There came a moment last night at Steff’s Sports Bar in San Francisco when former 1UP/MyCheats/GameSpy guru Mike Nelson put his drink down and said to me, “I was walking here and looking at all these people passing by, and I was thinking, ‘They don’t even know. People got laid off today and it was an end of an era. And they don’t even know.'”
I still don’t consider myself part of the “videogame industry,” but for a brief moment of my life, I worked in it. I lived and breathed it. And while I was in this bubble, I had kind of lost sight of what it is I was doing, what we all were doing. I was writing strategy guides and making silly videos for a website about videogames. Seriously, who the hell cares about that stuff? Apparently, a lot of people do.
When the news broke yesterday about the closing of 1UP, UGO, and GameSpy and the laying off of staff from those sites and their parent site, IGN, my Twitter feed was immediately flooded with tweets featuring the #1upMemories hashtag. At first it was from people I knew – old co-workers, friends I met while working there, etc. Then it came from random people I didn’t know – the “community.” And it was an amazing thing to behold.
I was waiting at the bar counter for some fruity coconut drink I ordered for Matt Leone (whose features can be read at Polygon) and I kept thinking about how 1UP meant a lot to a lot of people, and their outpouring of support over the past day was really touching. I haven’t worked at 1UP for more than a year, but at that moment I never felt closer to the 1UP community. Later in the evening, when more 1UP alumni and friends showed up to the bar, Mike’s words came back to me. It was an end of an era.
It really was. A lot of things in videogame media that we take for granted, like podcasting, really got its start at 1UP. Name any gaming podcast and I could tell you that it wouldn’t exist without 1UP Yours and EGM Live and Retronauts, and many more paving the way. And who could forget The 1UP Show? Groundbreaking, to say the least. And don’t get me started on this whole notion of “journalistic integrity.” The 1UP Network and its sister magazines was one of the few places that had that. Not that there aren’t sites now that won’t stick up for old-fashioned journalism ethics, but there aren’t that many in this age of ad sales and influential marketing teams.
This gathering at Steff’s wasn’t my first with the 1UP crew, and it probably won’t be the last, but it definitely felt like it. There was something in the air last night that signalled the finality of it all. I’ll admit I was getting a little misty-eyed. When 1UP and Gamepro alum Justin Haywald walked into the bar, late as usual, to the cheers and applause of many, everything suddenly felt very warm. We were all gathered near the counter (and taking up way too much space for this establishment), and I stood on a chair and tried to take a picture of everyone.
I realized that this wasn’t even close to everyone. But all the people at the bar – at that moment – carried with them the same memories as those that couldn’t make it out last night. They shared the same ups and downs, victories and defeats. These people had seen it all. System launches, studio closures, game announcements. E3’s, GDC’s, PAX’s, TGS’s, Gamescom’s. Lay offs, mergers, and site closures. To the world at large, none of this matters. But to a community of enthusiasts and players both pro and casual, those things mean everything. And 1UP was there for all of it over the past ten years. These people, just a sampling of a lucky few, had been through it. Most people don’t care, but many do.
“…it was an end of an era. And they don’t even know.”
There was plenty of reminiscing done last night. Countless exclamations of “remember whens,” usually followed by some embarrassing story. Jose Otero, who started as an intern the same time I started on the cheats section, pointed out the door of the bar to a building across the street. It was one of the old 1UP offices. We were there for only a few months before moving into IGN’s building. “A lot of memories in there for such a short amount of time,” he said. I nodded in reply.
I finally got that group picture. Again, it wasn’t everyone. Jeremy Parish, who is the last editor-in-chief of the site, was on a plane coming from Sony’s PS4 event in New York. Dan Hsu, former Electronic Gaming Monthly editor-in-chief, had gone off to create his own respectable gaming website years ago. Tina Palacios moved to Los Angeles. Alice Liang took a job a whole continent and ocean away in England. Garnett Lee went to GameFly. Jane Pinckard, who helped craft the memorable 1UP Show theme song, now works at a university. The 1UP Show creators set up their own production company, Area 5 Media, a few years ago. Former CGW/GFW editor-in-chief Jeff Green, who made an appearance at the bar earlier in the evening, had moved to game development.
Many, many more 1UP staffers of old had gone off to do other things, some in the games industry, some in entirely different fields. But the people in these snapshots were still connected to them through 1UP. Former 1UP video guy Richard Li once said over Twitter that he was “…deeply touched by the bonds established during our short time at 1UP, a period of unbridled creativity and kick ass friendships.” People came and went, but 1UP was the constant variable. The site was what connected us to each other even if we had never met in person, and is what connects us to our wonderful community of readers, listeners, and viewers.
On the train ride home with Mike Nelson, he said to me, “It’ll probably hit me in like a month. 1UP’s gone. Okay, maybe a week. It’ll be real in a week.”