From Acorns to Fish
by Mark R
I always imagined that this post would take place on the anniversary of GamingLives‘ launch. It was always supposed to be that way, but I’ve always been a strong believer that everything should be organic. If you sit down to write a song and it doesn’t come naturally, or it doesn’t essentially write itself, then you’re forcing it and should walk away from it until the inspiration hits. The same goes with graphic design, or anything that requires a degree of creativity in order to sustain its life. So, hanging on to something for the sole purpose of meeting a particular expectation goes against the grain of why we do what we do in the first place, and that brings us full circle to this particular point in time.
When this site was launched, it was with a sense of community. We never desired to be anyone’s competition, and when that inevitably happened, it was from their side rather than ours. There was never meant to be any ‘them and us‘, and the whole point was to create a place where anyone could come and join the team. It was always about the team, and the desire to write. As soon as you replace ‘want‘ with any sense of obligation, things start to get a little sticky. It’s like with dieting – we go through our lives eating whatever we want, whenever we want, and we think nothing of it. We just get on with it and never moan about it. Replace that ‘want‘ with obligation and everything changes – you’re no longer eating whatever whenever; you’re now eating when you’re advised to, and whatever you’re told will benefit you most. Within a few days, something which was once an enjoyable experience becomes a hateful grind that you want to remove yourself from.
That’s what happened with GamingLives. When it started, it was so much fun. We were a few friends and many strangers, all of whom became good friends over time and, for some, an extended family. There were, of course, the people who came and went and we heard nothing from after they left, but there were also those who left and remained friends, and who were always included in conversation or get-togethers. It started off with nothing but opinion pieces, which is what it was always intended to be, and eventually a review filtered in and made way for many more, and then a news piece ended up on the front page, and from that point on we covered industry news until we reached the point where outside commitments and time constraints prevented us from doing so.
We further evolved in 2011 when we took a financial risk by travelling to Boston for PAX East, and enjoyed it so much that we went on to LA to cover E3, and Gamescom (with a capital ‘g‘) in Cologne many times thereafter. We’ve had podcasts, video reviews, video interviews, and even started work on a short film which fell by the wayside after circumstances within the ranks changed. No matter what, we moved forward, and did so with no expectations or aspirations. We simply ‘were‘, and that was enough for us. Those who graced the pages have gone on to work within the printed gaming press, online press, as developers, and with publishers, and while GamingLives played a small part in some of those, it also played a greater part in others.
But this post isn’t actually about GamingLives. That was never my intention. I didn’t want to close by letting you know how far we’d come, what we’d achieved, or that we managed to consistently bring in around 200,000 visitors per month but could never quite reach the magic number of 250,000. Although one of my articles may have been read by almost 150,000 people, at the end of the day that’s not really what matters. If you ever see me at an event and want to talk shop, then we can do that then. Now, however, I want to look back on what has made my time at GamingLives more meaningful than any of that.
I’m talking about when things got pretty bleak for us, personally, and out of the blue we had a handwritten letter from one of the writers telling us that we had to keep our chins up and work past everything, and that if we ever needed anything from them we just needed to ask, and they’d make it happen. I believed him then, and still do. This came with a Post-It note which served as a voucher for a certain portion of their own ‘luck‘ to be used whenever we felt it necessary, and even though it was merely a few words scrawled (with terrible penmanship) on a cheap piece of yellow self-adhesive paper, it meant more than could possibly be put into words. Which is just as well, as his words are usually pretty abusive.
Or the writer who sat next to me on the flight back from Los Angeles and talked of how getting to E3 meant they’d achieved a life-long dream, asking me what I still wanted to achieve in life, and their look of disappointment when I said that my dreams could never come to fruition because playing at Madison Square Garden can only happen when you’re in a band, and I jacked that shit in a long time ago. And that flying on Concorde to New York could never happen because it’s now been globally decommissioned, or that learning to fly was financially a no-go area. Only to have that writer take me aside at one of our subsequent GL BBQs to tell me how much my support and friendship has meant to them, and that they’d saved up to cover flying lessons whenever I was ready to take the plunge, just to say thank you. Would have been nicer if they’d stolen one of the few remaining Concorde for the garden, but it’s the thought that counts. He also hand-made clay money boxes for our kids, both of which were those quaint seaside huts to remind Lorna of her home on the Kent coast. Beyond thoughtful.
Then there’s the writer who, knowing how excited Lorna was about having a Raspberry Pi full of old-school emulators and ROMs, went out of their way and spent their own money on memory cards (and had sent others in the past for the PSP and Vita, ‘just because‘), and then painstakingly installed the OS, the emulators, and set up all the ROMs so that I could then give it to Lorna as a Christmas present that year. And who recently took away her PSP and bought countless battery packs until he got it working again to jailbreak it for her. The same guy who, every time he comes to our BBQs, brings something for our two kids and ended up producing ‘Kwemin‘, a large stuffed penguin which, for more than a year, our daughter took everywhere and certainly wouldn’t even consider going to bed without.
There’s also the chap who crapped out of one of our BBQs at the last moment, made his excuses, and decided not to come because of social anxiety. He came to the next one, but barely said a word to anyone and left early, staying only one day out of the four. When he said that he’d go along to E3 with us, I was sure he’d bottle it and come up with some cockamamie (had to look up the spelling of that one) excuse not to go, but, as I was waiting in Glasgow Airport for the gate to open, he turned up. That week changed him; he was so damned funny, came right out of his shell, and his writing improved ten-fold while we were there. He now comes to all the get-togethers and even takes part in the smaller soirées, and is an entirely different person. A seriously good friend, despite me repeatedly using ‘that’ photo whenever possible. I’m glad you turned up, dood.
Going back to almost the beginning, there’s the writer who knew that we were having our first GL BBQ and hadn’t really considered how the hell we were going to cook for that many people on a shitty little supermarket-bought grill, and so she jumped into her stealth suit and managed to secretly raise enough money between the writers at the time so we could buy a huge stainless-steel hand-made BBQ that would accommodate every burger we could possibly hope to cook that first four-day weekend of gaming and gluttony. That particular BBQ was only retired this year when, after numbers continued to increase, we ran out of cooking area. We do still have it though, and it’ll always be ‘The GL BBQ’.
There are more instances, I’m sure, but these are the ones which stand out most in my mind. Every one of those writers came to us as a stranger, and three of them are still with us as we bring the site to a close seven years on, but all four (and many others) are still part of our extended family, and we always look forward to spending time with them, and can’t imagine a life where they’re not there. But that’s what GamingLives is all about, or was all about. It wasn’t the acclaim, or getting to shake hands with the Tony Starks of the gaming industry; it was about the people. Not just the writers though, but also the myriad PR people that we met along the way and had great conversations with. GamingLives was created as a platform for anyone to come along and share their passion with people who felt the same as they did, and that’s what it always boiled down to, and that’s how we remained until that first bell tolled a few weeks ago.
So when you hear that death knell tomorrow, and can just about make out the rattle in our collective chest as we take that last breath, don’t mourn for the site that once was. Enjoy the thought that it changed many lives, created some fantastic relationships, and brought new meaning to the word ‘family‘ for many people who will continue that feeling long after the ‘publish‘ button has been clicked for the last time. Our tiny acorn grew into a mighty oak, but it’s time to move on. So long, and thanks for all the fish.
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Last five articles by Mark R
- From Acorns to Fish
- Alone In The Dark
- Why Borderlands is Better Than Borderlands 2
- Falling Short
- The Division: A Guide to Surviving the Dark Zone Solo