Originally published at: Alphagamer – A 22-Year Journey Through Gaming History – Alphagamer
Getting back into the habit of writing about games is making me nostalgic and it made me think about how it all started in 2001. In that year, as I was in the middle of my bachelor in Software Engineering, web forums were a popular way of interfacing with likeminded people on specific topics. Even though this predates the current popular social media you could already see toxic behavior of anonymous user behind a keyboard either in game or on gaming forums. Getting flamed or insulted was not unusual so I decided to start a non-toxic gaming community.
Inception and Early Challenges
It is obviously not easy to create a successful community so in the beginning it was mainly friends I already knew from gaming, either through school or from growing up. I registered the domain, I installed forum software (without initially having purchased a license… 🙄 ) and I was looking at tutorials to use Adobe Photoshop to create an appealing webdesign. There was a lot of trial and error, the first version of the forum looked something like the image below. Please note this is a screenshot of how Alphagamer looked in August 2001!
In that first year I went through a number of iterations, this is how the forums looked in November 2001.
Growth and Community Development
What helped develop the community and the audience was the release of a couple of industry defining games. At this point in time Starcraft Brood War, Diablo 2 and Half-Life: Counter-Strike were very popular games. We used to play Starcraft on the LAN at the uni right after we finished our Jave or C++ programming lecture. Warcraft III followed shortly after boosting the members count of Alphagamer even further. We had a clan for Counter Strike (called Future Shock) and a guild for Diablo 2 called Alphagamer (I know, not very original).
While gaming online and organizing LAN parties I also kept working on the forum and the layout, improving the webdesign and the content being posted on the forums. In September 2004 I used and orange/white theme which was one of my personal favorites. See the below screenshot, sadly some of the icons and the logo is missing but it gives a view how the forum progressed since 2001.
At this point Alphagamer had a group of serious moderators and core contributors to keep things in check. To name a view: Auri, Breaker, Xavbond, Fyboo, Boot, Tyson Twotone, Jasper, Postbodeeuh, Froggy, Numbe and Crildor. This was a diverse group of members coming from the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Denmark and the UK. I am lucky that I was able to meet most of these in real life due to the LAN parties we organized (and the fact that my friends were willing to travel to attend them, even if it required flying). Even though it might seem strange LAN parties were an awesome part in gaming requiring everybody to take their hardware and hook it up through a LAN and play multiplayer games. You must realize that in 2004 flatscreens were not the norm and that, even though online multiplayer games was becoming the norm, coming together with a group of friends to play non stop for 24 or 48 hours was a great way to spent time.
Sadly we also lost one of our core members along the way as well, Crildor aka. Mitchel died in a car crash in December 2003. Mitchel was a World of Warcraft fan from the early onset and moderated the WOW forum. To honor him Blizzard added an NPC called Crildor to the game that can be found in Darnassus (check out his Wowhead page: here).
The World of Warcraft Era
On a lighter note, this was also the point in time that World of Warcraft was released (November 2004). This again brought a new buzz to Alphagamer with new members, content and guilds. In the period between release of the game and the end of 2006 we saw the rise and fall of the Alphagamer, Tranquil and later Industrial Strength World of Warcraft guilds.
At the end of this period my personal life had changed significantly compared to when it all started in 2001. The conclusion of it was that I couldn’t spent the hours that were expected on a weekly basis playing World of Warcraft or any game for that matter so, it felt like it was expected. I also didn’t know which direction I wanted to take Alphagamer. Without the sense of direction and taking in account that managing and maintaining a web project (even small or medium size as Alphagamer was at that point) takes time and dedication that I couldn’t or wasn’t willing to spent on it. This in the end resulted in Alphagamer being taken offline somewhere in May of 2008 at that point counting roughly 1,900 members, just shy of 8,000 topics and 74,000 posts. At that point in time the forum looked as below.
Alphagamer Reemerges: Back in the Game After 15 Years
To conclude, I am back (Alpha is back). I never really stopped playing games, I just didn’t do it at a competitive level or with other people depending on me being online a certain amount of time or days a week. I will keep playing games and as you can see, I am back at writing about it as well. I am planning to keep doing this but will also explore other ways to share insights, like via streaming or through videos. More about this in due course.
Lastly, I will try to reconnect with some of my lost connections from the early years of Alphagamer. Hopefully I will be able to post about this in the near future as well. As we revisit the past, I extend an invitation to all former Alphagamer members to share your memories on our forum, and let’s reconnect on this nostalgic journey.
This invitation is obviously not only intended for former members. If you want to be part of the reemergence of this community by all means register and drop a note on the forum.
Alpha, signing back in and ready to continue the gaming conversation!