My first memories of GameSpot were good ones. Like cherished childhood images, splashed in sepia tones of nostalgia, they form the building blocks of my relationship with a site who I’ve grown with over the past eleven years. It’s been a symbiotic journey of sorts, for both of us. Our passions for gaming and writing intertwined like some organic entity, feeding and nurturing a community hungry for the best in gaming journalism and eager to interact with other users and even staff in a budding forum environment.
My own dwindling time on the website probably apparent, I do still try to pop in and post here and there, usually in the System Wars Lounge, of all places. Other forumites have presumably left the site for greener pastures, wherever they may be. It’s been a disheartening trend, that seemed to see a spike in dissent with the recent website and forum overhaul.
In truth, it seems to have been a community on the edge for quite some time, waiting for the glass to shatter, the penny to drop, the deep breath before the plunge, the…banana to be…eaten? slipped on? (Okay, scratch that last one.) The one thing many of us forget is that no community is ever static. It is an ever changing organism. People come and people go, in every community, large or small, online or offline. We see it everyday, in our families, in our jobs, and yet in communities like GameSpot, in a more intimate setting, it seems more personal, in a way, so many of us take it on a more personal level.
One only has to remember the removal of Jeff Gerstmann from his editor role at GameSpot to bring up feelings of possible anger, outrage, or disinterest. The community as a whole, however, made their feelings quite clear, due to the fact that Jeff, for all I’ve seen on various videos and even from posts on the forums themselves, when it was still fashionable for staff to do such, seems like a pretty likable guy, more or less.
The merging of Giant Bomb back into the CBSi brand served as a return of sorts for Jeff, to his old stomping grounds, and more importantly, helped spread a salve on a wound at GameSpot that had never fully healed. For better or worse, there was finally some closure, and that helped the community move on, as it were.
It’s perhaps the recent shift in focus that is a more concerning issue. A shift in focus away from the community itself. One could argue that all these polished reviews, written by talented editors and all these video shows are nothing if not community focused, but hasn’t that always been the case? I don’t remember GameSpot ever lacking in talent when it came to prose or its video content.
One wonders at the two most terrible, yet possibly humbling words in the English language today, what if? What if a fraction of the talent on display at GameSpot went into creating something truly community based. What if every aspect of GameSpot was designed with an eye for the community, its wants and its needs. Would such a site cause even the most jaded observer to rethink their plans of moving on, or has the penny fallen too far already?
One only has to browse the latest GameSpot Game of the Year feature this year to see the lack of community involvement. An annual feature since the early 2000’s, readers were regularly invited via poll to choose their own “Best of” games in categories such as action, adventure, role playing, etc. The poll rewarded users with an inflated sense of self esteem and a shiny new profile emblem for taking part. This year was a bit strange, besides Assassin’s Creed IV winning every award, including Most Flowing Cape, the annual Reader’s Choice poll was nowhere to be seen. You can chalk it up to the new redesign and the busy teams of developers trying to get that in order and working as it should, or you can cite it as perhaps a symptom of a much larger issue, the gradual shift away from a much needed injection of community involvement.
Where are the featured blogs and user reviews that were promised time and time again, to coexist side by side with official GameSpot reviews on the front page? The once mighty soapbox, declaration of all things community based, sometimes news worthy, sometimes blustering grandstanding of the highest order, even celebrated with a shiny emblem which users proudly trumpeted on their profiles as symbols of their verbosity, relegated to a back page of the site, and then gone completely. Like slowly dying embers of a once mighty blaze, its absence too, speaks volumes about the state of the community here.
We stand on the precipice of a new era, in gaming, in technology, in time and in GameSpot itself. New consoles have emerged just in time to battle for supremacy under Christmas Trees everywhere this holiday season, each hoping to usher in a new wave of gaming experiences, unseen in the past and undreamed of. The dawn of a new year beckons as well, threatening to eclipse the twilight that was once 2013.
Then there’s GameSpot. I can cite the removal of unions, the small but loyal member based communities like the Legacy Games Discussion, and the Hardware Discussion merged into larger communities, losing all sense of their identities. I can cite the oft-used mantra, Give it time. Time may be eternal for GameSpot, but for myself and many of the long time regulars here, it is not. And it is slowly ticking away.