Not every new feature or code change on the site is worth announcing in Tragic Comedy, but players invariably notice the changes and ask what they mean or why they happened. To satisfy this curiosity, Scott creates a Twitter-like feed of site updates that mentions and explains every change to the site, large and small, with members able to subscribe in Dashboard. it's a popular feature, but it highlights how much attention and effort goes into some sections of the site and not others.
The recession leads to a professional setback for Scott that gets him thinking about ways to earn extra income on his own, by converting goo.tc into a subscription-model business while slowly growing its member base. Scott initiates a secret multi-year plan that will gradually transform the site into a viable small business, first by changing superficial details like the domain name and the terminology ("users" would become "members"), and then by replacing games and elements inspired by other people's creations with wholly original work of his own or with media that he could license from online providers. This plan remains unmentioned in public for years, but when a few members are told of the plan at GooCon: Champions Gate in 2010, they're supportive, even though they're told that it means replacing Rock Block with an original game based on pirates. Scott goes on to spend a significant amount of time over the next few years slowly weeding out inappropriate content and preparing the site for a bigger audience, including undertaking time-consuming efforts to raise the site's profile with search engines.
On the tenth anniversary of Thorough Movie Reviews, Scott sets out to revive the languishing feature by returning to its original premise of ridiculously short movie reviews (hence its joking name). With a nod to the popularity of Twitter's 140-character status updates, Scott limits the movie reviews to 255 characters, the length of a tinytext field in the MySQL database where the reviews are recorded, although members still have the option of writing longer reviews if they wish. To give the new format a big launch, Scott publishes 68 short reviews all at once, overwhelming the subscribers. Reception to the format change is lukewarm, as some members contribute new reviews but not as many as Scott hoped. Scott wishes he had slowly published one of the reviews daily over 68 days to give the feature a feeling of ongoing activity.
Scott's longstanding plans for annual Rock Block tournaments finally come to fruition: "Stairway to Heaven," a months-long tournament, pits all players of the game against each other in an escalating series of concerts where the winners climb higher towards Heaven and the losers fall lower towards Hell. Over the summer, some players are slowly eliminated and a cadre of veterans inches towards the top, although several players like Ryan Dunn, Amy Austin, and Jeremiah Poisson manage to turn around their early misfortune and do well. On October 4, with Steve Dunn, Russ Wilhelm, and Justin Woods right behind him, Scott Hardie reaches the top step where Steve West has been waiting for a month, and a Final Challenge begins that promises to be an epic, weeks-long battle for supremacy. It ends hours later when Steve crushes Scott in the first round of their concert and becomes Rock Block's first champion, winning sweet prizes and sweeter bragging rights.
Four years after the failure of Abre los ojos, Scott commits to running a new live RPG called Gothic Earth. Seeking to boost his odds of success, he returns to what has worked well for him in the past, the rule system of The Weekly Curiosity and the game setting of Fin du siècle. Since players need to manage their characters online, Scott leverages the site's existing systems for member accounts and member interface by building a new section just for the game. This inadvertently attracts the enthusiasm of site members who don't live in the area and want to know how they can play, which forces Scott to explain that the game is played offline by Sarasota locals only, although he begins considering ways for other members to get involved. The players get a character-editing system, and interactive general store for buying equipment, and a wiki for keeping notes about the world that they explore.
Ahoy, mateys! Starting with the legendary Francis Drake, Celebrity Goo Game observes "Pirates Week" with a septet of notorious raiders of the seven seas, as well as a new category for goos, Piracy. It's all part of a tradition of pirate-themed content across the site, everything from the characters in the World Game being abducted by pirate captain Cassandra, to the heroes of Gothic Earth making a risky bet with the ghost of Gasparilla, that eventually culminates in the launch of an entirely new game on the site that turns players into pirate captains with crews of their own.
The second GooCon, held in an Orlando suburb named Citrus Ridge, seeks to build on the success of the 2008 event in Siesta Key. Returning guests Scott Hardie, Kelly Lee, Matthew Preston, and Aaron Shurtleff are joined by first-time attendees Jackie Mason and Amy Austin. Besides the swimming pool and relaxing in front of televised football games that make it a relaxing weekend, there's a live session of Gothic Earth based on the short story The Most Dangerous Game, a return of "Celebrity Goo Game Live" which Aaron clinches before the final round, and a game of site trivia won by Amy. Over dinner, the guests take turns remarking about other site members past and present, making it a weekend about everybody who has been a big part of the site.
Most sequels to themed weeks in Celebrity Goo Game are lukewarm leftovers of the same concept with diminishing quality, as the best candidates have already been gooed the first time. Seeking to break this trend, Scott works hard to make Seven Deadly Sins Week II a creative success, redefining the terms of the theme and designing seven goos that would be fine additions to the game as independent goos outside of any theme. However, the week is undone at the very end, when a glitch related to daylight savings time exposes the answers to all seven goos for hours before Scott discovers it. Scott leaves the goos published with the answers exposed and erases the incorrect guesses already made, so that all players can benefit from the unintentional "Freebie Week" instead.
If the idea of "six degrees of separation" is true, then even famous people must be connected to Celebrity Goo Game players. This proves true when Roxana Saberi, a journalist whose Iranian imprisonment and subsequent hunger strike make her internationally famous, becomes a celebrity goo, and player Denise Sawicki reveals that the two were friends in childhood and remain acquaintances as adults. The phenomenon occurs again in October 2016 when Ken Bone, a lifelong friend of player Chris Lemler, becomes a popular Internet sensation (and a celebrity goo) after asking a question at a presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
Only a few months into its existence, Gothic Earth is threatened by controversy: Player Stephen Gambill does not get along with the rest of the group, who consider him an obnoxious miscreant. He has already driven away one player before the game even started, and tensions at the table continue to worsen. Stephen's change from playing a violent, monster-slaying agent of the Vatican to a smooth-talking, charismatic stage magician fails to solve the problem. Rather than lose more players or be forced to end the game, Scott tells Stephen not to return, in the process making him the second person forced off of the site. The decision saved Gothic Earth, as the group dynamic shifted to one of teamwork and good humor afterwards.
November 26, 2000: Intrigued by a video game that lets you collect cards and play them in a 3x3 grid, Scott turns the rules around in his head until he feels compelled to make his own version. Read more...
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