The Off Year

As we all know, December 27th is the anniversary of the founding of Gold-Plated Games, the moment when the little reviews and impressions I pushed into the great cloud of the Steam community gained a name. From there, Gold-Plated Games became many things: a curation page, a website, a Twitch channel, and a Discord community. It’s also been something very elemental to me, namely the focus of my creative energies and what I hope to one day be a functional career for myself. While none of these roles and perspectives have changed, 2020 has shaped their evolution significantly, bringing some of them to the forefront while suppressing others.

Looking back, it’s funny that I chose the 2019 recap to focus on the community that had grown around GPG. It was, of course, the most significant development of that year, but little did I know it would become so much more significant in the year that would follow. I’ve been holed up in my house with my wife and kids for nine months, with only video calls between family and co-workers for variety. As this isolation dragged on, the livestreams on Twitch became more and more important. They were my one outlet for broader socializing, the chance to sit down and play games with a group of friends long enough to forget about the rest of the world when we wanted, or pick apart its problems in bolder moments. My reliance on streaming for stability has only grown over time, as my remote work has ticked up in intensity and I’ve added remote schooling for my children to my daily routine.

The tradeoff, unfortunately, was my review schedule. The backbone of GPG was always the lengthy reviews I would compose and post here every week, along with Weeklong Deals and the occasional special feature. Under the pressures of quarantine, reviews came to feel like the very opposite of streaming: isolating and stressful. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always loved writing reviews, and even now it’s a creative outlet I miss dearly. But with days full of managing my own work and keeping my kids busy and educated, my nights became a choice between playing games with friends or writing alone in my room. The choice was clear, and that choice has probably saved me from a few breakdowns and burnouts over the last few months.

This is all mostly information you already know, which is a rather succinct summary of 2020 at GPG, really. Things changed this year, and the pressures of those changes caused us to shift towards streaming and away from reviewing. That happened months ago, and just as the world is still in the throes of chaos, we’re still in that same position. I could talk about how the website is still holding parity with last year in traffic, despite receiving half as much content. Or I could talk about the growth our Twitch channel has seen, in its fits and starts. But this wasn’t really a year about growing, or even succeeding. This was a year about surviving. Never before in our lives have we faced the trials we have in 2020, and honestly it feels like a gamble to look much past simply overcoming those trials.

I always think back on the beginning of the pandemic, back in the spring, when lockdowns and sheltering were first announced. I remember many of the creative types I follow online talking about how this would be great for their focus, or how they’d finally be able to start or finish their projects. The truth turned out to be entirely the opposite, with isolation and dire news chipping away at the stability needed for creative endeavors. It became clear that this was not some special opportunity to advance, but rather a new challenge to overcome just to keep doing what we were doing. I found a way through the storm, and it only took sacrificing half of my creative output.

Is this too somber for an anniversary recap? Even with everything going on, I can still start every stream with a smile. I still look forward to every stream, every post on our Discord, and every new view on my old reviews. The point of this is not actually to belabor the struggles we’ve had this year, but to celebrate the fact that we made it. Gold-Plated Games turns five today, and while it’s not the birthday I would have chosen for it, it’s a birthday. I’ll be here every night (except Sundays) streaming new games with all of you. I’ll still be posting Weeklong Deals every week that we have them, even if it’s a few days late. And sometime in 2021, I’ll have a new review for you to read, hopefully followed by many more. This year was about surviving, and Gold-Plated Games has survived. And in a way, I’ve survived because of Gold-Plated Games.

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