The other day mullon wrote a blog that I said was one of the most relatable things I've ever read. So I suppose now the time has come to reveal myself. By which I mean tell my history. Obviously. There's no kids around here, right?
About a year ago when I did my intro blog, I decided to write a goofy piece to show off my personality more than actually tell anything about myself. Deep down, though, there was some truth to that. Ever since, I've been grappling with the idea of explaining my history with games and writing, but some (probably) silly concerns got in my way. I started and stopped a few long thought out pieces, but now I've decided to just brain barf all over the page in a stream of consciousness thing.
I guess I'll start at the beginning. I've been playing video games as long as I can remember. I didn't always own them, but I sure did play them. At friend's houses, at the Toys R Us demo kiosk, or anywere else I could get my little child hands on them. My first console was the N64. I vividly remember the day that I got it. I was at my friend's house and we were playing Bomberman 64. He, of course, had an N64 and I thought it was so cool. Later, my mom came to pick me up and when I got home I found my dad in the living room attempting to play Super Mario 64 on my brand new N64. It was a glorious day. After that, I got a Game Boy pocket (EXTREME GREEN), and I still remember how I convinced my mom to buy me a Game Boy Color so I could play Pokemon Pinball.
I always loved video games, and that lead me to seek out any new information about them that I could find. As soon as my dad bought a computer with a dial-up internet connection (when I was 6), I was surfing the web for video game news. I was that kid at school who always had the newest scoop and all my friends would ask me what was new in the gaming world. Remember IGN 64? My dad bought me a premium membership to IGN when I was a kid, and I found out that he had still been paying for it up until a few years ago when I brought it up and I told him I hadn't visited IGN in about a decade.
Anyway, my role as "the gaming guy" lead me to create a newsletter when I was in middle school. I called it "GameWeb" and it was so popular that a few of my friends even wanted to contribute. We put out a few issues, and then I made a magical discovery: Blogger. This was right about the time the service came under Google's ownership and got a major feature overhaul. GameWeb launched during winter break 2004, on December 22nd while I was bored waiting for Christmas. Over the years I've had a number of blogs, including one specifically for reviews called "GameWeb: Viewpoint", and one for random nonsense called "Shups and Croids" (whose name was based on some awesome typos). Eventually I merged them together in 2007 and chose the name "Installation 04" because, man, did I love Halo back then, although it is still a pretty badass name.
In 2009, during my last semester of high school, a friend of mine landed my friend who I'll call George and me a job with a local gaming site called Analog Hype, which has become defunct last time I checked. I was over the moon happy about this at first, but the happiness didn't last. The site wasn't managed well at all and I was fired a few months later for not attending the staff Skype meetings I was never told about. They basically said I was hired, game me some login information, and never spoke to me again. This being my first rodeo, I had no idea how these jobs were supposed to go so I thought I had free reign to write whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. After an extensive writeup of Halo Wars (which is amazingly still available online) I had expected to also be reviewing it. Later, while I was playing the game for review, one of the worst reviews I have ever read in my life was published of Halo Wars on the site written by some guy I'd never seen before in my life.
I was quite upset for a couple of reasons. One was my (perhaps unrealistic) expectation that I'd be reviewing the game because I was allowed to preview it. But of course, nobody communicated with me about it or game me any contact information. The other was that I couldn't believe they'd post a review that embarassingly bad on their website, especially when I was a good writer willing to do it. I complained about this publicly in the comments, because I had no other way to do so. I was polite at first but then got increasingly hostile when they kept deleting my comments. A few days later, I went to log in and post a news story only to find my access had been revoked. I had apparently been fired. With no notice. Years later I ran into these guys and explained how upset I was but they didn't even remember me until I explained the whole situation. It was then that they told me that, actually, I was fired for not attending the secret Skype meetings and that I'd have known what as going on if I had. You know, the mandatory meetings they never told me existed. It was kind of a shitty experience, but I learned from it. I mostly learned how not to run a website. I'd use this valuable knowledge later by making clear rules and open lines of communication.
So then I put the focus back on my blog. A lot of friends helped me out over the years but there were two in particular that I mainly collaborated with because they enjoyed writing as much as I did. One was the aformentioned George, and the other was a friend I'll call Joe. George was a driving force behind Installation 04 for years, and he'd continue to help me out in my next adventure. But it was Joe who really shared my vision together. In the fall of 2009 I started college. At the same time, I discovered Destructoid. Upon learning the story of Niero and Destrcutoid I decided, "Yeah, I can do that." Joe agreed.
The two of us started to have serious conversations in 2010 about starting a serious website. Niero made it to E3, and that's bascally all the two of us ever wanted since we were buddies in elementary school. We started planning it the summer before college and met during winter vacation to iron out the plans. We decided we were going to call it "The Players Republic". There was a long debate about whether to include a possessive and, if so, where the apostrophy would go. In the end we decided to leave it out and use "players" like an adjective. It was at this point that we started to realize how difficult it is to start a website from scratch. We had to come up with a name, buy a domain, look for hosting, build the site, and establish a voice.
The first lesson? Don't be cheap. The domain (which, by the way, was already taken so we had to add "the" to the beginning) only cost about $20 but we decided that was all we were going to spend. After a long time checking out free hosting options like Weebly, we decided to just continue using good old blogger. Wrangling that thing to look like an actual webiste was a major pain in the ass. I pretty much built it on my own with the help of Google, but I think it turnd out pretty well in the end.
Looking back, I guess I was sort of a visionary. I don't say that because I'm full of myself either. I say it because I was able to predict a trend in the games journalism industry that I've grown to hate. Joe and I had an idea to create a site that wasn't just about games, but about all the stuff that was relevant to gamers (of course with an emphasis on games). I came up with the slogan "relevant to your interests" and we decided on a three pillar aproach: games, media, and stuff. Games covered games, obviously. Media covered things like movies, tv, anime, and comics. Stuff was anything else we found interesting. The point was to write about stuff we liked becuase we figured other people like us liked the same stuff. We did what we wanted because it was fun, which I think is still the best way to go about things. Of course every gaming site does this now and I actually hate it. If I were to make another site, I'd stick to games only because, man, that would be a rare treat. And, of course, we axed review scores.
We launched the site in early 2011 and, althought I didn't realize it at the time, it was basically a fancier looking version of what we had already been doing at Installation 04. It wasn't until a few years later that I reailzed we should have just stuck with that to bein with. Anyway, this is about where I learned the second lesson: running a website is a massive time commitment. I probably would have learned this from Analog Hype, but we all know how that turned out. Where we probably should have been updating the site nonstop all the time (like Niero), we ended up posting about as much as we used to. Not too often. It's not that we weren't dedicated or didn't actually care, it's just that we were new college students and my freind went to Harvard of all places. Unfortuantely, it was just the wrong time in our lives to start a project like this but we didn't realize it at the time.
What we decided to do was bring more people on board. The first person I reached out to was, of course, my friend George who happily agreed to help us. Joe also brought on a friend of his who actually had some decent web design knowledge so I didn't have to struggle to keep the site from breaking on my own. A few weeks later, George mentioned that he knew someone from school who had actually worked at DualShockers and could provide us with invaluable knowledge. Of course, I agreed to this if they were willing to come aboard.
This was the turning point when things started to go south.
Now I've gotten to the part of my story that has prevented me from writing about it for so long. There's a few reasons for this. The first is that this person, let's call them Bob, is an integral part of the story but is also a huge asshole and their role in the following events makes it difficult to hide their identity. See, I'm not out for revenge here. I don't want to ruin anyone's career. I'm just trying to tell my story the way it happened. I've decided that I'll just go ahead with it by using a fake name and generic pronouns. The second reaon is that this is kind of hard to talk about. The third reason is that I don't want Bob to find and harass me because I'm discussing the website that my friend and I created together. I'm legitimately worried that by mentioning it by name, Bob will find out and harass me. I guess I finally decided that it's a risk I'm willing to take.
On with the story.
It turned out Bob always wanted to be a sitcom writer and was working on developing a webseries about gamers. Since I was an actual writer (I went to school for that) we decided to help each other out. I'd work on their web show in exchange for them working on the site, and The Players Republic would be the exclusive home to said show. There were signs early on that Bob was a control freak, but I only came to realize this in retrospect. Not to spoil my whole story, but Bob's plan all along was to have their own site, and taking over mine was the easiest way to do that. I should have known there was a problem when Bob seemed a bit reluctant to let me edit and critique their scripts. And I really should have been suspicious when Bob explained to me that they had a big fight with the director and ended up firing him because he would shoot every scene exactly the way Bob wanted it. Why would you even hire a director if you don't want them to do their job?
There's another element to this that I haven't explained that played a major role in obvious warning signs flying right over my head. I'm not an idiot, and normally I would have been able to see these signs and given Bob the axe. But I was too blinded by a certain emotion to see things clearly at the time. So, yeah...
Anyway, Bob really started to crack the whip and told us that if we wanted the site to be successful then there were certain things we needed to do. At this point that I began to formally outline what The Players Republic was all about by writing an official empolyee handbook to be given out to new members. Did I mention that Bob went hardcore scouting for new staff members? I mean, we ballooned to like 12+ people in the span of maybe a month or two. In retrospect I've realized that Bob's tactics were absolutely crazy and horrible. Like when they said the best way to get exposure was to spam Reddit and N4G with our own links, and try to get our versions of the story on those sites before anyone else. That's completely shitty! But clearly I didn't know any better at the time so I took Bob's word for it.
I can't say it didn't work, though. We got hundreds of thousands of hits in that timeframe. We were doing it! I remember wondering around this time what the hell had ever happened to that web series. Bob had put that on hold until the website got its footing. Red flags, people! I said that I was ready and willing to help out when the time came. The time never came, of course.
Things were going relitively well, but Bob was pressuring us to apply for businesshood because that'd make us official E3 material. Joe volunteered to handle the business side of things, while I was executive editor and managed the writers. I'm not sure exactly what happened next, but Bob (and subsequently the rest of the hired team) were becomming increasingly hostile toward Joe. I remember he published a post near the end titled something like "The Top 10 Most Disappointing Games of All Time" and Bob was down his throat for being too click-baity. I mean, yeah it was a bit of an excessive title, but obviously it was an opinion piece. You think one man from one brand spankin' new website is the definitive word on the best and worst video games forever? It was implied. Still, I made him change it. Mistake number one. He was very upset over that. It was one step away from the straw that broke the camel's back.
The actaual straw was someting more complicated, and something far stupider. I shudder to think of it, but here we go. When Joe went to incorporate us, he asked what kind of company and how we should split ownership. Joe made the extremely logical suggestion of joint ownership between me and him. Since we created the website, we should split 50-50. Easy. Bob, on the other hand straight up threatened to walk and take everyone with them if we didn't split ownership evenly between everyone involved which was, like, ten people or something. I didn't think that was quite right, but I didn't think it was quite wrong either. Big mistake.
I tried to compromise with everybody by saying that the two of us could get bigger pieces and everyone else could get a smaller piece or that we should go the LLC route. Neither side was swayed, and at this point everyone on the team hated Joe's guts for reasons I still can't figure out to this day. So then I did the absolute stupidest, worst thing I have ever done in my entire life. So stupid that I think about it and regret it often. So stupid that I have dedicated my life to never acting like that again.
I sided with Bob and gave Joe and ultimatum.
I still have this conversation saved in my Facebook messages forever as a reminder of that time when I was a horrible human being. Never betray your friends. I honestly can't believe how calm and cool my friend was about it all. He was willing to meet ridiculious demands just to be accomidating to a bunch of assholes. What the fuck had I done? After I told him he was a bad business partner (not true) and would probably fail on his own (also not true), he ends the conversation with this:
"Good luck with your new endeavors. I got what I wanted out of it which was a fun project with my friend. It ended terribly but will make a great story some day."
So we all left except for Joe and his friend and decided to make a new site. I set the damn thing up in record time and we were ready to go in about a month. This is the part that's most relevant to you guys here at Destructoid. Longtime community members will no doubt remember the infamous Twinfinite incident. I wasn't really active other than a front page commenter at the time so I totally missed it, but I've heard a few people bring it up in the last year since I've been active. I'd like to appologize for that. It's indirectly my fault, though I wasn't the one hiring. Bob went on another scouting binge and basically abducted a handful of community members from Destructoid who have never returned. They were all good dudes, and I'm sad they never came back. In my brief time at Twinfinite, we hired the likes of vApathyv, rexwolf2, and LawofThermalDynamics. Apparently there were more but that was after my time.
Once again, I basically did all the work. I built the site, made a new handbook, lead editorial direction, etc, as the executive editor. I even came up with the name unintentionally. Somehow, the team hand narrowed names down to the two terrible choices "Twin Sticks" and "Infinite Pixels". I thought both of those were stupid so I jokingly said we should combine them and call the site "Twinfinite Pixsticks". So that's where that came from. Of course, the domain was taken by some random mother of twins who bought it and then never used it for anything. We bought a .net after going with 2winfinite.com for a while. Apparently the .com is now worth $2500. Oops. They still don't own it, though, so I guess that's karma.
After we got up and running I started to have second thoughts. I felt like I was slowly losing control to Bob and was ending up doing what Bob wanted. I didn't feel like the executive editor any more and I didn't really want to be. I kept thinking about Joe's words and it finally hit me that he was right all along. I wasn't having fun any more. I decided to step down, but then the most confusing thing ever to happen in my life transpired. Bob flipped out when I said I wanted to just be a regular editor. Like really went off the rails. It's another thing that I absolutely do not understand to this day. I mean, I was god damn horrible to one of my oldest friends. I treated him like dirt. Like the crust below the dirt! And yet, he remained civil the whole time. I deserved to be bitched at by him, but he was the bigger man. But Bob? All I said was I wanted to step down and I got this whole spiel about giving up and being a pussy or something like that. I don't really even want to go back and read it. It was really horrifically mean for no reason and repeating it here could absolutely obliterate Bob's career.
My friend George was in on the conversation and (like an actual good friend) sided with me. He was also very cool and civil. We both told Bob to calm down, but they were having none of it. And that's how Bob grew to hate my guts. That's why I'm afraid that by mentioning Twinfinite, Bob will find this and hunt me down. Needless to say, I quit right there on the spot and blocked Bob on all social media. I think I had been in charge for less than a month. This basically all happened during a few weeks in October. I told Bob that I would, of course, still help with the web series if that was still a thing, and basically I was told to go fuck myself because they would never want to work with a person like me. What the fuck.
So then, the aftermath. Well, Joe went on working with The Players Republic for a while and then ended up morphing it into a new site that he later sold for a few hundrend bucks. He definitely came out on top here. Twinfinite continued to grow and, wouldn't you know, made it to E3 2012 just like we were hoping. They're getting some crazy numbers according to SimilarWeb, like being ranked #159 among video game webistes (apparently almost 100 places better than Dtoid which seems implausable to me) 22.6k Twitter followers, and 3.2 million hits last month. Bob's shitty tactics obviously did something right, but I would never run a site like that myself. When I look at those stats though I can't help but feel some pride. I mean, without me the site wouldn't even exist. Because of me, people probably launched their careers in gaming journalism. That's pretty damn cool.
Having said that, though, neither I nor any of the other six founders of the website are credited anywhere and that enrages me to no end. For years, the site was using plagerized material I wrote for an about me page that should have been changed when I left. The site (almost) literally reads, "[Bob] founded Twinfinite when [they were] bored one day. [They have] since become very not bored." I mean that's just a straight fucking lie. And yes, Bob still runs the place. Bob is the only orginal staff memeber still working there. I check back every so often out of morbid curiousity and I've found that the staff changes almost completely once a year. The staff drop like flies every few months. I can't imagine why. No, Twinfinite is not a place I'd recommend you work.
In case anybody is wondering, yes Joe and I made up and are still friends. I thank my lucky stars every day for that. Joe and I have been friends since kindergarten, and it would have been absolutely terrible if our friendship ended over something so stupid. It's still the biggest regret of my life, though. The solution is obvious to me now: I should have just dropped Bob like a sack of bricks and said fuck everyone else if they refuse to get along with my friend. In December of 2011 I began appologizing profusely, and even though it took a while I eventually regained Joe's trust and he forgave me. I never want anything like that to happen again.
Joe got out of the journalism game after he sold his site. He went on to law school and business school and should graduate next year. He even wrote a novella and produced a documentary. But what have I done? Well, that's the final piece of the story.
For the past five years I have been a lost soul. I acknowledge that when Joe and I were building our website it just wasn't the right time in our lives. We were new college students and it was taking up a substantial amount of time. I graduated in 2013 with a completely useless combination of a major in creative writing and a double minor in sociology and classics. I've tried to get Installation 04 going again, but it's just not the same any more. I lost my team and everyone has moved on. I'm sort of stuck in the past. I04 is my baby and I don't want to give it up, but running it by myself makes me sad. My heart just kind of isn't in it any more.
That's where Dtoid comes in. After over a decade of spending the effort to write over 9,000 posts (yes, that's not a typo, I said thousand) next to nobody has ever read, I figured I might actually have an audience here. I finally do! But, well, it isn't really making me feel better. Getting hundreds of upvotes, insightful comments, and even being front paged just doesn't motivate me like I belive it should. It's basically been nothing but failure for me so why bother trying any more? I mean, 4/5 most viewed posts on I04 were actually written by George, the top of which has over 115k views.
I'm just not sure what to do any more with my life. I've been trapped here in Florida for personal reasons and I hate it. I'm depressed and unmotivated and feel like just rotting awawy because nobody will care anyway. I really would love to try and use all I've learned to build a new website, but I've got nobody any more. I'm all alone. So lately I've been thinking maybe I'll start fresh with a new blog that has a new direction, but I wonder if there's any point at all. I feel like I'll never become anything.
I see friends and aquaintences being accomplished or starting a family and it makes me even sadder. Here I am, living in the same house I grew up in, doing nothing with my life because I feel so bad. I mean, I try to be a nice guy. I would have just run the hell away long ago but my family keeps needing me for stuff. Now I'm fat and sad and I have this stupid undiagnosed abdominal pain. I've got stories to tell and games to write about and I just can't bring myself to do anything. At least I'm not suicidal or something like that. I mean, there's plenty of pleasures to live for but none of them are going to further my life. I'd rather just sit around and watch cartoons for the immediate gratification than write something I think nobody is ever going to read.
So that's who I am. A guy with big ideas who's given up on the world. I with things had turned out differently. I kept telling myself that one of these days things would get better. Then it was was months. Now it's years. I figure eventually things have to turn around, right? Everybody goes through a slump, right? But this one has lasted so many years. I don't want to lose hope, but every year I tell myself it's going to be better and it's always worse. The last year has probably been my worst one yet, but at least I can come around here and have a chat with some nice people and get cheered up, even if I can't muster the energy to do much more than that.
If I started to write stuff, would you care? Would you read it? Would you make sure I didn't stop and give up? That's what I need right now. That's what I've always wanted. I just want to entertain and want people to want me to entertain them. Maybe it's time I read Dreamweaver's epic. After all, if he could muster the courage to post something like that after grappling with it for so long, why can't I?