Allen (allengator86) wrote,

A Case Study of a Community Website I Used to Enjoy

The Internet scene has changed quite a bit in the span of just a few years. Some content providers have gone through some changes, for better or worse. Social media buzzwords and sponsorships have become the new norm to keep independent websites up an running instead of trusting in original content to keep traffic on their sites at a high. Instead of keeping a good site up, Youtube has become a hub to distribute video content and if you aren't using it, then you are giving up a large chunk of your audience. I'm saying all of this to say that the overall trends for content is taking an avenue that doesn't appeal to me. This line of thought came from me taking a more critical look at a site I frequented for years, but recently have stopped going to named ScrewAttack. I know this is going to seem like an overly critical piece on here, or possibly labeled "bashing", but I am going to do my best to show things from my perspective and why I'm more or less not interested in that content anymore.

ScrewAttack started off as an independent site started by a couple of guys, Tom and Craig, that focused on not being your typical video game site like IGN or Gamespot. There was a focus on Top 10 lists, reviews, retro spotlights, and just random fun. Soon the amount of content garnered them to start hiring a crew to help make more content. Sure, some of it was cheesy, but it was really fun to watch and I would spend hours trying to catch up on the archives.

Soon, the people that worked there because well-known to the ScrewAttack community. They would participate in regular videos, but also ones just showing off the daily life at the office that gave it a more personal and fun look. I didn't see them as just a profile pic next to a blog entry, or a nameless person rattling off a review, I saw them as individuals with specific personalities.

There was also a big push for third party content. Original shows like Captain S, Life in a Game, and Nametags helped bring more variety and fun to the site. I even remember waiting for the finale to Nametags by watching a marathon of previous episodes each hour until the finale was posted. I even had a friend that followed the series, and he was as excited as I was. Jared, one of the people responsible for the series, eventually became a staff member of ScrewAttack, first working at their game store GameAttack, and afterwards becoming the host of Hard News. The excitement I felt when I saw him join the ranks with his sense of humor was high.

Over time some staff was changed for one reason or another, though I never really saw a problem with it as most was just changing jobs in the industry or was moving from the area. New people were introduced and while it never felt completely like it was back in the Destin-Corey-Jose days, it still felt the same. Soon ScrewAttack started to do daily live streams of different games, introducing me to some new titles, but it also had a sense of fun and it allowed for the community to know the staff more. It was still a great time to be part of the community.

I know there are other highlights, like letting the community choose the new feature through voting, the Mario Party After Dark series, creating an entire gaming convention, and a focus on community blogs and videos, but cluttering this entry up with more nostalgia would defeat the message I am trying to get out of it.

About a couple years ago, give or take, some strange things were going on. It felt like there was a different direction being taken. Multiple new features were being made, but none of them lasted more than a few months. Partners started to appear less and less. The live stream show went from weekdays to once a week. Less content was about the personalities and started to seem a bit more "conform-y". More staff was turned over, none of the features were sticking around, and there was a shift in tone.

A new show started up called Death Battle, not exactly the most original idea, but one that has generated a lot of views and brought in a lot of new people to the site. Nearly every time a new episode or preview was posted, the site crashed from too much traffic. In a way, that is a good problem, but this is something I will come back to in a bit.

I started to feel less enthusiastic about the site's content. I don't know why, but it just felt either passionless or too generic. There was a short-lived series called "Hey, Let's Play" which is a face-cam-less let's play video series which reminded me of other content creators like PeanutButterGamer, Game Grumps, and various others.

ScrewAttack eventually was bought out by a parent company which gave me hope that there would be some new ideas coming out from that acquisition. Unfortunately, the content that I grew to love and enjoy started becoming more scarce, like Video Game Vaults, Day in the Life, and The Clip of the Week. They started to bring back the live stream show several nights a week, but it just seemed like a let's play of recent titles and not a showcase of wacky, challenging, or retro titles. It just felt the same as other content providers.

The community, which I felt was one of the best online communities (and still is compared to others) started getting an influx of newbies that were just asking about Death Battle. Death Battle this and Death Battle that. Seriously, go to any recent ScrewAttack video on Youtube. You won't go far without seeing someone complaining about not enough Death Battles coming out. A new show with just the animated portions came out and while not as popular as Death Battle, it still gets more views than regular content. It's understandable when something becomes so popular that you want to cater to the crowd more, but it has gotten to a point where anytime I went to see a video about something completely unrelated to Death Battle, the comments were about Death Battle.

The actual site is better, but not as active. Now that all the content they produce is on Youtube, there isn't much incentive to visit the actual site. I went to the site only a small handful of times the past few months and I noticed there is less emphasis on community-driven content and partner content and more about the latest original content from ScrewAttack which isn't exactly a bad thing, but it feels like it is marching to a different tune from what it was years ago. New personalities were added to the staff, but they feel like they lack, well, personality. It seems that genuine and entertaining commentary has been swapped with the profanity-laden stereotypes that gamers have been associated.

I also realize that over the years I've changed as a person as well. I'm finding the journalism aspect of gaming and entertainment in general is starting to take a more narrative turn and is turning simple things into more of a collegiate term paper. Everything is symbolism, there is deeper meaning to everything, a random joke actually reveals a character's insecurity. People will super analyze something that is meant to be simple. One community I go to once in a while for Adventure Time enthusiasts is full of people that can't let a single episode go without mentioning a larger narrative or blowing a tiny thing out of proportion. Guess what? Sometimes a joke is just a joke. Everything is not tied to a larger mythology. Sometimes an episode or game can stand alone without it meaning more than the entertainment it brings.

I've also mentioned how content is also becoming more commercialized and is more about asking people to follow on Twitter, Facebook, Patreon, or whatever. There isn't anything wrong with that if the creator has content you care about (PeanutButterGamer is one such person for me). Sponsored content is also becoming more of the norm by having the creator put in either a small advertisement at the beginning or end of a video, or having an entire video dedicated to their product. Some creators can do this effectively, and others doing this look foolish, especially creators like ScrewAttack that took pride in being independent and went for years without the sponsorship marketing. Again, I understand that it helps pay the bills and allows you to create more content you want to do, so it isn't there to annoy the viewer, but it just feels off, especially if it feels like an advertisement you would see from regular Youtube ads.

So in short, that is why I've shied away from that community, and most online communities in general. I've went from wanting to be part of an online culture to just wanting to stick to local fare and talk to people I actually know. When someone creates something I enjoy, I will share it with people or will send them a private message thanking them for their work and showing appreciation for their effort.

So ScrewAttack, thank you for the years of entertainment you have provided. The content has gotten me through some hard times and I truly enjoyed the community you built. I'm sorry that the direction you are taking doesn't align with my interests, but I hope you find success in that way, or perhaps understand my comments and make some changes that will bring me and many others back. Aside from checking out some archives, I won't be visiting your community for the forseeable future. Best of luck to you.

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