Over what I’ve read and thought about, it looks like the content creators online will have a rougher time due to dwindling competition because when titans like Gametrailers fall to the gods of our time, there’s way less competition for the gods to get the peasants’ worship.
I first discovered GameTrailers around 2007. For some reference, the Internet was big, but not as big as it is now. YouTube was still in its infancy. MySpace was still the social network to use. People were still using message boards and forums en masse to communicate and make connections with each other. Seeing just how much the internet—as a thing period—has changed witin the span of a decade is understatedly mind-blowing.
Enough about that. GameTrailers was (I refrained from using “is”) a gaming website based on showing, well…game trailers. And news. And Top Ten gaming lists. The site was launched in late 2002, three full years before YouTube would exist. After I discovered it in 2007, I visited the site up until 2011.
But when I heard GameTrailers shut down so abruptly, a heartstring got plucked and resonated in my nerdy little heart. I read an article by Jim Sterling about the shutdown, watched a video by ReviewTechUSA, and read an article on ScrewAttack, which is another gaming website that owes much of its existence to GameTrailers for helping them grow.
ScrewAttack’s productions and James Rolfe’s the Angry Video Game Nerd drew me to GameTrailers. The prior two have gotten more independent and switched to YouTube in recent years, but Gametrailers still helped a company and one independent filmmaker reach new audiences in then novel ways (remember, the Internet is as old as I am; I’m still young, and so is the internet). As I’m writing this, I’m still forming new thoughts and thinking, specifically about the future of content creation by individuals (such as myself) and small independent businesses and studios.
Jim Sterling claims that GameTrailers was a victim of itself, stating:
“Unfortunately, ‘traditional games media’ stopped being willing or even capable of rewarding success as we recognize it, and for those who could see the writing on the wall, there would be no saving GameTrailers.”
Sterling doesn’t blame the websites for their failure. At least not entirely. He goes on to explain that a lot of major gaming websites are owned by larger media companies that don’t necessarily care about audiences, but only care about money. According to my god, savior, overlord, and personal inspiration Jim Sterling, media companies determine success by how much money is made, not by how many audience members are attracted and retained; which is a paradox for media companies because no audience means no money. Sterling also goes on to explain other factors that went on to contribute to Gametrailers closure, and I highly suggest reading his article for yourself to see what they are.
On to the matter of ScrewAttack, the Angry Video Game Nerd, and how GameTrailers helped them grow. See, before Youtube became a black hole of controversy, react videos, and well…basically before it became the go-to video platform to rule all video platforms, individual websites with their own native web video players were how videos were shared. Newgrounds is a great example of this; so is GameTrailers. It was thanks to those native video players that early content creators such as ScrewAttack and James Rolfe were able to get attention through independent websites that got lots of views per day, grow their audiences, and become the successes and relatively well-known names that they are today because there was no better way to share those videos or that content.
Until YouTube came along.
It’s time for some honesty: YouTube is the juggernaut when it comes to online-based videos and video sharing. Yeah, there’s Vimeo and DailyMotion, but your typical person on the street—heck, even you typical Internet user—won’t know those names if they’re mentioned in conversation. Times have changed a lot in the past decade. If Hank and John Green (the founders of DFTBA) tried their radical and compelling Brotherhood 2.0 experiment today as opposed to 2007 when Youtube and vlogging were still wrapped in their swaddling clothes and sleeping in the manger and able to garner attention from a growing audience, then it’s pretty darn safe to say John Green wouldn’t be as well-known or popular as a novelist and their small media company wouldn’t be making awesome educational stuff like Crash Course.
I’m getting to the point where I consider myself to be a content creator (I teach, I write for this personal blog, I edit stuff for my Chinese manager sometimes, and I’m working on two novels), and I wonder how the homogenization of everything (Google owns a lot of things not limited to just YouTube; Disney owns both Marvel Comics and Star Wars; TimeWarner might as well be the only internet provider in town) of the Internet is going to affect me as a content creator and others like me. Creating content is hard. I write because it’s cheap, time efficient, and not horrendously labor intensive as say…drawing, making a good and high-quality YouTube video, making a cosplay, or lots of other creative things. The Internet has made sharing content easy; posting stuff online is stupid easy. However, making original content requires time, effort, and skill at some level, which means it’s hard. On the other hand, getting noticed occurs seemingly by accident, takes a miracle, or a lot of boot-kissing and door banging: in other words, getting content noticed feels nigh impossible, especially if someone wants to make a living based on being a creative professional.
The demise of GameTrailers is a sign of the times on the Internet. Rich of ReviewTechUSA, a YouTuber who basically talks about current events while playing video games in what amounts to a one-man mini-podcast, says he’s asked why he doesn’t have a website when he has a loyal audience following him. He says: “Unless you’re under the wing of a major corporation—like Google for example, with YouTube—you don’t have a chance…I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it’s pretty damn close.”
Rich also explains that it’s nigh impossible to start a website, post one’s content to that website, and be able to survive in the current climate because large sites with corporate backing have such a large market share and attract and keep audiences. He also admits that “[he is] part of the problem, too. You just stop going to the websites because everything’s on YouTube.” Rich remembers the days before YouTube’s insane market share and explains sites like GameTrailers, GameSpot, and IGN were where people got game reviews, news, and other gaming related literature. Or just watch his video to hear his thoughts from his mouth.
It sucks when sites like GameTrailers fail for lots of reasons. Part of that is just plain nostalgia. But another, far more worrisome part means the Internet and online communities become a little less diverse, a little less niche, and a little less extraordinary. The lack of competition means it’s tougher for content creators to get noticed and grow their audiences. I still think that YouTube and the Internet in general are a content creator’s haven, but the GameTrailers shut down by a media company bent on profit and profit alone and increasing Internet homogenization makes me wonder for how long this frontier will stay open for content creators trying to plant their homestead before the cyber barons take it all over.
For further reading about GameTrailers, I suggest this article posted on ScrewAttack.