Inheriting an Audience is Weird

By Bay Posted Friday Nov 11, 2022

Filed under: Epilogue, Personal 45 comments

These last few weeks I’ve had Peter posting to the site, and before that, I was doing some lighter content. The podcast, some venting about VR, but nothing really substantial. The long and short of it is: it’s the holidays, and I really, really miss my dad.

Pumpkin carving was enough to leave me out for an entire day, recovering from the smell of fresh-cut pumpkin; a smell I associate with my dad. He used to do the pumpkin carving for us every year. We kids would draw out our designs, and he’d do his best to cut them out. It’s been a really long time since any of us carved a pumpkin with Dad, I suspect however many years it’s been since I’ve been old enough to hold a knife on my own. But still, the memory sticks as ‘how it’s done’ and leaves Halloween feeling wrong and unfinished.

Opening my Steam library makes me feel nauseous. I’ve mentioned I’ve been without a computer capable of video games for a good long time. I want to be excited, a little bit, to be able to game again.

The last time I held a computer that could run anything fancier than Facebook, I couldn’t be torn away from Skyrim for three months. Now, I can’t even open the damn launcher without feeling a bit sick.

This site is really, really important to me. I want to keep it going, and I want to write! Fuck, I want to write. I was a late bloomer to reading and writing, but like how my dad took to programming with a love and passion, I took to writing. As soon as I could do it, I would not be stopped. I have a finished book of poetry I need to publish, and an unedited but completed manuscript of four hundred thousand words that I need to get out of the draft stage. I’ve been writing columns for my own blogs since I was a teenager, and in different circumstances, I would have just landed my dream job.

But, a bit like the computer I write this on, it’s hard to really enjoy, due to the circumstances surrounding them both. It’s the worst-timed thing, which, by its very nature could not be at a ‘good time’.

It’s like facing creator burnout the first day on the job. I haven’t earned sick leave yet, hell, I’ve barely proven myself capable of not making a total fool of myself during the interview process. And, even if I had earned sick leave, and earned the trust of my audience, the internet isn’t an employer with a union and a handbook, it’s people. Jerry might promise to stick around through thick and thin,  but five other nameless readers will inevitably stop checking in with enough radio silence.

I find myself wondering if this will happen to other people, in the age of the internet. You see it with businesses of course, and some celebrities, children riding the coattails of their parent’s success isn’t new. But, damn if a blog isn’t a weird place to find it. Inheriting an audience feels like something that, as an outsider, I’d be fascinated by. If it does become a phenomenon in the next fifty years, people in the future will know how we should have dealt with it, and think it’s obvious in retrospect.

‘Well of course you don’t take over a parent’s blog after they die! Haven’t you seen what happened to ___ and ___?’ or, maybe, ‘Well you can’t just let the audience die out! You’ve got an opportunity! Think of ___!’

I suppose people of the future will just have to snicker at my expense because I have no goddamn idea what I’m doing. Unfortunately, it’s a bit of a ruthless cycle. I can’t game, because I miss my dad, so I can’t write about gaming which is something I want to do, because I miss my dad. Gah.

I don’t have an answer here, yet. I need to think of things I can do to make content while allowing myself time to grieve. I mentioned posting about The Sims when I was introducing myself, pretty much as a joke, but maybe I need to actually do that. Just, create what I can, even if it sucks, for a while, and hope when I can cope with it all again, this place is still here.

I won’t shut up about Phasmophobia, maybe I should lean into that.

I suppose this post is a few things, an advanced apology, a warning, and a bit of a tribute. Dad was always transparent online about when things were hard for him, and for that, I’m really, really thankful, because it lets me do the same.

 


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45 thoughts on “Inheriting an Audience is Weird

  1. LazerFX says:

    I’m here, I’m reading and I’m enjoying what I’ve read so far. I’ve been here for many years now, and the site is a firm fixture in my RSS reader (One of the first I added to Google Reader, back in the day, and transferred across to Feedly when Google axed that).

    In my own way, I’m feeling an echo of grief in seeing the posts pop up; I know what I felt losing my Mum, and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. Hold in there. It takes time, but the pain lessens, becomes bittersweet, and the happy memories come forwards.

    If I may add some unsolicited advice, from a 42-year old dad – Do what you need to in order to move onwards – this is your place now, make it your own. You may lose people, accept that. In the same way, hopefully you’ll gain people as you progress too.

    1. RoJ says:

      Yeah!
      I was going to say a similar thing.
      I hope you (all) are doing this for you. And grief is hard. I hope you’re able to get back to what you love, soon, but it’s okay if it takes a while.

      Some of the old audience will be here for it, some won’t, and you’ll definitely collect some new people who have discovered you. You didn’t inherit an audience, you were introduced to one. Those listening are here for what’s here.

      And a lot of us fuckin’ love Phasmophobia.

    2. Socks says:

      >> I’m here, I’m reading and I’m enjoying what I’ve read so far.
      Me too.
      The only words I can impart are ‘just do what you feel’.

      I’ve recently picked up Death Stranding, and I’m loving the cinematic feeling and story of the world. The whole porter thing isn’t burning me out – I’m still finding new ways to enjoy the landscapes and story.

      The BB thing is a little weird, but I’m very much enjoying the Mads cutscenes.

      1. Mersadeon says:

        Yeah, I also thought I would get bored quickly, but I actually love the mini-mechanics of “finding your footing” in the game. In fact, I deliberately eschewed vehicles for a long time because those actually are a lot more boring to me.

        1. AndrzejSugier says:

          I was pleasantly surprised that vehicles didn’t make the game less complex. They have very limited, specific use, so they just become another tool in your traversal toolbox. Same goes for every other mechanic in the game. People writing off Death’s Stranding gameplay are missing out on an incredibly designed system *not centered around combat or competition* which is SO rare.

  2. Misamoto says:

    RSS will deliver your posts to me nice and clear and I’ll read them regardless of gaps and whatnot :)

    You don’t have to write about video games as well! Your dad wrote about all kinds of things and I think we loved reading it all. Is there something you want to write about, but afraid we won’t receive it well?

  3. Kylroy says:

    I’d love to read more about Phasmophobia.

  4. Hugues Ross says:

    RSS crew representing, do what you feel is right and take as much time as you need. Personally I’ve enjoyed your writing, and I trust that whatever direction you move in will still be just as good! I’m not really one of the ‘regulars’ in the comments, but I’ve been silently reading this blog for around 15 years and I have no plans on leaving anytime soon.

    1. Olivier FAURE says:

      I didn’t know there was a RSS crew, but I’m super stoked to be a part of it =D

      1. Lino says:

        Can I be in the RSS crew, too? I look at my Feedly instead of visiting the site every day, but whenever I see a new comment or post, I use the “Visit Website” button to see the comment within the site itself.

  5. evileeyore says:

    Inheriting the work of the parents is as old as Parents and Children… it’s just something most labors have moved away from, most kids ‘these days’ (we’re talking since the industrial revolution really) have the opportunity to move away and into completely different occupations than their parents, it’s a rare thing now that children follow so completely in the footsteps of the parent that they inherit a business or trade.

    Look to the movie celebs, music celebs, and a few writers who have tried to stay in the same zone but are doing their own thing, rather than the way the talentless estate of Tolkien and Frank Herbert’s son simply cash in on their parent’s creations.

    In other words, it’s okay to pick up the reigns, but do your thing, don’t just try to keep doing what your Dad did (though obviously video game ranting seems to run int he family, so I guess keep doing that if you like).

  6. Noah Gibbs says:

    Something Shamus was fantastic at was showing us some of the *emotion* around this stuff. This post, in fact, is also great at that.

    I know you don’t have it on tap or anything. But just reading about pumpkin carving, and gaming, and inheriting and audience. These things *are* interesting.

    If you can follow how you feel, a lot of us will keep reading. And if not… I dunno. Maybe the people of the future will tell you this doesn’t work out. In the end, you’re the one who gets to decide if this is a good idea for you or not.

  7. Fizban says:

    More RSS crew here. I haven’t commented the last few posts, but that’s just ’cause I haven’t been in the mood for any posts of my own.

    It may be trite, but I’ll also pitch in the ‘ol “Hey, at least you miss him.” My mom died last January and between various factors, half of what I feel is more like guilt that I don’t feel worse (No, I don’t need anyone to tell me that whatever my feelings are they’re mine and that’s fine, I know that, but still). I wish we’d had a good enough relationship that I consistently felt a crippling loss instead of just a mild melancholy.

  8. Dreadjaws says:

    See, the thing about this blog is that very few of us were here for specific content. While Shamus did have certain categories he preferred to talk about (like videogame design) he would often come out with odd premises, unexpected subjects or anecdotes about his personal life. None of us were here for news either, since he’d very rarely speak about newly released stuff. We were mostly here because of his unique insight, sense of humor and ability to make any subject feel interesting, all qualities that you seem to have inherited and/or similarly nurtured.

    I’ll be honest: as much as I respect Shamus’ legacy if I had started reading your posts and found them boring, annoying or otherwise unworthy of attention I would have just moved on and stopped checking for new content. You should not feel obligated to try to maintain your father’s audience but if you wish to do so I’ll tell you that you’re doing a fine job of it on your own.

    Of course, it’s also entirely understanding if you need to take time. A loss like this won’t be easily processed. That’s normal and not something to be scared or ashamed of. It’s a difficult situation and we understand.

    1. Aaron B Wayman says:

      This really sums up what I was trying to find a way to say. I for one am glad y’all are trying to keep the blog going, and I feel you are doing a great job.

      1. Zaxares says:

        Me too. :) I think that most of us were here because we were all into gaming, but more than that, we wanted a quieter, more intimate circle to discuss deeper dives into games and other stuff. The gaming and geek community is HUGE now, and so there’s a never-ending stream of content calling for our attention. This place felt a bit like someplace you could come to where the pace wasn’t so intense, where you could sit and reflect and ruminate on the things we loved but in a respectful, erudite community. We knew it wasn’t terribly active, but we’d always drop by, either daily or when the mood struck us. I think as long as this site is maintained, a lot of us will continue to keep on dropping by, like villagers at a local tavern.

        Don’t stress too much about trying to write for our tastes too. :) As a writer, you have to find your own voice and niche too. So far, your writing very much strikes the same sort of low-key, down-to-earth style that I enjoyed in Shamus’ articles. But change is life’s constant, and if you find that eventually you want to take the blog in a different direction, that’s your call to make. You don’t owe us anything, so don’t stress yourself out trying to keep us entertained or please us. I’m certain that whatever you do with this blog, Shamus would be proud of you.

    2. Lino says:

      Yeah, pretty much. Although I was always a big sucker for Shamus’ life stories (especially about his adult life) and his works on worldbuilding. I still reread all those articles from time to time.

    3. Soldierhawk says:

      Just gonna slide in with a “me too” on this. This sums up just about perfectly everything I feel.

      No obligation to continue, but I’ll be here as long as you feel like it serves you to do so.

  9. Randy says:

    I don’t know how much it helps, because I’ve never had the spare cash for Patreon or been a regular commenter, but I’ve been reading regularly since the DMotR days, and I plan to keep coming back. While you have your own voice, the personal way you write about games and life and how they’re connected for you is similar to what your father did, and I don’t think it’s something I can find elsewhere on the internet. While I’m not part of the RSS crew, I have a page of links I check at least once a week, and this has been a permanent fixture there for years, so whatever you need to do and however long you need to do it, I’ll still be in your audience when you hit your stride.

  10. Heck, I miss your dad, and I’ve never even met him! His writing was so intertwined with my gaming that I can’t open my Steam library without feeling a pang of sorrow.

    What you are feeling can only be exponentially more intense.

    We understand. And we appreciate whatever you wish to share with us.

    1. Soldierhawk says:

      I’ve had such a hard time playing Black Mesa since Shamus passed. Every time I boot it up to make a video, all I can think about it how close I am to the end of the game, and how excited I am–would be–to go on his podcast again and talk to him about it.

      It’s so strange how you can feel that for someone you’ve never met face to face before.

  11. Peter says:

    Well you can’t just let the audience die out! You’ve got an opportunity! Think of Twenty Sided!

    Fixed that for you.

  12. Wilson B. Wilson says:

    I haven’t yet lost either of my parents, so I can’t begin to imagine the pain. Take whatever time you need to work through it, the content can wait if it has to. You’ll always have folks checking back for when it does pick up.

    I like reading about the Sims, and there’s definitely topics of all kinds to talk about with the new one on the horizon, the history of Maxis -> EA and their present state, and that one Sims-like in the works I forgot the name of. Phasmophobia is a game I only know a bit about from when it first launched a while back, but I haven’t kept up with it since, but I’d be interested to hear about it.

    A variety of content was always offered on this site, and well, there’s not a lot that wouldn’t fit into that variety.

  13. Uristqwerty says:

    Well, with everyone else who’s mentioned RSS, I might as well throw some extra praise its way too. In particular, software that lets you mark posts as read, and clearly see the remainder in a given feed. I’m not always in the mood to read every sort of post, yet the rest aren’t forgotten as a result, and so when the day is right can join the long tail of late readers. It’s a nice contrast to the pushy ephemeral now found on most social media platforms these days, where if you don’t immediately jump on some interesting thing offered by the recommendation algorithm there’s a 95% chance you’ll never see it again, and a 5% chance it’ll keep popping up multiple times a day for weeks.

  14. RCN says:

    Man, been a long time since I heard someone actually talk about the future like something that will happen. Like a tangible, expected thing. Between climate change, cold war part 2, economic collapses and the pandemic that practically no one is giving a damn to do a damn about, the idea of “future” seems more ethereal and unreachable by the day.

    Eh… possibly not the best way to try and cheer someone up. I was trying to be glad about someone talking about the future.

    Well, the message is ruined, but it is what I have right now.

    I’m playing The Last Spell, for what’s worth. It is a game about an apocalyptic magic world trying to save itself by destroying magic itself. And a roguelite tactical game where you have a very versatile bunch of adventurers trying to keep the hordes at bay while the ritual to destroy all magic is at work.

  15. Syal says:

    Would editing other people’s content help? I’ve got a rough draft, barely-even-started textwall of Final Fantasy 8 I could send. That’s got the added plus that you’ll have to play through the game to see if I’m lying or insane, which are both pretty routine occurrences.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      I bet there’s a lot of us who’d be willing to try our hand at the kind of long-form story breakdowns Shamus did here. The question is, who’s going to edit/proofread/look over the submissions, and how would all the 3rd-party content change the site?
      I’m not saying it’s unworkable, there’s just a hell of a lot to think about in implementing it.

      I will say I had fun with Rocketeer’s journey through Final Fantasy 12, though, so who knows…

  16. William H says:

    I miss Shamus too

    It’s not something you get over, we carry it for the rest of our lives

  17. ColeusRattus says:

    Hey, you’re doing a good job!

    But do it at your pace, and allow yourself to grieve. Even if it show’s up at seemingly random places.

    And, like you did just now, use the blog to tell us about it, or analyse it, if it helps you cope with it.

  18. kincajou says:

    Heya,
    Grief is a bitch, from my experience it takes time to parse things (over, and over, and over…and over again…At one point it ends up just feeling like you’re retreading so much of the same memories, so much of the same ground. It feels static, and yet somehow it helps you, every time it hurts a little less and you appreciate the beauty of what the memory actually is…) and at five years in, there are moments (few and far between by now) where it hurts just like day one.

    It takes time is a platitude but one that weirdly is true in this case, only nobody tells you *how much* time it will take (spoilers, it’s different for everyone), so [i from my experience] end up thinking that you should be ok, that the “old you ” should sit up and “get shit done”…. Often you tell yourself that much much earlier than it actually is true (again, for me the transition from grief to a new normality didn’t happen one day like an awakening but it was gradual… there was no “oh today i have finally made it” but rather “hey, it’s been some weeks and i can smile and appreciate the colours and life around me…i guess we’re getting there”).

    All this to say, try and be kind to yourself, you need time to process and live and learn to look at the world again (and not just stare into the big hole that’s in every room) and you need more time than you think you do. It’s a difficult path, one that is unique to you , but one that you don’t need to beat yourself up about for travelling…. it does get better.

    As for the site, i don’t comment much because the fellow commenters have covered my thoughs before me oh so often (hello peeps! you’re awesome) but i come and read regularly, your family’s thoughts and insights (and the commentariat) keep me coming back. So it seems i’m here for the forseeable future.

  19. Chuk says:

    I’ll be here thanks to RSS — I’d be cool with hearing about the Sims, my elder Gen Z/young millennial plays a *ton* of it (well, mostly creates stuff with it these days … Sims 3 still even) and it’d be cool to see another perspective.

  20. mookers says:

    I love the way you write, Bay. It doesn’t have to be about gaming (in fact, I am a long-time reader of this site and I don’t play games at all). I’ll keep coming back as long as you’re writing here.

  21. Lars says:

    A few other ideas to write about:

    – You mentioned how you try to “fix” this sites backbone – so that for example Peter isn’t transparant anymore. You could write about some of this stuff like: There I found X to fix/understand Y and it worked, but then for still unknown reason Z broke comletely. Like your dad talked about breaking his comic bubble making code.
    – Movies and Shows – You had quite some comments more talking about Angelic Layer than about VR and prostetics. Starting with something light everybody knows should help, like Mythbusters or Stargate.
    – Webcomics (I discovered Girl Genius and webcomics in general through this website) – Okay copyright could be an issue here. IDK
    – Cosplaying – Even though, I remember it more your mothers and [Peter’s] thing.
    – Poetry and your influences to write it.

    1. Bay says:

      Thank you for the suggestions! Currently, I’m trying to think of posts that are low-hanging fruit so I can take a beat, so things I’m already working on already site or no site. But I may refer back to this later.

      Just so you know, when referring to a trans individual, it’s considered rude to use their old name or ‘deadname’ in any capacity. Just ‘Peter’ gets the point across fine. We know who you’re referring to, don’t worry. :)

      1. Lars says:

        Okay, won’t do it again. I used it for historical reasons. When your dad did a post about your mom and Peter dressing up for a Con it was still ‘deadname’. And I don’t know if he is still into cosplaying.

  22. Axcalibar says:

    I lost my brother in January of 2017. I’ve only recently come back to using Steam somewhat regularly. For the first year after his passing, my friends list was a fresh reminder that he was “Last Online X days ago”. Consequently I became a console gamer for the subsequent years.

  23. miroz says:

    One of the most important lessons about writing is “Allow yourself to write a bad story.” I guess it’s the same for blogging, write a lousy blog post, edit it to make it better, and post it. I already like your style and I’m not going anywhere if you miss a target sometimes, and from what I see the same is true for the rest of the audience. You’ll improve and find your voice by doing it.

  24. Makot says:

    Grief after a close family member is a complicated thing, and the only suggestion I have, unsolicited as it is, would be to deal with it on your own terms and pace.

    And irregular writing might lose some parts of the audience, sure. Comes with the territory. Another thing that comes with it is attracting new audience, so write what you feel like writing – personally I have no idea what Phasmophobia is, but I’ve discovered quite a few things I’d never look at otherwise via this blog, so wouldn’t mind finding out about another.

  25. J-H says:

    For what it’s worth, I recall running across this when trying to connect to the company intranet long ago:

    http://www.intranet.org/
    It appears to be a still continuing website started by someone who died in 2004. The changelog doesn’t show anything in the last 10 years, but somebody is still paying for server hosting and the domain name.

    All forums have a founder and lead administrator, and eventually that person will die off or retire. Either someone takes over, or the website will die.

    One of my old favorite remixers (from like 24 years ago when I was 16?) had his website drop and is now just sub-hosted somewhere else. I just looked, and at least one of the old webcomics I used to read (Dragon Tails) is gone, only available on archive.org despite having run nearly daily for close to 10 years.

    Either someone maintains it and keeps it live, or it dies. Part of keeping it live is continuing to add to it – otherwise, it’s less and less likely to be seen and valuable.

  26. MelTorefas says:

    Totally understandable stuff! I for one have been really enjoying the content here (tho I don’t always have much to say), and am just very grateful you all have decided to continue this. I know it isn’t even *remotely* the same, but I definitely miss Shamus too, and so on top of enjoying the specific stuff you all have been posting it ALSO feels like a way a keeping a part of him around here, too, which is awesome.

    So, uh, I guess I’m one of those “I’ll stick around through whatever” people, heh. And best wishes on everything you all are dealing with!

  27. David F. Ellrod, Sr says:

    Understandable in all respects.

    I have one suggestion that may seem inspired or abhorrent — and if the latter, feel free to ignore. But have you considered writing *more* about your dad?

    He wrote, often, about his own life and interactions with his loved ones. And since you’ve been writing here, those of us reading have been able to see and enjoy tales about your dad from your perspective, and those of your siblings. I can’t be the only one that’s enjoyed them.

    How you grieve is, of course, your decision. And it’s natural to avoid activities (gaming) that remind you of someone you’ve lost. But as my own counselor has said, “those feelings will need to be worked through sometime.” Maybe that time is now, maybe it isn’t. But if it is — or could be — the right time, it might be tremendously therapeutic for you. You could get some content out of that elephant in the room at the same time.

    Refined suggestion: Write about your dad and your life, as much as you can stand, then divide that stuff into “too private” and “blogworthy.” You might surprise yourself with what emerges from the keyboard.

    Regardless, please recall you’re under no obligations here. I continue to pray for your family, and the repose of your father’s soul.

  28. Tonich says:

    Hey, Bay, I’m still here, and I think you’re doing a fantastic job with this blog – heck, you ALL are! Yes, your writing is different from your dad’s, but frankly speaking, Shamus was inimitable. I don’t know any writer on the net – or anywhere else for that matter – who can write like that. Sorry if I sound trite, but all I can say is do your own thing. Some of the old regulars will leave anyway, some will stick out of habit, but there’ll be those who genuinely enjoy your writing – and then, eventually, new audience will come.
    I know what you mean about being unable to write about videogames. I lost a very dear friend five years ago, and I’m still not over the loss. She was the EIC of the Russian regional branch of IGN and I’d done some writing and translation jobs for her, while also running a community blog at Destructoid. However, after her passing I just couldn’t force myself to keep doing that. At first I thought of it as a “hiatus”, then I told myself I don’t have the time… Now I think I just don’t have it in me anymore.
    What I’m saying is, you don’t HAVE to write about videogames if it makes you miss your dad. Mayble there’ll be a time when you feel you can write about it, maybe not – but if not, I don’t think ANYONE is going to blame you.

  29. Wide And Nerdy says:

    I don’t know where I land on your continuation of this site yet. I will say I hope you find an audience whether or not that includes me.

    But Shamus’s personality came through in his writing to an extent. So while other people can write about the same stuff as him or even make similar observations, nobody can sound like him. I’m missing that and its leading to me digging into the backlog of his stuff that I haven’t read as a source of comfort.

    I had this problem playing Mass Effect Andromeda. If it had simply been a game called “Andromeda” with no familiar Mass Effect elements in it, I might have given the game more of a chance. But because it was a Mass Effect title I couldn’t stop thinking about how I wished I was still playing Commander Shepard on the Normandy and that killed my interest in Andromeda before I could get far in the game.

    Something similar to that may happen here. I may find as I continue to read your content that I find myself wishing your father were still around and still writing for the site. Its nothing personal, its not even a judgment on your writing. Shamus just had a very specific flavor and being here reminds me that I’ll only get to experience it by reading a set of aging articles in his backlog. I’m afraid that on an emotional level, I’ll condemn your writing for not being your father’s writing.

    Then again, if you write about things I’m interested in and offer insightful analysis like your father did, I’ll give it a shot.

  30. Alberek says:

    Phasmophobia looks really interesting. It probably looks a bit goofy and the horror can be here and there (some ghosts can actually make you jump), but it’s probably a good introduction to someone that wants to test the waters with horror games but feels more comfortable playing them with other (the same way some people watch horror films).

    And the puzzle aspect isn’t a bad idea (although some mechanics are a bit confusing) it’s juggling three or four really neat ideas at the same time. I think part of why the game is so fun is the same reason why escape rooms are so fun, sometimes solving a problem requires cooperation between people because otherwise it would be imposible to do alone.

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