January 7th, 2009 was a sad day to be someone who engrossed themselves in video game culture. It was on that day that Ziff Davis sold off the 1Up.com website and its affiliates as well as terminated the publication of Electronic Gaming Monthly, one of the most beloved and dedicated video game magazines ever produced, leaving countless, talented individuals out of work and creating a somber work environment to those who found themselves left behind. For those who found a home and community on 1UP, either by visiting the site daily, listening to their podcasts, consuming their videos and looking forward to when that new EGM would hit the stands, it was a harsh realization that the coverage of video games was changing, and not exactly for the better.
Launched in 1989, Electronic Gaming Monthly became one of the premiere magazines for multiplatform video game coverage. As the ’80’-s rolled into the ’90’-s, it was easy for readers to spend hours combing through massive issues in the fall, consuming pages upon pages of reviews for the hottest game releases, previews for what was coming in the new year and juicy rumors in the Quarterman column. When EGM really hit its stride was at the turn of the millennium under the guidance of staff like Dan “Shoe” Hsu, John Davison and countless others that could be listed. It was under this guard that EGM became less about the quantity of its pages – though there would still be massive issues while the internet was really taking off – but the quality of them.
EGM and its eventual affiliates became a trusted source because they weren’t afraid of repercussions from platform holders and publishers to maintain their journalistic integrity. In the early days of the GameCube for example, the magazine answered reader questions about a lack of coverage for Nintendo’s then new console by bluntly saying they wanted to cover the GameCube, but Nintendo were not making it easy for them. This stance would continue throughout the last decade of EGM’s initial run, as the editorial staff was never afraid to lose access to games from publishers like Ubisoft if it meant giving their games a lower score than what other outlets were handing out or moving a review for Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots an extra month such that they could get more on hands time with it.
It was around the middle of the last decade when Electronic Gaming Monthly branched out from print into online in a big way, through a sister site, 1UP.com, which would not only feature written articles like you would come to expect in the pages of EGM, but also new forms of media like podcasts and the online video program, The 1UP Show, which did YouTube style videos before the influencer boom of people asking you to smash that like button and sign up for Squarespace. There was even a parody show between seasons called Not The 1UP Show that featured a segment called Broken Pixels which was the progenitor Let’s Play channel in a lot of ways where two or three people would sit on a couch riffing on a bad game. The 1UP Show was an exaggerated week in the life starring the staff at Ziff Davis with various segments where people would talk about a game built around a narrative. Sometimes it was something as everyone frantically trying to get ready for E3, while other times staff would be slowly turning into zombies as the show featured a segment on the then new Dead Rising for the Xbox 360.
What made The 1UP Show such a fantastic compliment to EGM was that it allowed people who grew up reading EGM a look into how content was created in a way never like before, making the office look as a magical as a place like Disney World. There was no doubt watching the show that there must have been countless hours put into making everything from a monthly magazine to a video show, but it all looked like so much fun. For those outside looking in, the 1UP offices looked like the greatest place in the world to look, and not because of all the video game swag that adorned everyone’s cubicles or the early access to video games, but the people there. If you couldn’t find your own crew who loved video games like you did locally, the on camera personalities on The 1UP Show became the friends you never head but always wanted, and on episodes where someone would announce when they were leaving, you got sad in a way you do when you find out your closest friend is moving away.
This level of access to the people who brought this content to life also allowed readers, viewers and listeners to get to know each staff members taste in a way that a few lines in EGM telling you what genres someone liked or what games they were playing never could. The score attached to a game like Kingdom Hearts II meant more when you knew it was coming from future Marvel’s Spider-Man creative director Bryan Intihar because of a segment on The 1UP Show where he talked about how much passion he had for the series. People like Shane Bettenhausen, now at Sony, and Luke Smith, a professed lover of Halo who know works at Bungie on the Destiny franchise played up their characters for entertainment purposes, but even then you could still get a feel for their tastes.
Following the closure of EGM and the sale of 1UP.com, EGM would get relaunched as a magazine under new ownership before ceasing publication again and now exists as the website egmnow.com but it’s far from the industry leader in video game coverage like the brand once was. 1UP.com would continue for a few years before it would officially close in 2013, and some of the people who made The 1UP Show would go on to make a similar show, Co-Op, for the new defunct Revision3 before the staff moved on to other projects. The personalities that people came to admire from the 1UP network would find new homes, whether at new outlets in the video game journalism field or in the video game industry itself, so while it’s still sad today to see how callously things played out ten years ago, there’s comfort to be taken in lot of great new opportunities opening for some wonderfully talented people. EGM and 1UP meant a lot to a lot of people, inspiring them to want to talk about video games, including myself, who wanted nothing more than to see his name in an EGM byline or appear on a segment of The 1UP Show.
Those who worked at 1UP and EGM confirmed a lot of weekends and will be never forgotten, even though both are now ghost.
If you wish to rewatch episodes of The 1UP Show or experience it for the first time, you can catch an archive of episodes HERE