WTF is Destructoid? Today we celebrate 12 years of madness


Point-your. Shocker. Fingers. To-the. Mooooon

Gather 'round Papa Niero, it's that time of year to tell our best story: The story of how Destructoid came to be as a video game community. Most of you already know the story, so please humor us as we enlighten the new people just recently discovering us. Oh and that's Lyle Rath in the helmet, there's no way I'm that skinny and metal. Maybe 12 years ago. How time flies, eh? I'm pushing 40 now and it's still such a pleasure to do this. It's still my favorite thing in the world, I can't picture myself doing anything but being your publisher.

Before I get into our backstory, I want to thank everyone over at @EGLXofficial for having us at their gaming expo. Just like them, we Voltron'ed-up with the Enthusiast Gaming family and it was one of our best years ever. We've lived long enough to go from a bunch of dorks who wouldn't be allowed into a gaming convention to becoming part of one of the biggest video game networks in the history of the Internet. In fact, when we add up all our sites, we reach over 100 million unique readers a month. That's insane! These guys really get it and I'm very happy to be working with them.

So how did we get here? WTF is Destructoid?  I wrote a little something for our EGLX convention trade show magazine which I'll share with you here.

Imagine if all you wanted to do this summer was to go to a video games convention. You've saved up all your money, you book your time off, and your heart is dead-set on it. Then you get an email that says: "No, you can't come. You have to be part of the media."  

What would you do? Twelve years ago, that really happened to me.

This is the Destructoid Story: Destructoid was once my one-man gaming blog built to sneak into the E3 gaming conference back in 2006. I was rejected a few months before the event, and while researching how to get around this I found out that having a well-read website meant free tickets. I went insane and pulled it off, and since then it’s become an obsession. Since that fateful day, Destructoid has served over 1.2 billion pages and counting! True story.  

How did I pull it off? I wrote about what my friends and I would debate about at length on the sofa: what we loved and hated about the industry. I started calling people out. I hated money-grab game adaptations of films. I wrote about big fat lies in marketing that made unreleased video games look as if they had superior graphics. About PC gaming rip-offs, full of parts you could buy for a 1/4th of the cost, and how to install them. When I wasn’t picking fights, I’d write about the best games nobody was playing. Little by little, comments started pouring in. The articles were fine, but some of these comments were pure gold.  

Then it hit me: “Duh, we should let readers submit full articles.” So I started offering free web hosting and promoting blogs.

That’s how the Destructoid community was born. 

By the time E3 rolled around, I went from 0 to 50,000 readers. We became a top gaming critic. We were very tough, but we were fair. We then started doing brutally honest gaming reviews. I would get roasted for daring to allow my contributors to roast the sacred golden cows of video games, but I knew it was important. When we awarded a 10/10 review, people knew it was real. To me, that was the job. We took the punches and earned our position as a trusted consumer watchdog for the video games industry.   

After the show was over my dream had shifted from going to the event for myself to wanting to share it with the community, which presented new problems: how do we keep growing the staff to compete with the big boys? I couldn't afford that expensive booth, so I decided to try something gonzo on the show floor instead. I had a cool robot logo, so I’d make a physical helmet and wear it to E3, why not? I went to the hardware store and made a crazy robot helmet out of air conditioner parts. The eyeballs were car reflectors, and the ears were measuring cups from my kitchen. I thought "people will definitely notice me in this!" so I could pass out flyers to my blog. Little did I know that I was the only "journalist" there in costume. I was ridiculed by some of the magazine press, but a lot of people loved that it was irreverent and funny. And video games shouldn't be taken so seriously, we're all here to have fun. Destructoid was suddenly a cult hit, but far from a success.

I would have laughed in your face if you told me we'd be on the badges of a major trade show. There's no way that would ever happen, right? Ahem.

When I finally got home (with cuts all over my neck from Helmet 1.0) I found myself desperate to keep this going. I had decided I was either going to go all in or at least have the satisfaction of losing, knowing I gave it my best. I took out loans to make sure the media saw us at every major event. We used to joke and say “living the dream!” as eight of us would pack in and sleep on a hotel floors because we could barely afford to cover these events. I knew that if I wanted to work in this industry, I had to want it more than everybody else. I started selling everything to keep that site online as the bandwidth bills piled up.

I didn't put all my money into Dtoid right away, but enough things along the way told me that if I had the balls and worked hard enough this might work out, and that happened incrementally. When my guys interviewed the makers of Cuphead on our industry panel last week, that family followed a similar path. You gotta go for it or regret it for the rest of your life, and I went for it.

When I ran out of money, I flipped the mortgage on my house. When that money ran out I moved to the West Coast and partnered with new sponsors ... and when those companies got sold, we merged with Enthusiast Gaming where we now co-host Canada's largest gaming expo, which just announced two new markets and will absolutely return next year. Look at it:

This is what Destructoid's gaming convention looks like. It's absolutely surreal to me. As good as we're doing these days, I know that there are no guarantees in life. Things can fall apart tomorrow and my guys know that I will flip burgers before I let the server shut down. 

For the young person looking into what it takes to get into this kind of business, I hope these words resonate on what it takes: You can't give up. You have to be willing to fail over and over and try new things until all of a sudden you're an "overnight success."

Twelve years later, that counter-culture spirit of Destructoid continues to live on. We can now finally say with certainty, we’ve made it, we're living the dream!

Here's a picture of me with my 12-year-old.

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Niero Gonzalez
Niero GonzalezMeat Vessel   gamer profile

I keep Destructoid weird. Also I'm a playable character in Retro City Rampage, look: (along with the whole 2009 Dtoid Editorial team) Sometimes I have a villainous mustache My dog CoCo chec... more + disclosures



Filed under... #About Destructoid #Destructoid #EGLX #Mr Destructoid #Top Stories



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