid. However, all I have to do is look at the legacy and the years worth of content that 1UP leaves behind to be reminded of what great games discussion looks and sounds like. I hope that in the wake of 1UP's closure, people start going back and revisiting what came out of that site, and that what they learn helps shape what we see moving forward.

It may be cliche, but it fits--1UP, you are gone, but not forgotten. Thanks for the memories, the inspiration, and the countless hours of enjoyment you've provided me over the past several years.