Mudspike Forums opened up on Jan 18th 2015. We used Wordpress on the initial try, and it was fairly painful to use, but functional. After we had a few people sign up and stay, it seemed like Mudspike could do with a better outlet for like-minded people to chat about flight sims and we expanded into the Discourse forums we have today. The current forums opened on May 15th 2015. Splitting the difference, we’re at about 5 years old now. As we aren’t good with anniversaries or dates, we might as well make today the 5th Birthday.
Originally Mudspike was created as a place where Chris (@BeachAV8R), Erik (@EinsteinEP) and I could write sim articles and reviews that offered a place on the web independent from people with a vested interest in selling products or running ads. The flight sim product forums at the time like ED and IL-2 (Banana edition) were dominant and very popular, but for good business reasons couldn’t be a place where people could speak about lots of sims in comparison or free-wheeling topics. When we first started sites like reddit (for sims anyway) was somewhere where those banned elsewhere or just wanted to troll anonymously ended up, and things like Discord we’re just a glint in the eye, as Hyperlobby and Teamspeak were the things to hang out on and fly with people you knew online. The forums like SimHQ, CombatACE and AVSim had big existing communities, but new ownership and being reliant on ad revenue made them feel different to just a couple of people doing it for fun.
In some ways it was fairly unexpected that we would even open a public forum, as the three of us at the time were all fairly paranoid about the potential lack of fun it would be keeping it sane and a nice place to be. Chris wanted somewhere to write and share, other than PC Pilot articles (the domain name was his personal site before), Erik wanted to teach and explore complicated things with like-minded people, and I basically just wanted the site to exist as a place on the web as a choice. Anonymous people online, with a passion for flight sims and a small niche market of products makes for an potent mix: We all originally expressed a fear of becoming ‘prison guards’ where it follows the usual path of starting out fun and then ending up like a job or conflict factory. It was also fairly impossible to maintain a ‘drama free zone’ without creating drama of our own, as it’s a contradiction to enforce rules in a public place while also being part of that same community. Even going into this it would be inevitable that ‘You Either Die A Hero, Or You Live Long Enough To See Yourself Become The Villain’ was going to happen eventually.
Erik left Mudspike in May 2017, and it will always be up to him to fully the explain the reasons why, as to this day I’m not really that clear about them. Mudspike at the time was getting a lot of attention from product vendors and reviews and it certainly made it stressful, as we bumbled our way through it making all sorts of mistakes. My main contributions were really two-fold of (a) making sure Chris had 100% ownership of Mudspike (I’ve had many commercial joint partnerships through the years, and had seen them all degrade into lawsuits, and I’d be damned if a tiny flight sim hobby site should do that) and (b) we could host the site inexpensively enough so that one person if they wanted to could afford to keep it going. Our ‘business model’ then became cemented as ‘BeachAV8R’s credit card’ and a paypal donation button, meaning that we could keep out of the various flight sim vendor vendettas by not having to use ads or get in to the youtube ‘I beg you to hit subscribe’ treadmill.
Over the years people came and went, as reddit and discord allowed them to set up their own groups of friends. Just like when Erik left, it hurts each time to lose friends, and sort of reduces the ‘max fun health bar’ of this place for me personally. New people have arrived and keep the place lively, although I can’t help but dwell on mistakes I made in the past so it’s increasingly feeling bittersweet - apologies if you’ve ever felt slighted by me over the years. While before if you wanted to chat about a niche thing like flight sims you had to join an existing place, while nowadays it is trivial just to create your own community for free and make your own circle, which is a good thing. In some ways the future of Mudspike Forums is an odd one, in that we’re not the huge public space of something like reddit, nor are we the ad-hoc and specialized/niche nature of a Discord group. I am not sure a forum like this needs to exist anymore, but as long as people are happy here, and BeachAV8R’s credit card works and is willing, then it doesn’t have to go anywhere.
One of the best things we did do was adding @Troll and @Fridge as equal Admins here, as they provide a much needed level-headiness to counteract my worse impulses and they do the continuous work that forum entropy demands - a natural state of a public online group is a hell, and they put in so much effort to try to make this a good place to be. They make good custodians of Mudspike because they don’t really want to do it, but realize someone has to.
For me it’s a case of ‘And Now His Watch is Ended’ and it’s time to ghost out of my moderator and admin roles here. I was very fortunate in that I retired from work at age 42, having enough money to do so and a strong desire to be around while my young kids grew up. I’ve had a great time but it is now time for something new for me, even in all the odd stuff that is going on in 2020. I filled a lot of my time with flight sims and Mudspike and kept the sites running inexpensively as possible every day over the last 5 years, and was glad to have contributed and been part of it. At the beginning of this year, with my now not so young kids in college and my wife returning to work, I started a new full-time venture again and it just seems like a natural time to do this, as I tend to fling myself wholeheartedly into things. I don’t want to a hanger (hangar?) on and fossilize so am making a nice clean break. I thought it rude at least not to say a proper goodbye after all this time.
Stay safe, all try to be nice to each other and Happy 5th Birthday Mudspike forums! Here’s to the continuing evolution and to being a nice place to share a hobby.