Wednesday, January 7, 2009


Once upon a time a young man moved from a teensy little state called Texas to The City. He wasn't quite ready to live all on his own in a huge city where he had no friends, but fortunately he didn't have to, because the generous and nurturing family of a friend welcomed him to their home in Connecticut every weekend.

One weekend, when he should have been working on a Greek Prose Composition assignment, he was instead flipping through the New York Times. What should fall out but the New York Times Magazine, and on its cover? A dainty white cup wearing a birthday hat of carrot foam.


A few years later, when I first saw the new Hearst Tower, I thought of that carrot foam, and I realized that I was looking at what was, to me, the ugliest building I'd ever seen. Or nearly so. It looked like the short little masonry base of the tower had vomited up this bubbly mess of steel and glass. Ugh.

Since then, I've learned to tolerate the building. It's the first green NYC skyscraper, and that certainly counts for something, and it's the workplace of Gayle King, who comes off to me as the sweetest person in the Oprah circle, which, okay. I guess it has its okay points. It's also way less imposing and way less wasted space and way less owned by Time Warner (because Hearst is SO much better, huh?) than the nearby Time Warner Center, so if I'm going to claim a notable building I see every week on the walk to Job 2 as "mine," I guess I'd take Hearst over The Imposing Black Towers of Doom.

Sorry. Last night, yesterday afternoon, something--I don't, can't think in Pacific was purchased by the Hearst Corporation, owners of the abysmal UGO Network (intended "for gamers"), under whose aegis 1up will now be operating. 30ish 1up employees, several of whom were accomplished writers and video producers for the site, were laid off in the ensuing redundancy shuffle, and it's just heartbreaking. 1up, which started in 2003 as sort of a Facebook for gamers*, has been a nice, friendly, welcoming place for people interested in games and gaming culture. It has also long boasted a "world-class" editorial staff, which is a claim I'd not argue with. This may sound trivial if you're not into the whole gaming thing, but the cream of 1up's staff was like the gaming world equivalent of the New York Times' columnist lineup. I've often thought, while reading material written by 1up types, that Chuck Klosterman's 2006 statement that "There is no Pauline Kael of video game writing" has become obsolete.

Some of 1up's best writers remain, and I'm confident that those who have been laid off will bounce back, because there's just too much ability in those folks for them not to, but there's no denying that if this has been an emotional experience for me, a guy who's still a fresh re-convert to the whole gaming thing, a guy who's only ever connected with these folks through their writing or maybe the occasional e-mail or PM, it must be absolutely wrenching for those actually involved.

In the midst of all this, I've decided to write this quick post to say two things. Well, or make one observation and ask one question. One, the ridiculously emotional response coming out of people who have never worked at or for 1up, people who, like me, were only ever part of the community, says a lot about what 1up's become and what its writers have done for people. It's amazing what the power of writing, writing well, and genuinely, can do. It's also amazing how successful 1up has been in its mission to form a real online gaming community. There is so much eulogizing and teeth-gnashing, sometimes in the same place, going on right now. So to those of you in the same boat as myself: hey, see you on 1up. See you on Gamespite. To those of you who are former employees of 1up: good luck. I'll always be a fan, and I'll look forward to what comes next. To those of you still there: you've made 1up what it is, and I know that when everything clears, I'll still be able to look forward to some good stuff. And blogs about the Shooting Watch, which are beyond good.

Two: what does this portend for print media? In my understanding, one of the elements that's led to Ziff Davis' (1up's former owner) selling of 1up has been the basically unprofitable (read: costly) practice of publishing EGM, 1up's now-defunct older-sibling magazine. There's been talk on the internets of the decline of print media for some time now, and those people I do know in periodicals and the publishing business say it's becoming harder and harder to turn a profit. So what's next? My knowledge of trends and news is mostly on the digital side of this twofold world we've been living in for the past decade or so, and my knowledge of the print end of things comes solely from the consumer's point of view. So what's going on out there? Is this part of the recession and fairly limited, or is print publication as a whole in a decline? Is it a long-term decline? A permanent one?

Well, whatever. Finally, if I've shown up on your Twitter overnight and you don't know me, it's because this seems like the best chance of creating tenuous connections between myself and the now separating pieces of the extended 1up katamari. Again, good luck, see you later.

*You see, this is the genius of 1up. It was a Facebook for gamers before there was a Facebook for anybody.

update: right now, one of the few gratifying things in the midst of all this is the number of former 1uppers I'm seeing post messages on Twitter like "wow, look at all the twitter followers I've gotten!" Apparently everybody else had the same idea I did. See what I mean about "community?"

update again: the image credit goes to Businessweek.

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