On Joystiq, Professionalism, And Friendship

by Mike Futter on Jan 27, 2015 at 02:28 AM

This morning, reports began surfacing that gaming website Joystiq will be closed by parent company AOL in the near future. Right now, the emotions I’m feeling come in as many flavors as you’d find at Baskin Robbins. 

I’ve come to know many of the staff there and count them among my friends. Susan Arendt, Jess Conditt, Richard Mitchell, Sinan Kubba, Sam Prell, Thomas Schulenberg, Anthony Agnello, and others have been absolutely lovely to work alongside throughout my brief time in games journalism.

Rather than wallow in sadness at what seems to be Joystiq’s final weeks, I want to recount the story of how I came to be where I am. In 2012, while at a smaller site called RipTen, I had the opportunity to interview THQ’s Danny Bilson. During the interview, we discussed the state of Darksiders II (I was able to break that the game was delayed) and financial struggles (including threat of NASDAQ delisting).

The short remainder of THQ’s life after that interview is now history, but in the wake of publishing it, I received a phone call. Alexander Sliwinski, Joystiq’s news content director, called me with a simple question.

“Who are you?” he asked me.

I wasn’t quite sure how to respond. Was he angry? Did I screw something up? Why was this person at a major outlet taking an interest in me?

It turns out that the call was a fact-finding mission. I had nailed the interview, and Alexander had never heard of me. He was curious, and now I was on his radar. At the time, I thought he was trying to be intimidating. Nope. That's just Alexander. Intense, direct, to the point. 

I was nervous (shaking, to be honest). Despite the kind words and professional encouragement, I didn't quite know what to do with the attention.

Fast forward three years.

I have no doubt that Alexander's counsel and guidance helped put me where I am today. I consider him my closest friend in the industry. We’ve covered financial calls together (a bonding experience, I assure you), spent hours talking shop over Xbox Live and PSN, and celebrated his recent MBA graduation on our last night in Germany at Gamescom (a show I wouldn’t have survived the first year without his assistance).

He embodies the spirit by which Joystiq is run. There is a balance of friendliness and professionalism. The staff are ethical beyond measure. And there is always, always a priority on getting it right.

I don’t know what the future holds for the site and its staff. The situation looks grim, and should Joystiq disappear, we are all worse for it.

But even if the staff is spread to the wind, I will have the lessons I’ve learned from watching Susan, Alexander, and the rest of Joystiq’s team. Thank you, Joystiq. Thank you for doing it right.