Not sure how useful this is to anyone. Gonna post it anyway.
I mentioned in that last post that I started off as part of a community of gamers called State. Some of you might know about it.
Now, this was just a forum of 60 or 70 relatively bright gamers with no platform bias who dumped out a poncy eZine once in a while (containing such treats as current editor of PC Gamer Tim Edwards writing about going down on his girlfriend while she played on a GBA). State wasn’t hugely interesting in itself, but what is interesting is how and why State shut down.
It’s a bit Bioshock, really. See, the promised land of State ended up destroyed against the will of its users by one very angry outsider with his own ideology. I know this, because I was that outsider’s only confidante.
CUE THE MUSIC.
A few years before State was shut down in 2005 a mysterious user called Super Foul Egg created a State IRC channel. Its purpose? To help organise multiplayer games of Operation Flashpoint. The channel drew a lot of interest, but after a chaotic first few weeks as State regulars drifted in and out of its revolving doors the channel became made up of some 15 regulars, myself included. We were #state.
Egg cut an… interesting figure. We knew nothing about him except that he lived in some tiny Northern Hellhole of a village, gave off the impression of being the sourest man alive and knew more about games than anyone we’d ever met. The years I spent sat in the #state channel absorbing his teachings were inarguably my most formative. Together the 15 of us played the most obscure and unmarketable mods and multiplayer games we could get our hands on. We spent a year plumbing the depths of ThieveryUT, and I spent just as long playing the dumbest stuff to ever come out for the SNES and PSX with Egg via the achy-breaky netplay of emulators.
Egg’s knowledge combined with his knack for clipped, razor-sharp witticisms meant no-one ever, ever won a debate with him. It became a running joke. It’s worth mentioning here that every time someone tries to goad Egg into games journalism, he replies that he’ll start writing about games when he’s played them all. Eventually the State forum and Egg’s channel became more and more distinct.
But that wasn’t quite enough for Egg.
The State forum was a place for people to talk about games. It always had been. Egg had ended up there because it was the smartest, most open-minded games community he knew about. But now he had his own community, with the key difference that this was a place where people not only talked about games but played them.
As the years ticked on the people on the forum began playing games less. They got older. They left school for university, or left university for full-time jobs, or found wives or kids or Eve Online, or sometimes didn’t find anything at all; content with what they had, they stopped playing new games. Yet what a lot of them kept was this habit of talking about games as if they knew what they were saying.
You have to understand this hurt Egg and myself because we were working so hard at playing not only everything that came out but blowing the dust of older releases we’d missed. And we knew how much we hadn’t played, too- I knew the Amiga was a vast gap in my knowledge, but the emulation of it was (and still is) a staggering bastard.
This disconnect between us and the forum culminated in 2005 when Egg and I were busy wading through the PS2’s endless release schedule. On the forum a thread was started by a forumite named Bobsy (a year too late) that called itself a review of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. Once you opened it, the text of Bobsy’s thread simply read “Half-Life, too.”
Somebody asked him what he was talking about. It might have been me. Bobsy then carefully pointed out for us uncomprehending reptiles all the similarities between Prince of Persia and the original Half-Life; you were spending the whole game exploring a single environment while slowly unfurling a story.
CUE THE OTHER MUSIC.
What turned things like this from an annoyance into a dilemma was that the founder of State, a Swede called Oskar, no longer held the keys to the servers. He’d given them up a long time ago, and those keys (along with the server bills) had been passed from forumite to forumite until finally a Dutch woman named Pat who’d lost all interest in games gave them to her trusted friend… Egg.
You must imagine Egg going for a walk in the bleak country surrounding his home, torn apart by this responsibility foisted upon him. Could he let these people continue to discuss games so arrogantly, these people who didn’t play many games anymore and were no longer earning their tone of superiority?
Worse, word was starting to get around that joining State was some kind of fast-track to games journalism. This changed most of the fresh meat we were getting from people who saw the level of conversation and decided they wanted to be part of that to people who simply wanted to get into the games industry. As Egg said, “People who couldn’t quite pull it off.”
Compared to the rest of the gaming forums on the internet State was still perhaps the smartest place we knew about. But this wasn’t about it decaying or slowing down- this was about State continuing to have its reputation as an intelligent outpost of cutting edge discussion while its inhabitants talked shit.
STOP THE MUSIC. No, seriously, go back up to that YouTube video and stop it.
One day Egg came to a decision. State’s regulars logged in the next day to find their forum’s homepage replaced with this animation that Egg drew himself. Kieron Gillen called it “going out in style”, but then I don’t think he realised we hadn’t told the forumites we were closing their community down at all.
The last job was to rename #state to something else, which Egg did with all the cool grace of Codename 47 hoisting a body into a dumpster.
CUE THE LAST MUSIC.
I got in touch with Egg for the purposes of writing this post and thought I’d ask him whether he regretted closing down such a well-respected gaming forum so cruelly.
Quinns: Do you ever regret closing down such a well-respected gaming forum so cruelly?
Quinns: Thanks for your time.
So there you have it.
The issue of professionals within this industry having not played enough is still a touchy subject with me, and I feel it’s something we let slide far too often. Nevermind. If I’m right and it is as big as failing as I think it is, that’ll reveal itself in time.