Redundancies at 1UP.com

Commentary

If you haven’t heard the news: UGO/Hearst has acquired 1UP.com, killing Electronic Gaming Monthly Magazine (EGM) and firing most of the 1UP staff.

Here’s the part that bothers me the most:

“The acquisition of 1UP, with its authentic voice, tenured editorial personalities and bustling user community, allows us to expand our base of quality content and represents a major step forward in UGO’s mission to become the leader in the games space.”

When you fire a majority of the “editorial personalities” you don’t have an “authentic voice” or source of “quality content.” Without those things you lose the “bustling user community.” I wish the best to those who’ve lost their jobs, but I think 1UP.com and those who’ve stayed need the good luck at this point. That said, I’d like to step away from the drama and look back at how EGM and 1UP affected me over the years.


The first time I picked up an EGM was at my best friend’s house in the early 90s. It was the Sonic CD cover. I remember flipping through the article, with Sonic CD quickly becoming one of my first anticipated videogames. Before that I was a Gamepro kid, relying on protips to get through rented NES games. I can’t say EGM was the reason I became a hardcore gamer, but it was certainly a catalyst.

From that moment on I had a whirlwind, on-again, off-again relationship with the magazine. I’d subscribe for a while, but when allowance was tight and there was a cool Sega Saturn game on the horizon, I’d fall out of touch. Trips to my friend’s house always managed to remind me of what I was missing. I’d read the latest issue front-to-back over the course of a few visits, and then end up subscribing all over again.

Even in the Internet age, EGM continued to put out content that was exclusive and worthwhile. IGN.com and Gamespot became my home for new info, but I’d always enjoy checking out the latest EGM.

As I got older, I got a little snobbier and lot more opinionated, especially about games. At that point, clichés in enthusiast game writing were at a boiling point. Overly long, dull reviews surrounded by huge ads for McGriddles eventually turned me off to the whole thing. EGM was an unfortunate casualty of my newfound apathy.

A couple years passed when I still played games all the time, but I kept my dose of news coverage to a minimum. The Something Awful forum became my home on the Internet – it was possibly the only good community out there at the time. I followed the news through there, linking back to gaming websites enough to realize they weren’t all that bad. Then, nearly two years ago, I started listening to the 1UP Yours podcast.

To say that 1UP.com changed my views of game websites is an understatement. They validated the enthusiasm I felt for games. They had clear goals to further journalism and game reviews. They made me feel like someone in their twenties could write about videogames and not be a total embarrassment. It always seemed like a fun job, but never something I would have been proud of. Now I’m writing about games on a regular basis, hoping for a career, and proud of my work so far.

I also owe them my sanity. I can’t imagine how I’d get through my daily 9-5 desk job without a regular dose of 1UP podcasts. 1UP was at the forefront of the podcasting craze, and for me, they did it best. I started to attach names to voices, picking out my favorite personalities and listening intently to what they had to say. Some of these guys, namely the GFW Radio crew, got me thinking about games more deeply than I ever had before.

When I went to PAX this year, the 1UP family was in full force. By that point I felt like I knew some of these people. I was, embarrassed to say, a little star-struck. I’m sure they’d find that funny, but they were like heroes. They were members of a group that has been a part of my life in varying degrees for nearly fifteen years. I eventually spoke to some of them, finding them as down-to-earth as you’d expect. I babbled to Andrew Pfister like a nervous spaz at the end of PAX and he couldn’t have been more friendly and enthusiastic. I spoke to Garnett Lee, and while he was busy, he asked me what I’d played so far, and we had a little chat about Dead Space. Tina Sanchez did her community management thing, asking if I’d talked to anyone, and generally making sure the fans were having a good time.

1UP thrived on its personality. It was such a great website because it had several unique voices. Each podcast brought in a different mix that completely changed the tone of the subject matter. The 1UP Show took you into the offices, and while the acting may have been a little rough, the intimate view of their inner workings was unprecedented. The EGM pedigree found its way into the website, with journalistic integrity, excellent feature writing, and reviews that took brevity into consideration. It was a perfect mix that made them the best of the big game websites.

I’m speaking in the past tense not because 1UP is dead, but because there’s no guarantee it will still be all that it was. Corporate acquisition brings with it a greater need for numbers, quotas, ad revenue, results. Those needs breed lowest-common-denominator pandering that 1UP has avoided until now. A smaller staff means less content, less coverage, less videos, and less podcasts. It’s all a bit grim, but until I’m proven wrong, the 1UP I remember and 1UP under UGO are two completely different things. The glory days are over.

Thankfully, the old crew is already moving on to new things. Check out: http://www.eat-sleep-game.com/ for the Rebel.FM podcast.

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