What is happening with the Solid State Gamer?

Hello everyone. This is Jon Rivera from the Solid State Gamer with an update on what has been going on with the website. I could simply say not much and leave it at that. However, that would not be particularly honest and it would be unjust if I didn’t fully explain why the site has been at a standstill. It deeply pains me to see my dream of my own gaming coverage site repeat history for the third time.


SSG’s Birth
During the latter half of my high school career (2006) I began to grow more and more fascinated with the world of gaming and the industry via magazines like EGM and websites like Gamespot. With Gamespot in particular, the notion of a close-knit team of individuals driven by their passion for the medium of interactivity coming together to deliver news and offer analysis was a very attractive to me. This site had a cool community feature that allowed members to create their own sub-communities or unions. It was around this time when I create the League of Cartridge Gamers or LCG for short. The focus of the group was self explanatory, but the goal was more than just talking about retro games. It was about diving into the details of that games’ history and analyzing their accomplishments in technical design. This was the initial seed that would eventually grow into product of my mind that is the Solid State Gamer.

Another important event that led me to create the SSG into its own thing was the firing of Jeff Gerstmann from Gamespot and the ensuing exodus of the site’s veteran members back in 2007. During that transitional time between Gamespot and Giant Bomb, Gerstmann started his own blog using WordPress to keep up with the industry. That really inspired me to try my hand at creating my own space where I could write about the video game intellectually. Shortly after Jeff put out his review of Burnout: paradise the Solid State Gamer was born.


Red Light, Green Light
Unfortunately, the Solid State Gamer’s history is rife with being put on hiatus for nondescript amounts of time. The site is currently dealing with this problem right now. The sad thing is that the issues leading up to these pauses has always been the same. That cause is the lack of a substantial dedicated team of like-minded folks who believe in what they are doing and are willing to put in the work to turn a humble game coverage site into something great.

During the first leg of life, the SSG only had three writers working on it. This included myself, William Figueroa and an old co-worker of mine. That co-worker was not able to contribute much for personal reasons and it was too much to expect only two people to add meaningful well written content. I had put the website on hiatus for a time because of this and time I had to invest in my college education.

I ended up taking on freelance writing jobs and started out with small sites. In 2011 I wrote for a little publication called The Unsung Heroes, which was a comic book coverage site with an interest in covering the games industry. It was an interesting learning experience as was my time at Buy Poe and Default Prime as a news a features writer. Afterwards, I tried for a time to go it alone and resurrected the site in 2012. I then ran into the same issue and could not publish reviews, news and other features at the speed that other larger publications could do. After putting the site on hold again, I vowed to never bring the site back unless I had a team of folks who were willing to commit and put in the hard work required to make a successful game coverage site happen. It was understandable in some ways and heartbreaking in others. Regardless, I am proud of the work that I had done when the site was in its infancy.


This Current Solid State Gamer
I had pretty much dropped the notion that I could make a comprehensive gaming site a reality by the time 2014 rolled around. It was at this time that one of my old friends from college Matt White proposed doing a video game focused podcast or something along those lines. It sounded like a fun idea, but I was leery about a couple potential issues. The first thing that worried me was I previously tried the whole gaming website thing and it didn’t pan out because of not having a solid team able to bring in a big way. The other issue is that you cannot simply have a gaming podcast and expect to create a big entity around one production.

I suggested to Matt that, in order for us to create something successful in the gaming world, the podcast would have to be a provision of a bigger thing – a game coverage publication. Matt seemed to be all gung ho about doing it, but I  caution concerning it. Running and working on a gaming site requires a lot of work and dedication even when it does not yield any financial livelihood or profit. Matt still insisted that we start up something and he wanted to record a podcast anyway.

The idea was not to initially resurrect the Solid State Gamer and it was to be an original name and brand. Matt suggested some names for the site and audio production and they were all sort of crappy. None of the names suggested any semblance of professionalism and that really bothered me. I wasn’t out to be like so many folks on YouTube who make funny videos where the video games were just a backdrop for sophomoric humor. I wanted to do proper games journalism. I then suggested that we bring back my old name and publication along with its ideals. It was agreed upon that this was going to be the plan. We then started on the plan to bring back the Solid State Gamer with Matt White and his friend Richard Hunt – it is a decision that I now regret.


Working with Matt White

I stressed to Matt that it was important to publish as much solid written content as possible, as this would create awareness and give us topics to talk about on our podcast. Things started out slow mostly because we were just figuring things out and I was still working my old job at Bellini’s. I was working a sous chef job their and was being worked like a slave, so I didn’t really have time to do full time coverage going in. I eventually left and started posting new content and porting older features that I wrote for previous publications onto the site.

Matt started out okay and posted a two articles weeks apart on retro console hardware. Unfortunately, that’s where he hit a wall when it came to work output after only a couple of months. This was a constant issue for the whole time he worked for the site. To be fair, Richard was worse in this area, only producing one article during his short time on the site. It was not that great of an article either. Richard only lasted a few months before he was ejected from the team. He and Matt had a falling out over a situation that is between the two of them, so I will respectfully not go into detail about what exactly happened.

The site’s podcast, called The Solid State Romcast, started out being fairly low tech and was not the quality that I wanted. I suggested investing in the audio equipment necessary to create a high quality audio production and the tech could also be used for video production. He agreed, but nothing ever came of this exchange. I refused to do another podcast without the proper gear, so I purchased it with my own money. Not once did I demand anyone else on the team to give money to buy equipment; I merely suggested what things needed to be bought to produce quality audio and video content. This course of events transpired every time we needed to get something for the site. It was always suggested and Matt would always say, “we really need to get this or that,” but nothing would happen, so I would end up buying it myself.

With the podcast, there were issues. For the time, there were no news articles being published on the site proper, so we looked at news features on other sites. This was not a practice I liked, and insisted after a while that we would only cover news topics that related to content published on the site. Even with this rule in place, Matt would want to resort to other sites talking topics. This was mostly because wasn’t really writing much for the site. Every recording day he would come over with a six-pack of beer and then ask, “So, what are we gonna talk about today?” It even got to the point where he wouldn’t even park his car and come to my home to record. He would drive into the driveway and text me to come out and join him for a ‘beer run.’ He wasted a lot of time and insisted that we spend almost an entire day on one podcast when there was much more to be done for the website.


Matt Trying to be The Boss

I didn’t mind if we took a break or even had fun in between segments, but Matt never knew when to stop goofing around and get back to work on the task at hand. I tolerated these antics for a time and I even indulged myself in having a beer occasionally, but it just kept getting worse and worse. I started to put my foot down against goofing around all the time and spoke out against the unprofessional and unproductive antics that simply wasted time. Matt didn’t care and kept on and didn’t see any issue with his conduct.

This stuff was a problem on its own, but this was compounded by the fact that he would not write anything weeks or months on end. He would barely contribute work, but he had no problem coming in to record and frequently check the site stats and comment on it. He also had the tendency to text me about gaming news, but he wouldn’t write an article on it. I have no idea why he constantly did that. He would also delegate a lot. It was almost as if he thought that he was my boss and the Solid State Gamer was under his ownership. Whenever he said ‘we’, he meant myself. This applied to what needed to be done to get more hits and improve the site’s success. Whenever he said ‘I’, he meant himself alone. Matt White had a tendency to take partial credit for the contributions of others, but would turn around and take full credit for one thing he published.

If you listen to all the episodes of the podcast, you can hear him doing this on countless occasions. For a while I let go unchallenged, but I began to call him out on that sort of nonsense toward the end of his tenure. On top of these problems it was like pulling teeth to get him to pull his wait and actually work on anything. Whenever he would bring the site’s stats or the subject of money (he brought this up often), I would turn around and address that fact that he hasn’t done any work for this publication in weeks. He would make an excuse and I would end the exchange saying that he needed to do his fair share of work. We had this conversation several times.

During December of last year, we had brought on one of our friend Nathan VanDyke as a news writer. His work was solid and he would post news stories on his own, which pleasantly surprised me. After a few months he quickly overtook Matt in work output. This made his lack of effort stick out even more.


The Final Straw

The whole situation came to a head when Matt decided that he wanted to make a video. Now, that alone isn’t an issue in and of itself. The problem comes from the fact that I was the one who owned all the equipment for making videos and recording audio. He wanted to shoot a hardware teardown video of one of my retro video game consoles – essentially without my consent. This made me angry, but I compromised, saying that he could only work on systems that I had a double of. He then wanted to work on it on one of my free days. The issue was that he had no plan for how the video would be structured. There was no script, no structure and he didn’t even have a name for the video series. I then told him that I was not about to waste my time working on something without a plan. For some reason, he wasn’t happy me saying that.

I told him we would record as soon as I see a document detailing how the video feature would be named, structured, shot and edited. This is not an unreasonable request. Being true to form and surprising no one, he never created such a document. Roughly a week after this situation, Matt and Nate came over to record another podcast. Before we got to it, Matt put me on the spot with Nate as his defense in order to accuse me of holding the website and the equipment hostage. He also tried to defend is lack of work output and used site stats to justify that he didn’t have to do anymore work for the site. I then told him the same thing I had said to him in previous discussions. The issue was nothing to do with me being some evil dictator, rather the problem was Matt not pulling his weight. At this point, I got very stern with him and told him like it is. The meeting ended with everyone stating they had no more questions, but I could tell that Matt wasn’t happy about how it went.

A week later, on a day we were supposed to record the podcast, I had to call Matt because he never showed up. In the working world, that is referred to as a “No call, no show.” I asked him what was going on and he told that he was quitting that moment. The reason was that he wasn’t having any fun anymore. He said that we would still be cool and that our out-of-work friendship wouldn’t change. Though I wasn’t okay with how he quit (one of the most unprofessional ways to quit), I was glad that he was at least honest with me… or so I thought


An Apology That is Long Overdue
After Matt quit, I could no longer do the podcast. Nate was still working for the site, but he works a lot and doesn’t have a lot of time to record. Recently, he hasn’t any time to write for the site. He was always honest with me and I will always appreciate the work he did for the website while he was able. He gave and honest effort. The last proper article is the Final Fantasy VII remake news piece and that’s where things have sadly ceased.

For a while I tried to find others in Lexington to join the site and write for it, but there seems to be little interest in game journalism in my town. For some reason, I ended up calling a semi regular guest who would join the podcast. Leo is a fellow who has been professionally covering games for nearly half a decade and was a lot of fun to talk to. I suppose I missed talking to him about games and how we would bounce information off each other. I got a hold of him over Skype and the two of us had the most interesting conversation. The exchange was a bit awkward in the beginning for reasons I didn’t know at the time.

After telling him that just wanted to know how he’s been, he then explained that he was initially worried I called him in anger. I was confused until he spoke of Matt. After telling Leo about the SSG site situation and my dealings with Matt, he then told about his woes while working with Matt. He joined up with Leo almost right after he quit the SSG. Apparently, Matt told Leo that I didn’t do any work and that it was Matt that did most of what you see on this space currently. Also he said that I didn’t give Matt the same right as an owner – he never did the work that warranted having access to administrative tools. That’s for someone who actually administrates and works.

In that conversation I basically found out that Matt is a liar and lied to me and stabbed me in the back. The worst thing is that he could have ruined another person’s website plans. It was bad enough that he quit in the way he did, but learning of his lies and deceit has hurt me on both a professional and personal level. Mathew White owes me an apology for wronging me as both a friend and as a colleague.


The End?

Well, this is the end, beautiful friends. After a year and a half of honest effort on my part, I am announcing that I will be ceasing work on the Solid State Gamer as a core game coverage publication. Perhaps I will convert it into a personal gamer blog where I speak more personally about my life with video games. As for my professional work, I now work for Leo M. on his new game coverage publication called Gaming Instincts. If you want to see my work as well as that of my colleagues, you are more than welcome to join us there. I want to personally thank everyone who supported our little gaming website that could. We would never gotten this far without you. This been a very interesting learning experience for me for better or worse. Again, it is understandable in some ways yet painful in others. This could be the end of the Solid State Gamer, but this isn’t the end for me and my passion for the medium of interactivity… bang.