Arcadian Rhythms is five years old this month. Five years since a group of friends decided to take their enthusiastic discussions of video games out of pubs and email and onto a WordPress platform.
Without wanting to wax too sentimental, I don’t think any of us imagined that the site would be around five years later. We were probably surprised to still be standing a year later. None of us had previously devoted much time to writing about games, and many of us hadn’t done a huge amount of writing in general. I think we were all surprised by just how engaging we found Arcadian Rhythms, our fellow writers, and our readers.
We’ve done some cool shit over those five years. Despite being nobodies, we’ve secured press passes to gaming events like Rezzed and EGX and quickly established that while we don’t much care for events overloaded with snotty oiks and free merch hunters, we do enjoy meeting up with other writers and game creators and seeing what they’re working on. We decided to start doing a podcast, despite none of us having any experience of doing so, and despite several of us being inveterate dominators of conversation – a character flaw hardly helped by our general insistence on recording podcasts whilst also getting drunk.
Most importantly, we’ve published hundreds of reviews, articles, rants and rambles; that’s hundreds of thousands of words from a dozen or so different voices. We’ve written about videogames, yes, as well as the culture around them, the problems of the industry, and plenty more (perhaps most notably the largely awful phenomenon of films ‘about’ games, for which we can thank AJ’s endless suffering).
We’ve done all this entirely non-commercially. Arcadian Rhythms has never featured an advertisement. We’ve never had a PR or publisher try to lean on us, probably because literally no one cares what we say, but if anyone ever did we’d metaphorically punch them right in the nose. Then we’d podcast it.
Marking five years of fun and games is a cause for celebration, and you’d better believe we have celebrations planned. But it’s also a bit of a sad time, because this is it for Arcadian Rhythms. We’re closing up shop.
There are many reasons behind this decision. Some concern us and some concern the wider context this small website fits within. Back in 2011 there were still plenty of blogs, both group and solo affairs, and they were widely read enough that it was felt they composed part of the larger cultural conversation about games. This no longer feels as true. With some notable exceptions, most of these blogs have bitten the dust, either disappearing into the digital ether or just tailing off, their most recent post a self-deluding promise of more-to-come-soon.
YouTube and social media have continued to boom since 2011, and today you’d be forgiven for thinking that the written word, followed and read via RSS feeds, is increasingly a quaint hangover of a bypassed internet era. That’d be bollocks, but certainly RSS has declined substantially, with social media increasingly the medium by which stories from smaller venues are discovered by many potential readers. The signal to noise ratio on social media is not good, and if readers aren’t directly following your site your work is unlikely to be read. We’ve seen the decline in our readership, and we’re not alone in observing this. The one silver lining here is that it makes you appreciate your regular readers, especially those who regularly pop up in the comments to add their two cents, all the more.
Then there’s YouTube and other video platforms. It’s a really big thing now, huh? A great many people and sites are still trying to clamber aboard the video gold rush, or just stay competitive with the current trend. We’ve had the occasional stab at video content, usually accompanying written content, but let’s be honest: we don’t know what the fuck we’re doing with it, and video production is hugely time-consuming to boot. No one comes to Arcadian Rhythms to watch a video, except maybe AJ’s occasional videos on our Facebook page.
Then there’s stuff that’s almost too depressing to directly address, such as the hot stream of piss to the face that was Gamergate, and the subsequent realisation that there’s a sizeable audience for similar brands of self-serving ugliness.
But, perhaps most importantly, all of us here at AR Towers were just writing less and less for the site. Life takes you in unpredictable directions, and five years is enough time to make a big difference. It can take the edge off a cranky firebrand, or just ensure that professional life and family eat up increasing amounts of time. Whatever: if 2014 was the year in which we recognised our decline in readership, 2015 was the year in which the decline in authorship followed.
This is all getting a little maudlin. Look, dear reader: we’re determined to go out with a bang. Arcadian Rhythms has been too idiosyncratic, and has come to mean too much to me and my friends, for us to let the site die a slow ignominious death by disregard. Instead, to paraphrase The Wire, we’re going to get the old boy up on the table and say our piece. Then we’re going to have a great fucking wake. We hope you stay with us for these proceedings, and thanks for reading this far.
[A little housekeeping: the site itself will stay online indefinitely. The only change will be to the front page, which rather than featuring our latest content, will be set up to present a regularly cycling selection of old AR posts. Hell, we’ve written enough over the years that a lot of this might even feel new to you. In years to come this Arcadian Archive will be recognised as a repository of retro gaming criticism. Eventually, after the singularity, it will be misunderstood by the new post-humans, and elevated to an inappropriately high position in the cultural pantheon.]