Critical Distance Fansite Jam Roundup: March 2024

Welcome back sickos.

At the end of February something special caught our eye: Phil Salvador’s Final Fantasy VIII is the Best And If You Don’t Agree I Will Destroy You. A deliberate throwback to 90s web design and a less-consolidated, more creative Internet, the site made waves. We liked it so much we decided we wanted to see more sites like it.

So we put out the call, and the Critical Distance Fansite Jam was born.

We played pretty fast and loose with the rules, because the thing we wanted to promote above all else was creativity. We received a total of 17 submissions, and all of them are accounted for below in a definitive sickos’ edition of our usual weekly roundup. Take your time with these sites–poke around, find secrets, linger on the details. If you come back to them at some point in the future, maybe some will even have updates!

This was so much fun that we’ve decided we want to keep this idea going, though we haven’t sat down to sort out what that might look like just yet. Have any ideas? Themes? Challenges? Come visit us on our Discord server and share your thoughts!

Oh, and I’ll shake the can just once before I leave off: supporting us through our Patreon doesn’t just help us in our ongoing mission to compile noteworthy and interesting games writing from around the web; it also gives us the flexibility and resources to do silly things like this. Every little bit helps!

But enough talk: have at you!

Just Like You Remember

Let’s start with some games anchored firmly in the same era that the idea of the fansite evokes: the mid-to-late 90s.

  • (( Q U A K E ))
    Wren’s landing page for Quake is a period-appropriate slipgate complex of sorts, connecting the nascent sicko with all the resources and community support they need to get up and running in the chaotic high watermark of id’s early output.

Next-Gen Sickos

Fansites aren’t just for old stuff! Our next two featured entries have extended the ethos of the fansite to contemporary titles and topics.

  • Playdate: The Unofficial Website
    Honestly, the way Nick so perfectly captures the whole visual identity of the Playdate here, you could have told me this was the device’s official website and I would have just believed you. Beyond the polish, you’ll find a lot of content here, including user guides, individual game writeups, and a plan to review all 24 games that come with the Playdate’s initial season pass!

With a Twist

None of our next four entrants play it entirely straight. Each still has a particular game or series as their focus, but with a unique approach to the material. Enjoy!

  • Shadowscribing
    Well if it isn’t my all-time favourite 6/10 game! Joe and Jeff have a plan here to map out their playthrough of N64 banger Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire with a series of level-by-level writeups mixing genres and perspectives. The first level is live! Keep an eye on this one.

  • Lia’s BK nonsense
    The GameCube–a console with many exclusive niche games but not so many sales–presents a sort of parallel universe to discerning genre sickos. Lia’s entry, which catalogues the experience of the Baten Kaitos games through media galleries and extensive tweet archives, is as much a flex of web-dev engineering as it is compelling window into this parallel universe of sickodom.

  • Memento Majora
    Matthew Parsons’ Majora’s Mask fansite has a twist–it’s produced entirely from memory, and I can’t think of a more appropriate subject for the experiment. To me it harkens back to the whimsical unreliability of fansites in general in the 90s, when the games press pipeline was still patchy enough for rumors and pranks to thrive.

    • Don’t miss: Start with the About page.

Live, Die, Refresh

Roguelikes and Roguelites are on deck in this next section. No save scumming here!

  • The Roguelite House
    While most of the fansites folks made focus on single games or franchises, Joel Haddock tackles a whole dang subgenre here, bringing together both genre history as well as per-game analyses of a bunch of popular titles.

  • (( W A N D E R E R ‘ S J O U R N A L ))
    Wren somehow found time to submit two separate fansites to the jam, and they couldn’t be more different. This one takes the form of an interactive love letter to Chunsoft’s house-brand roguelike Shiren the Wanderer.

Mega Fans

My early exposure to Mega Man was entirely through fansites, since I didn’t grow up with many of the original games. It feels very right to me, then, that the Blue Bomber is well accounted for in this series-specific section.

  • My MegaMan Fan Page!!!
    While Kaile and I are probably the most visible contributors to the Critical Distance project these days, it is absolutely Zach who keeps everything running behind the scenes. He also found time, somehow, to submit his own entry to the jam and hoo boy is he channelling the Deep Mega Man Sprite Comic Magic with this one. Behind that shitpost-y veneer, however, you’ll find some pretty sharp textual analysis.

  • Welcome to the Cyber World
    Mike Egan’s entry zeroes in on the Mega Man Battle Network subseries, and it is, for lack of a better description, aesthetic AF. It’s even got background music! In terms of content, you’ll find rankings, a media gallery, and some lovely experiential writing.

What’s the Catch?

Now let’s move into another genre-specific section–this time it’s monster collecting and battling! Though you can probably already bring one very popular example to mind, there’s a good chance you haven’t heard of either of these games, and that’s the point! Sickos rejoice!

  • The web site of Dragonseeds
    Reach’s entry is a tribute to underappreciated PS1 Monster Battler Dragonseeds. I know this is a good game because I checked out the media gallery and there is a dragon that is also a lion and also a shark! You’ll also find some history and a quick-start gameplay guide, all wrapped in a sublimely PS1-chique aesthetic.

Blame Yourself or God

Technically, this isn’t a Tactical RPG section, since one of the entrants is about Ogre Battle rather than the Tactics Ogre subseries. But we all know these two go together, right? They go together! C’mon.

    Joshua Lindquist has built out a shrine to arguably the most underappreciated entry in the Ogre Battle/Tactics Ogre series of RPGs. Here you’ll find detailed guide resources including maps, stat calculators, character encounter walkthroughs, and more! This is a great resource for a somewhat-forgotten game that’s kind of inaccessible in more ways than one!

Sickos’ Chaser

We’ve got one more entry to close out the showcase and it’s a treat.

  • Starcraft 64Ever
    Matt’s love of StarCraft 64–that’s right, the console port specifically–is legend on the server, and that love shines through in this single-serving site that both indulges all the best (?) impulses of fansite design while also spinning up just enough of a sales pitch that you can almost imagine Nintendo greenlighting it as an official landing page for the game in an era of less standarization and oversight (and more fun).

    • Don’t miss: Buddy… just have the experience.


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