A screenshot from the indie game Celeste shows heroin Madeline being pursued by her evil clones.

It’s been almost three years since anything new has been posted on the site. This time last year I was making arrangements to shut the site down for good, contacting all my former writers to see which of their articles they’d like archived. But then my former editor-in-chief Evan paid the hosting fees to keep the lights on until March so he could link his articles in his grad school applications. He got in, by the way. After that, automatic renewal ensured the site stayed active for another six months. That brings us to today.

I removed my credit card info to avoid another auto-renew situation, but the hosting company wasn’t ready to say goodbye to my money. They faithfully updated my site in my neglect even after my account supposedly expired. I logged in last night as a backdoor since I’d forgotten my password where I saw my past due bill. Impulsively I paid the fee. I regret it as much as I don’t.

I’m writing this now to justify my purchase at least a tiny bit. The truth is, I don’t have any plans to do anything significant with the site, but shutting it down for good seems too hard for me to do, even after three years of inactivity. So let’s talk about those three years, yeah?

I thought you’d never ask

There were a few main reasons why Top Shelf Gaming petered out. The first is that the team accomplished what we wanted to do with the site. TSG had great ambitions but it was designed to give me and my crew practical experience to land us full-time gigs in the games industry. And in 2018, Evan and I both found cool jobs at game studios in Southern California. I spent three years at Blizzard Entertainment managing their website and digital assets. Since the job demanded so much overtime and creative energy, I didn’t have a lot of juice left for the site anymore.

Evan and I caught on camera at The Game Awards.

Six months after I started at Blizzard, my relationship with my girlfriend started getting serious. We rented a small room together in a condo. I remember being particularly stressed at that time as we both learned how to share space with a partner for the first time for both of us. One of the other roommates in the condo made the space very hostile. They actively tried to get the landlord to kick us out and even went as far as changing the locks without warning one day. We confined ourselves to our room when we were home to avoid that other roommates wrath, but that kind of environment put us on edge at all times when we were home and it caused us to lash out on each other a lot. Wasn’t great.

To add an additional wrinkle, I managed the site for years by waking up at godless hours of the day so I could manage the website before going into work. It turns out that blaring two big LCD monitors and clickety-clacking on my mechanical keyboard at 4am was not conducive to a happy relationship either. It felt like I had to choose between love and my passion. Love prevailed as it tends to do. I put TSG on the backburner in order to foster my budding relationship.

Lastly, and most philosophically, it felt like other people were doing what I wanted to do with TSG better than TSG could do it. TSG has always been about providing a space for diverse voices to talk about their experiences with video games. I intentionally had deeper conversations about games, including the political and social aspects of gaming. Other sites with a similar mission and way better funding started rising in prominence. It assured me that if I stopped doing this work, that the work would still get done. It felt like a good time to bow out. Evan reminded me that there is a season for everything and I could return to TSG in the future if I wanted to. I never fully closed that door.

What have you been up to?

A lot of things happened since we’ve been gone. It makes me sad to think of all the historic gaming moments we didn’t cover. The Activision lawsuits, new console launches, how COVID affected the industry in general. There are even some fully filmed videos that were never edited or posted. There’s a lot we missed the boat on.

But not for nothing. For starters, it was nice to just enjoy gaming for gaming’s sake and not be concerned with making content out of everything I played. Going on hiatus also allowed me to explore other passions and get to know myself better. I started cooking more and trying new restaurants. I even read a good handful of books (for my standards anyway). I learned I have ADHD and am autistic. Learning that, I finally understood why it was such a struggle for me to focus on my TSG work even though I loved it. I also got married to that beautiful woman I mentioned earlier.

Strangely enough, after we stopped posting on the site, I officially acquired the trademark for Top Shelf Gaming. So now I had a trademark that I spent over a year and lots of money getting and no plans to use it. Life can be funny that way.

So what brings you back?

I learned to stream so I could broadcast my downsized socially-distanced COVID wedding and I found the experience of building a stream to be deeply satisfying. I loved making the different scenes and graphics and figuring out how all the tech worked. It tapped into a lifelong interest of being a live TV producer, a career path I’ve never pursued but often think about. So now I’m teaching myself how to make really cool livestreams, again just as a hobby.

We’ll see what happens to the site. This could very well be the only post for the next three years. Who’s to say? If I do anything with the brand it will undoubtedly be a more casual effort. Top Shelf Gaming has always been a means to explore my creative interests in a “productive” way. I wanted to become a better writer so I started the site to write regularly. I wanted to become a better video producer so I started the TSG YouTube channel and taught myself a new technique with each video. All my work on the site became portfolio pieces that took my career further than I could’ve gotten without it.

I left Blizzard and the gaming industry in general. My new job doesn’t require me to work 60+ hours a week and I have more time to devote to my hobbies. Now that I’ve caught the streaming bug, I will invoke the Top Shelf Gaming brand yet again since I own the trademark and already have the Twitch account secured. Don’t expect a lot from me. I’m just having fun. With that said, it wouldn’t be inaccurate to say that Top Shelf Gaming is back. For now, anyway.

Missed you,

Written by Marcus Garrett

Marcus created Top Shelf Gaming to celebrate the awesome things about the video game industry while challenging the areas of the video game community that could be improved. He loves playing guitar and eating tacos, but never at the same time.

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