Today is my birthday, too. I'm 31. When I was younger, birthdays were a more than predicable -- they were wonderfully ritualistic. My three neighborhood friends would come over as early as possible and we’d play whatever I’d saved up to buy until curfews or sleepy parents broke it up. The party was gaming -- with a side of cake. If we were lucky, it would fall on a weekend, so chores or trips to grandma’s house couldn’t interrupt our annual birth-destined gaming celebrations. It was an awesome and incredibly nerdy way to mark each passing year as gaming evolved. An afternoon with Dr. Wily turned to endless rounds of Ryu vs. Ken, then hauling fat-ass CRT monitors to LAN parties, then bringing over tiny joysticks and game-saving devices. The kids grew up and moved out, but we still congregate through a series of tubes and do our gaming thing. Man, what I would have given to have a c-blog in my teens. I would have been one annoying smart-ass little bastard, no doubt.
There’s one birthday story I like to tell about the Internet and gaming in particular -- one of this art school drop-out who wanted to go to a video game event so badly that he blogged his little heart out until he made it. But that wasn’t enough. Soon others with the same dream joined the blog and now it rests on him to build that company up -- to share and realize that dream for his friends, too. It dies in an instant without the support of our readership, so today I’m mostly thinking about you -- the Destructoid reader, lurker or community regular. It’s your day, too.
Pictured: Blaster from the Transformers (A robot? Really!), Punch-Out!!, and the coolest bedsheets I've ever owned. I'm the egghead in the middle with the controller. I think this was my 9th birthday.
Nothing I can blog will even approximate what needs to be said. Instead, all I can do is smile and point to my present and less-than-predictable circumstances. Twenty people I recently met are sleeping on any available soft piece of furniture in my living room; one of them is saving strength for a seven-hour flight back to Tijuana. Over a hundred people came over this weekend and some one million clusters of not-so-lonely-anymore neighborhood kids and grown-ups visit our online community each month. It’s an awesome and terribly nerdy way to mark this anniversary year and birthday -- a memory I’m proudly publishing online to share with friends who couldn’t be here in person (and missed good cake).
So much has happened this year. New people. New friends. Epic events. New site features. Eighteen thousand site revisions. Cake. There's so much going on at Destructoid that it's hard to wrap your hands around it. I thought about writing down milestones here, but I'd rather look forward than into our past. What's done is done and what's coming is even better. (That logic has also led me to buy many consoles, for better or worse.)
Two dozen people must have asked me the same question this weekend: “When you started Destructoid, did you think it would ever become this?” I always get all aw-shucks about it. Maybe I’ll surprise the next person that asks and say, “Of course I did, hoebag! Who the hell do you think I am?!!” and whisk away in a red cape. Of course, there’s no way in hell I or any of the editors that began contributing to Destructoid since long ago could have seen our little Web site grow into whatever it is today. I also can't believe I'm surrounded by so many incredible people all the time as a result. Just look at that photo from PAX last year. What's a guy supposed to say to that? I don't know. I keep a framed copy of it on my desk among a few others; it helps remind me of our responsibility for all the faces there and those that I've yet to meet.
So as I reflect on three years of Destructoid today, I have to admit that I’m more than a little choked up and melancholy from the gravitas of it all. I have as many aspirations and hopes for the future as I do concerns and lessons learned from the thousand mistakes we’ve made this year, so if you’ll allow me to rant in ten different directions, I’d love to both dream and vent about everything on my mind as I try to soak in this moment in life.
Nevermind me, there’s this community thing
Dr. Glen probably said it best. If you get involved in Destructoid, your life will somehow change. That’s a weird thing to say, but I’ve seen it happen so many times that I have to believe it’s true. We’re not a cult, we don’t have any self-improvement programs, and we cannot guarantee improvements to your male performance -- but you’re probably going to make a new friend. Or fifty. Or fall in love and fly across an ocean. It’s unusual that a videogame community somehow has improved the quality of life of the most active users somehow, even if they eventually move on or die from dry vaginas. Statistically speaking, the Force is strong here. I love to hear stories about people that made new real-life friends here. I think that's the coolest trick we've pulled off.
For example, have you seen this crazy shit? I don’t even have the words, nor can I wrap my head around the idea that it actually happened. It's funny, because the community requested a large-scale art project, and Hamza (in his infinite or unintentional wisdom) turned it into an anniversary thing. Madness. This is a grand example, but I see glimpses of little things like this pop up on the Web site. Sometimes it’s small -- a little offhand mention by someone in a cblog comment about how much they appreciate the site or when someone gets what the community is really all about. I love hearing about Destructoid get-togethers around the world, organized by people I may never have the opportunity to meet in person but who found each other through our site. This year we added something simple to the user profiles page: the ability to add in your zip or country code, which we’ll use to set up NARP meetups more easily in the future. It may also help stalkers and rapists to show up to your house faster. Please don’t use that feature unless you are an adult who is not retarded. But I digress.
Look, we drink
I was having a half-drunk conversation with a community member who drove I don’t know how many hours to come to our three-year anniversary when he turned and said to me, “I have a hard time meeting people and making friends; I don’t know what it is about Destructoid, but everyone I’ve met has been so nice.” I said it’s because I stopped being naïve and tree-hugging about the wildlife preservation we used to run for notoriously epic trolls, but it’s more than that. There’s something about the voice of the site. I feel we have a collective voice -- it’s something that’s part editorial team and part community. It’s like a common language, a culture that’s unique to us. Other sites have commenting and blogs and forums and all that shit; we’re certainly not the first. So my response to him was so lame I had to share it. I’m such a wordsmith. I responded: “Yeah, it’s nice!” I leave the big words to the editors.
My extended family? I couldn't love a group of people more. No, really, there are laws that prevent that stuff. Unless we move the office to Utah, I think. Last year, we gave a panel at PAX about how Destructoid came to be, alongside editors who contributed personal stories of how their lives needed to change to make it work. The underlying message was, unfortunately, personal sacrifice, and the responsibility and work ethic everyone at Destructoid shares that make a virtual internet publishing company possible. When I say, “I’m lucky,” I’m referring to the heaven-sent people I’ve bumped into who make Destructoid’s home page move nearly every 20 minutes. Dtoid's editors work hard. Most of them didn't come from gaming or journalism -- like me, they're burdened to prove themselves. They are the site. They work for me as much as I work for them.
I'm grateful to them as I am grateful to those no longer contributing that have left their mark. We've lost some valuable contributors over the years, some of whom we were sad to see go and others whom we weren't a good fit for. That's the hardest part about what I do. I have to call that shot, and I was reluctant to do so when I first started as Destructoid's publisher. Since our community is very open, these staffing changes can be difficult to deal with, so I wanted to touch on that today as well after this Chad face.
Reality check: why do so many online gaming communities implode?
A third reason to feel lucky: We're still here despite the crap economy. Others fall by the wayside, perhaps due to bad management of funds, egos, or both. A former editor once told me that it would only be a matter of time, like death and taxes. I don't know about that. Yet, I’m still shuddering over the fact that 1UP was acquired and EGM is out of business. If Ziff Davis couldn’t make it work, what hope do I have in being around for a decade?
Common business wisdom will teach you not to not get into businesses with friends, but I can't help but wonder if the most rewarding companies to work for are just the opposite. Just look at Google's founders. People are seeking a better quality of life, not just bigger paychecks, and I am chief among them. When money's been tight at Destructoid, I've been lucky to rely on my friends to help you open doors. We put down on paper the exchange of sacrifices you’re both willing to make. Other webmasters faced with money issues should learn from this, but beware when people spin off on their own unwanted interpretation of sacrifice. The ambiguity of what that “work” actually means and its frequency will be the death of your contributors, your friendships, and your business if you don’t take the time to clearly define it. Take the time to communicate that before anyone puts in a second of time, or you'll just end up with disappointed people -- your fault for not setting the rules and their fault for slacking. That's what I learned this year.
Also, it helps to buy cakes for staff. A mildly pirate-looking non-hairdresser also once told me to just rise above drama and keep going. Works for Johnnie Walker, works for him, works for me. I hope that's useful to somebody out there, too.
Bigger things, inevitable change, and the future
What's next for Destructoid? You tell us. When we're not running the site into the ground, we're listening to the features you want the most. We recently completed a massive site security and backup overhaul and some navigation fixes, most of which isn't outward-facing but I assure you that I make child labor hours look reasonable. We'll keep doing that stuff until we all die in a fire. Speaking of which, I almost died in a fire this morning. Dyson, Katrina, Conrad, and I could have been either killed or turned into crippled versions of ourselves earlier today when some idiot in an F-150 tailgating me on the highway could not stop in time, causing him to dive into a lane behind us and create a five car pile-up. I drive a tiny Volkswagen -- we would have been pancaked in a heartbeat. It’s just an example of how life can come at you fast, even on your three-year anniversary and birthday.
While I’m thankful for everything we have and everyone on staff, I’m not dumb enough to assume it can persist in perpetuity despite my wishes to build something that can stand the test of time. I'd like our fourth-year anniversary to have fire and midgets, so tell a friend about Destructoid and come to our party next year, won't ya?
Living the dream
It's an old Destructoid saying. It used to mean putting one guy’s credit card down to rent a single crappy hotel room and packing in the entire editorial team to cover an event, so we’d all sleep on the floor by night and rush out to compete for coverage against big media. Today, we are one step closer to turning it from a joke into a reality. We have a real office. We’ve been doing this for three years -- a lifetime by measure of Internet years. Tomorrow, we’ll be on the West Coast in a giant office building with steam-powered robot arms that push old media buildings into the ocean -- or we’ll be gone and become another dot-com in the deadpool. Until then, we’re here, we’re making it up as we go along, and there’s nowhere else I’d rather be than with these guys.
Well, except maybe in a giant robot head terrorizing small Japanese women. I can’t lie to you, being the boss has perks. Hey Sonic, where’s my damn lobster mojito?Photo Gallery: (11 images)
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