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// article by SoyBomb

Part 3: Watermelon

At a time when animated GIFs were the new fad, appearing ostentatiously absolutely everywhere, personal webpages were the "in" thing. At least, I thought it to be the "in" thing because our Internet service provider gave us 10MB of web space. Logically, if everyone is getting this web space, everyone is making their own webpages. So, in 1998, after a conversation with my father that included both the concept of having a family webpage and a more philosophical perspective on of what data is made, we decided the time was right to enter the mystical network.

The website, though very crude in nature and indeed filled with a ridiculous amount of the aforementioned animated GIFs, was nevertheless a necessary starting place for me to begin my everlasting journey through the World Wide Web. At the forefront of the site was a portal, capable of taking the visitor to one of four possible destinations. (Do keep in mind that I remember very little of what content each page actually contained, as this was over fourteen years ago.) There was my father's page, my mother's page, a page for our two cats (one can only imagine what they had to see to fellow fe-lines), and my own to round out the family. Substance was not as important as simply having an online presence. Very few people ever visited that site, which is fine considering how little effort actually went into its production and maintenance. It's not available anywhere, not even via archive.org, which has an impressive selection of older websites. But that site was simply the beginning. I had tasted a sliver of the possibilities of webmastership, and it tasted good, like a juicy watermelon slice on a hot summer's day. I wanted more watermelon. I decided I would venture alone to the Internet.

It was a natural progression to start a website dedicated to my primary passion: video games. With the magic of Netscape Composer in my hand, I began to design what soon became my first video game website: GamerBase. With a title that terrible, it simply must be good. (It's now the name used by the U.K. faction of HMV, oddly enough.) It was built with a black background, currently known as a "mistake", as I learned from a one-hour quickie webpage design session led by someone named Larry at the local college. I chose the name out of thin air; I chose the slogan, "Not just another gaming place," because it rhymed, not because it was true. It was definitely untrue. That website really WAS just another gaming place. But it was my gaming place, and I had visions of something grandiose, a true database of information. There was one problem: I was only posting information that was readily available elsewhere and at a very slow pace. But I didn't ponder this aspect at all. I was simply happy to show my love for video games to others who happened to stop by.

It was also around this time that I needed a new moniker, a new nickname to use online. These were the respected titles by the computer elite. SkullCrusher83 would get far more praise than someone named Bob. So I wanted something really cool. I came up with "Nightstalker". That sounded eerie enough: a being who skulked through the neighbourhoods at night, ready to pounce on unsuspecting passersby and feast on their internal organs as they screamed in pain. It would have been really cool, except that someone had already used that name on Hotmail. My dreams of twilight transgression were dashed by the dot-comrade who had arrived first. So, in an instant, I typed in the next best thing and became an even more frightening character: n64stalker! Instead of hunting down humans, I'd seek out abandoned 64-bit consoles and then play them in the night. Plus, it solidified my interest in video gaming for the world to see. The "n64stalker" name wasn't used all that much outside of that email address and the website. I did use it to write an episode of the semi-popular web fiction series, "Battle of the Video Game Heroes". Be sure to check it out and note how awful it is.

GamerBase started on a little cul-de-sac inside GeoCities, a now defunct site that hosted other websites for free. It migrated twice over its four-year span, but GeoCities gave my vision life... for free, no less. Initially, I had a very small amount of content to begin with. I believe the only things I covered were one or two games, covering the basics such as the story behind the game, controls, main characters... general stuff. I even included some MIDI music playing in the background so as to sound inviting. That was another faux pas according to Larry the Expert. The pages were ugly as the duckling that bears that name. My time at GeoCities didn't build up the content very quickly; by the end, there were only about 15 games covered in at least minor detail. But GamerBase wasn't just a place for basic game information. I also had my own special touches, such as dialogue-based fiction, character biographies (which I wrote entirely using my own imagination, involving relatively little knowledge of his or her actual background), and even a comic strip.

As the site moved around to different locations, the layout and contents shifted somewhat dramatically. I had envisioned being able to cover games for basically every system out there, a seemingly impossible task for one person alone. Though I had the occasional spark of assistance from a couple of friends and a few internet connections, I remained the driving force behind GamerBase. It eventually included reviews, box scans, a screenshot depository, special quizzes for the gaming elite who think they know everything about certain games, and even full scripts from a few games, "re-scripted" entirely by me. (Many of these features have been revived in the "Travel Back In Time" series of articles on this site.) The concept of having coverage for all the systems out there proved far too challenging, and I definitely couldn't cover a tiny fraction of the games out there.

In April 2002, exhausted by the lack of progress and the amount of effort required to make any progress at all, alongside the depressingly low visitor count, I announced that I would cease any further upgrades on GamerBase. It was a difficult decision; I had put countless hours and some serious heart into the project, after all. And I had no idea what I wanted to do next, no future insight as to where my online endeavours would take me. I still loved video games, and I wanted to share my love with the online community. But where would I go from here? I tried a second site in late 2002 called "VGEncyclopedia", with a similar theme as GamerBase, but it would not contain any excess material aside from information on the games themselves. It would be even MORE short-lived, lasting about six months before I pulled the plug on that project. I discovered, through all of the toil, that just giving statistical data about games and brief one-paragraph blurbs was even less interesting. Plus, it simply wasn't much fun. Website building was starting to lack the spark for me. I was almost ready to throw in the towel.

Random.access arrived in a primitive form in late 2003. I realize that the site proudly proclaims a start date of 2005. That date is, in some ways, a lie. Random.access was around in 2003, but not in its current form. Regrettably, it was a shameful site whose existence has hopefully been wiped from the earth; it was less like a video game site and more like an offensive Seanbaby.com imitator. That site lasted about a week, which was about three weeks too long by all accounts. But from the ashes of that came a great idea that would keep my brain occupied. That idea is what you see before you today, Random.access. It was not just about video games, a subject whose content alone ultimately kept me in a rut, but about other media: music, movies, and even my own special comedic mirth. An all-purpose site would serve my many whims simultaneously. This has been my most successful and fulfilling undertaking to date, and (obviously) the project continues to this day. Yet, as you can likely see from the types of updates and regularly appear on random.access, posts related to video games are by far the most prominent, a further testament to my strong affection for the worlds contained on those little discs and cartridges. And by no longer reporting heavily on the statistical aspects of the games, I am free to express my enjoyment (or, sometimes, dissatisfaction) of gaming culture as I should have done fourteen years ago: no codes, no FAQs, no data. Just pure discussion and opinion. As it should have been.


I examine games more now than I ever have before. As a reviewer, I now see with clearer vision both the excellence and the flaws that come with every game. No game is perfect in my eyes, but the imperfections make the art that much more interesting, and it makes me appreciate the efforts of the developers, the designers, even more. I no longer look at video games with the eyes of that young boy who frittered away a rainy Sunday morning trying to get through Desert Land in Super Mario Bros. 3 or wondering what the heck a "J-Key" was for in Faxanadu. I am older and I am wiser, but my inner gamer is still always yearning for new adventure, yearning to dig a tunnel to find a way to escape into one of those surreal worlds that inspired me when I was five years old. There is nothing more exhilarating than powering up a new game and discovering the mystery and wonder within. The only problem I have now is choosing which world to visit next.


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