What It’s Like Running A Satirical Games Website

Back in November 2015, one big company acquired another big company, and the end result was that one small gaming site got shut down. That was my site, and it was called games.on.net.

Something I loved doing at games.on.net was to post absolutely ridiculous joke articles every April Fool’s Day — the one day of the year when even the most infuriatingly dour commenter had to begrudgingly acknowledge 24 Hours Of Formally Approved Humour. So when the site shut down (and let’s be honest, when I had nothing left to lose) I decided to indulge my own curiosity and see what would happen if I launched a dedicated satire site.

Now, I’m getting screamed at by eggs.

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I’m not new to the phenomenon of a hundred angry eggs all not-harassing you at once (and holy shit, the amount of abuse I cop is nothing compared to what women making the same or better jokes) but running a games satire site has really increased my visibility in the Strangers With Strong Opinions demographic.

A lot of this is because I’m very vocally critical of GamerGate, which I think is right and proper in the same way that if you see a garbage bin is on fire you should try and put it out. This attitude has earned me the attention of a lot of people who don’t follow me or have the time to upload an avatar but nonetheless have a lot of important corrections that I, the biased fuck, must urgently act upon.

The following sentence isn’t exactly going to turn down the volume on Strangers With Strong Opinions Radio, but with apologies to all the eggs in my life: those articles basically write themselves. I’d like to say it takes an incredibly insightful mind to accurately point out how funny it is that grown men are having a tantrum over childish things, but that would be vastly overstating it.

The Weekly writer (and superior satirist) James Colley once observed that he could “convince a bunch of grown men to eat dirt by telling them that ‘feminists are trying to stop you from being allowed to eat dirt’”. Think about it, eggs.

That Is The Joke

But there’s another reason, a deeper, underlying phenomenon behind why some eggs are saying they hope I “get fired” from my own site: people are extremely bad at understanding when something is satire. They’re awful at it. There’s even a whole site called Literally Unbelievable which catalogues people’s incredulously sincere responses to articles from The Onion.

At games.on.net, I started tagging satirical articles as ‘satire’ so that people would stop assuming they were real and asking me for citations, or questioning whether an article about how Notch updated his Twitter account was “really news”.

I thought having an entire site dedicated to satire with the word ‘CLICKBAIT’ in big letters at the top would solve that problem. I thought having a description at the bottom of the page reading “All articles on this website are incredibly true and definitely real” would solve that problem. I thought having a big, hilariously generic stock image of a road sign saying ‘ETHICS’ in the background would be a bit of a clue.

I was wrong. Wow, was I wrong. I can’t tell you how many people thought that a YouTuber had really lost 100,000 fans for forgetting to open a video with “Hey, what’s up guys” or who tried to correct me on the price and affordability of the Oculus Rift. I watched two people have a heated argument on Twitter over whether or not somebody would really think a playable Star Citizen alpha was malware or how a woman could possibly have been cast to do the voice acting for Gordon Freeman in Half-Life 3.

Folks: the URL has the word ‘clickbait’ in it. I love you. Please stop.

I even wrote an article satirising alt-right reactionary demagogue Milo Yiannopoulos as blaming feminism for the fact that he locked his keys in the car, and then watched as people straight-facedly assumed he was the actual author. One even told him he was so good he should write for Cracked (hey Cracked, are you hiring? Apparently I’m as good as Milo Yiannopoulos — and I don’t even have any interns!).

My Secret Shame

It would be easy to spend one hundred percent of my RDI of lols on cave-dwellers who think the existence of a transgender character shatters the immersion of their fantasy game, but I too have sinned, and I have several drafts of my confessions written down as ready-to-use article stubs.

I was a games journalist for six years and I still struggle when I think about the great conflict I could never resolve: The knowledge that a game, at its heart, is an artistic expression designed to evoke an emotional response — but that gaming is a bizarrely over-regulated PR-enshackled mega-industry powered largely by exploited labour and governed by strangely stuffy rules and regulations that everybody insists on taking far more seriously than they deserve.

Part of what I do Point & Clickbait is a catharsis borne of this confusion. Honestly, if you’ve ever looked at one of my articles and thought “Get a load of this arsehole putting the boot into fellow writers,” please understand that in order to come up with these articles I just think of my own worst habits over six years of work and then mercilessly skewer myself. I’ve done that phoned-in interview. I’ve written that shitty op-ed that goes nowhere. I’ve barfed out a thinkpiece to meet a deadline. We’ve all done it. I’m sorry. I’m sorry to, and for, all of us.

I don’t know how long this thing will last, but I plan to enjoy it while I can. If this has convinced you to try your own hand at being humorous online, and you think you can handle a large amount of strangers all simultaneously attempting to earnestly convince you that calling someone a “cuck faggot” isn’t harassment, then please, by all means! This stuffy little mega-industry of ours needs all the fresh air it can get.

Tim Colwill is only mildly baffled that he is responsible for creating Point & Clickbait, the internet’s number one source for accurate, ethical, and true gaming news. You too can scream at him online here.

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