Dear Joystiq-that-was

It's been a year. Well, as of this writing, it's been a year and a bit. A year since I was last able to go to Joystiq and participate in the comments section as people discussed their WRUP's. A year since I could download and listen to a Joystiq Podcast - basking in the familiarity of the voices and the banter and the thoughts on video games. A year since the last time I've had terse arguments against DRM with other regulars of a video game website.

And you know what? I still miss it.

The closure of Joystiq came as a surprise. Things did seem kind of dire at the time: There were more ads than I was comfortable with on the site and they were owned - at that point - by AOL. A kind of time bomb/death sentence if ever there was one. But Joystiq had somehow managed to fly under the radar of their corporate overlords for so long that I figured that - regardless of visitor numbers - AOL would just shrug. The blogs they bought up all those years ago from Weblogs Inc. were just a tiny sideshow to their other business interests: advertising, advertising, advertising. [I must confess to having my own sort of perverse dislike for the advertising industry in general - that AOL went whole-hog in that direction just made me shrug. What made it a fitting end for AOL was that Verizon finally bought them out. Sadly, Joystiq was but a footnote in this sorry, particularly stupid saga.]

For me, the turning point during that week - of finding out that AOL was doing away with a blog I loved and visited on a daily basis [from about 2010 or so, it seriously curbed my productivity] was that Archfiend David Shing somehow held onto his position as a "digital prophet" [whatever that is] and still earns a bunch of silly money for doing not much of anything. Whereas the folks on the actual ground doing interesting work and writing about interesting video gaming topics got the boot.

I didn't ever like giving AOL the free clicks for visiting Joystiq, but my feelings were tempered by the unfailing, amusing, wonderful writers who made up for every ounce of ad-revenue I ever gave AOL.

This is all an aside, of course, Joystiq is gone and it has left a hole. The sort of hole that no site will be able to fill. So, let me tell you a little about my discovery of Joystiq and some of my reading history as it pertains to video games.

A Brief Journey Into The Past

ACE was a magazine devoted to thoughtful pieces on the future - and what the future might hold. Their reviews were often interesting - going so far as to pioneer an in-depth six-page format for certain reviews. ACE was awesome.
Ah, Advanced Computer Entertainment. I still miss you even though you've been gone for twenty four years at this point.

I didn't like the magazines of the 80's. There were many problems, but the really big issue for me was that they never seemed to take the whole thing very seriously. Here was a medium like no other that could explore all sorts of ideas like no other and here were these writers attempting to steer the conversation in all kinds of disastrously silly ways. From the poor attempts at comedy to the lackluster presentation [most of the time, you'd recognize a particular writer from a drawn portrait that someone had made and added to that writer's work.]

It was bad.

It started getting better in 1989 when a group of reasonable individuals who didn't feel the need to include juvenile humor in everything they wrote formed a magazine called ACE - Advanced Computer Entertainment - a precursor to the serious, glossy magazines that came after. ACE still had a bit of a humorous edge from time to time, but the bulk of the writing was thoughtful, well executed and contained a little speculation, excellent reviews and above all - they maintained a particularly classy image right until the end.

After ACE folded, I didn't know what to do.

I was still curious about computer games, but there were still far too many non-thoughtful publications doing the rounds. This would start changing toward the mid-nineties, but in 1992 - when the magazine folded - I was stuck. I ended up having to rely on my friends - who bought things like Crash!, [just look at that name!] Your Spectrum and others.

I felt like the thoughtful, slow world of ACE was gone forever.

Then I Found Joystiq

After ACE died, I never actually thought I'd find another interesting, sober outlet that covered games and really thought about them in serious ways. Sure, Joystiq was fun, but they were always willing to take games seriously.
I'm so grateful I found Joystiq. Fun writers, a great community and a very thoughtful look at the games industry.

I played World of Warcraft pretty frequently way back when. And the problem with Warcraft is that it's such a sprawling game that actually finding stuff can be a little tricky. Especially when the game was new and there was no information about it.

At first, I'd go to bad Database websites to look up quest information, but I began to realize that there was a lot more going on under the hood in the world of Azeroth, so I looked up blogs. One other dead blog [AOL killed it off at the same time as Joystiq] was the venerable WowInsider - a site that had amazing writers who shared their passion for the game in all they put up for us to read. [Alison Robert, if you're evern remotely reading this, I loved your cough-syrup fuelled retrospectives of the druid class every year.]

That particular blog turned out to have sister blogs: Massively and Joystiq. At first, I was kind of reluctant to visit either site - I didn't much care for other MMO's and - given that I'd functionally started abandoning AAA gaming, reading more about it seemed sort of counterintuitive.

But a funny thing happened: the more I spent time on Joystiq, the more I began to realize that they were doing more than just writing about AAA gaming. They were thinking about what was happening in that space and sharing their particular insights. Like the death of review scores. That was a fantastic revelation and a thoughtful piece. Or the massive, massive thread of doom that got spawned by the XBox One's initial specifications [then including the particularly onerous and terrible internet-based DRM]

Joystiq filled the nearly-twenty-year hole that ACE had left in my heart.

And now, sadly, Joystiq is gone, too.

Will I ever pick up another gaming blog again? I doubt it. I tried right after Joystiq shut down to find a new home and while I like the slant Polygon has - and the thoughtfulness Rock, Paper, Shotgun possesses, their user-bases aren't nearly as inviting or friendly. [there's also the fact that Polygon is a user-hostile nightmare to navigate in 800x600.]

So now?

Well, I'm glad to be here at Twinstiq, attempting to do some of the good work the Joystiq crew did before.

But I doubt there will be another fun, interesting group of writers that manage to create a friendly, welcoming atmosphere like Joystiq did.

Joystiq staff and comment-family, I salute you all. Thank you for being part of my life for five years.

Some Joystiq Staff Share Their Memories

I invited some Joystiq staff to share both what they're doing now and a fond memory of the website.I made a formal request on Twitter to ask Joystiq Staff where they were now and to offer up one fun memory of their time with Joystiq. These are their replies [in alphabetical order]:

Anthony John Agnello

What I'm up to: Honestly, the nuts and bolts of my job are not dissimilar to what I was doing with Joystiq, though the scale has certainly increased. After joining Jess Conditt at Engadget, I moved over to GamesRadar with Ludwig, Susan, and Sam Prell where I took over as Senior Social Editor. This involves overseeing GamesRadar's social channels, planning how our goods are pushed out to the world, and coordinating the staff that posts on different pages. This is in addition to writing features, making videos for YouTube and Facebook, and scheduling developer and celebrity guests like Don Bluth for a bi-weekly streaming show on Twitch. I continue to write outside projects as well. I'm also two months out from becoming a dad. Which is awesome.

If there's anything I truly miss about Joystiq, it's the camaraderie of the team in totality. I've never in my life worked with a group of people where literally everyone legitimately liked each other. Make no mistake, we bickered and fought and bitched, but we also all genuinely believed in what we were making and loved one another while making it. That's a once in a lifetime work experience if you're lucky. Most people never find it at all.

Earnest Cavalli

After Joystiq's collapse, I spent seven months unemployed (read: hanging out with my cat) before being hired as a Copywriter for a medical practice management firm. That was a great, stable job, but it lacked the excitement and novelty of working in the games industry. That's why, when I was offered a Community Specialist role at Pipeworks (Oregon's largest game development studio), I jumped at the chance and moved to Eugene. I now spend my days advising the studio on media affairs, connecting with our fans and players, and generally boosting Pipeworks' public image -- a crucial role as Pipeworks attempts to shift from 15 years as a work-for-hire developer to a studio that creates its own, original intellectual property.

The thing I remember most fondly about Joystiq is the people I worked with. Much as I adore my current job, I sincerely doubt I will ever find a group of people I enjoy working with as much as I did working with the Joystiq crew. Everyone there was deeply talented, knowledgeable and driven, and each of us, down to the last person, were (and still are) good personal friends. Hell, it's been a year since Joystiq closed and we still email each other daily.

Mike Suszek

I currently work in digital marketing for a very large youth-serving agency/nonprofit: Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee. I get to use my storytelling skills to tell our community about our mission; to help kids in Milwaukee grow into the best individuals they can be.

As for favorite Joystiq moments, I'd say I was proudest of our press conference coverage team at one of our last E3s. I was excited to be given the opportunity to lead the crew, and we absolutely crushed the news coverage from those conferences. Our team was fast, brilliant and efficient, and I truly believe the best news team in the industry. It really didn't get better than that.

Before I go!  I'd like to thank the Joystiq crew for indulging me with this particular piece of writing.  Even if you never got back to me, I appreciate your time and the fact that you were kind enough to not yell at me. :)

The Massively Online crew has [mostly] survived and are now writing over at MassivelyOP.

MassivelyOP are worth your reading time. You can help keep them alive by donating to their Patreon.

The WowInsider crew has [mostly] survived and are now writing over at BlizzardWatch.

BlizzardWatch are worth your reading time. You can help keep them alive by donating to their Patreon.

You can find a fairly complete archive of ACE Magazine here.

You can find a fairly complete archive of Crash! Magazine here.

You can find a fairly complete archive of Your Sinclair Magazine here.

The newspaper in the header image came from Pixabay.


  1. Scrooloose
    Scrooloose says:

    What a cool article. Great to see what the folks of Joystiq are up to now and even better that they still keep in touch with other.
    I have to admit that I wasn’t a frequenter of Joystiq. My go-to game sites were SugaShack (now ShackNews) and BluesNews back in the day, but they were about the only two that I could find news about Quake, and that was what I played basically for about 5 years.
    I did occasionally hit up Joystiq when I ran across an article related to something I was looking for at the time- probably WoW related- but today I regret that I never payed particular attention to Joystiq itself. It’s a rare thing to find a group of people that share the very same interests and are willing to discuss and not argue about them.

    • Avatar
      greywolfe says:

      oh. there were disagreements [and occasionally they got out of hand] but the moderation team was /usually/ pretty good about timing people out as long as you flagged problems.

      it also helped that – by and large – joystiq was somewhat forward thinking: they did away with review scores. they wrote interesting editorials and they just seemed like they were having fun.

      and that’s why i’ll miss joystiq in particular. that thoughtfulness is still out there, but often it’s mired in bad communities.

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