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In Fall of 1998, Jason Venter decided to take his love for videogames and his interest in the Internet and turn them into a personal website. At first, the result was a depressing affair, a black background with a bunch of text that sort of wrapped around awful images created through Paint Shop Pro.
In the early days, HonestGamers was hosted on GeoCities, a free web host later acquired by Yahoo! in around 2000 (and later closed in 2010). This provided an easy way to experiment with HTML without spending money. The site did not have a proper domain name.
The site has since been through several forms, most of which have completely faded from memory. Always, the goal has been to ensure that it fulfills the ideal originally established when the site was given its original name, Honest Gamer.
Honest Gamer was chosen for the site for a number of reasons. One reason is that no other site had that name at the time. It also happens to mesh with what the site founder loves about game journalism. He believes that the best sites should have in-depth coverage of the greatest games, while also taking an honest look at those aspects of games that are not so exemplary. People who write for the site should not have any hidden agenda. Not only this, but the site should have multiple perspectives on single titles, thus providing a truly impressive resource.
The term 'Honest Gamer' was attractive for another reason. It refers at least in part to someone who is 'honest' about gaming, someone with a true passion for the entertainment medium.
With the name chosen and the home secure for a time, Jason set about providing good content and recruiting others to join the cause. Some of those people are still involved with the site and work as staff members. Others have drifted away, never to be seen or heard from again.
Over time, as interest in the site continued to grow, it became apparent that growth was necessary. In 2000, a domain name was purchased for the site, and it finally had a URL to match its name. From there, the name for the site gradually evolved from Honest Gamer to HonestGamer.com.
Besides the new name, HonestGamer.com gained a new home with CheetaWeb hosting. This new home allowed the site to grow by leaps and bounds. In the year time following the switch, Jason was able to learn PHP and combine it with MySQL access to bring his vision to a new level.
In June of 2003, the HonestGamer.com domain name expired, despite efforts to prevent the occurrence. It was not possible to renew the name, and the site was in a state of crisis. At this point, Jason searched about for other names that would adequately make it clear that the site was still for honest gamers. To his pleasant surprise, he discovered that HonestGamers.com was still available, and registered the name. It is a name that even more accurately reflects what the site is about, because it more clearly indicates that the site is about the experiences of multiple 'honest gamers.' On September 26, 2003, the site gained its new (permanent) name, HonestGamers, and launched with a slightly updated design from the one current at the time.
Still, the journey had not ended. In 2004, the site moved to a new server, hosted by GoDaddy. Changes had to be made to the code in order for the site to work on the new server, as the old server had been more lenient (but less reliable). A slew of new features was the result, but there was some down time during which the site was only accessible at the temporary, nearlyillegal.com domain name. For three months, that other domain was the only way to access the site. By late 2004, when things finally returned to normal, a fair amount of the site's regular traffic had disappeared. Fortunately, the new hosting space ended up working well. The site remains on GoDaddy's servers to this day.
The final three-column site design as of June 16, 2008.
Though the site had found a permanent host, that didn't mean the end of changes. For much of its life, the site had existed as a three-column site, with users occasionally complaining about how cramped things felt. There wasn't enough space in the center column to properly feature much of the site's best content. In response to these and other concerns (and just ahead of the site's 10th anniversary), the leftmost column was removed. Additionally, steps were taken to more prominently feature content that might have been buried within the archives, and to highlight site contests. The site's design at that point is reflected below.
Current site design as of October 1, 2008.
Despite the changes, the site's traffic began to taper off as the most prolific contributors lost their interest in contributing, or in writing about and playing games entirely. HonestGamers faces an increasing amount of competition from numerous sites across the Internet, including those sites that it has counted as competition all along and a slew of new sites with major funding to support them. Since HonestGamers is an independent site without external funding, Jason Venter decided that a more focused approach was appropriate. Community feedback and site activity made it evident that most people visited the site for one reason: the reviews. That was also the type of content most frequently contributed. In early 2011, the site began a shift to a reviews-centric focus with a new design. Content such as news articles, previews, guides and cheats is no longer featured on the site. Instead, the site is built exclusively around its games database, community features and reviews content.
Current site design as of June 9, 2011.
Now that you know a little about the site's history, take a closer look. Browse through thousands upon thousands of submissions, interact with other users on the forums, view user blogs and possibly even post some of your own work. Most of all, remember there will always be a home on the Internet for the honest gamer...
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