Today marks the second birthday for our little corner of the internet. Can you believe that another 12 months has passed? Where did that go? It only feels like a few months ago that we were trying to decide on what to call our website. I’m forever grateful to Rossko for coming up with the name ‘Finger Guns’ because scrolling through some of the other names we were mulling over (‘Pixel Shotgun’, ‘All Your Base’ and ‘Past-It Gaming’ among many, many other cringe worthy suggestions) I realised how different the past 2 years ago could have been and how similar they could have been to the 8 years previous to that.
You see, the story of Finger Guns begins a decade ago. Rossko, Paul and I met (not literally, we didn’t meet face to face until years later) at Hey U Guys Gaming, a combination of the original (and best, in my opinion) Thumb Culture and the excellent movie news and review website Hey U Guys. We had a good crack at making something special with HUGG but our youthful enthusiasm couldn’t overcome our lack of industry experience. We did our darndest to keep that site going but eventually it folded.
Then came ‘Jill Sandwich’. The three of us, along with some excellent contributors – Hi, Tim and Alexa – set up a site with what we thought was the greatest name of all time, inspired by Barry’s iconic line in the original Resident Evil. Our excitement quickly dissipated after our first wave of game reviews were met with an unexpected reaction…
“Who the f*** is Jill Sandwich and why should we trust her opinion on games?”
Almost no one understood the reference. Sexism was very much alive and well in the industry 7-8 years ago (and yes, still there today) and the gaming populous was certainly not ready to accept the opinions of a website with a woman’s name. The hypocrisy of “TrueGamer666” misunderstanding the name of our website, one of the most popular gaming meme’s of the time flying right over his head, to gatekeep us off sites like N4G because he thought we were a woman was not lost on us. We tried really hard to get that website off the ground but our traffic numbers told a pretty bleak picture. Within 6 months, the site was shuttered.
Paul, Rossko and I all still had a hunger to write so after a few weeks of reflection, we tried again with PSGamer.co.uk which, miraculously, hadn’t already been snapped up as a domain name. For years, that website was incredibly successful. We reviewed hundreds of games, wrote a tonne of features and became a relatively well-known name around the industry. Focusing on one platform – PlayStation – meant that we could streamline our content and for a long time, that worked, but eventually, reporting on the 5th trailer for Killzone Shadowfall starts to lose its appeal. We started to discuss covering other platforms and even movies & comics but those conversations almost never came to a decision on what we wanted our future to be. We wanted to broaden our horizons while wanting to focus our efforts on our strengths, maintain our traffic while trying something new and eventually, the stresses and expectations broke us. If we were a band, here is where I’d write we had “Creative differences”. To top it off, the site itself was hit by some huge technical problems and that was that. PSGamer was dead.
This came at a time when “pivot to video” was a thing. Copy editors at every major website were being fired and replaced with “content creators”. So, we tried again, reviving Thumb Culture as a YouTube channel. We expanded, introduced new team members, and put out as much video content as we could. As it turns out through, running a successful website does not easily translate into getting millions of viewers on Youtube. Who knew? We had a few hit videos but slowly but surely, our lustre for the project petered out and we left Thumb Culture.
This is when the idea for Finger Guns was conceived and was the product of all the lessons we learnt from our failed projects. It would be our site and on our terms. We would write original content, stuff you couldn’t read anywhere else, about whatever we wanted. There’s no point doing it if we’re not enjoying it so we wouldn’t be a slave to clicks and metrics. No pressure. We just needed a name that would mean something to us but wouldn’t pigeonhole us to a certain topic. That name was Finger Guns. Paul set up the site and made it look glorious. We started writing what about what we wanted too and we even removed internal ways of checking our traffic so that we didn’t become obsessed with the almighty click metrics once again.
Somehow, it worked. 2 years on and our annual peek at the website stats showed that we’ve now welcomed more than a million unique users to Finger Guns, with more than 2.3m page views. We’ve reviewed more than 330 games, covered thousands of games, written about our favourite TV shows and even reviewed the occasional movie and comic book. This past year, we welcomed a new team member, Greg Hicks, who instantly fit in with our little family of misfits as if he always belonged there. As we announced last year, we turned off all the adverts on the site and we launched a 1-tier, $1 a month Patreon to help us expand without having to force full page adverts in your face every time you visited us. We started streaming on Twitch and became an affiliate within a month of our first stream, something we’ll be doing much more of in the near future. We launched our podcast on Spotify, iTunes and Podbean which is now 6 episodes deep and with a pool of listeners that grows with each new instalment. We’re still committed to original content you can’t see anywhere else, whether that be a focus on cool indie games that other websites ignore or reviewing games you’ve probably never heard of.
Over the past 12 months, it’s the things we can’t quantify and can’t put a metric on that I’m most proud of. When we attend trade shows and gaming events and are recognised by developers and PR folk without having to introduce ourselves. When we get messages from you, our readers, asking us to review a particular game because you trust our critical eye to give you an honest, independent, trustworthy opinion. When we get a new Patreon and they say incredibly kind things about our content, encouraging others to do the same. After 8 years of mild success and spectacular failures, it’s truly humbling to be part of Finger Guns, to have found an audience of likeminded folk who trust our opinions without having to resort to click-bait and to have done it all with 3 of the best friends you could ever ask for.
Thanks for joining us on this ride. Long may it continue.