The news broke last night that the thirteen-year old website that was one of the first to cover video games in a medium other than print, GameTrailers.com, is no more. I’d like to express my condolences for the staff of GT that have been affected by this unexpected closure and wish them the best in all their future endeavours. I personally can’t remember the exact time I remember visiting the site for the first time as I was very faithful to the 1up.com/EGM crew, but if I’d wager it was around 2006-2007. It was at that time that the site starting hosting a then unknown James Rolfe under the Angry Nintendo Nerd alias and the folks at Screwattack who would post Top 10’s, which would go on to be a GT staple, and the video game vault, a series of videos only a couple of minutes long that highlighted classics both well-known and obscure.
Since that time GameTrailers has always been a go to source for reviews for me, becoming not only a way to get a thoughtful opinion on a game but also one presented unlike anywhere else. Prior to GT a video review was almost unheard of and most of my most trusted reviews came from print in the form of magazines. Outside of their regularly posted reviews, I’ve also spent hours watching other creations on the site, such as shows like Pop Fiction that investigated into some of gaming’s greatest myths, and the excellently produced Retrospective series that take a detailed look at the canon of series like Resident Evil and Metal Gear Solid. For all the years that I’ve visited GameTrailers and watched their content, it’s what the site has meant to me lately that has mattered most.
Around the time I started watching any content on GT, I was obsessively reading Electronic Gaming Monthly and then was directed to the companion website for the magazine, 1up.com. It was on that website that I stumbled across the 1up Show, a weekly video show that was put out online starring the staff of EGM/1up that was like the magazine come to life. For years I had read gaming magazines: GamePro, Nintendo Power, and most faithfully, EGM, but I had never really put that much thought into the authors who were putting out that content that I had been reading. Thanks to the 1up Show, I went from saying things like “EGM gave this game a 10/10″ to “Jeremy Parish scored this game X score” or “Shane Bettenhausen really likes this so I might too”. I couldn’t wait every Friday to watch whatever 1up would put out, and it made me want to be one of those people on camera speculating about what Nintendo would produce for the Wii, or how Sony would turn around the PS3 after its disastrous launch. Though you weren’t friends and didn’t actually know any of these people, you felt like this was a place that you belonged and while people had been doing it for years, it was wonderous for me to watch and say “wow, people get to do this for a living!”.
Then 2009 happened, and everything changed.
In early 2009 EGM in its original incarnation died and a lot of the staff from 1up.com was laid off. Some were fortunate to get to stay at 1up; others would go independent or even go to the new EGM when it relaunched, but it was never quite the same as the heyday of EGM circa 2006. Eventually even 1up.com was shuttered and consuming gaming news for me went back to being more mechanical than personal, skimming through complete articles and headlines just to see a score or final thoughts on a game. I didn’t think I would ever get to recapture the feelings I had about game journalism, that was until I rediscovered GameTrailers.
From 2013 until now I made GT a regular destination when making my daily routine look through websites, and looked forward to certain days when their programs would come out: Wednesday was The Final Bosman starring GT’s Kyle Bosman; Then came the weekly show Huber Hype starring Micheal P. Huber who you may know as the guy who lost his mind this past summer during the Sony E3 press conferance when Shenmue III’s Kickstarter was announced and my favourite of the bunch, GT Time, the weekly podcast that helped me get through many an hour at my monotonous day job. Once again I felt a sense of kinship with a staff of a gaming outlet that I hadn’t felt in a long time. I suddenly starting watching to see what member of their staff reviewed what game to see if my taste aligned with theirs, and the guy who did the great voice-over work for the reviews became “That guy from GT” to Brandon Jones, avid Batman, Disney and Star Wars fan who helped me appreciate Disney Infinity like I never did before.
That era, it seems, too has come to an end, and I’m saddened. Already I’m disappointed that I can’t watch Huber Hype today and I’ll never find out who won last week’s bet on GT Time. The death of GameTrailers.com also has me thinking a lot about the state of video game coverage today. More and more video game sites with well written and thoughtful content are declining in favour of a YouTube personalities who sit in front of their web cams and scream at horror games. Before Christmas is was announced that another video game program, The Electric Playground, would be ending its run after over twenty years on the airwaves. Even before Victor Lucas, the creator and executive producer of EP, made the news public, it floored me to see videos on the show’s YouTube page with barely a few hundred views and a few thousand subscribers. Compare this to a YouTuber like The Completionist who was over five hundred thousand and routine views of each video in the hundreds of thousands.
Don’t get me wrong though, I do feel there is a place for YouTube video game content, in fact I’m writing this wearing my “I’m not so Grump” Game Grumps t-shirt while writing this piece, but there has to be a better balance. Video games are perhaps at their most main stream with everyone playing them in at least some form or another whether on a console, PC, handheld, or the biggest market of all of them maybe even combined, mobile. Even with video games being more widely accepted than ever, there’s hardly any sites that exist just for video games. IGN, perhaps the biggest of the bunch, has most of their content about comics, movies, video games and pop culture, as do other sites like Kotaku and Polygon. We’ve lost GameTrailers in an era where they’re needed the most.
With the closure of GameTrailers it not only means the end of updates from the site, but to the careers of a lot of great talent, including founder Brandon Jones who created the site and made it what it is today. I’m sure all will find great success in whatever they end up doing, whether in the field of video game journalism or something else, but from someone who has never got up and been happy to go to work in sometime, I can’t imagine what it’s like to suddenly have such a great career seemingly taken away with no warning. To all those affected, I wish you the best of luck.