It was a year after my first true encounter with the internet. A year ago I just signed up for a Friendster account, and delved into a world of “friends”, comments, profile backgrounds and apps and the like. It was addictive, a new frontier for my generation. Social networking, wow, I don’t even remember if they called it that back then. But this isn’t about Friendster, it’s about something more precious for me in this web of memories.
That same year as my real-world social life degraded thanks to Friendster, I discovered a video games website called GameSpot. And here my passion for games took to the next level. My GameMaster collection was growing at that time, and the video games section of K-Zone I’d anticipate every month. Metal Gear Solid 4 amazed me, even more so than the fantastic Killzone 2 E3 2005 trailer which was disappointingly 100% CGI (thanks a lot, Sony).
This is where I benefitted from Friendster’s early influence. Making and setting up an account was a breezy task, but…what is this thing called unions? I clicked at the link to the union directory. There was The Elder Scrolls Union, The (hugely influential) Headcrab Union, a whole lot of PlayStation unions. Well, it seemed interesting. They didn’t function like Facebook groups now or even blogs, they were more like mini-websites built on community in their potential and features. The Version 2 thread spells out one person’s ultimate vision of GameSpot unions. Search that in their forums if you’re interested.
It was tough not to be swept by the next-gen hype back then. The promise of cinematic gameplay and near-photorealistic graphics fooled me (the end result was honestly a bit disappointing). It led me to convince my family to buy me a 20 gigabyte PS3 just months after launch along with a bunch of unremarkable games in Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom and Need For Speed: Carbon. That hype influenced me to choose the PS3 as the subject of my newly-created union. After all, Sony themselves said the “supercomputer” was future-proof and would last ten years a la PS1 and PS2.
My early years as PS3FC (originally The PlayStation 3 Fan Club) leader were unremarkable at best. I figured modelling my union on my favorite website would serve it well, as I’m already familiar with its workings and the formula is there. Those were the first times I really wrote something, with GameSpot’s news, screenshots and the other unions as my sources. My writing was really bad and my gamer language needed a ton of polish; expected for a 12-year old trying to make his pseudo-website work. If you’ve read my About page then you know my union grew to great sizes considering the majority of its kind had already died when it was deleted.
It wasn’t always smooth sailing: I went inactive for years before I came back to revive PS3FC. And that maturity in my passion for gaming brought with it new growth and community engagement tactics that helped a lot in making PS3FC the best it can be. I sent out invites regularly to PS3 fans in GameSpot, I hired consistent officers to help me in managing the union, and I made a progression system with experience points rewarded for activities performed.
We grew from a measly twenty inactive members to nearly 2000 with a bustling forum and comments sections, tens of thousands of visits, 250 Twitter followers and thousands of YouTube views. We were really a major presence in the GameSpot unions community. The icing on the cake is our 2nd place finish for the Union of the Year Award. Something told me it was a close finish.
GameSpot had to close the entire unions system as part of its transition into a modern, streamlined and easy to use website. I had my regrets because I was absent for the better part of the year that happened. I came in too late to ask for some data to be given to me before they erased them all. I didn’t have the chance to say goodbye and thank all my members and officers (I’ll never forget XVision84, ChrispPerson and JasonDarksavior for all the help). I wrote in PS3FC’s description that we were a union for gamers, by gamers. I can’t imagine a more apt description.