How 1UP gave all of us an extra life

ast Thursday, ironically following the coattails of Sony’s PlayStation 4 reveal and welcome to the gaming public, that very same public was then struck with some unceremoniously tragic news concerning the departure of a certain website. Recently, Ziff Davis Media purchased IGN and all of the properties/brands that were associated with it from News Corp., which soon lead to the almost too familiar and yet oddly poetic turn of misfortunate events to follow. This storm wasn’t just simply a layoff. No, it was a tempest that claimed the entire brand, and 1UP.com is nearing its end.

Where we’ve seen magazines come and go, and other major publications continuing to struggle despite certain consolidation measures taken with brands and editorial talent, 1UP was still among the few bastions of video game journalism that placed focus on the enthusiast and community aspects of the interactive medium. I have blog on 1UP still, though I never followed up with any proper blogs after doing some house cleaning on my page, I was grateful for the new home 1UP gave and kept busy there – Press Pause Radio. All of us here at PPR owe more than a debt of gratitude to the brand, and I’d like to take a moment to talk about why.

Believe it or not, there was a lot of marketing force behind 1UP that really pushed the brand of journalism produced. Whether it was in the issues of its parent magazine at the time, Electronic Gaming Monthly, or actual one-shot commercials on G4 in its respective enthusiast era, there was an allure to the name and what it had to offer.

I remember when I was watching Icons on G4 and would see Chris Kohler and Jon Gibson appear as authoritative spokes-guests to the respective topic at hand. I searched both of them online and came across some freelance articles they did for  1UP, and seeing as how I was already subliminally moved from adverts of its existence from the get-go, I gave it a shot. From that point on, 1UP had slowly become the base to feed my eccentric interest of video games. An unmistakable charisma slowly evolved into the trademark style one would expect from the work written that advanced the standard of games writing itself, and stories evolved from the so-called “essays” we settled for in that era. The fact that the emphasis on the content itself was priority as opposed to the delivery of the content was something that stood above what was offered from the likes of IGN or Gamespot. I became disenchanted with news that only served to be replaced by the next superficial event to transpire because the internet allowed for such reporting.

No, 1UP was different. And whether you consider the bravado smug or not, the awareness regarding their product only helped it grow. There were some big changes leading the way for the site at that point, something that became glue and pheromone all at once for readers both old and new.

As the promotion continued for 1UP’s existence, so came about the promise to build pages for readers to call their own in the site. Not just simply an identity for message boards, but a page where you publicly blogged your own thoughts on whatever you cared to write about in terms of video games.

Granted, 1UP was far from being the progenitors of such a concept, but the attention they gave to efforts where grand and it stemmed. The same writers who delivered opinion and criticisms towards video games also participated within the user community with blogs of their own outside of the featured written works of 1UP. The same personalities that readers grew to love now shared a direct community with them and bridged divides.

Say what you will about the state of games journalism and how bankrupt some of you may feel it is. If there’s anything wrong with the practice that I could criticize, it’s the secret-club mentality that propagates this sense of privilege within the ranks of games writers. Communication with the assumed uninformed readership ironically enforced the misplaced gusto of the journalist and their conviction that alienated readers, some of the very same who read their early work to begin with. This sort of dilemma was, and unfortunately is, a bit common, and only worked to discourage would-be writers into entering the coveted fold.

1UP was always the exception to the case. Mentions and offered opportunities to freelance features on the site only enforced the appeal of their work and their rapport as they could balance these elements into being a reliable authority who could stimulate then intellectual walls of any given topic in games, but remained a person just any of us who appreciated our input in the matter. This element alone is far from what just made the 1UP community so great. The editorial staff was just a bonus to it all, the community of 1UP lived up to every sentiment of the word.

The etiquette and demeanor the community demanded was never enforced or heavily moderated with threats of ban hammers and the like; it was just organic instead. Members slowly joined by the dozens. Soon, members started building their own followings just from their efforts in blogging and socializing. Pages soon developed the ability to make clubs. These clubs grew into other communities, and while some members splintered themselves in different directions, it was all on 1UP. Members always rooted back to someone who read a blog from someone else. Fans commented on a blog that was mentioned in some other vine – ties were always found in some way or another.

Matthew Clark, Bob Mackey, McKinley Noble, and so many others laid the foundation towards their game journalist calling within the 1UP community, and while their talent for writing is a testament to what led them to where they are today, talented writing can still only do so much. These writers and other who got their start freelancing grounded their support from the same readership that they were a part of, the 1UP community will stand as synergy of readers and writers that participated together in harmony with one another. The editorial will stand as spectacular aspect, but the true trademark that 1UP embedded into the throes of the internet highway was their media of podcasts and shows and what it did for the medium.

Dating back to 2004 through 2006 (regardless of how recent that was), the concept of a podcast or web show was still very new. Alongside those same market pushes for readership and blogger recruitment, 1UP had also placed this focus on watching and listening to their premier web media, like the 1UP show and 1UP Yours. Words were no longer left to the imagination of the reader, or the writing to surmise the perspective of its author. Instead, we were given an avenue to watch or listen to them in this live element. Even the scripted segments were nothing more than hearty attempts of humor to deliver their views and content.

These guys weren’t a bunch of spurned drama theater geeks taking a second crack at the performance arts. No, they were just a bunch of nerds instead, broadcasting what they couldn’t just simply commit to words. The 1UP Show wasn’t the only video segment to look forward to. Shane Bettenhausen, Crispin Boyer, and Seanbaby satirically criticized some of the worst games in existence with Broken Pixels, a sub-genre that may dominate YouTube presently. Still, it was a new and magical thing when you saw Shane and Sean tear into Bible Adventures with their improvisational comedy.

Podcasts were an entirely different beast, and a new wave internet radio show that authors the alliterative voice to their readers through hours of spoken discussion that filled the ears of thousands. Podcasts allowed for editorial to cut loose. It wasn’t this structured outlet where opinions appeared, but rather the exact opposite; it was avenue to truly get to know the author behind the keyboard. Every show allowed for the opportunity to just listen to some of the stories these people experienced with their time at 1UP. whether it was some of the blogs they’ve been reading, other games they’ve been playing that haven’t gotten the chance to get coverage on the site already, 1UP was already on top of it somehow. And then when we didn’t receive latest word on gaming, we listened to Anthony Gallegos play a love song on the air that he wrote for a girl named Amanda, or the Brodeo trying to make sense of a forum dedicated to sexually fantasizing Sonic The Hedgehog. It was as fucking disturbing as it was magical.

All of these factors alone may have been thought to have been shuttered long ago when 1UP first experienced the fallout of Ziff Davis Media incompetence with the UGO buyout, but it never died. Instead, it carried on up until last Thursday under the leadership of former editor-in-chief Jeremy Parish.

And that’s what makes writing this post so heartbreaking: we can all strive to emulate the strongest hallmarks of 1UP’s charm, but other outlets have been hard-pressed to do otherwise. 1UP will always be a testament of standards that have started a legacy for both writers and readers to follow. And while we’re seeing some of the fruits of these principles survive through sites like Polygon and PixlBit, 1UP will always live on in its own right.

This hallowed brand will hopefully live on in all of the hearts of those who experienced it, and may the sentiment remind us how good it felt when we didn’t go to work. We just went home and played all of our video games instead.

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Reader Comments (1)

Say what you will,l but I still picture Ziff as being a giant portly top hat wearing monocle adorned twisted mustachio totting douche-bag destroyer of dreams! Indeed the hole left will never be filled but with a stiff upper lip I'm going to press on!

February 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBrokenH (Ben Sprague)
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