Today, nine years ago, I started the Yahoo Group that would become the Internet SENSATION that is GameCola.net. That means that today’s our birthday, and YES, monetary gifts ARE being accepted via PayPal at my e-mail address—thanks for asking!*
To celebrate this most joyous day, we’re giving you a unique peek behind the screen. We’re publishing—for the first time ever—selections from an e-mail thread that GC newcomer Jillian Dingwall started on the official staff mailing list, asking how the GameCola staff came together here, from all corners of the U.S. as well as Canada, England, and Scotland, for the sole purpose of talking about our favorite Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney couples.
Yes, we’re looking at GameCola origin stories today. I didn’t realize before compiling this article how many of them involved physical pain. Enjoy!
Michael Ridgaway (reviewer and author of “Quantum Geek“): Paul will tell you that Vangie and I started when we met Matt Gardner, and he turned us on to writing for the site. The truth is that Paul kidnapped us when I was 13, and he’s been making us write for him ever since. Considering we only post once or twice a month, he’s not a very good jailer.
Nathaniel Hoover (editor, YouTube administrator, comic artist, reviewer, podcaster, and author of “Flash Flood“): I was enjoying a two-month span of absolute boredom at my old job—an educational publishing house that had just about run out of things to publish—and I’d started writing reviews for GameFAQs to fill the time. I must have accidentally made a joke in one of my reviews, because Paul kicked down the door to my house in the middle of the night, flanked by two heavily armed goons, and politely asked if I had any interest in joining the staff. I’ve been alternating between helpfully contributing to the site and trying to take it over/destroy it ever since.
Jeff Day (author of “Gamera Obscura“): How did I get involved in GameCola? Umm…hmmm… Well, I first became relatively involved when I asked if my site could become an affiliate with GameCola…then it was all a blur. I believe I was lured onto Paul’s casting couch…then another blur…then I was writing about a Popeye game for the Super Famicom. Huh? Where am I?
Elizabeth Medina-Gray (editor): I was friends with Matt and Paul, and I’d written a couple of reviews for GameCola and submitted fanart and fanfiction and things like that. When I started working on an adventure game (testgame), Paul convinced me to join the staff and write a monthly article about it. And then I started dating Paul and that was a million years ago and he won’t let me leeeeeeeeave! (I kid.)
While I don’t actually write the monthly testgame article anymore, I love being part of the GC staff and editing and secretly controlling the entire operation by whispering subliminal messages to Paul while he sleeps. What?!
Kevin Leacock (web developer and occasional blogger): I went to high school with Paul. One day, he decided that he wanted to start some kind of online gaming newsletter. I think it was really just to impress me. (It failed, but that doesn’t stop Paul!) He got the worst writers from our school and started e-mailing everybody who looked at him this newsletter. It grew and grew as his writers churned out articles on a monthly basis, and eventually it couldn’t all fit in an e-mail anymore. So Paul comes to me, a qualified web designer, and asks for a favour—he asks me to write a column for him.
I told him again and again to bugger off, but in the end, he swapped me a few sexual favours and I just couldn’t say no. Meanwhile, he opens up FrontPage and makes GameCola a “website” himself. This lasted a little while, with me submitting articles on a when-I-can-be-bothered basis. At some point I made some GameCola forums, and spent a lot of my time running those (we actually had readers and commenters back then), so I stopped writing articles. Finally, in 2009, in return for loaning Paul my hamster, Paul agreed to a full site redesign, so I spent a year working on a new site with Jeddy and Colin’s assistance.
Obviously, Paul still has my hamster, because I was voted Staff Member of the Year for 2010. I HAVEN’T FORGOTTEN, PAUL. I WANT THAT HAMSTER BACK.
Colin Greenhalgh (staff artist): Paul and I actually met in the test tube womb at the Meglocorp military medical compound in the coldest part of Alaska. We were spawned from the same genes, those of Professor Henry Von Richtenbach, the smartest man alive. During this process, the compound was attacked by a secret Russian military organization, and our mitosis was unable to fully complete before the scientists attempted to rescue us from the compound.
That’s right: Paul and I are the same person. What he feels, I feel. What he thinks, I think. When the compound was attacked, we were split up. Separated by time and distance we grew apart, but then he created GameCola and INSTANTLY, I knew of its existence. I started to search the World Wide Web from end to end. In 2005, I found the site.
Under the pen name of “Colin Greenhalgh,” I started writing bad articles for the site. I slowly grew out of touch with writing but used my position to work my way into the heart of GameCola. I now have COMPLETE control over the visuals of the site, and there’s nothing Paul can do to stop me! AHAHAHAAHAHAH! You shall know my revenge as swift implementation of classy, colorful art. BWA-HA, BWA-HA.
Alex Jedraszczak (podcast host): Paul made a post on a game development community on LiveJournal. Back when people actually used LiveJournal. And, I responded! At the time, I had a lame website that I kept while I was in community college, and Paul was impressed that I could actually generate content at all. When I came on, I ended up getting Staff Member of the Year just because I wrote a review every single month. On time. Sadly, that doesn’t cut it anymore, now that I have to compete with people who are actually funny, so I’ve been demoted to Captain Podcast. But, I also have one of those “Real Life” things now, so I don’t have as much time as I did while I was going to school. Oh, for those salad days…!
Christian Porter (reviewer, blogger, podcaster, author of “Top of the Heap,” and creator of “Speak American“): I started with GameCola back in 2007, after my wife saw posts that Paul made spamming various LiveJournal groups with requests for writers for a videogame humor site. She told me it would be good to write for GC and then land a paying gig with another gaming blog like Kotaku in the future. A pretty grandiose plan, considering that her husband’s sense of humor is an unmarketable blend of references to genitals and swearing, but it sounded fun.
I’ve never met any GC staff members in person, although I do own a collection of RealDolls that I had custom built to replicate the whole GameCola team. I had to get a second job just to cover the additional beard fees, but it pays off when cuddletime comes around and I get to dive into a sea of simulated man-whiskers, or at night, when I shoo my wife out to sleep on the floor of my kid’s room and I change them into their jammies, and we all sleep like babies. Goodnight, Paul. Goodnight, Matt. Goodnight, Nathaniel…
Kate Jay (author and illustrator of “The Gates of Life“): I first heard about GameCola from my co-worker, Matt Gardner, and started reading articles, even wrote a review or two as a guest. Then Paul got in touch with me, saying that they were updating the story and style of their choose-your-own-adventure story “The Gates of Life,” and did I want to help with the art? Truth be told, I tried reading the first few chapters, had no idea what was going on, and wasn’t sure I’d be able to understand enough of the storyline to create illustrations that fit the content. Still, we worked on character designs and background histories so that we had a place to start. Then they showed me the new chapters, and they were pretty much over 9,000 times better than the original ones (no offense, guys!).
From Episode 5 of the new “The Gates of Life.”
I’ve since become in charge of both writing and illustration, and I hope to further improve upon the series as a whole, garner some new fans, and maybe get some guest writers in, too. It’s been a pleasure working with and talking to the entire GC staff!
Nikola Suprak (reviewer and author of “Cleverbot Considers” and “Games That Secretly Suck“): Hooray, I’m no longer the newbie of the group! That means I don’t have to carry around the GameCola tablet of shame anymore, right?
I can’t rap or dance, and Paul said we aren’t allowed to use fairytale formats anymore. So you get a mix of haikus and limericks!
There once was a lad named Suprak
Who wrote his reviews in a shack
They were written for free
And read by like three
And ignored en masse by GameFAQs
Although I won gifts.
Once in a great while, that is.
Happiness and pie.
Then along came a man named Paul
Who read my review on Brawl
And out of the blue
Proclaimed “Come join my crew
And hearken my clarion call!”
I quickly agreed.
Although arguments are hard
When you’re at knife point.
And to let you know what’s in store
My fortunes can be seen in a soar
I’ve moved out of my rubble
As my pay is now double
And my readers are now counted as four!
David Donovan (reviewer and author of “The Miner’s Journal“): I’d always thought about writing reviews/top ten lists for GameFAQs but never got around to it. I finally sat down and submitted a top ten list, and within about five minutes of it being posted I received an e-mail from Paul about GameCola. This leads me to believe that Paul had been silently watching me for some time, possibly years, subtly manipulating the circumstances of my life to lead me into his cold, unyielding embrace. I rebel against his unholy love by always meaning to contribute more often but ultimately only getting out one article a month. My defiance gives me a sense of dignity and self, which proves invaluable when Paul makes me accurately recite all the comebacks to the insults from the Monkey Island sword fights as punishment.
Justin Luschinski (reviewer, blogger, and author of “Moddus Operandi“): Justin Luschinski is an enigma wrapped up in a mystery glazed with a conundrum and packed inside an episode of Lost. It’s not known where he came from, or who would dare let this monstrosity into this world, but it’s been said that he was in the test tube right next to Paul Franzen, and was created by compiling different genes from the most successful people in the world to create the greatest human being alive. Everybody from Gabe Newell to Bruce Willis and even the MMA fighter George St. Pierre was spliced into his DNA. This was to give him a chance when he’s leading the human resistance against the cyborg-pandas in the great war of 2012.
This experiment, of course, failed.
Paul went on to eventually come to terms with his dark upbringing and create the best videogame website known to man, while Justin disappeared into the frozen wastes of Canada. Years later, Paul apparently found a letter in the mail that only had the words “Let me join” and several horribly Photoshopped pictures of that time when he drop-kicked a toddler into a trash compactor while wearing a Charlie Chaplain bowling hat and a t-shirt denying the Holocaust. For some reason, Paul believed him, and now Justin writes funny reviews with what little free time he has, though he’s been known to run away to live in the woods for weeks on end. Apparently, he can still play videogames during those times, somehow. It’s not known what consoles polar bears own, but on some cold nights, it’s said that sometimes you can hear Justin crying in the wind. Crying because Sega will never end the Shenmue series properly…
Oh, and he’s also a dumb university student who sort of thinks he’s funny.
And that’s where GameCola comes from.
Side note: Jillian’s response, upon learning that GameCola is a site built of lies, torture, kidnappings, cyborg-pandas, and genetic engineering? “I’m definitely gonna like it here!”
Happy b-day, GC.
* Any and all birthday gifts will be added to GameCola’s advertising fund. Help us buy more fans!