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Goodbye, “Uncle” Ziff – A Personal Reflection January 8, 2009

Posted by patrick.klepek in journalism, video games.
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[This was posted at MTV Multiplayer. I’ll write something more substantial here once I’ve had some more time to collect my thoughts.]

I wouldn’t be where I am if it weren’t for Electronic Gaming Monthly and Ziff Davis. I first appeared in EGM at 16. Everything about my professional writing career has been tied to EGM and Ziff Davis. It wasn’t until MTV Multiplayer that I stepped outside that box, and now that box is gone forever. Here’s what EGM meant to me:

***

(Yes, that picture above is me and actor Kiefer Sutherland when I interviewed him for 1UP).

As of this month’s issue, Electronic Gaming Monthly is no more. Ziff Davis has sold 1UP to UGO. It’s the end of an era for games journalism, and a closed chapter in a personal book started in my early teens.

This story isn’t known to many who weren’t directly involved in it, but 1UP site director Sam Kennedy is the last person at Ziff Davis who was once part of the industry Internet relay channel (IRC) called #vidgames. That channel is responsible for birthing some of the biggest names in video games writing — Che Chou, Mark MacDonald, John Ricciardi, Christian Nutt, Andrew Pfister, Brad Shoemaker. The list goes on and on.

(The picture to the the right is a younger version of myself with former EGM editors Greg Sewart and Chris Johnston hanging at my house. We’re still friends.)

If you were at #vidgames, you were destined to work at Ziff Davis. It was just assumed. The same went for me, despite easily being the youngest of the group. My earliest pieces of writing went into the pages of EGM, GMR, and Computer Gaming World (for which I wrote a number of news features as a sophomore in college) and interned at 1UP in their then-non-existent news department.

One by one, almost that entire crew worked at Ziff Davis then moved onto greener pastures. Capcom‘s director of design, Kraig Kujawa, was once part of #vidgames. Ricciardi has his own translation company in Japan, where he works with MacDonald. Chou is the community manager for the “Forza Motorsport” team at Microsoft. Nutt is the features editor at Gamasutra.

Everyone has landed on his or her feet, just like everyone laid off at Ziff Davis eventually will. But as I walked over to meet up with the recently unemployed at the dive bar next to the Ziff Davis building on Tuesday, I realized how big this truly was. The #vidgames era of games writing, once the center of my world, has moved on. Most of its participants are still in the games industry somehow, but its monolith, Ziff Davis, is no longer their home. The term “Uncle Ziff,” a mythical person we jokingly thanked for paid meals, no longer means anything.

The reason 1UP and EGM garnered such cult-like followers was because of the talented personalities it attracted. Moving to MTV Multiplayer almost a year ago was the first time I’d even considered working somewhere else. It was “Ziff Davis for life!” because that’s all that so many of us knew. Now, that’s gone. At least I made the decision to leave — others didn’t have that choice.

Thanks for everything, Ziff. You were a company that flourished in spite of itself, but maybe that’s the reason it was such a fun place to work…and such a hard place to leave.

Good luck to everyone. Thanks for letting me ramble.

Related Posts
Fate Of EGM’s Unpublished 20th Anniversary Issue Unknown
EGM Shuts Down, More Than 30 Ziff Davis Employees Laid Off

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