Fourteen days ago, I found myself without a job. After five years and change, my old company was restructuring and no longer had a place for me. This news instilled a wide array of emotions.
Anger and resentment struck first as is to be expected at the sudden loss of a source of good, steady income.
But that very quickly gave way to relief. I hadn’t been satisfied at the job for some time now and was ready for a change so this abrupt life change just forced the issue.
Lastly, there has been an overwhelming sense of uneasiness over the uncertainty of what comes next?
Fortunately, I had this new project to keep my mind occupied.
About five months ago, I had a spark of an idea for a new podcast I wanted to try. It snuck up on me, honestly. After my last big content project of vlogging everyday between May 15, 2017 and May 14, 2018, I felt burnt out and was quite happy to just enjoy other’s people stuff for a while, rather than go back to creating my own. I continued the West Wing podcast I was doing with Logan Wilkinson and Quinten Hoffman for a few more months but the burnout and a fading passion for that project led me to walk away from it about halfway through the second season of the show.
I started developing the idea that would eventually become That Ultimate Video Game List Show, which launched today alongside the rest of this site. I was looking at somebody’s Best Games list and they made the caveat that they chose to only include one game per franchise, which I feel is a fairly common idea behind those types of lists. And for whatever reason, I fell into the idea of compounding that criteria with the idea of only having one game per console, as well. The thought of somebody arguing that Super Mario 64 is the best Mario game AND the best N64 game at the cost of keeping games like Super Mario World, Super Mario Galaxy, Ocarina of Time, and Goldeneye off the list immediately filled me with excitement at the fun conversations that could be had. So I started exploring what the format would look like.
Initially, it was going to be a top 25 list. Then I started listing out consoles in my head and realized that might wind up really scraping the bottom of the barrel. It was doable, but maybe – to start at least – I could make it a top 20 list instead. Counting handhelds, you can come up with twenty games across the big three Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft alone, but it still leaves room to throw Sega representation, early Atari and its contemporaries, or the megalith that is PC gaming onto the list. Twenty also divided nicely by four, which I figured would be an easier number of people to wrangle for the show and would give people an equal opportunity to get games on the list.
But was that going to be enough to get me back into the wide world of internet content creation? I wasn’t convinced so I even pitched the show to a friend at one of the community sites and if they wanted to take the idea and run with it, I would have happily been a guest and then let the show move on without me. But they didn’t bite so the idea just stuck with me for awhile. And then it started collecting friends. Maybe not as innovative in format but I DID find myself wanting to start talking about video games and movies and tv and wrestling and so on again.
What’s in a Name?
Ask anyone trying to create content and one of the common things people will point out is how deceptively difficult it can be to come up with a name for what you want to do that is catchy, creative, reflects what you want to do, and hasn’t already been taken by somebody else. I would say this goes doubly in the world of video game podcasts, websites, etc. where we have a common vocabulary that we want to pull from to highlight our content as “see, we like games!” You don’t have to go far to find something with “games,” “gaming,” “bits,” “retro,” etc. (nothing wrong with any of those at all, just an observation that it’s harder to identify names with those keywords that haven’t already been claimed). Even West Winging It, my old podcast about the show was incredibly similarly-named to others in the market.
Trevor Trove worked for a time, but it was always going to be too innately tied to my own name and the ideas I had were going to start involving other collaborators so it was time to try something new. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was very much channeling Greg Miller moving his YouTube and podcasting endeavors beyond his GameOverGreggy monicker into Kinda Funny. So what would be my “Kinda Funny?”
I would jokingly imagine going to PAX and introducing myself as Trevor Starkey from “blank” but I was at a loss to find one that would stick for me. Late one night in July, while failing to fall asleep, I thought to myself “Hi, I’m Trevor from that nerdy site. You know the one. Where we talk about video games and stuff.” And then I jolted awake and almost immediately started googling “That Nerdy Site” to see if anyone had it or something similar. After finding no serious hits, I started thinking how I could expand that. My “Ultimate Video Game List Show” idea could very easily be switched to “THAT Ultimate Video Game List Show” and if I wanted to get back into talking about movies I could explore “That Film Show” or “That Movie Show.” Wrestling could be “That Wrestling Show.” And so on.
With the ideas flowing, I went to, at the very least, secure the domain and the social media handles.
It’s Business Time
Trevor Trove was very much a passion project and I was fine pouring my own money into making it all happen. I look at a lot of those costs, including attending as many events as I have over the years, as investing in myself and my pursuit of working in entertainment. It even led me to a brief stint as a freelancer for IGN before I had to give it up to focus on the day job. But this time around felt like Patreon might be the right option so I set out to use the business management background I got in college to start a proper company.
I went about establishing That Nerdy Site, LLC, getting it registered in my home state of Arizona, acquiring a Tax ID number, and securing a business checking account. I registered the website and started migrating my old Trevor Trove posts from their Squarespace-based site to this new WordPress-based one. I secured @ThatNerdySite on the main social feeds like Twitter, Twitch, and Instagram. I got the Patreon setup and the YouTube page and eventually Libsyn feeds set up for each of the podcasts. It’s been a busy few months.
And as I started scheduling out days that I would record and publish podcasts, I could see into the future where I was burning myself out all over again. So I panicked a bit and started pulling back. I lost a full month of work to Fire Emblem: Three Houses. But that delay was the best thing I could have hoped for. Because late one night, I got a call from Logan Wilkinson.
It’s Dangerous to Go Alone
Logan called the night before I was leaving for PAX West and we talked about where I was at with the site, among other things, for a couple hours and he helped me realize I didn’t have to do it all myself. Yes, I wanted to have a film podcast. But I didn’t have to host it. I’ve made enough friends in the community in recent years that I can pull from and collaborate with to help spread out the workload.
So that weekend at PAX, my new focus became recruiting. I pitched the idea for the site to Ben Bellevue and Chloe Naylor – my roommates for the weekend, Frank Bozzani – an old Phoenix friend who I have missed since he moved to Austin, and Christian Puente – who I have spent many a sleepless night with in hotels while I wrote and he edited videos about assorted community events. All four of these people have been friends for years and share and interest in creating content but just didn’t necessarily have a dedicated place to do it.
I started sharing the news with other friends that I was planning on getting back into the game here on November 1st. PAX being over Labor Day weekend meant I was giving myself about two months to finish getting everything in order. At the time that was laughably considering planning a potential move out of my apartment there as well. Thank god I didn’t end up attempting that too.
Shortly after I returned, Logan announced his departure from Irrational Passions and I quickly recruited my longstanding sounding board to the team as well. And his roommate and fellow friend Jazz Foster expressed interest in joining the site as well.
Rounding out the initial launch team here was Cameron Abbott. He was already somebody I was planning to tap for the first season of That Ultimate Video Game List Show and was my other main sounding board for the ideas for the site as a whole. I wanted to invite him but he had just made a point about moving on from KGN, the project he had founded at the beginning of 2016 so I didn’t want to drag him back in if he was ready for a break. So when we went to see Joker, I updated him with where I was at with everything and offhandedly mention that there was a spot on the team if he wanted it. He said, “I want it,” and I had an octet.
The Final Countdown
It’s a bit poetic to me that one of the final things I did on my last day in the office of my old job two weeks ago was schedule all of the daily countdown tweets leading up to today’s launch. I had no idea when I did that on that Friday morning that I would be looking at unemployment within a couple of hours but that sudden influx of free time also gave me much-needed time to gets things even close to ready for today.
Mentally, I was definitely thrown for a loop for few days and had to postpone the planned first recordings of That Ultimate Video Game List Show but my friends were incredibly supportive, as I knew they would be. When we finally did sit down last Saturday to record the first couple rounds of the show (the first of which you can listen to now), I was immediately reinvigorated. Seeing this project I first envisioned half a year ago finally come to pass was wonderful. Next I recorded the first episode of That Nerdy Site Show and the feelings continued to swell. Then I listened to the first episode of That Wannabe Film Class that had been recorded days earlier without me, left me in full “proud father” mode as I realized parts of this thing were happening almost fully outside my own scope.
Finally, I made the flight here to Austin for the weekend to fulfill the idea I pitched the team around PAX West: we would launch on November 1st and celebrate with a weekend of streaming together to celebrate the kickoff. I didn’t realize it was going to be the big Extra Life weekend at the time but that didn’t bother me as we decided to combine the two events into a Launch-tra Life series of streams. I quickly moved away from the idea of the typical 24-hour uninterrupted stream though as I really wanted there to be time for us to all hang out together off camera this weekend as well.
So that’s what we’re doing. We’ll be sitting around together for the next few days, playing a lot of party games (and a full playthrough of Until Dawn to shake things up), trying to raise some money for the big, beautiful kids on behalf of our friends over at Team Kinda Funny. Come on by if you’re able. We’ll be over on Twitch starting around 9:00 am CT Friday, Saturday, and Sunday for about 10 hours each day.
On Monday, I fly home and the work of managing this new adventure really begins.