Andrew Kaufmann's farewell message
I was there at the beginning, and in many ways, I was there at the end. Assuming you can call it the end, that is. It hasn't always been fun, but it has definitely been worth it.
When I say the beginning, I don't mean November 22, 1998. I'm thinking more in terms of some vague time in 1993, when a couple of adjacent circles of friends sat together at lunch in the Highland Park High School (in Dallas, Texas) cafeteria. A lot of you have probably heard this story, as it's one of my favorites, but I figure this is a good place to retell it. Anyway, for whatever reason, I mentioned Final Fantasy II (this is before the day of referring to Final Fantasy games by their Japanese number, of course). This dude sitting next to me suddenly lit up excitedly, and said he was a huge fan of Squaresoft, the maker of the Final Fantasy series.
We spent the rest of lunch talking about Final Fantasy, and at some point I had mentioned I was trying to somehow get Final Fantasy music onto my computer. The next day at lunch, the dude brought me a floppy disk with a MIDI of the Final Fantasy main theme and a few movie themes. I asked him where he got it, and he said he got it off of AOL. I was a bit puzzled, but he explained how it worked, and before long, I was a member too.
After a couple of months, this dude told me he was going to be making a "web page" on the "Internet." These were pretty new terms to me, and he had to explain to me how it all worked. He said it was a big up and coming thing, and much cooler than AOL. I was a bit skeptical -- AOL was the coolest thing in the world. But he made this "web page" anyway, and from day one he was as meticulous and prideful of every ounce of work on that website, the UnOfficial SquareSoft Home Page, as he is on the Gaming Intelligence Agency.
That's what made Andrew Vestal and his websites so successful -- the pride and joy and took in every single task. His vision was second to none, and once he set on a path, he was one of the most determined people I'd ever met in following through and getting to the end of that path.
Andrew and I haven't always agreed -- in fact, we rarely agree. I think that's why I've learned so much from him: he always provided the opposite viewpoint that I had. We grew up on the Internet together, with me always following his lead. We were equal partners when we formed the GIA, but I tired of the work and the toll the site took on free time. So I quit. Andrew tired as well, but kept going until he felt he had reached his goal.
To me, the run of us working together started when he handed me that floppy disk with the Final Fantasy II MIDI. And I'm extremely skeptical of the concept that this is the last website we'll work together on. I have a feeling Andrew will turn up again somewhere, with a new vision and new goals. And I bet that website will be as successful as the GIA.
The GIA is the culmination of years of accumulated knowledge between all of the staff members. Knowledge acquired through passion and passed on to its readers with a passion -- a passion that not everyone always agreed with, but I think most people respected. The GIA hasn't always been what I personally wanted it to be -- and nor should it have been. In the end, I'm extremely proud to be able to say that I had a strong hand in the forging of such a successful site, regardless of which of my ideas worked or failed.
One of the greatest powers of the site has been you, its readers. You submit fan works, you give us heads up on news, you provide us with resources we couldn't have otherwise had. I'm lucky enough to have gotten to interact closely with both the extremely talented staff and the dedicated readers through the Double Agent letters column. I appreciate every letter ever sent to me through Double Agent, and every person that's ever read anything I wrote, be it a review or my irrelevant musings in the Year in the Review.
So I guess this little bit will end with thanks -- thanks to Andrew Vestal for being there, thanks to every member that's ever been on staff for your dedication, and thanks to you, the reader, for reading.