Year Four Begins
Three years ago something extraordinarily unlikely happened. A successful gaming website was born. I say unlikely considering that the vast majority of websites are best described with adjectives that are largely unkind or positively vulgar, so strictly as a matter of percentage, it is unusual to include the word successful in most website descriptions. The daisy chain of fortune's favors required to put together, maintain, staff, and develop consistent content for a remotely professional website is so astonishingly improbable, that whenever I cogitate on the matter, I'm certain that to have come this far we must have engaged in some Faustian bargain for which my soul and perhaps my IRA is eternally damned, and I've simply forgotten or lost the paperwork. And then, I read bloated, self-involved sentences like that one just above, and frankly, I'm amazed anyone navigates these articles at all. Are you all taking some kind of class for which my work serves as an example of how not to craft sentences?
And with that twisting spiral of digression that, I think, so completely exemplifies the foundation of GWJ, I'm here to say: Happy Third Anniversary Gamers With Jobs.
I should tell you that Certis spends a large portion of the year dissuading me from writing these self-congratulatory articles, and I assure you that it's a good thing he does. I am, you see, an emotional narcissist with a nostalgia complex, which is to say that I love looking back on how I felt about things that happened years ago. This means that I constantly want to write articles about things like how I felt when GWJ first started, or what it was like to see our forums develop into a community, or how I felt when my high-school Homecoming date had me drive her to meet her boyfriend halfway through the evening; a true, tragic, humiliating, and definitively pathetic story which, I promise, I will never share.
So, I beg your pardon as I indulge myself once a year on the occasion of our anniversary to exhaust far too many words in saying, Hooray for GWJ! Hooray for the forums! Hooray for content, and writers! Hooray for freedom!
This was a year that forced us to surmount obstacles that many would-be sites simply can't, and regularly haven't. Growth brings challenges. Permenance creates apathy. It's easy to burn bright for a year or two, but it's hard to keep that burn hot once people take notice. For those that survive the first few months, it's into the end of the second year that the real challenges of developing a long-term website take shape. As the years begin to string together, the struggles of finding reasonably priced hosting, creating daily interesting content, moderating the community, and maintaining the software become more significant, and if you're not dilligent, you risk losing the momentum that carried you through the lean times and succumbing to routine. The problems are no longer simply staying afloat, but in maintaining the integrity of quality.
That's a lot less glamourous. It's a lot of fun for the first year or two to stand up and say 'Hey! Look at us! We've managed to keep running for two whole months on a tin can, 50 feet of Cat 5 cable, and the broken husk of an old dialysis machine!', and far less fun to stand up and say 'Hey! We've been around a while and I'm pretty sure we don't suck yet!' The real challenge of year three was fighting complacency.
To compound this, the truth is that I very nearly walked away from it all. Let's get this out of the way right now: that would have been STUPID!
As I plugged away at a job that I despised (welcome to the club) and which constantly dragged me from my GWJ refuge, I found myself toying with thoughts of moving on from the site so I'd have even more time to invest in the whole soul-sucking thing. And, for the site, at the time, it would not have been a tragic loss. My output was mediocre and occasional, and my time investment in the site could regularly be measured on an egg timer. Had I left, it would have been a magnificent mistake, a grand error, a blunder of such stellar proportions, that I would have ranked up there with the guy who said, "Hey, a Trojan Horse; I bet it's full of presents!"
Not only would I have been giving up something that has brought me far more joy than trouble, and not only would I have cut myself off from the only writing outlet available that doesn't involve slam-poetry, clove cigarettes, or Birkenstocks, but I would have left just as GWJ discovered an entirely new gear. The second half of 2005, particularly in the aftermath of some E3 coverage that I'm pretty proud of, infused the site a lot of new readers, a lot of credibility, the best collection of contributors we could hope for, and an entirely new feature that is truly becoming a cornerstone of GWJ.
So let's forget all about my overwrought ennui of early 2005, and talk about where we've come. As I mentioned in a recent article, we entered 2005 feeling pretty comfortable with our community development, but plagued with a nagging sense that the front page was inconsistent, and one relatively full week of articles was likely to be followed by days of resounding quiet where virtual tumbleweeds might suddenly drift lazily across the screen. The solution was part diligence and part discovery of new talent, but the results that we hope you've enjoyed over the past few months have taken the GWJ front page exactly where we aimed. Holidays aside, the regularity of daily content available has been outstanding, and the diversity of articles and topics has brought a lot of new faces to the forums. Hooray for Coffee Grinders!
However, our biggest addition of 2005, and I have no room to take any credit here, has to be GWJ Radio. The work that Certis and Fletcher do is outstanding, and having listened to a few of the other 'podcasts' (I believe that's what the hipster youth of Generation Ampersand are calling it) being produced out there, I think GWJ Radio ranks among the very best. The amount of work involved in delivering any episode of GWJ Radio to the masses is a little bit mind-boggling, and to my great pleasure does not involve me. Where many podcasts are simply one-take, unedited recordings of some guy's musings on which comic book character is the hottest (I'm looking at you participants of that thread!), Fletcher takes the stream-of-consciousness hijinks, and edits it down to the professional quality broadcasts that I've come to know and love.
With the forum community still going strong, a reliable front page of unique content, and GWJ Radio, I couldn't be happier with the direction for the site. We have great writers, a great community, a great audio offering, and a growing respect in the industry and from our peers, which brings us to the question of 2006, and what's next.
To which I say: I'm not telling! Yet.
Great things are afoot, and you will know about them soon. Very soon. No, even sooner than that. And these things, well I think they're pretty damn exciting. Nearly as exciting, to me at least, as the idea Certis and I had to start GWJ to begin with. But, the time is not quite ripe, so you'll just have to wait a little longer to find out.
Until then, thank you for three amazing years, and for helping us build the gaming site we have always wanted to visit. We're glad you're here, and we hope you'll stick around. Things are about to get even better.
Welcome to year four of Gamers With Jobs.