Published on June 22nd, 2015 | by Andrew Vestal0
The Gaming Intelligence Agency is shutting down. Again.
When Andrew and I were talking about reviving the GIA two years ago, what attracted me most was the idea of an online space for any thoughts I had about games. If you engage with games, or any other art form, critically at all, then you know how it goes: you play a game, it stirs a reaction in you, and you think, “I should explore this.” Some of those reactions turned into pieces for the site; some ended up as just a few tweets. But all of them rested on the unexamined assumption that this is something worth broadcasting. The axiomatic belief that my voice is valuable, and that the thoughts I think are worth reading.
The most important thing I learned over the last two years is that this isn’t necessarily true. The perspective that Andrew and I bring to games criticism is a perspective it already has too much of. Our contributions to the greater critical landscape are something like a well-crafted free-to-play mobile game; sometimes clever and enjoyable, but ultimately not that interesting, and certainly not vital in any way.
Toward the end of the GIA, I was less interested in airing my own thoughts and more interested in soliciting articles from people whose perspectives you don’t hear from as much. Not all of those commissions panned out, but this ambition is what led to things like Aevee Bee’s Bloodborne review. And yet, Aevee already has her own site, the indispensable ZEAL, so getting these writers to build our brand rather than their own seemed counterproductive and maybe a little wrong.
All of this is to say that the end of the GIA is a necessary step in its growth. If you liked our writing, thank you, and I have good news for you: there is so much more, and so much better, in the vein of what we were trying to accomplish. Go find, read, and above all support those individual voices. For my part, I will explore being silent for a while.
– Nich Maragos
A few months ago, when I was scrambling to find time to play, process, and write up Axiom Verge while working full-time and taking care of my 9-month-old daughter, my wife asked me sympathetically, “Why do you do this? You don’t seem to enjoy it.” My response was immediate: “I don’t. But I don’t know how to do anything else.”
I’ve been writing about games, in some capacity or another, for 20 years, for half my life, since 1995, since I was a sophomore in high school. “I write about games” is a foundational part of my identity. And when, after 10 years of making games, I stepped away from the industry in 2013, it was easy to find myself writing about games once more. That my good friend and original GIA alumnus Nich would join me in this experiment was all the push I needed.
It was fun, and I’d like to think we had a few good pieces here and there. But in the end, was it really necessary? Not at all. There’s an unbelievable amount of good writing about games on the Internet, most of it from better writers than ourselves.
Games writing has changed immensely since 2013. Let’s start with the elephant in the room: there’s no avoiding that GamerGate has dulled my enthusiasm for games twice over: first, with the horrible abuses wrought by its standard bearers, but later, with the industry’s complete failure to engage with or take responsibility for the movement’s longevity. Every form of genre entertainment has its passionate and argumentative fans, but only games have GamerGate.
The Internet itself has changed in significant ways, too. The launch of Patreon has made it possible to directly support interesting and marginalized voices–so while we could commission these voices for our own site, why set ourselves up as the middleman? Even the very concept of a “website” is anachronistic in a world ruled by content aggregators like Tumblr and Medium, as individual pieces find an audience (or don’t) entirely via social media virality.
And yes, that kid I mentioned earlier is also a factor. As a new father, I have neither the time nor inclination to spend my dramatically curtailed free time writing about video games. I am needed elsewhere.
If video games are going to succeed despite the industry’s best efforts, they will need a passionate, engaged, and above all critical audience. We may no longer be writing, but we will never give up on the hard and necessary work of thinking about how games can be better. Thank you for reading.
– Andrew Vestal
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