In November of 2008 I wrote a listicle for this website called Top 5 Videogame Websites For The Thinking Gamer. As the title suggests, I turned the spotlight on a handful of my favorite gaming websites—some popular, some a bit more obscure—that engage the mind and don’t merely apply shock paddles to the frontal lobe with bright colors and busy page design. The website I placed in the #1 spot was a promising upstart called Crispy Gamer.
This was the games site I’d dreamed about—a place where the why of videogames was explored and not simply the how, a place where writers engaged their audience in thoughtful dialogue in each article’s comment section, a place where it was okay for writers to be irreverent, erudite and zealous about the entertainment medium they adored. Unfortunately my frequent visits didn’t nudge the site traffic’s line graph to a level acceptable to investors. Word emerged last Thursday that the board of directors had shit-canned Crispy’s entire editorial staff and announced their intention of turning the site into a "games-related ad network." Huh?
To borrow one of my dad’s phrases, “I’m so mad I could spit.” Actually, no, I’m just frustrated and sad that we live in a world where bad things happen to good editorial products.
I found out about the site from Crispy’s own senior writer Scott Jones, whom I first met in Las Vegas at a 2006 videogame junket for Capcom’s Lost Planet. I had just recently launched Paste’s videogame section and hardly knew anyone working in the industry. While the other journalists in attendance—who seemed to know each other quite well—were busy yucking it up over The Venetian Hotel’s sandwich buffet, I felt nervous and self-conscious and out of place. Jones seemed to know everyone, but that didn’t keep him from reaching out and making me feel like part of the club. He was smart, funny, engaging and knew videogames back to front. All of those same things could be said about Crispy Gamer.
Even though Crispy published some wonderful features—notably the recent contributions from journalist Tom Bissell, including a treatise on the preoccupation with spoilers in videogame writing —my favorite pieces were always the reviews. Reading Crispy’s reviews felt like gobbling down the most delicious junkfood imaginable and then realizing you'd been tricked into eating a highly nutritious serving of organic vegetable casserole with essential vitamins and minerals.
The site's so-called Game Trust writers inspired precisely that. Contributors could just make you weep with the clarity of their prose. The ideas being discussed were tenaciously novel and compelling. Reviewers unspooled just enough personal biography to illuminate their own human connection to the game in question. After all, games aren’t played in a vacuum. They become part of our lives. Crispy writers were generous with themselves.
Before signing off, I’d just like to offer a fond thank you to the staffers who made Crispy Gamer such a remarkable publication: Scott Jones, John Teti, Evan Narcisse, James Fudge, Kyle Orland, Ryan Kuo and Elise Vogel. Your contributions to the world of videogame journalism challenged and inspired my own work here at Paste. And I can’t imagine people with such enviable levels of talent will be unemployed very long. Take heart: you've got unlimited continues.
Jason Killingsworth is Paste’s games editor. He is based in Dublin, Ireland, and writes about music, film, tech and games for a variety of outlets. You can reach him online at jason [at] pastemagazine.com.