Goodbye, 1UP: Looking Back On The First Gaming Site I Ever Loved

Posted by on February 21, 2013 at 5:53 pm
The last iteration of before they box it up.

The last iteration of before Ziff-Davis boxes it up.

Today, Ziff-Davis announced that not long after purchasing big media site IGN, they’d be shutting down all the sites that came with the UGO merger nearly two years ago, including GameSpy, UGO, and 1UP. Despite GameSpy’s Arcade software that came bundled with many PC games in the late nineties and early aughts or UGO’s clenched-fist logo from the same era, I have little affection for those sites. It’s not great to see people lose jobs, but they’re old properties that were cool back then and, obviously, mean so little now that Ziff-Davis decided to off them. Also, they’re the competition, so, like, less competition, right?

But 1UP? The site’s been whittled down over the years, but the fact remains that, really, kinda changed my life.

Seven years ago, my idea of what game journalism was very different. I rarely read web sites since the posters at TeamXbox generally did that for me. They quoted out blocks of relevant text and left the denizens to quarrel over games or hardware with choice words and quotes. The forums were my news feed and they didn’t come bundled with the burden of the ‘visit a whole other web site’ experience.

During E3 2006, someone on the forums posted about a two hour podcast on called 1UP Yours (guffaw), in which the hosts were commenting on Sony’s huge whiff at their press conference unveiling the PlayStation 3. (Y’know, giant enemy crabs, five hundred and ninety-nine US dollars? That one.) I’d never listened to a podcast before and I had no idea who these guys were, so the idea of dedicating my time to a show that long seemed like the last thing I wanted to do. But I listened to that podcast. I listened to Luke Smith play Microsoft’s advocate and rail against Shane Bettenhausen, who played Sony’s while host Garnett Lee and the wizened John Davison refereed. And every Friday afterward I blocked out two or three hours to chill out and listen to my four newest friends talk the most Inside Baseball about the gaming industry I’d ever heard.

But that wasn’t enough. Lee’s podcast was only a finger of 1UP’s big media effort, something that wasn’t terribly new in the grand scheme of things, but one comprehensive enough that it integrated the big family of Ziff-Davis-employed gaming editors. I began to listen to the podcast’s backlog. I heard Garnett Lee take over the show, I heard about Luke Smith’s fabled trip from Michigan and how a blizzard stranded him in Nebraska. I watched episodes of the 1UP Show, an award-winning rolling documentary about life in the 1UP offices where editors still churned out content and met deadlines for their print magazines (remember those?).

Over the years, the crew left one by one. Luke Smith went to Bungie, John Davison went to found What They Play, the first of his many ventures to follow. When Hearst bought 1UP in early 2009, they nixed most of the staff, including Shane Bettenhausen, who went to Ignition, podcast producer Andrew Pfister, who went to G4, and the entire crew of the 1UP Show, who would found Area 5. Others came and went, like Patrick Klepek (now Giant Bomb) and David Ellis (now 343 Industries), who would end up owning the show when Garnett Lee went to Shacknews, but it was never quite the same again.

The Twitter-verse is filled with stories of how Ziff-Davis always screwed 1UP and its print properties with little resources to pull off the job they needed to, but 1UP was my first gaming website. It was the one I fell in love with. It was a gaming family I got to know. To see some finality out of it all seems like a long-awaited burial. I finally got to meet many of these ex-1UPers when we filmed our documentary Infinite Lives, which felt like a weird reunion.

Who knows, maybe we’ll even have a podcast with some of them some day.

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