Internet Times Have Changed
Posted by Kris Randazzo on Feb 13th 2019
With last week’s news that ScrewAttack was shutting down forever, it really got me thinking. The way I get information about video games on the internet has changed dramatically in the last 10 years. After hearing the news, I took a huge nostalgia trip through the websites I used to frequent daily, and wondered what exactly happened to them all. Visiting these sites were a part of my daily routine, and having grown up in the generation before the internet was really a thing, the novelty of having constant new streams of information regarding my favorite hobbies will never truly wear off. But as time went on, and social media platforms found even faster ways to get information out to people, visiting individual websites, for me at least, became a thing of the past. Where I once had a daily list of sites I’d visit when I got home from work, Facebook and Twitter now reside, essentially aggregating all the video game news I need from all over the net.
It really was a different time.
The internet was such a segmented place. I’d go to different sites for new episodes of Homestarrunner or Eskimo Bob instead of having a series of subscribed YouTube channels. I’d still get excited when I bought a new music CD and see iTunes determine track names and get album art. MySpace was just starting to be a thing. And cell phones were only for rich people in movies. It’s amazing to think about just how different things were not that long ago. So in the interest of continuing my trip down memory lane, I’ve decided to run through the sites that used to be one of the brightest parts of my days and see where they are now.
Let’s start with the reason for the season, as it were. I have to admit that ScrewAttack was never much of a news source for me. Well, the site itself wasn’t, at least not in the normal sense. I didn’t go there and read headlines or anything like that. In fact, I’m not even positive that was a thing on ScrewAttack because what I was really there for were the videos and the Sidescrollers Podcast. I loved (and as I just found out thanks to some YouTube scrubbing, still love) their top ten videos, and most of the rest of their stuff as well. Sidescrollers though, was one of my absolute favorite things in the world. The voices of Stuttering Craig, Maxifent Corey, Jose elMexicano, HighSchool Ben and more permanently bring me joy whenever I hear them. Plus, Daily Destin’s Hard News (set ingeniously to The Power of Love by Huey Lewis and the News) was an absolute delight. Listening to these folks have fun talking about video games was a gigantic part of why I got into podcasting in the first place, and laid the groundwork for what eventually became the Stone Age Gamer Podcast.
Where is it now? Well, as you know ScrewAttack is officially dead. It’s been rebranded into the Death Battle channel, which makes sense considering how big Death Battle got. I’m not mad about it, really. I love Death Battle. It’s freaking great, and it was one of my favorite things to come out of ScrewAttack. Craig, co founder of the site, is involved in a Twitch streaming channel called Game Attack, which I haven’t looked into at all, but seems fun. Destin’s at IGN now, and unfortunately for me, he spends most of his time talking about things I don’t care about at all. He seems happy though, and I’m glad he found a cool place to work. Not really sure where the rest of them are, but I hope they’re doing well for themselves, because they had a pretty big effect on my daily life. All of ScrewAttack’s legacy content is now a part of Rooster Teeth, and if you’ve never seen/heard of it before, I recommend giving it a look. It was a different time, but I think a lot of it holds up.
Oh, GameTrailers. The very concept of seeing a game trailer was unheard of when I was a kid. Unless you managed to get yourself into a trade show of some sort, seeing video footage of an unreleased video game was something truly special. So when I discovered there was an entire website devoted to game trailers on this newfangled internet, I was glued. Every single day I logged into this site to see what new was out there, and I watched darn near everything. I relied on this site heavily to help me out at my job as a video game retailer as well. Not only because it was a great place to check out footage of all the new releases, but because I could download said trailers, burn them on a DVD, and play them in my store to help promote preorders. Now, I could go on and on about preorder culture, and how video game retailers have taken something that was once kind of cool and turned it into, well, the crapshow it is today, but that’s not what I’m here for. I’m here for positive nostalgia, and I used to love making these DVDs. They were super helpful in getting my preorder numbers up, too, and not in the crappy way the folks in charge wanted me to. I was able to use these tools to show people what games were coming out and show them exactly why they should (or shouldn’t) be excited for them. I didn’t usually have the highest preorder numbers in my district, but I almost always had the highest preorder pick-up rates, and that’s at least in part thanks to Game Trailers and their wonderful website. Folks loved my DVDs so much that my District Manager eventually asked me to start making copies for the entire district, and beyond. Those were the days.
But then things got even better, at least for me personally. Eventually, GT started tossing some original content up on their site, and I adored it. Their top tens were some of the best around, and their compilations of that month’s releases were something I always looked forward to. But there were two video series in particular that really put GT high on my list; GT Retrospectives and Pop Fiction. GT Retrospectives were these amazing little series of videos that were basically documentaries about some of gaming’s biggest names. I still watch them from time to time because they’re just incredibly well-made. Pop Fiction, on the other hand, was a show about myth-busting video game rumors, and holy crow was this show fascinating. Take any video game rumor you heard on the playground, and these guys would do crazy amounts of research to see if they were true. These videos are still out there, and I can’t recommend them enough. They’re absolutely brilliant.
Where is it now? GameTrailers shut down in 2016, but their legacy content can still be found on YouTube pretty easily. And speaking of easy, most of the minds behind GT started up their own thing after their old site’s demise called Easy Allies. I’m not going to lie, I rarely watch any of their stuff. I’m mostly subscribed so I can catch the occasional (and I do mean occasional) Game Sleuth video, which is literally just the new version of Pop Fiction. It has nothing to do with the quality of their content. In fact, the stuff I’ve seen from them is typically great. It’s just not really for me so much anymore. But if you haven’t checked them out, you should do so. They’ve got some really good content.
You’ve heard of IGN, right? Of course you have. They’re one of the biggest names in video game internet news, and they’ve been around for a very, very long time. As such, they’ve changed quite a bit over the years. When I discovered them, it was a few months before the GameCube launch. I was working in FuncoLand, and I went to another store in my district to drop off some supplies. When I got there, there was a GameCube sitting on the counter. It was made out of paper. I asked the kid behind the counter how he made it and he told me he printed it out and taped it together himself. It was a to-scale model of what the actual GameCube was going to look like, and he got it from a website called cube.ign.com. You better believe I went home that night and lost my mind when I discovered all the awesome stuff on there. It wasn’t long before I found some IGN staffers who seemed to share my preferences, and I read anything and everything by Matt Casamassina, Craig Harris, and more. Their Nintendo podcast has also always been a favorite of mine. Originally called Wii-k in Review, Nintendo Voice Chat as it’s called today has been a pretty consistently good show for a long time. It, like IGN, has changed hands a ton over the years, but it remains one of my go-to podcasts for Nintendo information.
And speaking of information, for years this was how I got the bulk of my gaming news. Every day, IGN was the first stop on my list of sites to hit when I got home to find out what had happened during the day. IGN was where I watched E3 presentations, and when I got my first smartphone (iPhone 1) I had that IGN app on my front page. I know a lot of people like to crap on IGN for things like taking bribes for review scores (which I don’t think is a real thing), but I’ve never found them to be dishonest. Heck, I think they handled the whole plagiarism thing about as well as they could have. As I get older I am finding myself relating to NVC’s hosts less and less, but all in all, I still think they’ve got a good thing going.
Where is it now? Obviously,IGN is still kicking today. The company has changed hands half a dozen times since its launch in 1996, and it’s grown to be one of the biggest names in video games media. I don’t visit the site itself very much anymore, but I do still listen to NVC almost every week. IGN has proven to be much more adaptable than a lot of other sites who have drifted off over the years, and you have to give them credit for that. I don't love everything they do, but I respect them, and their wikis are pretty useful.
I learned about Destructoid from my friend Mauricio a very long time ago, and reading that site was a revelation to me. Having spent so much of my time reading IGN, Destructoid’s decidedly more punk approach to games journalism really struck home with me. IGN was super informative, but Destructoid was super fun. There was just so much darn personality. I still clicked IGN first, but you better believe I followed it up with Dtoid immediately afterward. What I remember most about Destructoid though, was its podcasts Podtoid and Retroforce Go!.
Podtoid, when I was listening to it, I believe was hosted by Anthony Burch, Jim Sterling, Topher Cantler, and I think Adam Dork? It’s been a long time. Anyway, I loved this crew so darn much at the time. I remember working late nights as a GameStop manager and just playing this in the store while I was closing out. (Closing out used to take a long time because we were hideously understaffed. Instead of having my one extra associate ignore customers to get the thousands of other things that needed doing done, I just stayed late after closing to do them myself. I was salary, so my hours didn’t count! But I digress). I had a ton of laughs with these folks, and I miss them dearly. Not that I’ve ever actually met them, but you know when you listen to a podcast long enough, you kind of feel like you know the folks on the other end of the speakers.
Retroforce Go! was also an absolute blast. I want to say the show was hosted by Chad Concelmo and had Topher Cantler as a co-host, and someone else I can’t remember. That’s going to drive me nuts. Anyway, it was a fun retro gaming show, and I really liked it as a follow up to Podtoid. It also used Bit Shifter’s Hexadecimal Genome as its theme song, which was how I was introduced to the wonderfulness that is Bit Shifter’s music.
Where is it now? Destructoid is thankfully also still going strong today. I have almost no idea what goes on there anymore because I haven’t actually been to the site in ages, but I follow them on social media so I see a lot of their stuff that way. I also still enjoy the insanity that is Jim Sterling’s post-Destructoid career. His videos more than his podcast, but I think he’s hilarious. Jonathan Holmes has also contributed to Nintendo Force Magazine, which I have also contributed to in the past, so that’s pretty cool. I’m glad the site is still around. That robot logo is still super cool.
There’s more, but I think I’ll end it here. I remember getting tons of laughs from Topless Robot, SuperheroHype fueled my, well, superhero hype (and still does, to some extent), GoNintendo still a terrific place for Nintendo headlines, and Nintendo World Report’s Radio Free Nintendo Podcast is by far the biggest inspiration for the Stone Age Gamer Podcast there is. But as much as I loved things back then, I think I have to say that by and large the internet has evolved admirably. Yes, it’s a wretched hive of the dregs of humanity, but it’s also a phenomenal source of information, and darn convenient to boot. What do you think though? What websites did you used to frequent? Are they still around? Do you miss them? Let me know!