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podcast-beyondI was part of the crowd that shouted “BEYOND!” each and every time it was called out; a group of gamers that gathered in San Francisco on July 12, 2013 to be part of something special. Because even in this growing sub-culture of passionate die-hards there were other options this very weekend.

In Las Vegas, the largest yearly fighting game competition, Evolution Championship Series (EVO), took place, crowning champions of numerous titles, like the World Series of Poker of gaming. Seattle was host to their own event, the Retro Gaming Expo, which is more akin to an event like San Diego Comic Con, admitting fans of gaming’s history to join together and celebrate, as well as buy and sell retro games, consoles, and memorabilia. And then there was California Extreme, a yearly event in Santa Clara, CA where arcade cabinet and pinball table owners come together to create one of the world’s largest gaming arcades, all removing the need to bring a pocket full of quarters.

Whereas all of the above mentioned events happen on a yearly basis, Podcast Beyond Episode 300 will happen only once. And sure, they had a similar event when episode 200 occurred, and will likely hold court again for episode 400. But these types of celebrations are unique. In talking to other attendees, we could not think of another similar gathering of fans, hosted by the personalities, of a video game podcast. People had come from all around the world to be a part of the show and sign the Beyond wall.

From the moment I stepped in line, Greg Miller (@gameovergreggy), one of the three Beyond co-hosts, was chatting with the crowd. This is in addition to responding to an “Ask Me Anything” on Reddit, as well as a full day’s work. And Greg wasn’t the only one who was coming out to greet the fans as they arrived. Colin Moriarty (@notaxation), another of the co-hosts of Beyond, as well as the Community Management team of Sean Allen (@necronomiSean) and Eriq Martin (@Ereeeek) were out to tame the crowd for the three or four hours prior to the show.

When we stepped onto the fourth floor of the building, greeting us was the friendly environment of the IGN offices. This is a place built by fans. Artwork from fans decorate the walls, appearing just as frequently as art from game studios. We were welcomed with open arms, as well as with pizza and beer from local favorites Patxi’s Pizza and Drake’s Brewing. People from all aspects of the industry and IGN personalities were milling about the crowd as we settled in for the show.

If you’ve ever attended a panel at a fan convention, that’s kind of how this went. They kept the typical format from their show, but switched out guests regularly, included a question and answer portion for the audience, and gave away loads of gaming goodness.

There wasn’t a dull moment. Right from the get-go they set the bar high by introducing the crowd to Shuhei Yoshida (@yosp), Sony Computer Entertainment’s President of Worldwide Studios. He joked with the hosts and talked about the importance of the Beyond Community. From there it was like a who’s who of Podcast Beyond stars, always keeping the levels of laughter and shouts of BEYOND! at 11.

During the festivities, I was thrilled to witness to a Playstation trivia contest. This was the highlight for me. Even before they were done explaining it, I put my hand up in hopes to be part of this. And though I wasn’t chosen, that didn’t stop myself or others in the crowd from trying to participate. The first person to answer a question correctly was going to win a prize. I just wanted to prove that I had retained more than a healthy amount of knowledge about gaming. All four of the questions asked were missed by the participants that came up to the mic. But during question two, which required the contestant to respond with the name of the Playstation One era development kit that was available to the public, a few hands from the crowd shot up to respond.

An audience member not too far away from my own raised hand was chosen and the answer, Net Yaroze, was given. By the time the fourth contestant in line missed his question, Colin, Greg, and Andrew brought the contestant from the crowd up to reveal his prize, a Launch Day Playstation 4.

This wasn’t the only act of generosity during the show either. They kicked the entire thing off by looking for audience members who didn’t own Playstation 3 or Vita and gave one of each away. What this says about the crowd gathered is impressive. Over 300 attendees, and probably thousands of others watching online, and there are those that don’t own or play the games that this show covers.

After the show ended, I wandered around the crowd, talking with other fans as well as the celebrities of the event. On hand was voice actor Troy Baker (@TroyBakerVA) as well as his rock band, Life in 24 Frames. A wonderful mood was set by their mellow, introspective sound. During this time, I thanked as many of my favorite IGN editors as I could.

I cannot say enough how great it is to be able to interact with people whose opinions, writing, and work I aspire to. What this crew has done for the gaming community is immeasurable. Their voices help to legitimize a growing medium that sometimes struggles to move past the reputation given to it by its past as well as the portrayal it receives from those who fail, or perhaps refuse, to understand it.

Events like this are necessary for our community to grow. As gaming grows older, and the medium continues to grow in popularity, one thing is certain. Those of us who are most passionate about gaming will always be here. And even when it seems that the focus shifts away from us to try to raise profits, visibility, and mindshare, we will still be at the center of it all. No matter how many fans Call of Duty, Angry Birds, Madden, or Just Dance have, there will be a group that discusses every detail of The Last of Us or speculates about what will happen when the next console war starts. We must try to include as many people and be as inviting as we can. If we shut our doors, we will weaken our voice. We need these podcasts and fan events to show others that what we love is fun and welcoming.

It’s no secret that podcasts about video games are not a lucrative business. Over the years I’ve heard a handful of hosts talk about how difficult it can be to monetize their shows. And while explaining to the powers-that-be may be a struggle when time spent recording shows could be lent to more profitable work, events like Beyond 300 should be an example of why podcasting is important for the larger community.

Above: Myself and Anthony Gallegos of Zombie Studios, formerly co-host of the GameSpy Debriefings