was an experiment in every sense of the word. Launched
on November 17th, 2003, it was one of the first sites to be completely
driven by users. It predated sites such as Digg
and Reddit (founded in 2004 and
2005 respectively) that would later use the user-driven news model
as a basis for their web traffic.
GameDreamZ.com was not as refined or as successful as these sites.
With a budget of only 900 dollars, GameDreamZ.com was conceived by
Adrian Talamantes and me
in early 2003 as an answer to biased gaming journalism. We figured
that if users could post video game news and have the ability to link
directly to any source, the delivery of said news would be more equitable.
So, with no coding experience whatsoever, we posted a link on Neowin
in search of a capable programmer.
Not many programmers are willing to build an entire system for less
than a thousand dollars. But one person was willing to do the task.
His name was John Smith
and his goal was to program the entire site in an aging code called
PERL. Although we were skeptical at first, John was able to convince
us that the site would run quickly and it would be stable. We agreed.
back at this, I now know how much John did for us for minimal pay.
Recently, I finished a degree in Management Information Systems. If
someone were to ask me to code a complex system similar to what John
coded for GameDreamZ for only 900 dollars, I’d tell them to
go f&%$ themselves. Quite simply put, it was a ton of work. We
put John through the ringer. He integrated our html designs into his
modules, he created a unified log-in for the site that incorporated
our VBulletin forum login, and he dealt with our incessant questions
and changes. John: If you’re reading this, thank you.
last screen cap of the site:
I was going to design the website on my own. Unfortunately, the extent
of my designer skills at the time was being able to use the gradient
tool in Photoshop. In 2003, I met an energetic person by the name
of MrXbob on the Team Xbox
forums. Not only was he a superb designer, he was also willing to
administer the majority of the site. To say that the site would not
have been possible without MrXbob would be an understatement. Despite
his leanings towards all things Xbox (he hated Sony products with
a passion), MrXbob proved to be a crucial contributor to the design
of GameDreamZ, as well as the articles, reviews, and forums within.
mockup for City of Villains promo
we were first planning to launch the site, Adrian and I decided we
wanted a hook. We eventually settled on the idea of gearing our content
more towards video game rumors and scoops.
surfing the web, I found a rumor reporter by the name of The Hedgehog
who posted a column called the “Hedgehog Network” on various
Xbox sites. With a little research, we found that a majority of his
rumors actually came true. So we approached him and gave him whatever
money we had left in the pot to write reviews for the first 6 months
of the site's launch (this ROYALLY pissed off the owners of the site
he was working for at the time). Hedgehog agreed. When the money ran
out, Hedgehog (thankfully) agreed to stay and report rumors and news
for free. Later, he would partner up with Jarbo (another GameDreamZ
team member) and launch Twisted
Joystick, a video game news podcast. Hedgehog quickly became the
voice of GameDreamZ and helped catapult the website to its eventual
stardom. He also kept the bathtub warm during
and I, during one of our many different pow-wow sessions, also decided
we needed a mascot.
visiting GameFaqs, I found an artist by the name of Sama (from Brazil)
who had submitted Silent
Hill 3 fan art to the forums. Almost instantly, I fell in love
with his art style. We sent Sama a query to build “Cammy”
(named after the Street Fighter character), our future GameDreamZ
mascot. After he showed us a
sample, we were sold. Sama was instructed to make a gamer girl
with green hair, cat ears, and a GameDreamZ.com T-shirt. Although
Cammy’s description was a cliché of every anime character
in hentai or otherwise, Sama ran with it and a legend was born.
E3, Sama was found chasing booth babes and eating American food. He
probably gained 50 pounds
during his trip, but it was worth it.
Cammy was made into a robot to greet visitors on the site. Hilarious
chat logs would ensue.
rest of the staff included Jarbo, a filmmaker
from San Diego, Deja, a moderator from the old PSO Explorer site,
and some other contributors, including Richard Bentley, Calistarwind,
Jerry Mackenzie, Mike Cook, Richie Corelli, Michel Dupont, Shivadee,
Dustin Kade Respondek, Bad Donna, Chris Barton, and Jason Lethert.
order to coordinate people from around the globe, a crude, make-shift
WBS (Work Breakdown
Structure) was created and distributed via an email list. This was
my first experience at project management. Now that I have taken actual
courses in project management, I can now say that things went entirely
too smoothly during the initial construction of GameDreamZ.
Despite archaic project tools, deadlines were met and requirements
were fulfilled. The site launched successfully on November 17th 2003.
it was an immediate success. During 2004, monthly traffic exceeded
the one million mark mostly as a result of a comic
by Penny Arcade where they ripped
us a new asshole.
Penny Arcade had identified what the site had become. Due to the anonymous
nature of posts and the reporting bias geared towards rumors, GameDreamZ.com
quickly earned the label of the armpit of the Internet. A cesspool
of misinformation and unfounded rumors, GameDreamZ became infamous
across the web. In fact, for a short while, it became a ban-able offense
to name the site on Team
peoples' contempt of the site was not
the only hurdles we faced. Initially (without knowing any better)
we hosted the site on APlus.net servers. Not only did they constantly
shut us down (they did it without warning multiple times), they made
us upgrade to an expensive dedicated server that was inoperable half
the time. Tech support was little help. Aplus threatened us. Aplus
yelled at us. They routinely shut us down without warning. And they
made it almost impossible to leave. Finally, after multiple emails
to their PR department, they let us go and dropped their unfounded
surcharges. If you are ever planning on launching a website, avoid
we moved to SpeakEasy (who unexpectedly crashed our SQL database),
but that’s a whole different story.
it wasn’t all terrible. High points of the site included Bethesda
featuring our Morrowind
reviews on the main page of ElderScrolls, Keith letting us review
joysticks, visiting E3 (when it was still
E3), A Microsoft employee leaking news of the (then) upcoming
FPS (Note: Game
Informer later stole this story from us without credit), and the
time we crashed an Activision party with the guy from Nokia
was also this one time I met a Frag Doll at E3 who
hated my guts. We also reviewed a weird dancing tango
game for Xbox that never made it to the states.