It was early winter 2002 when Shawn Andrich, a guy I sort of knew pretty well through a website we had both worked on together, came to me with a remarkably bad idea.
“We should make our own gaming website,” said he.
Shawn was criminally young, probably 12 or so at the time. I couldn’t possibly say for sure. I was still in my twenties, which is to say I was 29, and as a result idealistic, easily influenced and prone to questionable decision making. Were he, brash and Canadian as he is, to come to me now in my wizened old age of 39 with such an idea, I would probably put a brass horn to my ear and say, “Eh, what’s that sonny?” It would look ridiculous.
However, as the adult in the conversation at the time, it was probably my responsibility to point out at that moment, as others would over the coming weeks, that creating a gaming website was a fool’s errand that almost certainly would lead to nothing more than headaches and a significant, probably lasting blow to our egos. After all, the last thing the world needed was another website about video games.
What I did say is, “That’s a great idea!” Or something similar. Probably there was some sarcasm and pointless pontification involved, but an affirmation was the relevant core of the response.
And thus was hatched a scheme that almost certainly would fail quietly and unobserved by anyone: to create a gaming website designed to appeal to mature gamers. Gamers with families and mortgages. Gamers who were interested in more than just guns, gore and girls. Gamers with some sense of sophistication and passion. Gamers, one might say, with jobs.
And yet, here we are exactly ten years later. Yup, exactly ten years. And two weeks. And two days. And probably a few hours later. Ok, what I’m saying is I missed our ten year anniversary. Let’s celebrate anyway.
Ask me what I’m most proud of about Gamerswithjobs. Go ahead do it. I’ll wait.
Thank you for asking.
If you go back to the very first post to GWJ ever, which occurred January 13, 2003, you will find our “mission statement.” I realize having a mission statement for what is essentially your video game blog can seem a little pretentious, but, as it turned out, having a core ideology for our games site proved an important compass from which we charted an uncertain path. And that mission statement was this: to provide wide ranging content relevant to the adult gamer, and provide a community for all aspects of mature gamer culture.
Here’s what I’m proud of: Ten years later that is still exactly what we are trying to do. In a decade during which the site could have gone astray countless times, we have held true to the reason we gave it a go in the first place. That feels like a pretty big accomplishment to me, who frankly can barely hold a single plan through a long afternoon.
Also, it’s super-easy to screw up running a games site. Or screw up writing about games. Or building a network of contacts. Or creating a community. Or moderating a community. Or starting a podcast. Those are all things, looking back, that I see fraught with countless pitfalls and certain failure. That I was able to be part of an endeavor that was successful at any one of those things is the sort of accomplishment that, if it came with a ribbon, I’d frame and hang that ribbon over the mantle. I’d take a picture with it every year and send it as my Christmas card. I’d put it on my tombstone: Here lies Sean Sands who did not f*** up starting a podcast.
That we’ve had any success at all of those things, if you are willing to concede that we have, is the kind of good fortune that I think ensures I will never win the lottery. After all, you don’t get that lucky again.
I don’t mean to overplay the “Aw shucks, I didn’t do nothin’,” card, because all of us who work on GWJ put a lot of hours into making this a place worth coming to. I’ve written a lot of words — some that came easily and naturally, far more that sputtered out awkwardly and stubborn — and committed hours to the content of the site. But the thing is, it hasn’t been a burden or felt like work (at least not usually), and I would never want to cast it like that. Had GWJ been something we did to turn a profit or to aggrandize our egos or to break into the industry or any of that, then it would have been done and gone before the first year was out.
And that would have been fine, because that site wouldn’t have been worth your time. That site would have been what a lot of people suspected GWJ was at first, a sputtering flash in an overcrowded pan. A pointless exercise from people with too much time and not enough heart.
But I also won’t say GWJ has succeeded because Shawn and I somehow love it more than the people who have stepped in our shoes before with no worse intentions or desire. A lot of things came together over the years to allow the site to continue and thrive. Part of it was that, for a long time, both Shawn and I had the professional flexibility to put the time and effort in. Another part of it was that I do think we were able to carve out a niche that distinguished us during the days when new gaming sites were all about aggregating news and quick-hit headlines. The biggest part though, was the phenomenal writers and talent that have invested every bit as much into the site as we have. Writers and contributors who have my head spin with their talent and my eyes occasionally leak salty, manly tears when they tell their own stories.
Without them, again it just would never have come together. Within a short time Shawn and I would have virtually high-fived and consoled each other on a good, honest effort, and … well, I really don’t like to think about what that future might have been. Because, for me, GWJ isn’t some website I slap my name onto every now and again, or a hobby that I’ve done to entertain myself for a few years.
It’s so much more important to me than any of that. It feels very much like a part of me, something that is entwined into my own identity now. That might sound stupid or maudlin or like some nonsensical exaggeration, but I stand behind it. Not having had this site in my life, this community by my side, this family ... without all of that, the story of my past ten years would have been drawn in darker hues. This site, and by extension I mean all of you, has magnified the joyful times in my life, and has comforted me during the hard times. You were there for the birth of my sons. You were there when I began my own business, and when it folded. You were there when my heart failed me, and when it was fixed. You were there the day I thought I had lost my son. I was stronger in all those moments because of this site and because of you people who have joined us on this strange, wonderful journey.
I have met you, and every single time have found someone who made my life a little richer. You have told us what the site means to you, and you can’t imagine the pride that gives us. So many of my now best friends would be unknown to me had Shawn never had his crazy-stupid idea.
So, I celebrate ten years with a little bit of navel gazing and possibly a bit too much self-congratulations, but mostly with a thank you, because as we’ve said time and again, GWJ is nothing if not for you. You who have contributed words and ideas. You who have joined the community. You who have supported one another through good times and bad. You who have been generous to us and to this community more than I would have thought possible. You who have been interested in having a meaningful conversation about this culture we share. You who have visited or read or listened.
You are the reason this site exists.
Someday — I don’t know when — the last article will be penned for GWJ. The last podcast will be recorded. The last post will be written in our forums. The last day of Gamerswithjobs.com will come, and the lights will go out and it will all be over. That is a thing that will happen … eventually. And, assuming I’m still kicking around on that day, the sadness I think I will feel will be as keen and sharp as any I’d want to imagine.
I mention this only because I know, for me, these are the lucky days of my life. I hope they hold fast for days and months and years and, yes, maybe decades to come. This site, the partnerships we’ve built, the friends I’ve made through it, are a large part of what makes these days lucky. You make me feel fortunate beyond what I could possibly deserve, and so I want to breathe life and keep the lights bright on this site for as many days as I can. And I think I still can for a long time.
So what do you guys say?
Are you up for another decade?
I think I’m game.