James Stephanie Sterling
The Jimquisition Reposition
When The Jimquisition first started, it was just me, a microphone, and a plain white background. I’d toss in a little picture-in-picture for emphasis, but the stark set and unscripted rambling were not particularly impressive.
It worked for its time. I cut my teeth at Destructoid, where low production value was all part of the charm. The audience enjoyed scrappy content, independent bloggers getting by on what they could cobble together. In part, it’s still how I operate, but when the show moved to The Escapist, that operation needed to evolve.
My debut at The Escapist was… rough, to say the least. I brought the unscripted, low-fi format to that crowd and was quite thoroughly torn apart. A lot of people criticized the set, which was just one guy yelling at a camera in a plain room (of course that would become an entire industry in certain areas of YouTube).
It took some experimentation, but to cut a long story short, the audience was eventually won over after I started making fun of how disliked the show was by emphasizing an egotistical brat persona, ignorant of the backlash he was receiving and truly convinced he was delivering enviable content that nobody could possibly dislike.
At the same time, the visuals of the show began to take shape. Backing up (or “failing” to back up) the ego was a cheaply fabricated cloth banner resembling the Norsefire aesthetic from V for Vendetta. My aim was to go for a cross between Norsefire and Killzone‘s Helghast, clad in black and red, delivering demagoguery from behind his lectern each week.
The show became a success shortly thereafter, quickly reaching about 100,000 views a week which was a solid bar to hit and consistently had me trading places with Moviebob for “Most prominent Escapist creator not named Yahtzee.”
While undergoing constant evolution and audiovisual upgrades, the core of The Jimquisition remained largely the same over the following years, up to and including my independent streak. The tinpot dictator look worked a treat – seeing a fat man with his flag and his lectern, stood behind his videogame toys with an air of self-importance was a fun and funny look.
Unfortunately, it stopped being funny when nazis got popular again.
I’ll spare us all a recounting of the ugly political climate we’ve found ourselves in, but it’s hard to deny we’re in an atmosphere where imagery even vaguely reminiscent of fascistic tendencies is hard to be seen as a joke. It was shortly after the inauguration of Lord Sunkist that I started to notice the questions surrounding my show.
“So, is he a nazi or not?”
Now, I’m fully aware that a large sector of the discourse surrounding my show aesthetic came from concern trolls who saw this as just another point in their precious culture war. There are plenty of people who wanted to draw some perceived hypocritical distinction between my genuine political beliefs and the political beliefs of people who had finally grown beyond parody.
They were not the sole voices, and they weren’t part of the equation. I was much more concerned about genuine fans of the show who had started to feel understandably put off by the militant dictator theme. For the past year, these concerns have been prominently in my thoughts, and I wondered if there was a compromise.
One thing I promised I wouldn’t do is to change anything if I wasn’t 100% confident it was a better idea than what I had. Fortunately for me, I had a lot of ideas.
This is not the first time I’ve considered trying a different premise for the show. At various points, I’ve considered the obvious religious angle, a more rebellious than tyrannical demagogue, even a ludicrous Road Warrior style gimmick. Maybe they’ll all get a turn one day.
The idea of some sort of pervert’s circus, however, is the one that I both loved and thought was superior. It allowed me to keep much of the existing branding, which was nice from a business standpoint, and seemed so much more reflective of what the show had become since turning into its own independent project.
My personality on the show had already grown less dictatorial and more affably eccentric, while characters like The Cornflake Homunculus and Jimsaw became popular but bizarre elements to the show.
At this stage, I’d like to officially state on the site that Justin McDaniel is The Jimquisition’s official art director. I hired him full-time after committing to the change, and his work has been essential. Very little of what I’m doing now could have been done without him, not to this quality.
In addition, if you thought this was all we’re doing for The Jimquisition, you’re wrong.
We have new umbrella shows, a new on-site community, and at last a fucking site redesign finally nailed down and planned out for unveiling over the coming year. It’s taken ten years in this business, but thanks to Justin’s contributions, I feel I can finally make real every ludicrous (and occasionally good) idea I’ve ever had.
The corseted hat isn’t custom made, but it took me weeks to find one. Every time I located a site selling one of these in the right colors, they were long gone by the time I got there. Fortunately, I managed to track one down just a few weeks ago. It’s all leather, it’s got a little pocket I could keep very small things in, and I basically adore it.
Cute Monster Props made the Jimquisition cane. This is something I’ve wanted for years. While I always imagined a cane topped with a “J” to evoke The Riddler, we weren’t sure yet if we’d be changing the backdrop to something without a logo, so I wanted the full emblem.
I became aware of Cute Monster Props after seeing articles about their impressive Breath of the Wild Spirit Orb (as seen in the last Jimquisition). Even though this was shortly after my infamous review and there was a chance this obvious Zelda fan would tear my throat out, I contacted them and they were more than happy to bring my idea to life.
As you can see, their work was fucking impeccable.
Now, everything mentioned here I was 100% confident in. I knew the hat and the cane would work. When it became obvious that the backdrop could lose its fascistic connotations by utilizing the red “rays” Justin had created for our animations, I knew that would look great. The LED lights on the lectern were last minute but cute, and I figured they’d go over well for as silly as they were.
The music, however, is the bit where I was panicking. Even if Jim’s Big Ego is a band name sent from Heaven.
To make one thing perfectly clear – the musical change was not spurred by any previously mentioned concerns. In truth, I’d been considering a musical switch even longer than I’d thought about the other stuff, but I never felt confident enough to do it, especially during the show’s current unheralded momentum.
This changed when “Stress” was tossed up on my Spotify recommendations list.
To understand why I’d suddenly throw caution to the wind and change an iconic (real iconic, not Ubisoft iconic) song, you need to understand how hard I can fall in love with a piece of music. That’s why Drill Queen’s “Born Depressed” was ever used in the first place – I heard it once, fell instantly in love, and needed to utilize it.
For the first time in many, many years, that sudden and clawing need was back.
To me, this song has everything – it describes both who I am as an actual person (I really am quite addicted to stress, it’s the way that I get things done) and the Jimquisition’s heightened version of that person (“Everybody’s thinking ’bout me!”). As well as that, it was energetic and fun with a brassy sound, perfect for my direction, and I could visualize its use in my work vividly.
Fortunately, the song’s received a great welcome so far, and even those who miss the old song are largely accepting. It’s certainly a better reaction than I could have hoped for.
By the way, if you’ve never heard Jim’s Big Ego’s “The Ballad of Barry Allen,” check this shit out. I’ve become a massive fan of the band since discovering them.
It’s obvious that, to some, the show just isn’t the same without Drill Queen.
Like I told Justin before the change though – if the show’s success was hinged on a theme tune, it didn’t deserve to be a success. If The Jimquisition falls apart because I stopped using Drill Queen, then clearly I hadn’t been producing a good show all these years.
That said, however, one can’t be too flippant about changing things on a platform where people like their content familiar.
This episode marks the first time I’ve ever had to think like a businessperson just as much as a creative person, which is a weird feeling for me. I’d been sitting on the Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Remastered topic for a while. It didn’t need to be timely, and it was perfect to keep in storage to assure the audience that the show was still the same at heart.
Similarly, I knew I wanted an Oh, Ubisoft! or Fuck Konami News segment to retain that familiarity. Plus, I really wanted to get that light color change in there.
I think warning the audience ahead of time turned out to be a prudent move. I was worried about overselling the change, but I knew that some of the alterations needed people braced beforehand, so I risked making things sound too dramatic in order to get the word out ahead of time.
Anyway, I’ve just spent over 1,500 words talking about myself and my show. It’s called The Jimquisition for a reason, but now’s a good time to wrap this bit of self-indulgence up.
To close out, I’ll loop back to what I mentioned earlier – the new Jimquisition isn’t finished.
The flagship show is aesthetically ready, but we’re currently researching another camera upgrade to finally get out of consumer grade and into the pro stuff. There’s only so much I can do about audio (the problem is largely acoustic as opposed to technological) but it’s something I will continue to struggle with or possibly bring in more help for.
There are going to be seasonal shows also presented under the Jimquisition umbrella but aren’t The Jimquisition. These ones will actually last longer than The Sterlist too!
Our immediate next project, however, is this site. As well as continuing to upgrade and improve the commenting system, we’ll be switching servers, Justin has an amazing new look for the site mocked up, and we’re finally going to replace the loss of my Ask.fm page with our own community tools. Look for that coming soon.
And thank God for me.