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Polygon remembers Andrew Yoon

Polygon Editor-in-Chief Chris Grant

I honestly can't remember if I hired Andrew Yoon or not. I was running Joystiq at the time, and its network of "Fanboy" sites dedicated to individual consoles and handhelds, and burnout was an all-too-common byproduct of the business. And while I don't remember filtering his application out of the crowd and handing him the keys to, I definitely remember what he did with it.

The console — an amazing piece of hardware seemingly incapable of finding a massive audience the way Nintendo's handhelds had — had proven similarly difficult to attract solid writers to document its every movement. Until Andrew Yoon showed up. The site, always one of our perpetual underperformers, immediately started shining. It wasn't long before I asked him to run and, from there, join the Joystiq team. In retrospect, it was a clearly documented combination of Andrew's inexhaustible energy, passion and good spirits, but in the middle of everything it was just ... obvious. Of course Andrew belongs here.

It wasn't long again that I made him a full-time job offer — at that point an absolute rarity at Joystiq — and he began representing the site inside AOL's new NYC offices, while I worked comfortably from home 80 miles southwest. He was my eyes and ears inside the company. While I held grudges and flailed at our often uncaring corporate overlords, Andrew made friends and built bridges and did much of the work that I simply wasn't capable of doing. I leaned on him.

The Joystiq team was always close knit. We spent our entire days together. We traveled together. We played video games together. We grew up together. I remember spending time eating — holy shit could Andrew eat — our way across Tokyo following the Tokyo Game Show. I remember Andrew dragging me to eat during my regular visits to the office. Basically, we ate a lot.

After Andrew left Joystiq in 2011, and found success on the other side of the country at Shacknews in LA, I left to start Polygon. We didn't talk much after that. The last time I saw him was at the PlayStation 4 launch event in New York. I still remember what he was wearing — he was always the best dressed person at Joystiq. The following year, he left game journalism behind and began working on designing a game of his own, a card game, due to be released this month. He just won an award for another game. He was always going to be successful.

The news of Andrew passing — at 29! — still feels like an illusion. I haven't seen him in over a year, so surely he's still out there, somewhere, lighting up rooms. Eating everything in sight. Forcing friends to wonder, often aloud, where his remarkably slender frame stored the calories. But we all know where they went. Calories are energy, and Andrew needed a lot to shine as brightly as he did, searing an imprint on everyone he meant.

Senior editor Griffin McElroy

Andrew Yoon loved talking about games more than any other person I’ve met while working in this industry. In a field where folks tend to be a tad anti-social — even hermetic — Andrew sought out every opportunity he could get his hands on to discuss games with … well, anyone.

I can’t count the number of times that, when on public transit to cover a show with Joystiq, I would catch Andrew striking up a conversation with someone on the train or bus to talk to them about gaming. Sometimes it was about the game he saw them playing over their shoulder. He was never forceful, recommending his own favorite games for them to try out. He never gave them grief if his tastes didn’t align with their own. He just wanted to hear what they loved, partially because he enjoyed the discussion, but also because he was always looking for new things to be enthusiastic about.

This industry tends to be a bit insular, but Andrew never seemed to succumb to that phenomenon. He wanted everyone to be part of the same club, which was an impossible invitation to refuse. I also never, not once, saw him get burned out — in fact, it was hard to get burned out, just having him around.

And, as anyone will tell you, Andrew was exceedingly kind. I remember coming back to the Joystiq press room after the first day of my very first E3. I was overwhelmed, hugely falling behind on my writing backlog and completely unsure that I was up for the task. Andrew stayed up past midnight, read every one of my stories, made them better, and told me I was doing a good job. I don’t know that I would have made it through that show without him.

I don’t know what to say about Andrew’s passing except that I can’t believe he’s gone. I lost touch with Andrew this past year, and I don’t know that I’ll ever stop regretting that — to think that he was in Austin, in my town, when he passed. That I could have hung out with him again, shared a delicious meal (the only kind Andrew would consume) with him; that I missed that opportunity is heartbreaking.

I’m ill-equipped to deal with the death of someone whom I admired so much. It is a confusing thing, to be so grateful for someone’s guidance and kindness — things I will benefit from for the rest of my life — but to also be so downtrodden that nobody will receive those gifts ever again. The only relief is that Andrew’s warmth was so profoundly infectious, and will continue to shine through the lives of everyone it’s ever touched; be it friends, family, colleagues or someone playing games on a bus.

Senior Editor Ben Kuchera

Andrew Yoon passed away last week. He was the former Editor-in-Chief of Shacknews, and used to work for Joystiq. He was a game designer with a successful Kickstarter. He was way too young.

I saw Yoon maybe once or twice a year. We would chat. He seemed to always be in a good mood.

Our time together would always remind me that I should be having fun, and to try to lose a bit of the grumpiness that often follows writers around when we're on the road. The coffee may be stale, everyone may be tired but were were often seeing amazing things and spending time with people who shared our love for games.

Andrew Yoon was many things gaming often isn't: He was friendly and welcoming. He always seemed to have time for you, and he was always smiling.

I never looked for him when traveling, but when we talked it always left me happier. I took that completely for granted, and the next time many of us in the game reporting world travel, there's going to be a Yoon-shaped hole in our experiences. Someone who made my life a bit brighter is gone. I may have only talked to him less than a few dozen times in the entirety of my life, but his sudden death made me realize how much I enjoyed those interactions.

Many people in the industry have shared their memories of Andrew Yoon. Many people felt the same way I did: Andrew was someone you saw from time to time, but he always made whatever room you shared a little brighter. Other people have fuller memories of their time together, but they repeat the same thing: That he was always happy and enthusiastic. Many people have shared stories of how he had helped their career, or offered encouragement.

It's odd when you hear someone has passed away in the modern age, and you go to check their social media accounts. Andrew's last post was about a great meal. It was a few hours old. We were friends on Facebook, and the picture of meat likely moved down my feed without any notice.

It felt like somehow I could post something in response and warn him. That there was some way to still talk to him. I posted a message and told him a few of the things that I'm only now realizing. That I cared about him. That he made my life better in a tiny way. I was, at the time of posting, less than 24 hours too late for him to have known any of this.

None of us are ever offered a contract promising a tomorrow. I didn't realize how much I respected or enjoyed the company of Andrew Yoon until I had no way of sharing that with him.

Our lives are filled with people like Andrew Yoon, and the great tragedy is that we tend to take them for granted. The next time I travel I'm going to make sure I tell the people I may only see once or twice a year that I appreciate our time together. I'm going to be freer with the word "friend," even if I only see someone from time to time. I'm going to try to be kinder to other people I see and friendlier in general. I'm going to try to be a bit less of a grouch and a bit more like Andrew Yoon.

I wish I could have told him how much of an impact he made on my life in such a short amount of time. I wish the industry didn't have to lose someone to make us realize how often we're surrounded by amazing people, and to tell them we appreciate them explicitly. It's a mistake I'm going to try to never repeat.

Thanks, Andrew.