Tag Archives: Polygon

What’s in a Creator?

I visit Daring Fireball, Stratechery, Chorus.fm, and Polygon religiously. I support MacStories, Washed Up Emo, and Relay FM. Their content doesn’t always land for me and I’ve become increasingly less wild about their design. So why do I keep coming back? In a nutshell, it’s the relationship I have with their creators.

I have a background in the podcast industry. What drew me to it was not the business potential or the medium itself, but the intimacy of the format. I was able to develop a pseudo relationship with the voices at the other end. Only ever consuming podcasts in moments solace while commuting or on a jog, the intimacy intensified. I formed such a bond with the voices on the podcasts I listened to that I wanted to support them. In my mind there was no better way than to join the industry.

The same could be said for my want to join the ranks of the news industry — namely the gaming news industry. In 2013, I’d come across Polygon.com — namely their PS4 and Xbox One reviews. I fell in love with their design and the rich content they were producing. It was a stark contrast from my then favorite gaming site IGN.com. Less clutter. Sharper design. Higher quality writing and videos. I became so engaged with the site that I began deep diving into their creators. Allegra Frank, Ben Kuchera, Tracey Lien, Griffin and Justin McElroy, Ashley Oh, Chris Plante, Dave Tach — the list went on.

I began listening to Polygon’s Besties podcast, hosted by Russ Frushtick, Griffin and Justin McElroy, and Chris Plante. Hearing them speak at length, episode after episode, helped me build an intimate, albeit one-sided, relationship with these folks.

And the cherry on top: their custom “Polygon-ified” avatars used on both Polygon.com and Twitter. This made the staff feel like a unit; a family. Many voices that made up a larger whole. Their credit was not mired or obscured as a monolithic publication — one reason I cancelled my subscription to The Economist. Much of their team — and Vox Media CEO Jim Bankoff — still use the avatars today.

Needless to say, I connect to outlets not for the outlet’s sake, but for the creators I enjoy. Mediums such as podcasts and Twitter bring the personality out of the individuals; and on occasion, the latter allows for actual interaction with these them.

Realizing Polygon was (then) one-third of the greater Vox Media, I took to learning about the creators of the other verticals. And as Vox Media grew, so did their rosters.

Dieter Bohn, Lauren Good, Nilay Petal of The Verge. Dan Frommer, Walt Mossberg, and Kara Swisher of Recode. Ezra Klein, Dylan Matthews, Libby Nelson, and Matthew Yglesias of Vox.

Over the weekend, after seeing a tweet and retweet by Vox Media COO Trei Brundrett and CEO Jim Bankoff respectively, I listened to Vox Media publisher Melissa Bell on CNN’s Reliable Sources Podcast with Brian Stelter:

Audiences love our work and they care deeply about our creators. Often times we see them asking our creators, “do have a Pateeon account? Is there a way we can donate money to continue to contribute to your sites? Can we participate in the journalism in some way?”

We want to explore those options for sure. We want to make sure we’re building a business that supports our creators. We’ll be looking at every business model as we grow.

I certainly don’t know how much of this is true while not working within the walls of the company, but it’s certainly something I’ve felt as an audience member and fan.

Since reading Polygon in 2013, I’ve been a fan and critic of Vox Media. They’ve made great technological choices, and some questionable ad and social integrations. But more than anything, they put a focus on their talent. Their creators aren’t just a byline — assuming those stick around. They are featured in their text, audio, and video. Their engaging — and often times incredibly long — features are showcased on other Vox Media verticals. And talent from one outlet will appear on another’s podcast.

I have asked several Vox Media staff if I can somehow, someway contribute — donate through their sites or via Patreon; hell, publish print and take a margin. I want these creators to succeed! And I want the platform that gives them such a voice to be bolstered. I haven’t seen anything concrete yet, but I did buy Polygon’s 500 Years Later: An Oral History of Final Fantasy VII by Matt Leone as soon as it went up for pre-order.

I feel I have a connection and loyalty to Vox Media’s creators first, their sites second; much like I do for independents John Gruber (Daring Fireball), Ben Thompson (Stratechery), Jason Tate (Chorus.fm), Tom Mullen (Washed Up Emo), and others. It’s the talent that always brings me back. And I’ll continue to do everything in my power to support the creators.

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Griffin and Justin McElroy Depart Polygon

Griffin McElroy, Polygon:

With that sage wisdom in mind, it’s time for us — Griffin and Justin, who have, for the purposes of this introduction, fused into a singular, fraternal hivemind — to announce some big and bittersweet news: This Friday will be our last day as full-time employees at Polygon.

We’ve written our own individual letters below, but understand that everyone’s attention span might not sustain them through both; especially now that you know we’re leaving, and our relevance to you slips away like so many grains of sand through the hourglass. So, here’s a TL;DR, as the kids say: We’re leaving to focus on our other projects, and to have more time to live functional human lives. We’re gonna keep doing Monster Factory on some kind of recurring basis, as well as a couple other of our pre-existing Polygon projects. Our departure is completely amicable — so, SORRY, beef-hunters. No beef to be found here. This exit is strictly vegetarian.

Now that we’ve spoiled all the big surprises, here’s our individual takes. Thank you all so much.

This one hurts.

When my wife and I moved to San Francisco for my job, I felt alone when outside of her company. On my commute or wandering the city, I’d listen to Polygon’s The Besties with Griffin and Justin McElroy, Russ Frushtick, and Chris Plante. Their humor and camaraderie comforted me. On one episode, I caught wind that Griffin and Justin had another podcast: My Brother, My Brother, and Me. It was a treasure trove of wit and goofs; things that helped me through my days.

Even with their plethora of amazing and innovative endeavors outside of games journalism, I will always associate Griffin and Justin with Polygon. They’re perspectives and writing are exceptional. I always looked forward to their articles.

But the writing was on the wall. Their bylines on Polygon.com appeared with decreasing frequency, while their amount of “side-projects” began to seemingly multiply.

In their departure letters, they both reflect on Polygon’s editor-in-chief Chris Grant’s friendship — how he helped kick off their games journalism journey. It’s amazing to see how much adoration is paid to Grant for his support and willingness to allow them to balance their dream job while pursuing other endeavors.

The piece of this news that hits the hardest comes from Justin’s letter. It speaks to the heart and humanity I believe the folks behind Polygon harbor. It also speaks to why I write Zero Counts and the countless other blogs I left in its wake:

So for years, I wrote for myself. I created and maintained no fewer than three different blogs with a readership of, statistically speaking, nobody. I pitched myself to every major gaming site and magazine and was ignored by all of them. But I kept applying, kept pitching, and was eventually ignored by almost all of them. After a few years, I was able to cobble something that looked like a resume in dim light, and things got a bit easier.

The call that changed my life though came from Chris Grant, the EIC of Joystiq who remembered liking my submissions when I had applied for a job (six months prior, didn’t get it, natch). He was reminded of my existence after I emailed him trying to get Joystiq to post about some videos I had made about a laserdisc lightgun game featuring prop comedian Gallagher. I owe Gallagher so much that I’ll never be able to repay.

I’m happy for Griffin and Justin and look forward to supporting their other adventures. But this one hurts.

Godspeed, boys.

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Why I love video games

Chris Plante in his first piece since returning to Polygon:

I love video games, but what I might love more is the opportunity I’ve had over the last decade to share the imperfect games with other people, people who might have otherwise passed them on their occasional visit to GameStop in search of Madden or Destiny, Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty. I like finding greatness in the world’s biggest games, too, but I recognize they set an expectation of polish and scope that so many games can’t match. When I criticize a game, I do so to set expectations, to provide context, to interrogate what doesn’t work and to shine a light on what does.

This is exactly how I used to approach music and how I currently approach books. With music, it used to be a mainstream vs. indie thing, but I’ve learned to appreciate the big budget works for what they’re worth as well. With books, it’s less about popularity and more about topics—granularity.

In any case, it’s great to see Plante back at it. A stellar writer and critic. We’re lucky to read his work.

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Brian Crecente says Goodbye to Polygon

Brian Crecente:

So I wrapped things up at Kotaku and joined Grant and crew to help launch Polygon. Then somehow five years whipped by and before I knew it I went from covering presidential press conferences and breaking news on new games to spending my days writing about esoteric pinball machines or the state of gaming and game culture in Cuba.

When Rolling Stone contacted me about joining the magazine on its 50th anniversary, I simply couldn’t say no. I’ve spent more than a dozen years talking about how I wanted to build the Rolling Stone of gaming publications. Where better to do that then at Rolling Stone?

I’ve always looked forward to Brian’s work on Zero Counts was founded upon a very similar message.

Glixel (Rolling Stone’s gaming vertical) has been publishing some spectacular pieces as of late. I’m very excited to see how Brian’s legacy and institutional knowledge from Kotaku and Polygon bolster Glixel.

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The Second Console

Polygon’s newly relaunched Besties podcast, January 2017 episode:

Chris Plante: If indie game developers care and the make “the switch” from Vita to this hardware, I’ll care. Obviously, that wasn’t enough to save the Vita, so I don’t see that as a big thing for other people.

Griffin McElroy: I think that’s a wack comparison.

CP: The Wii U had some of the best Nintendo games and that wasn’t even close to enough to get people interested.

Russ Frushtick: Consider that the Vita died primarily because Sony was dividing their time and energy between the PS4 and the Vita and they eventually gave up. Indies filled in a lot of the blanks, but the most part they just gave up and third-parties gave up, etc. Here Nintendo’s obviously not going to give up because it’s their primary console now.

CP: They won’t give up unless nobody buys it, which is a very real possibility if there are no games from Nintendo or third-party studios.

RF: There are certainly two to three years of Nintendo games pretty much guaranteed.

CP: But like I said, that’s not enough. That just doesn’t work at all for Nintendo. When it doesn’t have third-party developers and it doesn’t have a mainstream gimmick—something that’s going to make people who watch the TODAY Show be like, “Well, I’ve never bought a video game console, but I’ll try this,” then it doesn’t have it.

GM: It’s not going to be the Wii. It’ll never be the Wii. They’ll never do the Wii ever again.

RF: The Wii was an aberration.

CP: That’s a for real problem for them. The thing that they have to [face] right now is, “We are the second console.” If they truly don’t get third-party support and they only have a new game every five or six months—let’s be super generous and say three—then that is a second console for people, which is big money. And unlike the Wii U, which only had to be competing as a second console against people who maybe already owned an Xbox and instead of a PS4 they might buy a Wii U. Now they have to compete with the fact that Microsoft and Sony are going to be releasing new hardware, what, every year? Every other year?

Leave it to Chris Plante to shake me from my Switch hype hypnosis. And I’m glad he did.

I am very much looking forward to the Switch, but Nintendo certainly does not have an easy road ahead of them.

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The Besties Are Back

Polygon:

Though we still don’t have a great explanation as to why, the first ever Polygon podcast has returned on a monthly basis. Join The Besties (Russ Frushtick, Griffin McElroy, Justin McElroy and Chris Plante) as they nonsensically attempt to pick the “best” game released in January 2017.

I was introduced to The Besties when I moved to San Francisco in 2013. Any time I was walking the city, out on a jog, or commuting to work, there was a fair chance I was listening to The Besties. Their comradely and banter provided me company during those moments when my wife was away. (Such is the power of podcasts!)

Over the past two years, what was a monthly show turned annual. This surprise relaunch of the monthly cadence is just what I, nay the world needs right now.

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Polygon’s 2016 Games of the Year

I’m proud to say that I played three of the 10 games chosen as Polygon’s 2016 Games of the Year, my reviews of which you can find below:

I also played Uncharted 4, which I thought to have a profoundly moving story and absolutely stunning visuals. My review, which somehow finds room to discuss Mega Man 7 and 2016’s atrocious Warcraft film, can be found here.

Also of note, Pokemon Go took the world by storm, something unprecedented in video games since the Wii. It may have seemed ambitious to deem it Game of the Year in July, but I’ll argue that due to its cultural impact, I wasn’t wrong.

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Polygon Skips Star Wars: Battlefront Review Event

Polygon:

Review events are a reality of the industry, and in the case of multiplayer-oriented titles, they make sense — it’s very difficult to organize 20-40 people in different locations remotely at the same time, and we introduced provisional reviews this year to account for server uncertainty. We’ve attended review events this year when it made sense to do so, including events for Call of Duty: Black Ops 3Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain and even Battlefield Hardline.

But we will not participate in review events that tie our hands in ways that restrict us well after the general public has full access to the game in question. With that in mind, we’ll be playing the full version of Star Wars Battlefront on EA Access this week, along with many of you, without support from EA. As we have not agreed to any advance access or accepted any coverage restrictions, our provisional review will be live once we are confident in the opinions of our pair of reviewers.

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Provisional Reviews on Polygon

Arthur Gies:

Whatever factors were preventing publishers and developers from setting their games loose upon consumers in an unfinished state have become less pressing, apparently. I’m not actually interested in calling any particular publisher or platform holder out here, as I don’t think I have enough fingers to point at them all. The point is, simply, that it’s becoming harder and harder to know, even on release day, if a game will function on day one, two, three or indefinitely.

I don’t think this is going away. In fact, for the time being, I am absolutely positive it won’t. It will be some time before publishers get the hint that this isn’t ok, where they move beyond lip service about “making it right” and actually start doing the right thing and delaying games that aren’t in a state fit to be sold. I don’t know what it will take for this to happen. I don’t know what the final straw will be for consumers to push back.

That said, I think there’s more we can do to serve our audience and offer some modicum of caution and warning about games we have reservations about.

Like clocks and cars, video games are two-fold: wondrous products made functional by mechanical innards. Video games are at once magical experiences full of narrative, music, design, and animations; at the same time highly mechanical, dynamic pieces of software full of the nuts and bolts of computer science.

Playing a video game is an individual, singular experience. As Griffin McElroy has stated before, “games by their very nature are interactive, meaning… your experience playing the game is going to be different.” Therefore, the critique of a video game’s artistry (design, narrative, visuals, music, etc.) should hold little weight to an individual. Where a video game’s critique should be heavily considered is it’s functionality. If a manufacturer isn’t going to hold up their end of the consumer protection bargain (or be bad business, even better if the outlets can forewarn.

I am excited by this stance from Polygon. Video games are artistic illusions that only work if they are fully functional. If the undying mechanics are broken, the illusion is broken, too.

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‘Vox Media Valued at Nearly $400 Million After Investment’

The New York Times:

Anton Levy, head of General Atlantic’s Internet and technology team, said his firm — like other investors — had typically avoided content creators like Vox in favor of platforms with many capabilities like Facebook and Alibaba. Lately, he said, the firm has had a change of heart.

“We think we are at an inflection point,” he said. “For the next five years, you are going to have the next generation of media platforms emerge. There are parallels to cable in the ’80s. There is going to be a huge amount of value creation.”

The chief executive of Vox Media, Jim Bankoff, has made no secret of his ambition to build his company into a kind of Time Inc. of the 21st century; that is, a multipublication giant with reach into young, affluent homes across the country on topics as diverse as sports and real estate.

The moment I laid eyes on Polygon, I was taken aback by its noisy design, overblown articles, nondescript headlines…

And then it scrolled forever. And ads were limited or nicely designed. And its design reacted to my device in real-time. And the features featured unique layouts. And the video production was on another level. And the “nondescript” headlines were enticing. And the “overblown” articles were full of fantastic journalism and entertaining personality. And the “noisy” design was unlike anything I had ever seen.

I latched on to Polygon’s community and began posting lengthy, passion fueled comments. I realized that these were not comments, they were blog posts. I used those “comments” as the foundation for a new WordPress blog titled The State of Gaming, which I later renamed Zero Counts.

From Polygon to The Verge to Vox.com, Vox Media has changed the way I consume content. Every article includes something of interest. Every layout choice is surprising and exciting. Their dedication to personality, engineering, and design is second-to-none. Congratulations, Vox Media. I saw this coming from a coast away.

UPDATE: Polygon editor-in-chief Chris Grant has sent out the following tweet:

It’s so great to read about this success. Great job, Polygon Team.

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