You may believe this or not as you please, but I actually don’t have much use for nostalgia. Some reminiscing about what once was is okay, but it’s very easy to take it too far, and verge off into ridiculous things like, say, claiming that casting a woman as the lead in a movie in a freakishly popular sci-fi film franchise is somehow retroactively ruining your childhood. We have no truck with that.
But we do try to recognize when things really were better. Not to devolve into the kinds of rhetoric our cave-dwelling co-blogger uses, the internet is easily seen to be in a less useful, less interesting state these days. Where it was once easy to Google up a plethora of simple freeware tools for most purposes, now rampant SEO and adverse purposes has made finding even simple tutorials for most computing tasks a maze of scams, farmed content, and even bots. When you do find something, more than likely it’s in the form of a YouTube video. A world of bloggers has largely been superseded, or at least made difficult to find by Google’s accursed algorithms and by social media and Stack Overflow, and a universe of fansites is being pushed into obscurity by Wikipedia’s sleezy cousin Fandom.com. And whatever you thought about the AIM/Yahoo/MSN instant messaging triumvirate, at least they didn’t lock off substantial content from the wider internet within a constellation of Discord servers.
I won’t claim that the older internet was better in every way (anyone remember ubiquitous pop-up ads?) but the lost hopefulness of it is tragic. Set Side B, in its way, hopes to rekindle some of that.
A contributing factor to the decay of the web is the cost in maintaining server space and connectivity. If you want to keep something up, someone has to pay money to run the internet connection, to store the site, and to pay your service provider for an IP address and the registrar for a domain name. Even fairly big sites like our dear departed ancestor GameSetWatch have vanished from the living web, now findable only by wandering the dim shadowlands of the Wayback Machine, and it’s foolish to think that even that will be around forever.
GameSetWatch was backed by UBM Media, now owned by an entity with the perfectly dystopian name Informa. You’d think they would have the pockets to preserve such a fondly remembered part of their legacy, but no.
This is what makes me so pleased that GameSurge survives. I found it, like I did the subject of Monday’s post on the Interton VC 4000, by perusing the results of alternative search engine Wiby, which prioritizes sites with simple designs, on the grounds that they’re more likely to have interesting content. I’m not sure such an approach will scale with popularity, as it seems just as vulnerable to SEO optimizing as Google’s current mobile-friendly regime, but for now at least I’m finding it useful.
GameSurge is not an up-to-the-moment gaming news site. In fact, GameSurge currently hosts an article enthusing about the upcoming Dreamcast game Eternal Arcadia. As near as I can tell, not a byte has changed on the site since around 2005, and that’s just a late updating column. They don’t even acknowledge the existence of the Playstation 2.
And yet, it survives. Someone is still paying the bills. Someone still cares enough to keep the domain name up. It remains, frozen in amber, as it was back in pre-Gamecube days. The site doesn’t even have a favicon. It’s beautiful.
And like all beautiful things, it’s doomed. No one is going to resurrect this site and inhabit it again with new content. If they did, they’d have to change its design to convince Google to give it rank, which would ruin the charm. Whoever keeps it going, they will eventually give up pretending it’s a living thing and turn off the life support. When the lights go out it’ll be a sad day, but not an unexpected one.
So please, enjoy its old-school design sensibilities while you still can. Read their PC gaming strategy guides from the year 2000, and their arcade guides too. Take about two minutes to read their crappy review of Sonic Adventure. Check out their interviews with old PC industry figures, which may actually be a useful resource. There’s also the “Game Guy” column by Mike Walker, which seems to have survived for a while after the demise of the main site; its last article went up in 2005. And peruse its reviews of PC titles like Baldur’s Gate and Black & White.
And when you’re done, why not load up on much more recent gaming news from 1up.com and Joystiq? Geez, with such terrific site names I’m amazed no one’s bought them up and fleshed them out anew. Wait. I’m someone! I could do it! Let me make a call…. Hello? Engadget? I hear you have this domain name you might want to unload. I’ve got… um, 36 cents. Hello? Hello?