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20 years of Vooks.net

By Seamus Byrne in Media News on
Nintendo community site Vooks.net has celebrated its 20th anniversary in recent weeks and its founder, Daniel Vuckovic, is rightly proud of the achievement. It’s been a journey from a fan on a mission to becoming a prominent news outlet for all things Nintendo as well as a voice for the Australian community.
 
We caught up with Vuckovic to get his perspectives on the road from there to here.
 
What's some of the early thoughts you remember on why you started Vooks.net in the first place?
 
The real first thought about making a website was to learn how to make one. I taught myself to develop websites, and I figured I might as well start creating a website about what I liked. 
 
Then when I started getting online, I realised Australian Nintendo fans didn't have a voice, nor did they have a place to get the information they deserved. A lot of media cover Nintendo with disdain or contempt, and even now that's why we still keep going. 
 
Were there any pivotal moments along the way you feel helped sustain and grow the effort?
 
Over the twenty years, there's been a few. There's never been one big thing, usually moving with how successful Nintendo is at the time. Getting a domain in 2003, a permanent forum home, getting a proper CMS, going to E3 for the first time in 2006, being supported by publishers and Nintendo themselves, joining social media. We've been down, and we've been up, but overall a big old rolling ball of momentum. 
 
Who have been stand out contributors and supporters over the years and how have you managed that sense of growth along the way?
 
Along that road so many people have helped to get Vooks to where it is today. Friends from school, co-workers who have helped with the coding and errors. Game journalists (some of which I read in magazines as a kid) throwing me work, giving me advice on how to tackle this crazy industry. There are too many people to mention specifically (and I wouldn't want to leave anyone out). 
 
Nintendo, of course, which initially back in the day didn't even consider online media to be a thing, are now great supporters. My biggest supporters are my family and my wife. I've been doing Vooks for almost half of my life, and they've supported me the entire way.
 
Plus to my current team, who are awesome - together we're so efficient and resourceful. It's great. 
 
Is the site funded in any way?
 
At the moment, Vooks is funded between a combination of awesome Patrons, advertising revenue and most recently Amazon affiliate links. Without all these three, I wouldn't be able to keep the site going - at least, not in its current form. Servers are expensive. 
 
My goal is to get all of these firing on all cylinders at once. If we can do that, then I'd love to be able to pay our contributors, which I would consider being the site moving to the next step.
 
How do you look at it - a hobby, a passion, a calling, a crazy stupid thing to do?
 
Vooks is a hobby for sure, but it's also a passion. If I didn't care about Nintendo or covering it for people, I think I would have given up a long time ago.
 
Any particularly hard moments along the way you can think of and the lessons they taught you?
 
The down years of the Wii U were hard. There was just no growth in that time at all. The fantastic readers we have all stuck around because they still cared about Nintendo, but gaming at large didn't.
 
The thing I learned from that is that even though something might not be popular, there's still someone out there who cares. Someone will always say thanks for letting me know for even the smallest game, the smallest update. 
 
The other thing is that the internet can be a ruthless place, and not to let it or others get you down. You can't control what people say or think - so you do you - and let that be someone else's issue. Still hard to get my head around that, but I'm learning.  
 
20 years is a long time in publishing at all in the digital space - how have you evolved the community interactions with the site?
 
We've tried everything! We've had many forums, with different things like user blogs and flash game arcades. We've had custom web apps you would call them now that allowed people to share their Friend Codes and chat together before Discord was even a thing. We're on social media, and we've got some great people on there - really a great community. People who foul it up aren't around for long. 
 
Going back, the forums we had lasted so long, we only shut them down a year or so ago once they were truly dead (and a security risk). But in the mid to late 2000s and the early 2010s, everyone was there. People have got lifetime friendships from there, and it was a massive part of my life as well. Small forums were fun, but they just can't survive anymore. 
 
What pearls of wisdom do you have for other publishers, indie or otherwise, on sustaining the journey?
 
Keep doing it as long as you keep loving it. If you're creating something, and you love it, and it's fun, keep going. If not, take a break and think about why you're doing it. 
 
There's no instruction manual for being a content creator, do what's right, and things will go your way. 
 
Any other parting thoughts on what it has meant to you?
 
Nintendo, they're a crazy company, but we love them. They're always going to keep us guessing, and that's part of the fun. Twenty years in, still haven't figured them out. 

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