1up and Me

You most likely know that 1up is closing. The site endured numerous layoffs and cutbacks in recent years, and it was just sold to Ziff-Davis, the company that started it in the first place. Things have come full circle, and now we're losing something great.

For most of 1up’s life, I was just a reader. I remember when the site launched back in 2003, debuting with that cool little logo and a staff from all corners of the gaming press. It had names I knew from Electronic Gaming Monthly, IGN, GameSpot, The Gaming Intelligence Agency, and just about every other website I followed. It was like watching that glorious multi-character crossover game you and your friends always lied about on the playground. You know, the one with Mario and Sonic and Simon Belmont and Chun-Li.

I started freelancing for 1up in 2011, well after the site was sold to UGO and the layoffs took their toll. I was in some grindingly dull staff meeting at work when a Twitter message from Bob Mackey popped into my phone. He wanted to know if I was interested in writing for 1up. And there I was, typing out YES YES YES and being rude to my coworkers. Oh well, it was more important.

By this time 1up wasn’t chasing the same news-and-reviews rabbit that just about every other site pursues. The remaining staff focused more on features, and the next year saw them switch over to running week-long cover stories, with multiple articles about the same topic. This worked wonders. So much of the video-game press is fixated on the latest, the shiniest, and the quickest-and-dirtiest way to cover it all. It results in ephemeral things, previews and news bits irrelevant within weeks. The features at 1up were more than that. They were about such subjects as the history of the Atari VCS, the portrayal of women in games, and, in this very week, the relationship between movies and the game industry. They’re all interesting reads, and as long as someone backs up the website, they’ll be just as interesting years down the road.

I loved pitching stories to 1up.com, and I dare say the results are some of the most rewarding stuff I’ve written about video games. I researched doomed game systems, covered the concept of video-game afterlife, and studied the symbiosis between games and those Japanese cartoons. I’m not sure if any other site would’ve let me write about long-abandoned mascot characters like Wonder Boy and that hideous Asmik thing up there—and then let me take on another round of them. Looking back, a lot of my features were about failure and regret: forgotten characters, faded companies, canceled games, and the paths not taken. Maybe I have a problem.

Yet I have just one regret when it comes to 1up: I didn’t write more.