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Joystiq is closing and I'll miss them like hell

The death of a gaming news website is a terrible thing.

It weakens the video game industry. It weakens video game journalism in what are still important, formative times. It hurts gamers and, of course, those talented writers who write about games.

Every time a gaming website downsizes, every time a bean-counter closes a home to gaming journalism, we all lose a little.

Joystiq's closure is by no means the first of its kind; news of sites shutting down, downsizing, staff moving have been at a steady beat for years now.

But this particular closure is important. Important, perhaps if only because it is a good time to reflect on just how far game journalism has come.

In 2004, the landscape of gaming websites was mostly monopolized by large, corporate-owned entities. They did great work, but the lack of diverse competition led to a sort of homogenization of news that was bad for everyone in the long run.

Enter Weblogs' Joystiq and Gawker's Kotaku: two sites that sprang from inspired leadership, an interest in telling the rest of the story and the desire to upend the seemingly singular face of coverage in the space.

Joystiq was officially launched in June of 2004, Kotaku months later.

The launch of either site would have been a big, important step in the shake-up of gaming coverage that was to come, but launching together they both had to compete with huge, well-established sites and each other. It was underdog versus underdog and it kept both sites on their toes.

Journalism independence needs company

I was fortunate enough to help usher Kotaku through its first seven years, helping it grow from a site with a singular voice (mine) to a chorus of opinion, news and features. Eventually, I handed that responsibility off to the talented Stephen Totilo, who remains in charge of the site today.

Over my tenure with the site I had a front row view of the changing landscape of game journalism and to the work of my and Kotaku's biggest rival: Joystiq.

Viewed from outside, game journalism, all journalism, must at times look like a nest of snakes: A collection of writers and reporters trying to make names for themselves at any cost, whether it's a cost they pay, their friends pay, or their competition pays.

But that's not the reality.

The reality is that, as with any profession (and game journalism is exactly that) there is also a sense of camaraderie and respect, even if it is at times begrudgingly given.

And so it was with Kotaku and Joystiq.

Sure, Kotaku fought to beat Joystiq and I'm sure the opposite was true, but we did so more for the credit of our readers than our own bylines (heck, Kotaku didn't have bylines for years.)

When it came down to it. When something became bigger than either site, we stood up for one another.

In 2008, when CheapAssGamer kicked off a contest asking its followers to create fake news for other sites to run as real, I fell for it in a big way. I quickly corrected the mistake once I realized (and admittedly handled that correction and response to CAG very poorly) and then set about alerting every other site so they wouldn't fall for it too. Yes, including Joystiq.

When Sony decided to blackball Kotaku after we reported a factual, but anonymously sourced story, I wasn't the one that got the international conglomerate to back down, sites like Joystiq and others were. They all publicly rushed to back up Kotaku's play. They didn't do this out of love for Kotaku, but because it was an important thing to stand up for.

I'm going to miss them like hell

Game journalism, when approached honestly, is always an important thing to stand up for. That's because it is journalism. When done right, you can take the game out of journalism, but not the journalism out of game in this field.

And journalists, to some degree, must stand together, not to create blacklists or a singular face, but to ensure survival. In journalism, independence needs company.

Game journalism is a profession that at times hinges on telling people bad news, what they don't want to hear, essentially being the messenger that everyone wants to kill. And then expecting those same upset people to support them.

It's a tricky line to walk and anyone, any site that can do it for as long as Joystiq, doesn't deserve just accolades, it deserves to survive.

Joystiq was always there when Kotaku was. They were the Dallas Morning News to our Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the Denver Post to our Rocky Mountain News. It was the hard work of its staff that inspired us when we were worn to the bone, or dragged down by petty commenting. Having a bar constantly lifted by our competition always helped give us something to strive to achieve.

We respected Joystiq and its staff. Fought them tooth and nail. Worked to match or beat every story they ran. And I know I'm going to miss them like hell when they're gone.

Without Joystiq there might not have been a blogger revolution.

I'd argue to keep the site afloat, say that this isn't the way a strong voice in the gaming community should die. But it's too late for all of that.

It's too late for anything but goodbyes.

So let me say now what I've always thought:

Without a strong Joystiq, there never would have been a Kotaku, there certainly would never have been a Polygon.

Without those fantastic reporters and writers and the amazing editorial leadership, the blogging revolution may have never come to gaming.

So a moment of silence then, not just for Joystiq, but for all of the sites that seem to be shrinking or dying. A moment to reflect on what would have been had not Joystiq helped usher in this age of gaming and coverage.

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