Back in 2003 a group of gamers came together in the spirit of rebellion with the set goal of raising the bar for themselves and the entire gaming industry. Armed with nothing more than their computers, ideals, and arrogance this eclectic band of gaming journalists originated from what many would consider the most unlikely of places. Their exploits, petty bickering, trials to expunge stereotypes, strides for betterment, and general retardedness would eventually lead to reformation of Diehard Gamefan in the adaptation you see it today. They are known as the Kliq.
This is their story…
“I’ve got to get away from this place. I need Sega gamers. I need hardcore gamers. I need people ranting on about how Phantasy Star Online wasn’t a good enough killer app for the Dreamcast, and instead they should have broken out Phantasy Star V, Shining Force IV, and NiGHTS 2. I want to hear about MORE GAMES THAN FREAKING SMACKDOWN!
EVERYBODY LEAVE ME ALONE! I’m going away for a while, and not coming back. Some other shmuck will be writing the Down-Lo next week! He can put up with this stuff! Not I! Oh no!
I mean it this time Alex!! I’m going to go off on my own… and recreate GameFAN.
(*walks away from 411*)
Hmf. It’s kinda lonely out here…
(*walks back to 411mania*)
I’m back. And the Down-Lo returns!”
Wow. I’m special, aren’t I?
Greetings, I’m Bebito Jackson. That lunacy up above? That was an attempt at a comedic outburst to Alex Lucard after my old gaming column from 411Mania.com, The Rumor Down-Lo, was the lead feature article for the Gaming division of the site. The co-Editor in Chiefs also put me up as the Top Story for all of 411 Mania on their main page startup. Why? Because I wrote a column about wrestling games… in partial. About two paragraphs. I remember thinking, “What the blood clot?! Come on! What’s up with not putting me as top billing when I come up with some Metal Gear Solid stuff… or Sakura Taisen news… or… or… ANYTHING ELSE BESIDES WRESTLING!”
I was a crazed, over emotional lunatic back then. Can ya tell?
In retrospect I shouldn’t have been surprised. 411main used to primarily be a wrestling site and had only recently begun to expand. There would be growing pains, I understand that. Even so, my frustrations were shared by most of the staff. And it is from this frustration that was born the Kliq. I and the to be future Editor in Chief for Diehard Gamefan, Alex Lucard, rallied the troops that we felt were worthy and formed a bond together in the spirit of rebellion… parodying the very thing we were trying so desperately to separate ourselves from.
Ah. What parody? Those unfamiliar with professional wrestling may need a brief explanation. Straight from the treasure house of accurate misinformation, Wikipedia:
The Kliq (sometimes referred to as The Clique) was a backstage group in the World Wrestling Federation during the mid-1990s, which some claim held virtually all booking power and were accused of refusing to put over anyone outside of the group. The Kliq was the primary catalyst for two of the most famous groups in wrestling history: D-Generation X in World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), and the nWo in World Championship Wrestling (WCW). Shawn Michaels and Triple H founded DX, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash founded the nWo. Sean Waltman was a member of both.
That’s the quote unquote “real” Kliq. But this series will be all about the “Games Kliq”. Our exploits, opinions, arguments, and all the other controversy and general stupidity that we’ve been a part of through the years spanning from the day we formed in 2003 right up until today. You will see our most guarded and intimate conversations, rantings, and… well, Quarrellings (yeah, we argued a lot; with each other, and with everyone else). I’ll be highlighting our views on a variety of video gaming and industry related subjects ranging from the frivolous to the profound. Of course since it’s me writing it, it’ll degrade into a joke column with some mild glimmers of intelligence but from those glimmers it should be interesting to form commentary and evaluate our behavior from a hindsight perspective. Hopefully along the way you’ll learn a little bit about the history of the sites we’ve worked for (411mania, Insidepulse, Not A True Ending, and more), our impact on them, our impact on the industry, and also about us as individuals.
And if not, you can at least laugh at how crazed, egotistical and utterly ridiculous we all were.
The Quarrelling Kliq: Beginnings
So I thought the most appropriate way to begin this series was obvious. With the formation of the Kliq itself. There are so many questions. I mean, why would you care about what we have to say without knowing who we are? Where did we come from? Why are we so close? What was our original objective? Why when people ask you “what three things would you bring with you on a deserted island?” no one ever replies, “A BOAT”. Also, why does the Easter bunny carry eggs? Rabbits don’t lay eggs. Why does Sea World have a seafood restaurant? If you have a cold hot pocket, is it just a pocket? If love is blind, why is lingerie so popular? Why does it say “shake well” on ketchup bottles, but not ketchup packets? Have you ever imagined a world with no hypothetical situations?
Probably 3 or less of these questions will be answered right now. Let’s hop in the Wayback machine and go back to August 6th, 2003. Alex Lucard and I had just came back to 411maina after a brief hiatus and we formed the Kliq, which at the time only consisted of us two and two newbies we strong armed our boss into hiring: Liquidcross and Chuck Platt. Eventually because we liked a select few of the staff, we brought them in as well. In the beginning it was just us goofing around with an inside joke. But soon it became so much more than that. We all desperately wanted to take the site and ourselves to a whole new level. So while in our private sanctum at the 411 offices this is what transpired…
(The story you are about to read is true. Only the names, places, and facts have been changed, to protect Bebito.)
Scene focuses inside an office with various empty boxes of pizza, monkey droppings, and old issues of Diehard GameFAN strewn about. Bryan Berg and Cory Laflin are sitting on a Cheetos stained couch playing Madden 03′, discussing how NFL2K is vastly superior. Lee Baxley and Liquidcross are angrily and violently debating over something to do with H.P. Lovecraft. Chuck Platt is seen on his laptop off to the side, chatting with someone whom he believes to be a 17 year old girl. And various other members of the non-executive staff are seen going about their business either playing games or kicking puppies. In the back corner Bebito Jackson is seen in a virtual rage, screaming and ranting like a spoiled child throwing a temper tantrum, while Alex Lucard, leaning on a wall, vaguely listens playing his Game Boy Advance.
Bebito: …and it’s not a matter of us being underground or not. It’s our demographic! Since we’re part of what was essentially the most successful wrestling site on the internet, we have the stigma of being a bunch of wrestling junkies that report on games now and then. I know you have this same gripe dude. Media outlets are BEGGING you to leave and join their merry band of game writers, but you refuse because you feel we’re a better staff. As do I. But we’re not recognized for that! We’re not recognized for being a great videogames staff. We’re recognized for Smackdown, Raw, and Wrestlemania console garbage! I doubt our appeal will grow beyond this stereotype. Gamers are the most biased boneheaded people on Earth. We ARE! So when popular opinion dictates something, such as 411 still being nothing but a mere wrestling site, the gamers, sheep that they are, will stick to this line of thinking and go to the crappy pay-for-it websites. Blast them all! I hate my own kind…
Alex: Yeah… I hate my kind sheep too… Holy shit! It’s evolving! It’s bloody evolving!
Alex: It’s finally evolved into a Charizard! And do you know what that means?! You know the new Pokemon game for the GameCube, right? It’s the only way for the Ruby/Sapphire Pokemon to fight the 100+ Pokemon not in the GBA games. You can have Groudon vs Charizard and Mewtwo vs Rekuzza!
Bebito: I have no idea what you just said,… but did you see the hits for my last column?? The column where I mentioned WWF No Mercy for all of 30 seconds? I had 5 times my normal readership! And do you know why? No… it’s not because I’m funny and the Down-Lo is great. Nope. No… It’s not because I had some hot gaming rumor that everyone on the planet just had to see. Nope. It’s because we’re a wrestling site. Because I wrote a small article contrasting WWE No Mercy for the N64 and the Smackdown franchise, stuck it in the middle of the column, and Chris and Ashidro noticed it and threw it up as the main story for 411 Games, and all of 411 Mania.
The most readers I’ve ever had for a single day. (Bebito’s Note: Unknown to myself I would eventually surpass that number 100 fold.) And I can’t even enjoy it. As a matter of fact, I loathe it. They came to read that column because they liked wrestling. Not because they like games, or rumors, or game rumors, or half naked pics of busty Japanese women I throw in there to pander to the lowest common denominator. No. Just wrestling. And it drives me up the freaking wall. I didn’t want them reading my column. Not at all. It felt as though they were raping the Down-Lo with every sacrilegious hit. God forbid I write a column on something like Shining Force or Legend Of Oasis or Panzer Dragoon. People would run for the hills! Ugh… just… ugh. I mean, have you noticed that my quality of writing has been falling lately?
Alex: No. It’s just as bad as usual.
Bebito: Thanks, but it’s not. And it’s because I’m starting not to care. Yes, I’m writing for myself. But I DO want people to enjoy what I’m doing. And I don’t feel that this is the venue for people to appreciate what we do. At least not that many… And you KNOW the rest of the staff feels the same way.
(Bebito puts his head down.)
Eh. Don’t worry. I’ve threatened to leave 411 more times than you ever know. It hasn’t happened yet because you guys are the best unpaid indy site writers anywhere in the videogame community. But…
I know that you’re HBK, Alex.
But I think I’m about to lose MY smile…
Alex: (Finally looking Bebito in the eyes, and thinking for a moment.) Right. Then let’s do something about it.
(Alex jumps up on the lunch room table and signals for everyone’s attention. Bebito hands him a soapbox.)
Bebito: Here. You might need this.
Alex: (Stepping up) Ok…. Yo guys. Hey listen up. Listen up guys! LISTEN THE FUCK UP!
(The staff ignores Alex completely, going on about their business.)
Bebito: (Shouts) We’re giving away FREE Neo Geo Pockets!
(Everyone immediately turns their attention to the back of the room. Chuck Platt buckles his pants.)
Alex: It’s time for a reality check / pep talk / bitch out.
But before I start, I do find it funny Bebs that through emails you were laughing “Ho Ho Ho Alex. I’m gonna gets tons of hits by talking about wrestling!” Then when it happens, you get upset. How Nash is that? (smiling)
Bebito: Heh. Well you know me, Shawn.
Alex: And you hate that we’re a wrasslin’ site? Then do like I do Bebs. Don’t write about wrestling.
I did the interview with Adam Ryland, the maker of EWR Wrestling Simulation because I knew the guy, I was a play tester and we thought it would be funny. And I looked at it as a creator of a popular video game respecting me enough to give me an exclusive. The guy’s only done two other interviews. And one of the actual wrestling section writers, “The Scotsman”, is well known as an EWR whore, but Adam still gave me the interview because in his own words ‘It would be more legit.’
Bebito: Ooooh… Ok. I get it. Don’t write about wrestling, only EWR… Got it…
Alex: (Turning his back to Bebito) I was also a play tester for the new TNM Wrestling Simulator but I didn’t do an interview with it’s author, Oliver Copp, because I now refuse to do anything with wrestling.
And you know what? It’s probably the smartest thing any of us can do. Say FUCK YOU to any sort of wrestling coverage. Let Pankonin or Watson or Polecat do that. Let them stagnate. Let us be the ones to bring in new blood.
Remember my interview with Microsoft. An EXCLUSIVE interview? Was that put in the main section of either page? No. Should it have been? Hell yes. That was probably our biggest chance at legitimacy, and Widro, Ashish, and Chris blew it big time. And I’m not even going to go into the conversation we had months ago about my gripe there because it’s buried and done. But needless to say our owners and masters think of this as wrestling first. And primarily only wrestling. So it is up to as 411games to be DISTINCT and separate from 411wrestling.
Personally, I enjoy knowing I can go to any site from TNL to the Gamespot forums and find every week someone talking about me and my work. I don’t care if it’s popular with the core 411mania audience. I don’t care if it’s even popular with any of you guys. I know I reach the people I want to and that those people advertise me to others. Of course, a lot of those people cut and paste my article which keeps hits down, but hey!
I take pride in knowing my shit inspires passion. Either hardcore hate, because I ignore certain games. Or insane love.
You saw what Chuck wrote the other week. He’s the typical hardcore gamer. And to paraphrase his own words “Alex’s content is better than any other columnist on the net.” And it’s true. For hardcore information and research, I am the best. Not only here in the VG community, but it’s why I get paid as much as I do a year. Because in the world where I get paid to write, I have the same reputation.
And it’s why I’m finishing up the details for a Retrograding book deal.
Bebito: Jesus Christ man. Do you have any idea how arrogant you sound?
Alex: Shhhh… It’s a gimmick Bebs.
Bebito: Uh huh. Gimmick. Riiiiight…
Alex: Although our own owners and boss think of us as a wrestling site, the people who matter don’t. And as funny as it may sound to all, each of us in turn, no matter how much we like Pankonin and Widro and Ashish, start needing to say ‘Fuck you’ to them and start making 411games into its own entity. (Bebito’s Note: It’s interesting to note that Jonathan Widro and Chris Pankonin eventually became Kliq, adopted our ideals, and joined the crusade. Turns out we had the same goals after all. Both are good friends down till this day, with Chris being a Senior Writer and Widro being the Publisher for this very site.)
Bebito and I formed the Kliq for three reasons. The first is for us to bond. Bebito and I have a nifty bond where we keep a lot of stuff to ourselves. The two of us used our pull and manipulation to get Chuck and Liquidcross jobs. And Chris does get pissed about the power we have over him and over 411 in general. It sounds silly but it’s true. Bebito threatens to walk? He gets free reign. I go away for two months? Chris gives me free reign. I bitch about getting a GBA section for months? Chris gives it to me. I bitch to Chris about not being able to write about imports? Chris finally said yes last month. But only to me. And so we had a group of 4 people that had their own Kliq growing. The two vets and the two newbies. And then we had our more casual friends. I suggested as we all liked you guys to bring them into the fold. And we did. And it turned out great as we’re even closer than ever. We’re more than just co-workers. We’re friends.
Chuck Platt: Some of us lovers. (winks at Bebito)
Bebito: Ewww… I think… I think I just threw up in my mouth a little bit.
Alex: The second reason was because it is a rip on the wrestling section. (smiles)
The third is because none of the guys at 411wrestling have the power we do. Scott Keith doesn’t. Flea doesn’t. Eric S. doesn’t. Jay doesn’t. If one of them leaves or quits, that section doesn’t even feel it. And it wouldn’t. If Bebs or I or one of you leaves, this page dies. Remember when both Bebito and I left for personal reasons? What happened to this page? Eh?
And what happened when we both came back at the same time? (Bebito’s Note: In retrospect, he was completely correct. Current webmaster of Insidepulse, Jonathan Widro, had a falling out with his partner Ashish and split from 411mania back in August of 2004. When leaving he took the majority of the aforementioned “biggest” names in the internet wrestling community along with him. 411’s wrestling section barely skipped a beat. But when I, Alex, and the Kliq left with him? The Games section completely SHUT DOWN and it took them until July 2006 to recover. 2 years.)
The Kliq is more than just a group of friends and a rip on wrestling. Like that WWF Kliq, we have the power to make or break the second biggest section in 411. And if we cover wrestling, as cute as it may be to get a temporary boost in hits, we’re also driving away our core audience by showing them we ARE a wrestling site.
Fuck the casual fans. The casual fan will pop in if something catches their eye. They might even buy a book. But often they’re curious and nothing more. It’s the people that you know want to read your stuff. The people you know that SHOULD be reading your stuff but aren’t that we should be appealing to. Why? Because if you build it, they will come. And that’s not cheese. It’s
truth. Build not around the audience you currently have, because then we will never grow. Build towards the audience we WANT to have. We have to grow, not placate. Otherwise we’ll all be third rate in the eyes of others, even if we do get considered by others as a major quality place.
Look at it this way. Eggo and ECM from the old GameFAN have read our stuff. And come back. Sidoshi and Kodomo go to TNL (the-nextlevel.com). And hate 411. Why? Ask yourself why 4 people that worked for the same mag and had the same way of thinking choose two different web sites to go to. Ask what we can do to get them to come here without being a whiny bitchy place like TNL.
What do gamespot and gamers.com do that we do not?
Bebito: Give inflated numerical scores to games to placate publishers and score freebies?
Alex: Well… yes, most likely. But I mean besides that. What do they do to draw in readers? And once you have an answer, start doing it.
I get emails and IM’s from people talking about how much they love my stuff. About how hardcore I am and how it’s good to have that at 411.
Bebito: (puts his head down) Oh God, here we go with the self glorification again…
Alex: And you know what? I’m not fucking hardcore at all. Why? Because I speak Japanese? Does that mean Euro gamers are even more hardcore because 99% of them speak English? No. Because I use a previous skill that I have to be better at games and reporting on them than others? That’s silly. That’s like saying a professional typist is hardcore because they kick ass at ‘Typing of the Dead.’ No the reason I get hardcore status is because I’m passionate. My love and energy comes through the page. Nearly everyone else on every other web page is BORING. They’re Ben Stein in Ferris Buller. They merely give facts. They drone on. They don’t crack jokes. I and Bebito do! Bebito has a fucking monkey for Christ’s sake. I use adjectives! I swear! I rant! I beg! I get across my love and hate for each and every game. Hell, I bet I could name any game on the planet, even one I’ve never mentioned, and all of you could instantly tell whether I liked the game or not. And that’s a big deal.
There. I’ve said it. I’m done. You know my feelings and what I KNOW we need to do to grow. And I’ve been doing that since day 1.
Your call and your move if you follow it.
(Out of nowhere Bebito enthusiastically jumps up on the break room table next to Alex.)
Bebito: And furthermore,… uh…
(A few seconds go by. The silence is awkward and long. Everyone just stands there looking around at each other.)
Bryan Berg: Where’s the free Neo Geo Pockets?
Ok so it might not have seemed like it at the time, but that really did light a fire under everyone. Sure, our egos grew to ridiculous sized proportions. Sure, we probably rebelled against management a little harder than needed (maybe not; it was fun regardless). But we came out of it stronger, closer, and more focused than we’ve ever been. It was at that moment that we truly became the Kliq.
Right. So you know how it all started. But who are we really? Well, various members of the Games Kliq have alter egos in the spirit of mocking (and kinda celebrating) the real members of that iconic wrestling group. For instance Alex Lucard, our Editor in Chief, is commonly referred to as HBK. While many call me Big Daddy Cool. Some of us don’t have these silly aliases but are just as well respected. Overtime by means of this sporadic column series you’ll get to know each and every one us, even those who have not made the jump to the new Diehard Gamefan. Hopefully through our history you’ll get a glimpse into what we plan to do with this site’s future.
Either that or it’ll just be a bunch of juvenile retarded stupidity.
…yeah, probably the latter.
(thumbs up, smile with teeth showing)