Today marks exactly ten years that I have been a Gamespot registered user. In the time that I have been a member of Gamespot my life has changed. I've gotten married, been through three jobs, three apartments, bought my first house, had three children (triplets, no less), and a vasectomy.
In case 2003 still doesn't sound like it was that long ago, consider that Nintendo's premier platform was the Gamecube, The Legend of Zelda: Windwaker was causing a furor among fans for its cel-shaded graphics, Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne was released, and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time single-handedly rebooted the franchise.
Zelda: Wind Waker - The amazing graphical prowess of 2003 gaming
A lot of change happens over ten years. The internet didn't really become pevasive on mobile devices until 2010. In fact, I didn't even have a cell phone when I first registered at Gamespot. At the time, therefore, sites like Gamespot were both the primary source of information and news for video game enthusiasts as well as the only real social outlet we had. I registered because Gamespot offered downloads for many PC games, including patches for said games, and a reliable source for downloading was desirable. There were competitors, but every site had its own culture and the heavily moderated Gamespot community ensured that there was a bit more maturity relative to other sites. And no, I'm not saying that the average Gamespotter was mature, just more mature than competing sites.
It wasn't until 2007 I started writing and publishing content to my Gamespot account. I'm not sure why, but I needed an outlet at the time. I had transitioned to a new city, leaving behind familiar surroundings and college friends. It was a bit random at first: Some complaints about Sony here, and a couple humorous blogs there. Then I wrote a blog for consideration by the site Editors for the Gamespot "Soapbox." At the time, this was a much desired emblem, since it was both rare and there were few emblems to be had overall. More importantly, anyone holding the emblem could post directly to the front page of the site simply by categorizing their blog entry as an "Editorial."
I garnered the Soapbox emblem with the Editorial, "I've killed you, and no, I don't feel bad about it." At the time violence and video games were a big topic of conversation, for no particularly good reason. It's still a fun read six years later.
Once I gained the exposure of the Soapbox I started receiving hundreds of views and comments. I started writing in earnest; it was a bit convoluted at first, but eventually I sorted my thoughts into columns of popular topics. I did a "Geek to Chic" series, which were basically tips for nerds not to stand out quite so much. I had a slew of humorous entries, personal finance, and tips on PC building. I tried a "Gamespot Cribs" series, but it never gained traction. An index to some of the better entries follows the end of this blog
Then Jeff Gerstmann reviewed Kane & Lynch: Dead Men.
That singular event resulted in an upheaval of users that rallied behind Gerstmann, relieved from Gamespot due to his critical comments on a game that had been heavily advertised on the site. Gamespot lost many, many great bloggers, union managers, volunteer community managers, and employees after his dismissal, and has never fully recovered.
There were additional missteps from a user standpoint. The launch of Gamespot FUSE to capture and integrate social media with Gamespot was a massive undertaking, but essentially bifurcated the community. You had some users migrating to FUSE, and others that preferred the persistent format of the traditional forums and user blogs. Gamespot abandoned the Soapbox for a time, dropping it from the front page and alienating some of its contributors, most notably GabuEx. Livefyre replaced Gamespots comments system in there somewhere, though this was a good move, in retrospect.
In the past two years Gamespot has made great strides to recapture the magic of 2007. They brought in Synthia Wieres to help Jody Robinson with community management and social media. The Soapbox was rebooted and the staff have interfaced more directly with their community on an ongoing basis. They introduced "Rangers," users that are not moderators so much as site cheerleaders, which has been a very good thing, and which I've been a proud participant. Finally, CBS Interactive picked up Giant Bomb, bringing Jeff Gerstmann and friends back full circle, and reintroducing many old users to their former stomping grounds. I still miss many users, and wrote an homage to said users in 2011 (link), but there have been quite a few great users filling their shoes, as of late.
I've seen friends I've met through Gamespot go on to become hired and subsequently move on from Gamespot, as was the case with Donklejohn. Danny O'Dwyer started off blogging just like yours truly before picking up an actual Gamespot paycheck, and there he's been making entertaining shorts about some of the most random things I've ever seen. It's a far cry from his Bioshock game footage days. It was great to meet several of the staff at PAX East 2012 and put real faces to their digital replicants.
Danny O'Dwyer doing what he does best. I'm just not entirely sure what that is.
It's strange to think of how much time and energy I have allocated to Gamespot in the past decade. Ultimately, though, it has been a rewarding online community filled with wonderful people. I have been frequently absent the past twelve months due to volunteer work, my family, and career monopolizing every free moment of my life, but I do hope to once again contribute to Gamespot in some meaningful way in the coming months.
Thank you, Gamespot staff, for creating a rich and vibrant community. For giving me the opportunity to be heard, to improve your site, and to support its ongoing development. I wish nothing but the best to each and every employee and member over the next ten years.