Arcadian Invaders!

Editorial: Arcadian Rhythms is Five Years Old

Arcadian Invaders!

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.]






16 responses to “Editorial: Arcadian Rhythms is Five Years Old”

  1. undef Avatar


    I wish you all the best, and thanks for the cake!
    It’s not a lie, is it?

    1. Shaun Avatar

      Thanks undef!

      Cake is /always/ a lie. Except the Arcadian cake we had at the final podcast. :)

  2. Harbour Master Avatar

    I would like to know what exciting work you’ve got lined up for this final month.

    But as I said over email, will be sad to see you all go. This is like the ending of Lord of the Rings. The days of magic are over.

    1. Shaun Avatar

      I’d like to think our expiration will be a little less drawn out and sentimental than Return of the King. Well… less drawn out at least?

  3. Jonathan M Avatar

    I too will be sad.

    You may never have attracted a big audience but I have always enjoyed your sensibilities, your choice of topics and your left-field approach to writing about games at a time when the mainstream of games culture has become more and more unpalatable to me. I will even miss the podcast :-)

    I hope you find tine to produce stuff elsewhere, would be a real loss to me personally to not have your voices out there somewhere.

    1. Shaun Avatar

      Thanks Jonathan!

      I’m sure we’ll all keep doing *something*, although the specifics of that and the somewhere remain open.

      Re. the podcast, you’re in luck! There’s one more episode, and it’s hopefully not too drunken, and I think I’ve used better compression on the audio too. Just in time to never have to edit audio again…

  4. Guillaume Avatar

    I’ll be stupidly honest with you all (from AR and/or the interwebs): I thought this site would be around forever.

    I thought I’d get more reading (and writing) done. But then again, I thought I would have paid more attention to the passing of life (read: time) than I did. I, at times, felt overwhelmed by the amount of good pieces that would come up in such a (perceived) short time. If anything, maybe I thought the pace could change, though for a time, it did and thought ”we’ll be good for another year again”; ”I’ll definitely write something… in the coming 6 months”; ”The bills will pay themselves eventually!”; ”… AR can’t pull a UK:R! We’re invincible!”.

    To tell you the truth, no matter how much I can think of ways ”we could work this out” to keep AR alive, there’s this fact that I don’t want to admit to myself (much less others, but here goes nothing): I feel like I’ve taken AR for granted.

    I am not the one paying the bills for it, and writing a piece once-every-year-or-two ”when I feel like it” isn’t the most diligent way to go about supporting the place I was welcomed in as a form of second virtual ”home” of sorts. Perhaps more of a meeting point (the only one for years for me, at least given that I have been far from most AR contributors for a while) where I could feel a bit of the ‘good ol’ days’ of being out in the pub with all of you people) where we’d all hang out and rave about those crazy little things called ”video-games”. My point being, I’m not surprised it’s been around for 5 years with the current trends and whatnot: I’m astonished it’s been financed for 5 years with the current ‘model’. I don’t think that, even if 5 years falls short of ”eternity”, I can ever repay or adequately show my gratitude for those years this site has been kept up.

    And while I’ve always felt a bit out of my league here, writing-caliber-wise (but not in such a diminishing way as I might be making it sound… by… saying that… ok what I mean is, I don’t write much, or read much compared to everyone else) I’ve always enjoyed writing and reading here. It felt like it didn’t matter that I wasn’t as consistent as I could be, or as other more frequent contributors.

    I still have so much to read, and listen to (I’m so behind in podcasts it’s not even funny). I feel that maybe AJ’s right, I AM clinically insane. But maybe also clinically depressed, motionless in my mind; paranoid in my heart, with a distinct sense of self but a diffuse sense of time, and just keeping snapshots of pleasant bits of reality and assuming they are forever from that point on… and that no one and nothing else has changed when reminiscing about them. I’ve assumed I could come back here anytime and write, read or listen to anything for as long I would live (and I’d very much like to live forever). As if this – and the moments – would be still until the heat death of the universe. Then again, are all those feelings just what it is to be human and aging? *cue midlife crisis*

    While I am glad to see AR being ‘archived’ rather than ‘sent right off to the void’, it is a bittersweet consolation. It is to be like a framed picture on the wall; no matter how well depicted the scenery is, you still can’t feel its breeze… but at least one can remember or imagine it. Let’s just hope the ”cost” of keeping this frame up doesn’t ruin anyone’s financial life!

    Ah, enough with the negativity, thanks for all the fun opportunities to feel as though we were in the same room drinking and gaming for 5 years, AR! Even if this site goes down, I still owe Shaun a pint or two for something (one of these things probably being a birthday perhaps [come to think of it, with AR having been around for 5 years, I owe him at least 5 birthday pints alone…]) so we’ll have to meet up again somehow!

    1. Shaun Avatar

      Well, Guillaume, the site might be around forever… just not in a regularly-updated form. ;)

      And nah, the cost of doing so is not great, and largely attached to other stuff I keep online anyway. Assuming I don’t lose my job and struggle to find work for ages, there shouldn’t be any issues keeping it going!

      I certainly won’t say no to a pint or two, although not because I feel you owe me – because that’d imply we’re in the same geographical vicinity! Who knows, I might make it back to Montreal one day. :)

      Anyway, I’m genuinely touched to hear how much AR meant to you. It’s been a privilege having you as a part of the team!

    2. badger commander Avatar
      badger commander

      Dude, as for the writing caliber stuff – I think it was Vonnegut who said that no matter what you should always create something.

      I will treasure that Operation Flashpoint cartoon and the fucking epic Le Mans 24 hrs playthrough forever. And lest I forget, I could never have put together that Saints Row The Third video without you.

      I wish we had written up that Dead Island Playthrough we did that was two crazy nights of madness. For more cliches – it is something I will never forget if I could only remember (some of) it.

  5. Gregg B Avatar

    My reading (and writing) habits have been a bit scattershot over the last few years but I’ve always enjoying dropping by AR, even if I’ve not always left a comment. It’s also been great hooking up with you folks at the EGX and having a few pints afterwards. It would be cool if we could arrange future meetups sometime.

    I’ll echo what Joel said about it being sad to see you go but I understand all too well the… I dunno, ‘shifting’ of focus in our lives. I’m glad you’ll be keeping the site up with an article shuffler on the front page — there’s a lot I haven’t read here so that’ll be a perfect way for me to dip in. Big shout out to Dylan’s interview with Crytek’s ‘Disappointment Coordinator’ — that made me laugh out loud more than a lot of articles I’ve read on the ‘net.

    Also, I’ve always liked your googly-eyed Space Invader with the wine bottle. Makes perfect sense with the podcasts. That reminds me, now I’ve given up on Skyrim, I really ought to listen to your ‘We Hate Skyrim’…

    Oh, and will you be keeping the comments open? Be a shame to sever that contact with the authors!

    1. Shaun Avatar

      Oh man, I had entirely forgotten about our, er, Ryse interview. I’ll have to go read that again myself now.

      I’m glad you like the Arcadian Invader. I was really happy with he turned out. I tried to get him on some tshirts but unfortunately I’m incompetent and the shirts didn’t turn out very well.

      Interesting question about the comments. I think the threads on older articles may have been automatically closed – one of the many different anti-spam measures I’ve tried over the years! I think even if comments do close on older posts, it’d be worth keeping a sort of open thread open, so that people can comment in some form if they really want to.

      Oh, and meetups, definitely! I’m thinking about going to Rezzed again this year… not long now really is it?

    2. badger commander Avatar
      badger commander

      If you are ever looking for contributors, let me know. I might have a few things banging around that I could pitch.

    3. Gregg B Avatar

      If you ever want to contribute, be sure to email our Overlord Steerpike. Knowing you folks and your quality output here I’m sure he’d be more than happy to have you post.

      I forget about Rezzed! Hmm. I’ll see if I can make it. I haven’t been since it moved to the Tobacco Docks which looks like a great venue. I welcome the move from Birmingham though because at least now I don’t have to put up with overpriced captive audience food and drink bullshit. That said, I’ll miss the amazing pizzeria (and other eateries!) we found near Earls Court for the main EGX.

      I went back and read the Ryse interview again and it made me laugh just as much :-D

      1. Steerpike Avatar

        I’m sorry for being almost a year late reading this — and sorrier to see AR go to rest — but to reiterate what Gregg said above, I’d be delighted to have any or all of the Arcadian writers contribute over at Tap-Repeatedly, should the urge strike you.

        We’ve had a downtick (to say the least) in volume at Tap as well, so I understand where you’re coming from on the exhaustion level of just writing consistently for the site. Arcadian Rhythms was one of my favorite off-Broadway gaming sites, full of intelligent commentary and often delightfully biting wit. Thanks for five years!

        1. badgercommander Avatar

          Well, apologies for not replying to this in a couple of weeks.

          I might have something knocking around for ‘The Final Station’ and ‘Armello’.

        2. Shaun Avatar

          I’m afraid I only just spotted this comment, Steerpike, but thanks kindly for the offer. Who knows, I may just take you up on it – it would be an honour to write for Tap!