It would be easy for a guy like to me to sniff dismissively at the news of EGM's demise and 1UP's uncertain future. After all, I'm a crusty academic out of touch with the often-snarky hipster brand of journalism produced by the network's gallery of print, online, and podcast mini-celebs. Plenty of us have expressed concern about the cozy relationships between the writers covering games and the developers making them, particularly in the preview-stage.
And let's face it, the 1UP gang relished their insider/outsider status and frequently exhibited a child-like delight in teasing us with privileged information they knew, but couldn't share. Sometimes when I listen to their podcasts, they remind me of a bunch of slightly inebriated frat boys a little too enchanted by themselves and their camaraderie.
But, damn, I'm gonna miss em. These guys are good, and they know their stuff. For me, that's always been the 1UP edge. I didn't always agree with them, but Bettenhausen, Lee, Davison, and Pfister delivered a ton of useful information, amidst the whisky shots, every Friday, and I know at least a little bit about how much time and effort a well-produced podcast requires.
I think a solid case can be made for the late GFW Radio as the best overalll gaming podcast we've heard. Jeff Green and Shawn Elliott are genuinely gifted writers, and their on-air chemistry and jovial but penetrating analysis of games is unsurpassed in my book. Elliott, more than anyone else, conveys a perspective on gaming - and the processes at work when we play them - within a broad cultural context. His frequent analogies to art, literature, and philosophy go a long way to opening up our understanding of how games work and what they mean. Plus he's hilarious. Not a bad combo. And as a longtime fan of JRPGs, Shane Bettenhausen's encyclopedic knowledge of the genre makes me swoon just a tiny bit.
You probably didn't read them, but the last batch of EGM issues, with Dan Hsu and, finally, James Mielke at the helm, began to point the way to a kind of journalism that meaningfully integrates games-as-fun with games-as-art. Boiler plate reviews gave way, in these last issues, to more thoughtful analysis of design, genre, and culture. And, at least to my eye, the overall quality of writing improved. Edge Magazine approaches games in a similar way, but near the end EGM seemed to find a signature playful voice and a deft touch all its own. Sadly, the more EGM improved, the thinner it became.
EGM ran its ship aground in good company. If you'd like a reality check on the current state of print media, read this month's Atlantic Monthly feature, End Times, on the precarious state of America's paper of record: The New York Times. For antiquated newspaper lovers like me, it's scary stuff.
30 talented people lost their jobs yesterday. I'm sure we haven't heard the last of the 1UP crew. Word has it Davison and the ex-1UPers have already begun discussing a new podcast. Here's wishing all of them the best. See you again, wherever on your feet you land.