It's been a great year for USgamer. It's also been a year of transition.
Back in January I formally took the reins from my mentor Jeremy Parish. In the months that followed, I hired Caty McCarthy and Matt Kim in San Francisco, and Tom Orry and Hirun Cryer in the UK. With Jaz leaving at the end of April, more than half our team was turned over in the span of just four months.
While all this was happening, gaming was moving faster than ever. The Switch exploded on to the scene with Breath of the Wild—possibly the best Zelda game ever made (if not, it's in the conversation). EA shot itself in the foot with the Mass Effect Andromeda (a precursor for things to come). And we… uh… didn't like Horizon Zero Dawn very much.
We survived this trial by fire, and our team really came together at E3 2017. The latter half the year saw a host of great features from Caty (this Mortal Kombat retrospective is a particular favorite of mine); Matt's maturation into a great breaking news writer, and the revival of our flagship podcast. Nadia and Mike also continued to bring their own unique qualities to the team. Mike works harder than anyone I've ever seen—I'm not entirely certain that dude sleeps—while Nadia is also the funniest and one of the most passionate writers at any gaming publication anywhere. Paired with the tireless work of Tom and Hirun on the guides side, we were able to see record traffic through the fall. November 2017 was our best month ever.
I'm proud of what this team has accomplished, and I'm excited for what the new year holds. Until then, here are some of our favorite articles from throughout 2017. Please enjoy, and thank you for your continued support of USgamer.
- The Last Days of Black Isle Studios
- The Making of Fallout: New Vegas
- Down With Grinding
- The World Ends With You After 10 Years
- The Early Days of StarCraft
When you take over as Editor-in-Chief, you naturally have a lot less time for writing. Nevertheless, I pitched in as best I could around the topic that I love most: RPGs. I interviewed Katsura Hashino, Josh Sawyer, and Toshiro Kondo. On top of that I revisited the early days of StarCraft with Blizzard's Bob Fitch while railing against the assertion that Skyrim is the best RPG ever made.
With a very capable team now in place, I will be increasingly stepping behind the curtain as Caty, Nadia, Mike, and Matt capably handle the day-to-day of the editorial. But I'm nevertheless proud of my exploration of the final days of Black Isle Studios; my dive into Chrono Trigger via Axe of the Blood God, and my in-depth Fallout: New Vegas retrospective. I may be busy playing manager, but I hope I can find some time to hit that standard again in 2018.
- Wonder Boy: Omar Cornut Is Building His Own Miracle World
- Far Cry 5: The Personality Of A Cult
- Finding Resident Evil Again Requires Letting Go Of Resident Evil
- Git Gud: On Games Journalists and Being Good At Video Games
- PewDiePie And The Effect Of Speech Meeting Reality
I am the oldest USgamer staffer. Not the oldest in terms of age, but I'm the only one on the current team who was here when we kicked this thing off. Jaz, Jeremy, Cass, Pete, and Bob; everyone else has moved on to some other success. I started as an Associate Editor, then Staff Writer, then News Editor. Currently, I'm USgamer's Reviews Editor.
I've always taken it as a personal failing that I'm not more of an emotive writer. This was true since the site's launch and it remains true today. I was originally a news guy over at Gamesindustry.biz and before that I was a Technical Writer. I don't really have Kat's strong conviction, Caty's panache for storytelling, Nadia's quick wit, or Matt's way with words. I am more robot than man; my strengths tend to lean towards explanations and context.
My chosen articles largely reflect this, all being some flavor of "This is a thing that happened, this is why it matters." My lack of more emotional content is something I'm always trying to correct, but it's more of a process. The emotions I do have tend to come out on The USgamer Podcast and USgamer Lunch Hour streams, so I'm not all dead inside.
All in all, it's almost 2018 and I get paid to write about video games. I'd say that means I have a pretty good life. I hope I can continue to provide you folks joy and context in the new year.
- Night in the Woods' Scariest Monster is the War Between Boomers and Millennials
- There's More to Pyra—and Xenoblade Chronicles 2—than a Sexy Fanservice Outfit
- SNES Classic Edition Game-by-Game Reviews: Every Review of Every SNES Classic Game
- Murder, Dysfunctional Families, and Purple Guys: The Larger Story Behind the Five Nights at Freddy's Games
- 2017 Nintendo World Championships Report: Nadia Watches the World's Best Gamers Struggle for Supremacy
It's been my absolute pleasure to be with USgamer for another year. We grew tremendously over 2017, and much of that is owed to our EiC, Kat. She fell into the role as smoothly as an anvil falling onto the Coyote's head.
(I'm not an editor, which means I'm still allowed to write shudder-inducing similes. I know I shouldn't, but I can't help myself.)
My role at USgamer is a tad blurry; I do a little bit of everything, from reviews to opinions to news and the podcasts. My undefined role at the site let me branch out and write some fun stuff. I wrote a piece about Night in the Woods' clash of generations that's become increasingly relevant as Millennials continue to struggle for a foothold. I struck a lot of nerves with my piece about Pyra from Xenoblade, and I did my duty to society by untangling the Five Nights at Freddy's lore. That is getting a massive update after the holidays, by the way, since Five Nights at Freddy's 6 changed up the lore again (and actually tied up some loose ends), but I still think it's a fun piece, and I enjoyed writing it.
Finally, two particularly big projects I took on this year: I reviewed every game on the SNES Classic Edition (barring Super Metroid, which was reviewed by Mr Parish), and I covered the Nintendo World Championships in New York City.
Great times. Thank you for following us. Have an incredible holiday, and see you in 2018!
- Kotori Yoshimura and Star Cruiser: How Twitter Revived a Piece of Japanese Gaming History
- Fortnite's Pivot to Battle Royale Has Split the Community in Two
- Rainbow Six Sige's Newest DLC is One of the Best Video Game Representations of South Korea
- How a Culture of Crunch Brought Telltale From Critical Darlings to Layoffs
- Overwatch Devs Discuss Moira, Blizzard World, and Which Overwatch Heroes Play Warcraft
This is my first year with USgamer so there was bound to be some exploration regarding my role at this website and what I could contribute. As the resident news guy, I moved away from the features and essays I built my writing career on and pivoted towards more investigative pieces of reporting.
As such, I collected five articles I'm particularly proud of this year and hope to bring you more of next year. They include in-depth dives into community stories like my report on Japanese developer Kotori Yoshimura, or the schism that split Epic's Fortnite community in two. There's also serious matters such as the layoffs at Telltale, which I believe is important for us to cover as games journalists to help establish a strong and independent games press.
There are also opportunities for fun little tidbits. My interview at BlizzCon with the Overwatch dev team unearthed some fun in-universe canons. And I got to preview Rainbow Six Siege, a game I wasn't very familiar with, from a personal perspective.
Here's to 2018 and more great articles from all of us at USgamer.
- Get Over Here: Meeting the Faces of Mortal Kombat, 25 Years Later
- The People Who Never Gave up on Sonic: A Deep Dive Into the Most Curious (and Passionate) Fandom on the Internet
- Nier: Automata and the Illusion of Survival
- Meeting PlayerUnknown, and the Fiction that Inspired the Year's Biggest Surprise Hit
- The Real-World Problems Behind Persona 5
Choosing just five pieces that I was proud of from this year was a grueling task, which I should take as a good thing. My "honorable mentions" includes about ten more stories, including talking to game designer Robert Yang about coding games progressively, writing a three-part series on Tokyo Jungle about five years too late, penning a fevered defense of Persona 3's Tartarus, accidentally stumbling upon an in-production game with a stellar team behind it (including artist Travis Millard and the creator of the cartoon Sanjay and Craig) on Instagram and tracking down its well-known creators, researching the VR revival of Kowloon's Gate knowing it will never be localized. And wow, I could go on.
Overall, this has been a really exciting year for me. I left my bad job (I won't dwell on that), and Kat descended like an angel in my time of need out of nowhere. It felt like fate, honestly.
Out of all the stories I wrote this year, the five listed above are my absolute favorites. In October, I tracked down (most) of the actors behind the original Mortal Kombat, only to discover they were once a tight knit group of friends who played D&D before becoming fighting game superstars. Around the release of Sonic Mania, I spoke with a bunch of creative Sonic fans to learn what kept the fandom so alive over the years, even in the face of critically panned games. I wrote about Nier: Automata, my favorite game of the year, extensively; my favorite piece of them was the one above. I spoke with PlayerUnknown himself over Skype, and after my original very-cool plan to play PUBG and report on our adventure together fell through (he said it might be hard to actually chat while doing that; and to be fair, it really would have), we instead talked about the game's pointed inspiration: the film Battle Royale.
Yet my absolute favorite story I did this year was one of the ones I worked the longest on. While I was playing Persona 5, I saw myself researching a lot about the conflicts that were happening in it, only to find they paralleled a lot of real-life issues in Japan. I saw a friend tweeting about the similarities too, which led me on one of the biggest research tasks of my career. My original (and very rough) draft for "The Real World Problems Behind Persona 5" was around 8,000 words. Luckily, editing saved it and made it focused. I'm probably the worst offender of being my own worst critic, but even months later, I'm actually still pretty proud of that one. (I can hear it now, somewhere out there Kendrick Lamar is saying, "Bitch, be humble.")
I look forward to expanding my role both in writing and helping curate features for USgamer in 2018, and I'm very excited about what's on the horizon! Happy new year everyone, and thanks for reading!
A Special Thanks to Our Freelancers
About half way through the year, I stepped forward to help out Kat in handling freelance stuff. That meant receiving pitches, discussing articles, doubling down on edits. We're a small site here at USgamer, with an even smaller capacity for freelance pieces. That means we have to be very choosy, and luckily, it hasn't failed us this far: this has been an amazing year for freelance contributors on the site. Whether it was saying hi to old, familiar faces or bringing in new voices, I hope that USgamer can only grow as an outlet for freelancers to turn to in 2018. After all, I was in those same shoes not long ago. Keep kickin' ass freelancers, whether you've written for our site yet or not, you all rule.
Here's just a small selection of the great freelance stories we published this year, from our old friend and former Editor-in-Chief Jeremy Parish contributing a great ongoing series called Design in Action, to new voices writing for the site for the first time like Nicole Carpenter and Blake Hester. It was a great year for USgamer and growing our ever-increasing freelance pool, and we only hope it gets bigger in 2018.
- "From Busted Teeth to Broken TVs: The Oral History of Tony Hawk's Underground" by Blake Hester
- "The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Shouldn't Be This Good" by Doc Burford
- "The Indie Game Unsuccess Story: How the Creators of The Magic Circle Survived Their Own Gaming Nightmare" by Ed Smith
- "Final Fantasy VII: A Six-Part Deep Dive Into Square's RPG Classic" by Jeremy Parish
- "Make it Biblical: How Vagrant Story Changed Game Localization" by John Learned
- "The All-Consuming Emotions of Food in Video Games" by Nicole Carpenter
- "How Assassin's Creed Origins Captures the Politics, Colonialism, and Betrayal of the Real Ancient Egypt" by Reid McCarter
- "Sega's Time Machine: How Sonic Mania and More Signal a Return to Sega's Glory Days" by Zack Kotzer