“We’re Not In That Business”

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  • One of the more tangible results of the recent debates over corruption in the gaming press was the launch of a venue for news and reviews, Goodgamers.us, just before midnight on September 11th. The site’s development was spearheaded by Stephanie Anne, a lifelong gamer who cut her teeth on Myst before eventually graduating to MMOs like sci-fi/fantasy role-player Wildstar. After more than a decade of blogging, she’s lending her talents to the creation of a site dedicated to a closer relationship between those who play games and those who write about them. I reached out via chat to find out more about her plans for the site.

    Unwinnable: How much was #GamerGate an influence in starting Goodgamers and determining its policies?

    Stephanie Anne: Obviously it was a big influence. I think that the people who are on the site never would have come together without it.  We’re trying to figure out exactly what the community wants and building a site around that.

    Unwinnable: So is the goal to serve the GamerGate community specifically?

    S.A.: I think really all gamers, as long as they aren’t pushing a socially political message. Because obviously there are people who game who have social messages that they want dispersed around, but we’re not in that business.

    Let’s be honest, all the game sites today are basically game blogs

    Unwinnable: Is it a matter of providing an alternative to readers who aren’t interested in those issues, or do you see social messages as a problem with how gaming journalism is handled elsewhere?

    S.A.: I mean, let’s be honest, all the game sites today are basically game blogs. We’re just providing another alternative where they won’t see those social issues on the front page and they have a chance to help the direction of the site.

    For instance, we put a poll out about if we should have a rating system for all the reviews, the response was overwhelmingly “no,” but we did add a policy saying a TL;DR should be at the bottom.

    Unwinnable:  Objectivity was a concern that many #GamerGate supporters raised. Is that an ideal you hope to attain?

    S.A.: Yes and no. Reviews are always going to be subjective by nature. I think it’s disingenuous to say that reviews will always be completely devoid of opinion. But we do make it a policy to state our biases up front.

    Unwinnable: Your launch announcement singled out click bait as something Goodgamers would avoid. What do you mean by click bait?

    S.A.: “LOOK AT THIS AWESOME VIDEO, YOU WILL CRY!” or, something where the title doesn’t really match the content. For instance, “All gamers are dead” and then give a social justice article.

    Reviews are always going to be subjective by nature.

    Unwinnable:  One of your reviews, for a game called Corruption of Champions, has already drawn a lot of attention. Would a review that criticized that game’s depictions of rape fit on Goodgamers or is that the sort of social message you’re trying to avoid?

    S.A.: That’s the sort of social message we’re trying to avoid. So, that article was a very straightforward, devoid-of-emotion review of gameplay. And aside from the grammatical errors that we unfortunately didn’t catch, I think that’s what upset a lot of people.

    Unwinnable: Given the game’s potentially inflammatory subject matter, was there discussion beforehand about whether or not to run the review, especially so early in the site’s existence?

    S.A.: There was a discussion where one of the writers asked me if he could review it, I said okay and he said I was the best editor-in-chief ever.

    Unwinnable: So what was the process of putting together the current staff?

    S.A.: I received 250 applications from the main page in 12 hours. I read through all the writing samples and took the people with either the best writing sample or the best ideas about what they wanted to write about.

    We messed up a little on the launch, because really I should have had a more stringent editorial process – but I hadn’t had time to do the custom code for that part of our CMS, [so] I spent most of the weekend fixing that and a couple bugs on the site.

    [The Corruption of Champions review] was a very straightforward, devoid-of-emotion review of gameplay.

    Unwinnable: You didn’t know any of the authors before hand, I take it. What about the editorial staff?

    S.A.: Nope, I didn’t know anyone before starting up the site. Oh – I take that back, there’s one writer who I’ve been friends with for a while but he hasn’t actually written anything yet.

    Unwinnable: Right now they’re all writing on a volunteer basis, right? Is there a plan to shift to paid writers?

    S.A.: There’s a plan for profit sharing if the site makes money. But not on a per article basis.

    Unwinnable: So are you actively looking to make the site profitable? I know that you’re eschewing advertising from the gaming industry to avoid conflicts of interest.

    S.A.: We’d obviously like the site to pay for itself. So far that’s been out of pocket for me. We want to do cool things like get booths at conventions and focus indie games there, and we’d like the site to pay for that. But none of us are doing [this] for personal income.

    Unwinnable: Does supporting the site out of your own pocket make it difficult to report on news in the industry? How does your team go about getting those stories?

    S.A.: That is one of the most challenging things right now. We have a couple RSS feeds and we’ve signed up to be included on press releases but some of those take weeks to get you on the list. The RSS feeds look for public press releases – they aren’t just looking at other game sites. So right now we’re working off an RSS and what people submit to us.

    None of us are doing [this] for personal income.

    Unwinnable:  Where do you see Goodgamers going? What’s the overarching goal here?

    S.A.: I’d like to see the site gain some traction, especially with indie developers. We really want to focus on them, because there’s a whole market there that gets largely untapped. I would love to be able to branch out, too, and run some game jams, especially for younger developers (kids).

    ———

    Follow L. Rhodes on Twitter @Upstreamism.

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    6 thoughts on ““We’re Not In That Business”

    1. awesomerobot says:

      I’m really happy to see some journalistic integrity in the game space. Social issues are hard and it’s just easier to go through life not thinking about them at all. Honestly I feel as though they’re not doing enough by allowing some level subjectivity — if they were to go for some free-form abstraction, I think they’d find the pinnacle of objectivity and become truly unstoppable in the world of internet jounablogs.

      Actually, if you guys are looking for writers let me know. I recently took an objective in-depth look at the entire call of duty franchise (http://goo.gl/hZvCZ9). And I know the indie game space has been a hive of controversy, so as a journalist with a strong sense of integrity I put together a review of the scene. I managed to do so without sinking to the lows of discussing important social issues (http://goo.gl/XfVwxO).

      1. Dr Scuttles says:

        Quite. I’m about to start up my own postgamergate blog dedicated to reviewing games objectively. I say objectively, but I actually mean through the subjective lens of Willem Dafoe. My first review will be of Watch Dogs which (sorry, future readers, to spoil my thesis) I shall equate to being Spider-Man 2 Willem Dafoe: a vaguely entertaining albeit slight performance.
        Right now I’m working on a 4500 word piece positing that Dark Souls 1 is Antichrist Willem Dafoe while Dark Souls 2 is Clear And Present Danger Willem Dafoe.

    2. Geary says:

      lol how do you objectively review a porn game

      the mechanics aren’t even the draw of it

      do you rate it by how many times you got off playing it?

    3. BobLoblaw324 says:

      It’s frustrating that Stephanie seems unable to grasp that refusing to address “socially political” issues is itself a political statement in favor of the status quo.

      It’s also unclear to me how the site would handle a game that deliberately made “social messages” central to its story and/or gameplay (ie, Gone Home or Papers, Please). Would they just refuse to cover them?

      1. Tim Morrison says:

        My personal interpretation is that the point is not to push a side on these issues. If they exist in the subject matter, you’re going to mention it; you don’t have to support or condemn the position. You can critique its method of inclusion in the game and whether it brings value to the product without weighing in on the issue itself.

        I suppose that’s why there’s the caveat of “mostly”. To avoid people making arguments of equivocation.

        1. BobLoblaw324 says:

          You didn’t address my first point at all. And critiquing the “method of inclusion” of social issues (racism, homophobia, et cetera) rarely comes from an unbiased perspective on those issues.

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