El33tonline: Where are you going? Where are you coming from?

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Many of you have come to know the team at El33tonline over the past few years, we’ve become friends with so many of you who pop in to visit us each day. We’ve shared conversations, debated different topics, and celebrated milestones like birthdays and weddings together. Today marks a new landmark in El33t history, we’re launching a new, revamped design with new features that we hope you’re going to enjoy. It goes without saying that the team has been working very hard on this secret reveal for many months now, and we can’t wait to hear all your thoughts on it now!

El33tonline is now in its seventh year, that’s seven years of bringing you daily news, features, and reviews of the latest in the videogame industry. Over the years our team has grown and we’ve been fortunate to have some great, knowledgeable and talented members on our team. While some of our team has moved on over the years, our core team who established El33tonline has remained, and I’d very much like to share that story with you today, as well as the answers to some questions that I’ve been asked many times over the years, questions like ‘How did El33tonline come into existence?’ and ‘Whose idea was the website anyway?’ I hope you enjoy taking this trip down memory lane with me, it’s a journey that I’m proud to have walked and a path for which I’ll never forget the experiences.

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I’ve always counted myself fortunate to have a really awesome group of friends, a bunch of mates that I’ve known since my school days and have kept in close contact with since then. While I had dabbled with Duke Nukem and Leisure Suit Larry on my Dad’s computer, it wasn’t until I joined the Yoda clan that I truly became immersed in the wonder that was LAN games. Many late nights (and early mornings) were spent camped out in lounges and garages, as we engaged in hard-fought battles of StarCraft, DOOM, Quake, Counter Strike, and WarCraft. I chose to use the rather risqué Leeloo skin from Fifth Element, and before long took this as my nick, which I still use today.

Over the course of the next few years times grew busier with hectic varsity schedules and the general act of ‘growing up’ meaning less time for the LAN games. It also led to the establishment of WANG (Women Against Network Games), an organisation that the men built to preserve the sanctity of their LAN games, which were still being enjoyed, albeit less frequently, in between day jobs, study periods, and the responsibilities of life that were becoming increasingly more difficult to ignore. That’s right folks, we were moving out and moving up!

It was round about this time, on a lazy Saturday afternoon, that Peter decided we needed to locate an item called a Nintendo GameCube. We diligently began the quest to find the curious square box in the greater Durban area, and after visits to many shops we finally located what I believe was the last GameCube in town. Who knew that such a small purple box would in just a few short years change the course of my life…

Wherever we went the GameCube was never far behind, with Double Dash still remaining one of my all time favourite games to this day. Every holiday away wasn’t complete without Pete’s GBA or DS making an appearance, and before long Wayne bought a PlayStation 2 which resulted in many hours of Tekken and Metal Gear Solid, and then led to heated debates about the necessity of playing Resident Evil with the lights off. The tide had turned and console gaming had grabbed our attention away from the arguments of towers, monitor sizes and graphic cards.

During these early years of my console gaming education I began to think about how great it would be if we had a local South African videogame website. It was the year 2006 and there was no such service available locally, each day I visited international gaming websites to catch up on news in the industry. This got me thinking, what if we were to start a website to offer news and reviews of videogames, surrounded by friends who had an incredible knowledge of gaming and spending so many hours playing the games anyway it seemed like a good plan at the time. Little did I know how this idea would change my life and put me on a new course for the next chapter.

This was taken during the Go Live weekend in 2006 and shows the original El33tonline design

This was taken during the Go Live weekend in 2006 and shows the original El33tonline design

There were four of us who started El33tonline, three of the original team are still managing members today. Peter and Wayne were the technical leads, while Justin provided the design inspiration, and I sorted out the legal process of setting up the company and making sure we had content. The team worked tirelessly to make our dream a reality, and in September 2006 El33tonline launched into the world of videogames. For the first two years I ran the website by myself, updating it with as much news as I could, while the team contributed reviews of whichever games we were playing at the time. During those early days we didn’t receive review copies and it was our sheer passion and the team’s commitment and sacrifice that kept the wheels of our new venture turning.

A distributor from Canada sent us our first official review copy, and that was none other than Dragon’s Lair on Blu-Ray. I still have the letter written to us to this day, something to mark this milestone. The game was so difficult that Pete was the only one of us who could play it, but I still cherish the day that game arrived in the post. As we built our brand and reputation, local distributors sat up and began to take notice, and we slowly began to develop relationships with people in the industry, relationships which we still hold in high regard to this day. We truly felt our hard work had paid off when we started to receive review copies from distributors like Ster Kinekor, Megarom, and EA.

This is the original letter that accompanied the first review copy we received from Digital Leisure who were based in Canada

This is the original letter that accompanied the first review copy we received from Digital Leisure who were based in Canada

The team changed a little over the next little while. Sadly Justin moved away, but in the middle of 2008 Oliver sent an email to us that set into motion the next chain of events for El33t. As anyone interested in the industry knows E3 is a very busy time of year, Oliver’s initial email to us pointed out that E3 was just around the corner and that we couldn’t possibly cope with the onslaught of news without some additional help. It turns out his prediction was right, we did need help. The day to day running of the website was still being managed solely by me, and the idea of facing another E3 alone was a daunting prospect indeed. To this end the three of us met with Oliver at a pizza joint to discuss the possibilities.

Thinking back it must have been an overwhelming experience for Oliver, meeting with the three of us. We’re a pretty-laid back bunch though, and we could tell that he would be a good fit for our team. He started work with El33t a few weeks later, just in time for E3, and he’s been on our team ever since. With Oliver and I both working on updating the website daily now, El33tonline continued to grow and it’s been growing ever since. We’ve had a number of awesome people join our team to help on the reviewing side since then, some have moved on but all have helped to shape us into what we are today. Our team grew further when we met with Tom (who just so happened to have gone to school with Oliver) and shared a milkshake together, he went on to join our team in late 2010, bringing more valuable gaming knowledge to our team and also the opportunity to craft even more features thanks to an extra set of willing hands.

While working for and running El33tonline is a daily challenge, it is a blessing to be working in an industry that we are so passionate about. I’m proud of where we stand today, our team is dedicated and works tirelessly to keep El33tonline updated and to make sure we stay innovative and interesting. It’s not an easy task sometimes. Our team has stayed up all night to make sure the latest announcements are up to date when you log on in the morning, we’ve walked hundreds of kilometres and fought through exhaustion to bring you hands-on previews and interviews from international events, we’ve waited in the freezing rain and wind to gain access to press conferences, and had panic attacks trying to get wi-fi to work for live-blogging purposes, we’ve endured 38 hour trips to overseas destinations, and as a result serious jetlag, we’ve spent hours preparing and researching for interviews with industry giants, and just as many hours writing up our thoughts on these to share with you.

We waited in the cold wind and rain to gain entry to Sony's pre-gamescom press conference in 2010

We waited in the cold wind and rain to gain entry to Sony’s pre-gamescom press conference in 2010

This industry can be as cruel as it is rewarding, but through it all we’ve had the support and enthusiasm of our readers to keep us motivated. To everyone who has showed El33tonline support over the years we say thank you, we couldn’t do this without you and we’re forever grateful to you for giving us the opportunity to share our passion with you. We also would not be where we are today without the incredible team that drives El33tonline every day, thanks for your dedication, commitment, sacrifice, and for just being so totally awesome with knowledge, skills, and fun.

Today marks the start of a new adventure, and we hope that you’ll be around to help take El33tonline to new heights in the coming months and years. After all, videogames is what we all love, and so far it’s been one hell of a ride!

The El33tonline team at rAge 2012. Left to Right: Russell, Oliver, Pete, Lisa, Wayne, Oltman, and Tom

The El33tonline team at rAge 2012. Left to Right: Russell, Oliver, Pete, Lisa, Wayne, Oltman, and Tom