Though Game Losers fully launched this past April, the site itself has existed for several years in various iterations. For those of you truly in the know, you might know that the domain name is sort of an homage to the video game site GameWinners, which has been dedicated to cheat codes and hints for video games since the late 1990s. The histories of both these sites are very intertwined and I’d like to illuminate them both in a very special feature this week.
It all began with GameWinners, of course. Somewhat nobly and somewhat stupidly, GameWinners has refused to change with the times for the most part. The main site looks much the same way now as it did in 1999. Most of the cheats and codes have also been the same since then. For what it’s worth, it’s a pretty good online repository, but sites like GameFAQs have stolen the little thunder GW had. Most telling of all are the rave reviews of GW proudly featured on the site: they are all fifteen years old.
The GW forums are the central social hub of the site and have actually undergone some pretty major changes and an incredible amount of drama. The only administrator to have a career on the upper staff spanning the life of the forums is the owner of GW, Al Amaloo.
He was a frequent poster in the very early days but since then he posts once every other blue moon, having delegated most of the grunt work to the rest of the forum staff while he focuses on keeping the entire site up, for better and for worse. His posts nowadays are such events in and of themselves that a forum badge exists for having posted in a thread Al has posted in.
I joined the GW forums on December 28, 2001. I had been using the main site for such things as codes for The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages, Mario Golf on the N64, and various Pokémon games. One that I remember in particular is that if you beat the Elite Four fifty times in Pokémon Blue, you would be invited to the Orange Islands. I got to 48 before the game literally ran out of memory to store my Hall of Fame accolades and imploded.
When I joined the site, I was nine years old, well under the minimum of thirteen. People under the age of thirteen who lived in America had to print out the famous COPPA form, have their parents sign it, and send it in. That was obviously too much trouble for me, though, and what were they going to do to me if I got caught? My first-ever post was in the Super Smash Bros. forum. It was titled “ME MAD!!!!!” and the thread icon was an angry face. I was mad because I beat the 100-Man Melee but lost the character unlock fight against Falco. It received no replies.
Because I didn’t have Internet or even a computer at home, my posts were infrequent for the first couple of years. In that time the site had a massive expansion fueled by the furor over the PS2, Xbox, and GameCube as well as the handheld revolution helmed by the Game Boy Advance. It was around 2003–a good time to be a gaming forum. The GW forums weren’t just dedicated to gaming, however. Forums existed for real-life discussion like sports, politics, general discussion, and there obviously existed the roleplay forums as well.
Those latter forums existed in a subforum named Clubs & Clans (C&C). Clubs were threads where people of similar interests could join (read: have their name added to the first post) and do various things, like discuss the given similar interest, do trivia, or even roleplay. Clans were more roleplay-focused and generally these were either universes created by the forum members or pre-existing fictional universes where forum members would use their original characters to tell stories.
It was pretty fucking nerdy but it was really fun, too. By 2004, I had joined The Fire Emblem Club, which today has the distinction of being the oldest club still in existence. I had just gotten Fire Emblem for the Game Boy Advance, which was the seventh FE title but first to be released in America after the positive reception of Roy and Marth in Super Smash Bros. Melee. The club existed before that (these guys were dedicated) but I happily joined.
I even started a few of my own: Dinosaur Planet (basically a Star Fox roleplay club), The Continent of Elibe (more Fire Emblem), and the Family Guy Fan Club which thankfully never fucking roleplayed but at one point had the most members of any club in C&C. I was way too proud of this at the time. The Fire Emblem Club outlasted them all, and the roleplaying there kickstarted my writing career. So there’s that.
As an only child who had great troubles being accepted in school, it was a godsend to have a place online where I could connect with other people who liked the same really specific things I did. I was very immature both on and offline, but most of the people on GW were kind enough to guide me.
For the subforum Peering Into the Mind of an Idiot (PIMI), things were a bit harder.
It’s mind-bendingly difficult to explain PIMI to an outsider. The best way I can do it is the classic school cafeteria analogy. The different cliques have their different tables and PIMI was the table I most wanted to sit at but it was the hardest one to find a seat. It was officially billed as the “nonsense” or “SPAM” forum but it’s a lot more complicated than that. An elaborate mythos surrounded PIMI and the people who were regulars there were a very tightly knit group of people, with injokes and everything. It really was just like high school!
I tried to find a place in PIMI but I speedily became the most hated person there. It got to the point where someone exposed me as being 12, which lead to my account getting banned. In an AIM chatroom after that news got broken to me, I said “GW was my whole life, kinda.” It was. That quote made it into a lot of signatures of the many forum members that didn’t like me.
I printed out the COPPA form, got my dad to sign it, and sent it in. Eventually I got unbanned and I was back in action. I had actually gotten back in action previously; I signed onto an account made for my friend and made a post declaring how much I hated everyone in PIMI and how they were all big fat meanies. But I came crawling back because it was a matter of principle. My young mind saw it this way: if they didn’t like me, there must be something wrong with me that I have to fix.
For the record, I was pretty bad and immature, but most of the people who lambasted me previously have since admitted that they should never have treated me that way. They were pretty bad and immature, too. One incident I remember in particular is the “forum wedding” of two members that was unceremoniously “crashed” by several people from PIMI, most of whom got banned and had to reregister or temp banned.
Around 2006 I made a friend on the forums whose username was Nintendorker. He too had trouble fitting in and he came to be on AIM with a plan: starting our own forum. To hell with GameWinners! Let’s make…GameLosers.
Scott and I were co-administrators of this “splinter” forum, hosted on a site dedicated to hosting small phpBB forums. We got a few people from GW to convert over, some of Scott’s friends, some of my friends, and some other people completely. Things were pretty good for a while (even though I still regularly posted in GW and PIMI), up until the moment the site that hosted us went under.
We had about a week to make a backup and transfer elsewhere. Around that time Scott and I had a falling out due to some actions he took that made most of the forum extremely uncomfortable. All you need to know is that we had one female member and Scott pretty much instantly made her a moderator and afforded her special privileges. She got overwhelmed and took a leave of absence and Scott took it personally. We pretty much chased him away from the site with torches and pitchforks. I’m proud of us.
With one of the founders of the site exposed as an asshole and the website itself in danger of disappearing forever, most people made their farewell posts and went their separate ways. A few of them migrated to GW. I downloaded a backup of the database and pledged to revive GL later, somewhere. I just didn’t know where.
The answer to that came when I begged my dad to buy me the domain name gamelosers.net. With the help of a friend, I got the database restored and GL was back in business, though very few people knew about it. I used the site’s storage space more for storing mp3s that I was streaming through my Myspace profile. It was basically my own personal Dropbox.
The mass e-mail sent to all GL members telling them of the site’s return from the dead fell on mostly deaf ears, probably because in the several months between the death and rebirth most of them had probably moved on with their lives and/or changed their e-mail addresses. The second iteration of GameLosers died forever when I made my friend an admin for kicks one night and he installed a theme that bricked the entire site. Way to fucking go, Tommy.
Meanwhile, over at GW, I was finally making a name for myself. I won Most Improved Member two years in a row. I guess I had a lot of improving to do. Most of my work got done in the IRC channel #pimi (which has a whole history of its own) and, thankfully, a lot of it translated to the site and even a little bit to the outside world. But the biggest scandal in GW history and one of my favorite fucking stories to tell was about to break.
Aphrodite, also known as Kat, was the girlfriend of another member, tworow2 (also known as Aidan if I recall correctly). They had both been members since the early 2000s and had between them racked up tens of thousands of posts. Kat had even risen to the prestigious post of super moderator, one step below administrator. She was a PIMI regular, as was tworow2, but she wasn’t liked. She was attractive and funny but just as rude and unfair.
Turns out the joke was on us. The photos of the person we thought was Kat were actually of Nyli, a camgirl from the website CamWithHer. Both Nyli and the manager of CWH exposed Aphrodite in a thread that shook GW to its very core, as hard as one can shake an Internet forum. It was and still is unbelievable and a testament to the power of the Internet. We were fooled for six years and we even made her a super moderator. And she didn’t exist.
The thread devolved into an argument over whether or not Aphrodite and tworow2 were in fact the same person, which I thought was a foregone conclusion. Good old tgies actually conclusively proved this using science but no one believed him. The only thing anyone believed for sure is that we had all been fooled. Also, Tommy hit on “Kat” a whole lot, so way to fucking go, Tommy.
Back at GL I was struggling to find ways to make use of the domain that weren’t just storing my books, music, and miscellanea. I rented out part of the site for a friend of a friend’s webcomic but I forget what the webcomic was about and also what it even looked like. That space is long gone. At one point, a primitive version of the GL you know today existed. Its name was “Gamelo Sers” (yeah) and the only post I ever made on it was a review of the Scott Pilgrim vs. The World movie. I think I gave it an eight out of ten.
I nuked that after a bit, around the same time PIMI exploded with some more drama. Background: marasamune and Ocean were/are dating. Blacklotus was a mod of PIMI, just like mara. Blacklotus and Ocean apparently had a thing when they met up one time, and Blacklotus came clean about it (as well as posting a massive archive of private mod forum leaks) in a massive exposé post that raised more questions than it answered. He had recently nominated me as moderator of PIMI and I had passed the vote and he said that he had left PIMI in good hands. I issued him a citation for “Illegal Acts” because he mentioned smoking weed and saluted him on his way down the River Styx.
Activity on GW has slowly and painfully ground to a halt since then. I’m still a mod, but both people who I nominated as co-mods dropped the job after a while. One of them (canadaguy) actually never even posted after he got modded and we all thought he died. He did not, thankfully. But the upper staff has been completely lost as to how to increase activity and keep the site going. Most of them have just accepted that they’re on a sinking ship.
Last year, GL came back again as a forum named COOL WORLD where friends could hang out and have just the best old time. Activity there ground to a halt pretty fast and it died earlier this year, shortly before the launch of GL as it exists today. GW still exists today too, of course, but just barely. Though it has an impossibly rich history, we’re all just waiting for the day Al shuts the servers down for good. It had a good run, and here at Game Losers we hope to keep on that fun old spirit.