No more Level Up.
I doubt he'd agree, but I owe N'Gai Croal a great deal. He was the first blogging heavyweight to link to Insult Swordfighting, to what I thought was a throwaway post about the similarities between the biggest game blogs. He kept linking, and those traffic spikes were followed by links from sites like GameSetWatch, Gonintendo, and even Kotaku itself,* all of whom, I have to assume, got to me through Level Up.
N'Gai's embrace of the New Taxonomy of Gamers is a debt I will never be able to repay. He first spotlighted the series in a comprehensive response last April, referenced it in a 1up.com podcast, and was still mentioning it in Slate's Gaming Club in December (and then, between the time I wrote this post and the time I scheduled it to publish, he linked it in the last-ever Vs. Mode at MTV Multiplayer). While it would be genteel of me to say that satisfaction with my own work is reward enough, it would also be a bald-faced lie. The response from readers has been gratifying and validating. Every month or so, it seems, somebody else discovers the series, links to it, and discusses it. That's at least as much N'Gai's doing as it is mine.
For a few years now, Level Up has served as the hub of a certain type of videogame writer. Although there were always plenty of people doing interesting, thoughtful work about games, for too long they were isolated. N'Gai was like a switchboard operator, making the necessary connections to get the information through. I always talk, in general terms, about the need for a more thoughtful and substantive cultural conversation about games. N'Gai actually made it happen.
Whatever he does next, I'm sure he'll do well at it. But we will miss him.
*None of whom has linked to me for ages. Come back, Maggie!