We’re still searching for old game info sites that are still up in 2023. Another couple of use are Video Game Maps, last updated in 2007 but still available, and Revned’s Video Game Maps, which saw its last edit in 2016, but is mirrored on Github.
For the past 20 years it’s felt like any game information you could ever hope to find is out there on the World Wide Web, somewhere, but as both the people who grew up playing these games grow old, and the drive and motivation to start and maintain websites has diminished with the popularity of social media, this is increasingly no longer the case. Sometimes you can find vanished websites on the Wayback Machine, but it’s a lot harder to find things there, Wayback often misses images, their web archives are often incomplete, and server-side scripts are broken by archiving so dynamic content is usually dead, the page contents locked in the state it was at when the time of archival.
I love finding something on the internet that still exists after decades, and one such site is Kurt Kalata’s The Castlevania Dungeon (“This site uses HTML and CSS”) which, surprisingly, updated again last year, nine years after its previous update. Although, it was mostly a catch-up post just to let the world know it probably wouldn’t be updating again.
Kurt has moved on to Hardcore Gaming 101 since then, which build an amazing repository of classic gaming information, tore it all down, and built it up again. Meanwhile the Dungeon continues carrying all kinds of useful information on 35 years’ worth of games.
The Forum gives a Bad Gateway error, it is true, and of the main sites on the Links page only five of the 16 still work -one of the broken ones is the site for Konami of Japan. The internal pages other than the forum seem to work though. They lists all the games, has pages for artwork and music, and tries to untangle the storyline. It has a collection of fan fiction. It even hosts a few shrines to individual games, with an entertainingly lo-fi shrine to Aria of Sorrow.
This is what the web was about, in the early days, and, I think, it’s still among what it’s best at.
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 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?