11/30/2011

RIP GSW, 2005-2011

by Matthew Hawkins

After six solid years as the king of the alt.gaming blogs, the plug was pulled on GameSetWatch earlier this evening

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: GSW is (well, was) the best pound for pound source for off the beaten path gaming news and nonsense out there, and I’m intensely proud to have been associated for as long as I have.

I forget how it all came to be; I think it was just Simon trying to find some other use for me. After attracting his attention on NeoGAF (back when it was still just the Gaming Age Forums, and was where I got most of my earliest writing gigs, FYI), which somehow led to me interviewing Jake Kazdal (back when his only claim to fame was being the only white person to work on Rez), that in turn paved the way to a semi-regular gig at Gamasutra (I also lent assistance at the Internet Archive‘s game section, which he oversaw at the time), I was eventually enlisted to help with his latest pet project.

Though before that, and even during, I was often included in his daily deluge of gaming link round-ups. At least in one case, I was actually the primary subject; I’m still quite tickled pink by how Simon used to refer to me as the Harvey Pekar of video game journalism! Anyhow, one of the very first things I wrote for GSW is something that I’m still extremely proud of, mostly since it directly led me to bigger and better things, both professionally and personally: the first version of my gamer’s side to New York City.

That, along with my yearly Blip Fest reports (here’s part two of my all-time personal fave Blip, in case anyone’s interested), set me on the path of becoming very much involved with the local game culture. Like organizing and overseeing a number of indie gaming celebrations throughout the city all last year, as well as the very formation of my self published zine (where the aforementioned special report was resurrected and refined for the printed page).

Eventually I got my own semi-regular slice of the GSW pie, where I reviewed mostly under the radar video game cinema. Which I always intended on revisiting, especially with the upcoming wave of game oriented documentaries on the horizon. I feel especially bad about the big stack of DVDs that I’ve accumulated already; apologizes to those that passed along screeners that I’ve allowed to collect dust. Perhaps I can finish the job on this end…

BTW, the absolute best video game documentary ever, even better than King of Kong? That would be Second Skin. Oh, and my fave column? Jeremiah Johnson, aka Nullsleep‘s Shmup Me Up, Buttercup, which is where I first learned about Touhou Project. I also perhaps shouldn’t admit the following, because I swore to keep it a promise, but that was years ago and maybe Simon won’t mind at this point: I was GSW’s very first paid columnist!

Eventually, Simon decided to pass the reigns to someone else? not myself, and I was kinda pissed. I asked: “Who the hell is this Eric Caoili guy?” But then I watched him do his thing and went: “Gee, this guy’s actually really good.” And then it dawned on me that he was also the guy running the only other blog that could stand toe to toe with GSW, Tiny Cartridge. And next thing you know, we became friends online, and I was even asked to help fill in for him, while on vacation, alongside Adam and Bruno!

Hence why I felt so honored (and validated) to be asked to become part of an official part of GSW earlier this year, and hence why I was so heartbroken when it came to an end. I’m confident, no matter where life takes me professionally, that those six months will remain a personal highlight for years to come.

So I guess the question that many might be asking is why has the curtain been drawn? Well, that’s neither here nor there, but I think the fact that such a beloved outlet, one that was championed by individuals that clearly exhibited passion for the thing, and which also enjoyed an intensely loyal following as well, could still come to a close is just another indication of how rocky those internet waters truly are these days. The means of dispersing information, the other channels that are in competition for people’s attention, and most importantly, the ability to monetize it all has never been more crowded and confusing.

I make no bones about the fact that the number of hits to this site is not what they used to be, though there are countless related and unrelated reasons. Ultimately, I’m still keeping this thing alive cuz I just like doing it (the fact that many folks have continued to stick around also helps, thank goodness). Yet more importantly, no real money’s involved. Meaning no paychecks to balance, no numbers to produce in order to appease advertisers, etc. Simon also has bigger fish to fry these days. Not only is he helping to run Game Developers Magazine and the Game Developer Conference, but he’s also one of the driving forces behind the Indie Royale.

And as Simon sez: the mainstream press is doing a better job of covering the wild and wacky side of gaming (yet there’s plenty of room left for improvement, IMHO). Along with: “So long, and thanks for all the fish, as everyone is obligated to say at this point.” Anyhow, I speak on the behalf for pretty much everyone involved when saying that all the kind words and warm thoughts have been extremely appreciated. I must also once again thank Simon and Eric for allowing me to be part of the team. As illustrated above, GSW has been a really big deal in my life; more than anything else, it allowed me to meet many fine folks, some who are now friends for life.

One last thing: what have I written for GameSetWatch that I’m most proud of? Hard to say. Not to brag, but I was the first to report on a few things, like that dating sim between man and bird that others are finally starting to talk about. Though if I had to choose just one, it would be my rundown of the TNT Amusements Infomercial.

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