Marcus Cavanaugh

I founded GamingPeak, a multiplayer card and board game service, in 2006. From a Windows-98-compatible client to a modern web portal, GamingPeak served over 50,000 loyal players during its seven-year run.

Spades, Cribbage, Backgammon, and More

After countless chat messages, games, and tournaments, GamingPeak was acquired by Game Closure in 2011, and I moved from Iowa to the Bay Area.

I built the entirety of GamingPeak myself, including the user interface, games, frontend, and backend.

At launch, GamingPeak was a native Windows client and server written in C++, supporting systems as far back as Windows 98. When MacOS became more popular, I rewrote it as a novel browser-based experience using HTML5 and Flash. GamingPeak was ahead of its time; most other sites continued to require downloadable executables or Java applets for years to come.

The Browser-Based Client

The game lobbies featured chat rooms and private messaging.GamingPeak Messenger's interface, inspired by Facebook Messenger’s paradigm, provided a full-featured chat experience in the browser. It supported multiple synced browser windows, grouped contacts, emoticons, online status, private mode, and more:

Game tables provided a rich interface. The games themselves were written in Flash (at the time, HTML5 was not performant enough), while the rest of the functionality was web-based:

GamingPeak featured a unique guest mode: just click the big button to jump right in, even if you don’t have an account.

There were so many features, it’s hard to remember them all:

The Old Windows Client

A Career-Defining Project

I learned how to program because I wanted to build GamingPeak.

I used to play games on the MSN Gaming Zone, where I got involved with their sysop community (chat moderators, known as the Member Plus team). When the Zone announced their closure in 2006, I knew I wanted to build my own site; I knew it could be better than other existing competitors. I found a group of Spades players who were looking for a new home, and the rest is history.

I spent countless hours building GamingPeak over the years, learning new technologies, building, and shipping. GamingPeak was particularly beneficial to my software career because it touched many disparate parts of the software stack: sockets, multithreading, client-side performance, databases, graphic design, user support, website design. As technology grew, I did too.

Looking back, it was an incredible experience. I’ll always have a lot of nostalgia for those days spent at home, ravenously absorbing as much knowledge as I could, building and learning on my own.

The community made GamingPeak truly special. Countless volunteers helped moderate the site. I was lucky to have a couple truly dedicated volunteers stick with me, advising me and guiding me on how to best manage the social and political landscape of our site.

When GamingPeak closed in 2012 (due to lack of time in my startup role, as well as the rapid growth of mobile games), hundreds of users bid farewell to the site, getting in one last game, in the hours and minutes leading up to the shutdown.

I hope that one day I’ll be lucky enough to find another project as fulfilling as GamingPeak.