The Shacknews Origin Story, as told by sHugamom

To celebrate 25 years on the web, Shacknews has lined up something special. We yield the floor to founder Steve Gibson's mother, the one and only sHugamom.


Throughout the day, we've been celebrating the 25th anniversary of the day Shacknews was brought into the world. This website started life as Quakeholio, then spent years as Shugashack, and finally morphed into the Shacknews of today. While we here at Shacknews have spent the day looking back at the site's early days, none of us on the staff were there at the very beginning.

However, one person was there from the start. Angela Smith is better known to the Chatty community as sHugamom. She's the mother of original Shacknews founder Steve Gibson. Last week, we reached out to sHugamom asking for some stories about the origins of Quakeholio. What she sent back proved to be such a substantial and fun read, the staff has decided to publish the whole thing verbatim.

With all of that said, Shacknews would like to present "The Shacknews Origin Story, as told by sHugamom." Enjoy!

As Momma remembers...

The real genesis of Shacknews

"I want Boba Fett! You promised me Boba Fett! Boba Fett! Boba Fett!"

These were the insistent pleadings from five-year-old Steve Gibson as he sat forward in the seat behind his mom as she drove her '69 red Volkswagen Beetle towards Ala Moana shopping center in Honolulu, Hawaii. The year was 1980. Steve was inconsolable. He was hollering and shaking the headrest, loudly proclaiming that he could wait no longer for Boba Fett. It was head-rattling reinforcement and the signs were there. Boba Fett, the Mandalorian Star Wars character, was a relentless bounty hunter ... and he'd become a young boy's muse.

Entrepreneur: Age 10, Ashburn, Virginia. Steve loves racing remote control cars. Every weekend he's just thrilled to hang out at the Hobby Lobby's indoor race track speeding his RC car around the huge oval track. However, he’s burning up expensive wheels at a very high rate on turns at about $20 a set. We tell him it's too much money for an every weekend hobby. He will have to quit, but we leave him to play for one last afternoon.

By pickup time, the racetrack owner says Steve has approached him with "an opportunity" to become a sponsor. Steve tells him that he knows himself to be a really fast and good RC driver and it'd be great advertising for Hobby Lobby to have their logo on the side of his car. All they'd have to do is sponsor him with new wheels and Steve would promote them. He's a natural.

Community Fun: Flash-forward six years... Steve and his parents live in Japan where he attends Zama American High School. He zeroed in on his special interests in technology, computers and TV production, but he's always up for having fun.

He found part-time work in the Zama military community TV studio updating info about community events and weather. This was at a time Steve developed an appreciation for seeking and hearing about the news and what's happening before anyone else. He liked that.

However, it was a Zama High School TV production class that showcased Steve's unique brand of humor. He didn't say a word in his video but he produced a mix of music and closeup shots of the school faculty and teachers' noses. It was pretty much noses only. On especially strong beats of music, he focused on the biggest schnoz ... like a Jimmy Durante moment. It amused most and embarrassed some, but all in fun.

His high school guidance counselor proclaimed that Steve is bound for great success because he has an innate sense for people. He brings them together, she said. As a graduation gift, she gave him a Dr Seuss book titled, "Oh, The Places You'll Go." Steve was a favorite. (He had not made musical fun of her nose.)

Outside of high school, Steve learned that there's money to be made encouraging and amusing people. He landed a job earning the then-equivalent of $10 an hour at an amusement park called Toshimaen. His job: to be a friendly American. He'd mostly play basketball with Japanese kids and they'd yell "Dunk, shoot" or "Good job" at one another. Steve was 6'3" tall by then. He could jump high and hang on a hoop rim much easier than an average Japanese youth.

Within months, he was asked by a talent scout if he'd like to become a model for a Japanese teen magazine publication called Popeye. Steve was tall, slim, good looking and non-threatening in appearance, he was told -- $200 per shoot. Ok, this doesn't have as much to do with the evolution of Shacknews but it was a fun time for Steve. Not a bad summer gig before heading off to college.

From the ashes: Steve's experience at the University of Texas at Austin put things in perspective. He'd gone from a cozy school community of less than 300 American military kid students at Camp Zama in Japan to a campus of over 40,000 diverse UT Austin students. Although he opted to leave UT, the overall takeaway was extremely valuable in that he came to appreciate that bigger isn't necessarily better and there's comfort in community. One just needs a link.

We welcomed him back home... this time to Tampa, Florida. Based upon his Japan TV experience, he was hired to run cameras at the local public television station, WEDU for Tampa Bay. After work and on frequent weekends, Steve organized and we hosted huge (for the time) LAN parties at our MacDill AFB on-base officers quarters. He fried a few motherboards and invested a year learning to build a website.

Due to his military parents, he’d moved around a lot and it taught him to adapt.

He said he really wanted to go back to Japan to see old friends but if not that... he wanted to keep in touch.

Next venture: St John’s River State College in St Augustine, FL. He finally had it made. He was 19, set up in a new single family, three-bedroom home with a nice car and short commute to college. No real job needed, thanks, folks!

To heck with formal education though. Steve was alone. He missed his old friends and Quakeholio was born.

It didn't take long for his ten-year old self entrepreneurial spirit to re-emerge. Quakeholio attracted the attention of fellow gamers and game developers. Steve counted page hits. He beta tested games. He shared play tips and hints and told stories and gave his own opinion about what he'd do if he were king or he wrote about things that suck.

Just as he'd wanted to do as a kid, he worked out deals with companies to put a logo-link on his page, and he'd earn cash for clicks. His parents were wowed but not entirely surprised. He’s always found a way for fun.

Along the way and thanks to the web, the Quakeholio community evolved and Steve's close band of friendships expanded too. He forged a kindred, but "serious about game news" friendship with Maarten Goldstein, a 17-year-old kid in the Netherlands.

Across time zones and cultures, these two somehow agreed upon a fun website ideal. Few people outside of gaming circles would understand but they worked tirelessly in synergy to make their renamed website, Shugashack as relevant, useful, fun, welcoming and inclusive.

Eventually they even contracted advertising management. This management decision would one day be viewed as too many eggs in one basket. But for then, all was good.

College was once again set aside for Steve. He now knew his calling. It was the games industry. This time there was no turning back. Woot!

Time marched on. Everything was awesome 'til it wasn't. All of a sudden, website ad revenue tanked. Gaming news websites were going under, left and right. Shugashack was financially unsustainable. Added to that, Steve complained, new people and advertisers often thought that Shugashack was a porn site. It didn't help. He was challenged.

However, the dynamic duo of Steve and Maarten hung tight. They both moved in, by invitation, with Steve’s parents in Fort Worth, TX. These young men had faith, perseverance and parental backing.

They did not have especially fast internet or reliable electrical service though in his parents early circa 1900's historic Fairmount, Fort Worth neighborhood.

The tech support issues likely frustrated them and yet they did not complain. They were in survival mode and wanted to rise from the ashes to a fresh start. If only the power would stay on!

One touching memory happened on the day we brought home a $500 UPS battery backup for Steve's computer. His big eyes and thank you were powerful.

He was energized. Steve's first call was to once again rename the site with clarification for the community. Boom! They chose Shacknews as the new moniker after about a week of ruminating.

Then, Steve came up with the idea to offer t-shirts for sale to loyal community members at a very modest markup. Much to their relief, the community responded.

Shackers sent PayPal funds to sHugamom from around the US, Canada, Europe and Asia. A few just sent money and declined the t-shirt. sHugamom and a helper spent weeks addressing and mailing t-shirts. Steve and Maarten just doggedly kept the site going, 24-7. Yay! They felt vindicated.

Final affirmation arrived none too soon by way of a $50,000 check representing previously withheld ad revenue. They were ecstatic.

As Steve's loving parents, we were happy for him. However, we were also quite saddened that upon their (to us) surprise receipt of $50,000, that he and Maarten quickly moved out the very same day.

We love and missed those guys, darn it. We still do. We didn't expect them to stay forever, but it was a pleasure and fun experience to have them with us.

Over the next decade or so... we marveled at how the Shack community would set up Shackmeets all over the world. In light of that, we helped Steve host Shackmeets in the Dallas and Fort Worth area to bring together these wonderful people for Christmas or a Quakecon Animal Cracker giveaway or to see Snakes on a Plane together.

The most elaborate Shackmeet was for the ten year celebration. Steve chartered a 75-passenger bus to drive from the Gaylord Grapevine Hotel for an all-afternoon and evening event.

Steve and Maarten chatted up and gave away silly prizes to Shackers as the bus drove to the Lockheed Martin Aerodynamics plant in White Settlement, TX. There, Steve's parents had arranged for a group of eight test pilots and escorts to give them an F-35 and F-16 fighter jet briefing and mile-long assembly plant tour on 8-passenger each golf carts with a tour guide on each cart. The Shack nametags greatly amused the Lockheed crew. Did you see sexninja?

After the tour, Shackers were bused another 20 minutes to a private mini choo-choo train ride alongside the Fort Worth Zoo, near Steve’s parents' home. The Shackers were treated to popcorn and sodas for their chartered 30 minute ride. This gave Steve's mom and older brother, Randy, time to rush the one mile to Steve's parents house. There they put final preparations together for a full bbq dinner with homemade craft beers (Shacker contributed), copious wine and all the bbq fixings.

Several more Shackers - who couldn't all fit on the bus -- came to join with the Shack community and celebrate the decade. There were about 90 Shackers. They were at tables in the yard, on the wrap-around porch and in three big rooms to include the living, dining and parlor rooms as well as in the kitchen. It was a wonderful group of shackers including CNN game news reporter, Chris Morris.

On the bus ride back to the Gaylord Grapevine Hotel... Steve and Maarten pulled more names for silly prizes. Steve said that much of the fun was to hear and see who responded to their Shack name like dognose! We sang a hastily composed and now lost Shacknews song, sung to the tune of Kumbaya.

The rest of Shacknews is more current news history. But the past lives on happily in our Shacknews hearts and minds.

Thank you for continuing the love and spirit of Shacknews. As the nostalgic NYE song says, "Make new friends but keep the old. One is silver snd the other gold." Long live the Shack!


Thank you, sHugamom! We'll be celebrating Shacknews' 25th anniversary throughout the year. Join us for more features like this in the months ahead. Be sure to check out our recent look back at the origins of Shacknews. Plus, be sure to subscribe to the Shacknews Twitch channel, because in addition to our normal streams, the Shacknews staff will be playing the original Quake, the game that built Shacknews on this day 25 years ago, live.

Shack Staff stories are a collective effort with multiple staff members contributing. Many of our lists often involve entires from several editors, and our weekly Shack Chat is something we all contribute to as a group. 

From The Chatty
  • reply
    April 14, 2021 8:00 AM

    Shack Staff posted a new article, The Shacknews Origin Story, as told by sHugamom

    • reply
      April 14, 2021 8:06 AM

      I love this! Thanks sHugamom!!

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      April 14, 2021 8:19 AM

      Good stuff

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      April 14, 2021 8:27 AM

      That tour was so awesome. I still have the challenge coin, pin, shirt, and other goodies they gave us

    • reply
      April 14, 2021 8:29 AM


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      April 14, 2021 8:46 AM

      sHugamom was the first stranger I met from the internet. True story.

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        April 14, 2021 1:03 PM

        stranger danger! So glad that our meeting caused no harm but you were right to be wary. I’ve always loved your name. We tried having two cats and omg, you were right!

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      April 14, 2021 8:51 AM

      <3 sHugamom

    • reply
      April 14, 2021 8:54 AM

      Great read, thanks!

    • reply
      April 14, 2021 8:54 AM

      Great times, great memories and great relationships all borne out of one site.

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      April 14, 2021 9:05 AM

      This is the best. Thanks for sticking around, sHugamom! ❤️

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        April 14, 2021 12:06 PM

        I thought about this and can pretty much assure you that I hope to be a lifelong shacker. It’s a pleasure and humble honor.

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      April 14, 2021 9:11 AM

      Holy shit. It’s been 25 years?? I’m old. ;)

    • reply
      April 14, 2021 9:36 AM

      a good time to repost:

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      April 14, 2021 9:40 AM

      Oh man, I totally forgot about the modeling pic. Anyone got a copy of that?

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        April 14, 2021 12:02 PM

        There’s a quick glimpse in the YouTube video.

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      April 14, 2021 9:46 AM

      awesome story, thanks sHugamom!

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      April 14, 2021 10:10 AM

      This was such a nice ride down memory lane <3

    • reply
      April 14, 2021 10:43 AM

      That was such an awesome read

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      April 14, 2021 10:59 AM

      Great article

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      April 14, 2021 11:17 AM

      I'm sad I missed that outing! I wish I'd traveled more back in those days. Hope you're doing well, sHugamom! :)

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      April 14, 2021 11:24 AM

      Thank you, Ozzie and for all you wonderful shackers. I’m glad many of you enjoyed the mom’s perspective as to how Shacknews came about. It was a convergence of factors...kind of a perfect storm.

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        April 14, 2021 11:29 AM

        Thanks for taking the time to write this up

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          April 14, 2021 12:00 PM

          You’re welcome. It was a sentimental journey and the more I contemplated ... I knew It really all started with Steve’s inspiration by Boba Fett. It was all a done deal then. Omg. He was furiously shaking the headrest of my seat to distraction. Truth be told, there was STFU 🤬 there for a little bit. He did impress me. Don’t underestimate his tenacity, I learned.

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        April 14, 2021 11:44 AM

        Thank you for the amazing look back at the beginning!

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        April 14, 2021 12:23 PM

        Thank you for being, thank you for sTeve and Randy, and thank you for being YOU!!!

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        April 14, 2021 12:58 PM

        Love you sHugamom. I’ll never forget our awesome trip with the tour of the factory.

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        April 14, 2021 4:44 PM

        Thank you and say thank you to Steve for me!!

        Felt less like a news website and more like a community!

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        April 14, 2021 6:32 PM

        You and your family are good people. I wish I had known how to people good back in 2005 because that trip to Lockheed and was truly special and I feel like I did not appropriately communicate just how much I appreciated what you guys did for us. Thank you, for all you've done these many years.

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      April 14, 2021 11:24 AM

      This is excellent! Thank you sHugamom!

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      April 14, 2021 11:33 AM

      Luv shugamom.

      Still eating one banana every morning because of her.

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      April 14, 2021 11:40 AM

      Love this sHugamom! Wife and I had dinner with sHugadad many years back when he was in our area. Glad to see you pop in now and then. Say hello to sHugadad from Brian & Lisa in NH.

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        April 14, 2021 12:01 PM

        Will do! How thoughtful of you to remember. Our best to you both also.

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      April 14, 2021 12:16 PM

      This is awesome! Thank you for this, ShugaMom!

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      April 14, 2021 12:18 PM

      Thanks sHugamom! Give our best to Steve.

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      April 14, 2021 1:03 PM

      What a fantastic article!

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      April 14, 2021 1:06 PM

      Awesome write up. Thanks again for making the factory tour possible. will likely never forget that moment. Still have the coin

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      April 14, 2021 1:08 PM

      television, had quite a bit of work experience...

      Great writeup, thank you!

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      April 14, 2021 1:14 PM

      This is pretty great, I remember all of it. I still have my og shacker shirt, I don't see ever getting rid of it.

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      April 14, 2021 2:32 PM

      Like dognose! Like dognose!

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      April 14, 2021 4:11 PM

      I never went to any Shackmeets, but I've been around since the site was still called shugashack (used to be grehkleh for a number of years). Thanks for all the good times everyone, especially steve, Maarten, and shugamom.

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      April 14, 2021 4:36 PM

      That was beautiful. Thanks for the contribution, mom!

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      April 14, 2021 4:40 PM

      Wow, that was a fun story. I didn't realize sTeve was so young when he started The Shack.

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      April 14, 2021 4:46 PM

      So good

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      April 14, 2021 5:03 PM

      That was great!

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      April 14, 2021 6:42 PM

      Great stories. I forgot about Chris Morris, hope he's doing well. Can't believe it's been 25 years, I think I started visiting in earnest (read: lurking) in 99-00.

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      April 14, 2021 7:32 PM

      This was fantastic. Thanks sHugamom for the write up!

    • reply
      April 14, 2021 8:01 PM

      Awesome write-up! Thank you!

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      April 14, 2021 8:27 PM

      "Time marched on. Everything was awesome 'til it wasn't. All of a sudden, website ad revenue tanked. Gaming news websites were going under, left and right. Shugashack was financially unsustainable. Added to that, Steve complained, new people and advertisers often thought that Shugashack was a porn site. It didn't help. He was challenged."

      Was there a specific month when this happened?

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      April 22, 2021 11:37 PM

      I love this so much. Thank you Steve and sHugamom. My life has been literally changed and better thanks to this website. Lifelong friendships. I miss u HW Maarten xoxoxo

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