Throughout most of 2011, I had this idea to start up a blog about random gaming junk. Stuff that was on my mind, interesting little games and things that I had found. The previous outlets I used for this – community blogs on GameSpot, IGN, and Giant Bomb – felt like I was writing a lot of words to an audience of nobody.
On January 3, 2012, I registered a domain on WordPress.com, and “You Found a Secret” was born. The “Area” was added to the title a few months later, after I realized I was misremembering what finding a secret was called in Quake. Never bothered to change the address, though.
The next day, the first Secret Area post was published: A repost of an old article back in 2010 from another WordPress blog I’ve since abandoned; but then started proper with the article about MTV2’s infamous Video Mods show. The first month was a steady stream of random articles before settling down to the more standard 1-3 a month I’ve kept up with ever since.
When I moved off of WordPress.com and onto the asecretarea.com domain in early 2019, the process meant that a lot of posts needed some slight adjustment. At first it was just merely updating links so they weren’t directing to the old site. But as I looked back at what I wrote seven years ago, I immediately thought “I could do this better.”
Thus I started my personal “Renovation Project.” Initially going in chronological order before changing it to editing certain articles depending on my mood, the goal was to update a lot of the older Secret Area posts so they were up to a more acceptable standard. I’ve written about 150 or so posts in the eight years I’ve ran this blog, and I was intending to update about 75% of these.
One of my early posts was about a bargain bin shooter called Elite Forces: WWII Iwo Jima. Made by the guys who also made KISS: Psycho Circus, it’s an entry that I recoiled in horror when I read it initially. There were lots of things 2012 me did that I don’t do now: Belittling game developers, lots of swearing, making terrible analogies like I was a poor man’s Angry Video Game Nerd, the works.
Seeing that post caused me to do some drastic rewriting in spots to seem less harsh and more in my current neutral tone. Another article I wrote about tactical Quake mods was made in time for the then-upcoming Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, alongside mentioning the (now-defunct) Tactical Intervention. A fair share of these older posts felt like something I wrote in the moment as of 2012, and really didn’t hold up nearly as well several years later.
This is what the Renovation Project was to me: To give these articles a new life. To correct a wrong, basically. Rewriting them so they’re more general purpose and aren’t of the time I wrote them. The overall goal is to make these blog posts readable and interesting no matter when you’re reading them.
But it was also to fix mistakes I didn’t even realize were problems back in 2012. In an article about the original Shadow Warrior, I mistakenly used “oriental” as a general purpose term for Asian culture. Another article about the Japanese PlayStation import game Yakiniku Bugyou had a strange rambling introduction where I was worried of being xenophobic because I covered only American and European stuff at that point. Plus lots and lots of “gamer culture” garbage that I’ve since abandoned, especially in a post-Gamergate world.
There’s probably a handful of people reading this going “Why edit these? Those are who you were then, not who you are now. Plus you’re basically rewriting your history.” Well, here’s the main reason I went with.
In the first article I published on the site, which was pre-Secret Area, I mentioned that I wrote about it thanks to being reminded of a review of Mission Impossible II by YouTuber and Channel Awesome exile Mathew “Film Brain” Buck. Film Brain’s one of the few from the ex-Channel Awesome collective that I still watch regularly. Well, him and Todd in the Shadows, anyway. (I’ve been meaning to give other ex-Channel Awesome personalities like Lindsay Ellis and Obscurus Lupa/Movie Nights another go, but I usually prefer more sillier, light-hearted content.)
Over the past few years, Film Brain’s been re-releasing older episodes of his previous flagship show Bad Movie Beatdown. In the example above, he points out that he ended up making some fairly notable changes in some episodes, in some extreme cases of outright redubbing narration to be more in his current tone rather than how he was during that era. In a sense, it’s a “Director’s Cut” of his episodes.
That’s the logic I went with when rewriting the older Secret Area posts. It gave me an opportunity to give these a slightly fresher perspective, and also hopefully to make some of the older posts get more noticed. It all wraps back around to “I could do this better.”
Also, to be honest, it was hard to really look at some of my past writing. In some cases, all I had to do was update some paragraphs to be more current rather than from 2012. In other cases it was a drastic overhaul because I was writing it more like a general purpose blog rather than something more professional back then. I never really found my style and voice until around 2016, so I felt like a lot of these older posts seem a bit rougher to read now. In addition, the older posts still remain on the old WordPress site, they’re just private. So I still have the older drafts if I wanted to go back to them. Which I probably won’t.
Everybody has a rough start trying something new, and it sometimes takes a while before you find your footing, but once you do, it’s so satisfying. I don’t look at disdain at the early years of this blog, but rather a learning experience for what was to come.
I don’t know if I’ll be doing retrospective blog posts for every year of the blog, but I certainly will do it for this first year. This post is for those who probably started reading the blog more recently, and wanted to see where I got started. That’s all I gotta say for now, I’ll have a more substantial blog post hitting the Patreon in the near future. Without further ado, here’s everything I wrote back in 2012, updated to today’s standards.
Mods and Maps
Covering random maps and mods from PC games, basically. One of my more favorite article series, as there’s a fair share of stuff that’s been mostly forgotten by everyone.
– Mission Impossible: New Dawn for Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne, a post I wrote back in 2010 prior to the Secret Area that covers probably one of the better Max Payne 2 mods out there, next to maybe Cinema.
– Navy SEALs Quake and Special Forces Quake, two different creators taking a tactical approach to Quake, one of whom would go on to bigger claims to fame afterwards.
I Bought Stuff!
One of the few blog-centric categories that’s stuck around since the Secret Area’s inception. Previously called the duller-sounding “Game finds,” this chronicles my finds at thrift stores and conventions. Many of the things I bought were for potential article fodder.
– The debut from 4/25/2012, when I found a bunch of random old PC demo discs from Computer Gaming World, PC Gamer and PCGames.EXE alongside a handful of random DOS games. Surprisingly, someone was apparently offloading their old PC stuff at this one thrift store.
– From 7/31/2012, where I stumbled upon someone’s excess video game comic book stash. With some Timecop for good measure.
– From 8/29/2012, when I got a few little things before I went to PAX Prime that year.
– From 10/2/2012, covering all my stuff from PAX Prime as well as the Portland Retro Gaming Expo that year (see more info about that convention below)
An idea where I was gonna cover the content of what was on a demo or promotional disc, but I didn’t have convenient methods of capturing the stuff. I might go back to these some day.
– The Rainbow Six 3 Companion Demo Disc, a disc by Ubisoft that had demos of hot games like Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six 3, but also was an easy way to get some DLC for those Tom Clancy games without requiring Xbox Live at the time.
– My Demo Disc collection, a simple post about the stuff I had on offer at the time. I’ve gotten a bit more since, especially in a later post.
From the Bargain Bin
The idea formerly known as “Budget Hell,” this was a series covering games normally bought for $20 or less. Usually reserved for bizarre and forgotten games nobody really remembers.
– Elite Forces WWII Iwo Jima, a first-person game by a bunch of people who were originally working on Daikatana but would later leave them to work on KISS Psycho Circus: The Nightmare Child instead. ValuSoft quality written all over this one.
– StoneLoops! of Jurassica, a Zuma/Magnetica clone that I got from GameStop for using their (now-defunct) Impulse service. This is one of the more drastically overhauled posts.
– Vietnam: Black Ops, another Lithtech engine first-person shooter that I found at random. Something I didn’t realize when I wrote it was that Marphy Black of YouTube fame actually recorded a video of that game before I wrote about this, so we’re probably one of the few people who actually own and know of this game.
– PRISM: Guard Shield, an advergame for the Army National Guard made by the same people who would go on to make the Sniper Elite games. This was written around Thanksgiving, and there’s a reason for that.
Video games and Pop Culture
When video games show up in things like TV shows or movies, or in the case of one of these, is a celebration of video games on television.
– The Horrors of MTV2’s Video Mods, covering the short-lived “video games with music videos” concept that had bizarre 3D renders of video game characters performing pop music. It has to be seen to be believed.
– Throut & Neck, a short-lived Game Show Network game show where contestants played from home on their phones. Complete with that ‘90s attitude.
– The “Highlights” of the Spike Video Game Awards, chronicling the dumb history of an award show that lives on thanks to Geoff Keighley’s “skills” at marketing video games.
– Atari Hot Wheels, a time where a discount store was beneficial for finding toy cars for a brand that should’ve died 30 years ago, but still lives on through its shambling corpse and the remaining franchises it owns.
Conventions and Events
Blogging about the conventions I go to. I don’t go to many because of cost reasons, but I liked writing about these because travelogues are something I like reading.
– Checking out the 2012 Portland Retro Gaming Expo, where I checked out what was year 6 of the con, getting some deals, playing some games, and meeting cool people like Nintendo’s Howard Phillips.
– A random visit to the Wunderland Arcade, where I covered a local ticket arcade with some movies and a lot of Sega lightgun games. The last post of 2012.
Food and Drink
Giving video game-related foods a taste test, basically. This was something I did fairly frequently in the first few years of the site, and while I haven’t done a post like it in recent years, I have considered going back to it again because it’s one of the more “fluff” kind of posts I like making.
– Mountain Dew Game Fuel, what would become a yearly tradition on the site for the first few years, me covering the famous “Citrus Cherry” flavor re-released to promote the then-upcoming Halo 4.
For anything else that doesn’t fit into a specific category.
– Blood II: The Chosen, of which I go on the defensive for this oft-maligned game. I remember when the notable Blood Wiki linked to this, which they haven’t updated the link of as of this writing. I’d go change it myself, but wouldn’t that be self-promotion at that point?
– Shadow Warrior, the Build engine classic that was hard as balls and pretty tough to play with all the Asian stereotyping.
– Yakiniku Bugyou, a game involving serving dishes to people quickly that’s incredibly Japanese. I would love to see someone else take a shot at this game, especially someone more proficient in Japanese.
– Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, a general post about the low-effort this second sequel was to the franchise, and was the point where I stopped caring about Call of Duty as much.
Non-video games related
For the rare times I have something to write about that isn’t about video games. While video games are the crux of my blog, I do like going into things that are game-related but aren’t about video games.
– Trivial Pursuit: The Pocket Player Set, a portable travel version of Trivial Pursuit I didn’t know existed when I found it.
– A Look at CD+G with Rock Paintings, a CD that came with some Sega CD systems that showed off the incredibly short-lived CD+G format. While CD+G wasn’t used for much beyond this, it did get a second life being used in karaoke machines.
Getting nerdy about video game music
While I am fascinated about video games, music is another thing I really like. These posts are made to combine two of my favorite things, while also looking into some interesting things.
– The Random Big Rock Endings of Rock Band, covering a random game element in one of my favorite music games. Note that this post is from 2017. Before the “Renovation Project” existed, I rewrote this one to flow a lot better, plus implement a video from 2013 that showed the Big Rock Endings in action. The original post was made in late 2012 and since been made private, but I think this post still counts as a 2012 article to me.