News came out yesterday that Ziff-Davis, after repurchasing IGN and that site’s properties including UGO, GameSpy and 1UP1, is now closing everything outside of IGN and AskMen.com to focus on their core sites. Naturally, of all the sites they had, they had to keep the two worst ones in terms of actual content open, except for people who have an unnatural liking for slideshows and reviews that rarely go below 8.0.
GameSpy will be missed by some, while UGO was, for the most part, a tabloid, but it’s 1UP’s demise that has me particularly depressed. 1UP had changed their focus once Jeremy Parish took over the Editor in Chief reins, eschewing news posting for more feature-length writing. The results were astounding: 1UP was simply putting out some of the best writing about video games on the internet, both in the form of timely editorials and amazing, multipart features, all of this despite having to deal with News Corp.’s bullshit. Jeremy Parish and his people have simply been doing amazing work, and lots of it, the kind of work one wouldn’t expect from a corporate owned site. I’ve been amazed that 1UP’s been able to keep this up as long as they have.
Sadly, the economic realities of video games journalism finally caught up. News Corp, who are otherwise occupied to say the least, sold the business because it wasn’t generating enough revenue, and Ziff-Davis’s beancounters took one look, saw four video games sites – and four staffs – doing what they felt was the same job, and made “difficult” cuts that they talked about for a paragraph before moving on, coldly hiding behind the careers of many writers behind corporate garbage. We seem to have a monthly debate as to what’s “broken” about games journalism, and we always list symptoms, such as the decimation of the ten point review scale and the perception that anything below an 8 is a horrible game, the proliferation of “swag”, the uncomfortable pressure on editorial by marketing and management that grows by the day, and the focus on getting as many eyeballs as possible, quality be damned. These are valid points, but focusing on the symptoms ignores the root cause. Corporate money, and their desire to wring every dollar out of a creative medium, has affected all of journalism for the worse. It’s a problem much larger than video games, and has forced journalists to cater to forces much larger than themselves at the expense of their integrity for far longer than 1UP’s been around.
But today isn’t the day to curse the likes of News Corp., Ziff-Davis, CBS Interactive2 and other corporate entities. This is the day to remember a brilliant site run by one of the best editors in the business, that had some of the best content on the internet. The 1UP of the past few years has been a journalist’s site, no small feat in this industry, and hopefully, Jeremy Parish can have the effect on IGN that he had on this site. It’s sad that he kicks himself for being in charge of the site upon its demise, but alas, it was his stewardship that allowed it to not only remain relevant, but become better than it had ever been. Other sites such as Hardcore Gaming 101 and Destructoid can fill the void, but there will never be another 1UP.com.
Here is some of their best recent work.
Violence and Pacifism in Video Games – With the murder of 26 people in Newtown CT by a deranged and mentally disturbed young man who happened to play video games, our medium is back on the defensive. 1UP looked at the subject without reactivity and with maturity and depth, something I can’t say the same for myself.
1UP’s Essential 100 – When we talk about the “greatest” games of all time, there are so many ways to look at it, and they’re all right and wrong. Is Pong a “better” game than, say, BIT*TRIP SAGA? Absolutely not! But was it better relative to its era? Of course! 1UP cut through the fluff, and did a four part series going over what they felt were the 100 most important games in history. Ironically, this is how I typically decide on “greatest ever” lists. This list includes games such as E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial and FarmVille, games that would only make a “greatest of” list of a masochist, but are critically important to the medium nonetheless.
A Stella Anniversary: 35 Years of Atari 2600 – Atari 2600s have been done many times before, but this is one of the most in-depth ones since.
Gender, Sexuality and Video Games – The debate about male and female gender stereotypes exploded to the forefront in gaming due to the work and subsequent controversy of Anita Sarkeesian. This feature put all of those other debates to shame, looking at it from angles even deeper thinkers hadn’t considered.
Rethinking Japan – We talk a lot about how western developers have taken over a scene once owned by Japan. The reasons are deeper than just market trends and logistics; deep cultural reasons are also in play. This feature took a hard look at the fundamental differences between not only the development of games themselves, but key, fundamental differences between America and Japan that have existed for centuries and have a hold on our industry in ways we don’t stop to think about. Of all of 1UP’s features, this was my favourite..
1 – It should be noted that ZD sold those as part of their bankruptcy proceedings in 2009. They went bankrupt, sold things off, bought them back and are closing them now. I have 2014 in my “Ziff-Davis will go bankrupt again” pool.
2 – Hey, remember CBS Interactive? Remember their little Hopper controversy? Yeah, you all know they own GameSpot and Giant Bomb, right? Yeah, that’s kind of still a thing.