On Friday night I attended a "wake" in San Francisco held on behalf of 1up.com and EGM, hosted, coincidentally enough, by my current employer, Electronic Arts. In attendance were people from all over the gaming industry: most of the remaining 1up staff, the recently fired, those who quit or were laid off in the past, game journalists from other outlets, and gaming PR and development folks...all gathering to pay their last respects, in public, to a fallen giant.
At one point, I found myself in the midst of a spontaneous and unplanned Computer Gaming World reunion, surrounded by a bunch of my old staff: Kristen Salvatore, Thierry Nguyen, Michael Jennings, Sean Dallaskidd, Dana Jongewaard, and Darren Gladstone. It was a nice moment, standing outside the overcrowded bar in the cold San Francisco air. What was nicest about it, I think, was seeing how well we were all doing. How, in spite of everything we'd all been through, in one way or another, we were still the same buncha dorks who all still liked each other, and all had nothing but good wishes for one another.
It was a simple but necessary reminder, as we begin a new week, that life does indeed march on, whether we like it or not. And that, ya know, stuff tends to work out. Yeah, those are some hoary old cliches, but, hey, sometimes those are necessary, too. Especially when the alternative doesn't really buy you anything.
And, indeed, all the parties involved are already picking up the pieces, and good things are starting to happen. The most amazing and heartening and just flat-out feel-good satisfying event of the week was the immediate assemblage, and then astounding success, of Rebel FM Radio--with Nick Suttner, Anthony Gallegos, Philip Kollar, Matt Chandronait, Ryan O'Donnell, Jade Kraus and Arthur Gies--which rose from the ashes of 1UP FM. These guys got their jobs taken away from them, and what did they do? Did they whine or mope or post angry rantings on the Internet like some people I know? (HAI). No. What they did is they got their collective asses together, and immediately got a new podcast recorded. And the most incredible, Ron Howard movie moment about it all? This first episode is KICKING ASS on iTunes. Check this out:
Yeah, that's right. Number two podcast on iTunes (and I heard it hit number one for awhile too!). That's #2 OVERALL. Not in the Games and Hobbies ghetto. That's higher than This American Life. Higher than all the NPR podcasts. Higher, in fact, than any actual official 1up.com podcast ever got. Now if that isn't some kind of sweet victory for those just laid off, I don't know what is. And, further, it's a testament to the talent and popularity of all those involved. It speaks for itself. And whether or not this lasts with future episodes--whether this was just a short-term reaction or show of support, or maybe the guys themselves will move on to other jobs---none of that matters or takes away from this moment. (And, hey, personally, I hope it stays at the top of iTunes for as long as it's on air.)
Similarly, the gang that made the 1UP Show have also regrouped right here, with plans to get a new show on the air as early as next week. I'll be downloading it as soon as it's there, and I hope you will too.
"1UP Show? We don't need no stinkin' 1UP Show!"
Finally, there are the "survivors" themselves, those left behind at 1up.com. I've been on both sides of the layoff equation over the course of my career--both fired and saved-and I can tell you, for those who stay, while it may not be as immediately stressful as it is to those now out of work, it still can be quite depressing. At the wake the other night, in fact, those still at 1up looked more unhappy than those who'd been cut, faced with a 2/3 empty office floor, survivor guilt, and the burden of rebuilding the 1up brand. The good news is, as I said in my previous post, this group has more than enough talent to pull it off. It won't be the same--but that doesn't mean it can't find its own voice again and still rise above the common dreck of gaming journalism. Poor Sam looked like he needed about three days sleep, which I hope he got this weekend (though I imagine it might be accompanied with a hangover.) But the good thing for him is that when he starts this week, he still has a staff of journalists who damn well know what they're doing. Far be it from me to sugarcoat the situation--I made it clear how I felt already, and stand by all of it--but none of that is the fault of this group of people. They just have a job to do. And the best thing they could possibly do now is shrug off the guilt, close their ears to any lingering online nerd rage, and get back to doing what they do best--knowing that the vast majority of us, including me, are rooting for them.
Here's to new beginnings.
EDIT: Sam Kennedy has an excellent new blog post on this whole affair, in which he speaks out emotionally and with great candor. You can find it here.