Another Kind of “Pay to Play”

On Monday, March 22, IGN reported the launch of new online gaming service: GameCrush, where you can pay girls to play videogames with you.
No, really. With GameCrush, customers – called “Players” (ha ha) browse some 1,200 profiles (including photos and free chatting) to find the perfect PlayDate. Once you find a gal you fancy you send her a game invite and if she accepts you get six to ten minutes of one-on-one gaming time. PlayDates have the ability to block any Player they want for any reason. The service currently only supports the Xbox 360 and a few casual games hosted on the GameCrush website, but there are plans to add PlayStation 3, Wii, and World of Warcraft support “as soon as possible”.

I can’t tell if this next bit is funny or depressing:

You must be 18 or over to create a GameCrush account – it’s being touted as the first social site for adult gamers. It’s not an explicitly explicit service, but PlayDates set their gaming mood to either “flirty” or “dirty.” What the two of you chat about is entirely up to you.

Oy. So how much will this cost the lonely and desperate? $8.25USD will buy 500 credits, which is enough for one game (400 credits for the game, plus a 100 credit “tip” for your PlayDate). A PLayDate will stay on Live with you for 10 minutes, while a GameCrush-hosted Flash game will last six minutes. Flash games also include live video chat. And in case the point hadn’t been driven home:

 [W]hat goes on in that video chat is up to you and your PlayDate. 

GameCrush says it modeled its pricing structure after the cost of buying a girl a drink at a bar. In a bar, you’re basically buying the opportunity to chat a girl up. GameCrush is hoping players will look at their service the same way.

But wait – we’re not done being pathetic just yet (emphasis added)!

After a session you can rate your PlayDate on her hotness, gaming skill, and flirtiness. The highest-rated girls will receive preferred placement on the site. GameCrush is assembling a team of its most highly regarded PlayDates called JaneCrush, which would be positioned similar to Ubisoft’s Fragdolls in that members of JaneCrush will generate content for the site like blogs and editorials. GameCrush wants to turn its most popular girls into gaming stars.

Well, as long as the girls are being treated with dignity and respect. 


So where does GameCrush find its PlayDates? According to IGN, Craigslist ads were used to find ladies who wanted to get paid to play videogames. Girls can sign up to be PlayDates for free, and there’s no vetting process – what could possibly go wrong?

PlayDates will initally play Modern Warfare 2, Gears of War 2, Halo 3 and Grand Thef Auto IV on the Xbox 360, or low-rent Flash versions of checkers, pool and battleship.

So loyal readers, what do you think? Are the people behind GameCrush entrepeneurial masterminds who’re simply putting people with similar interests in the same space, or is this an embarassing step backwards for games and ladies who love them?


Recursive Gaming

OK, it had to happen. Here’s a game about . . . making a game. A Massively Multiplayer Online game.

Behold, MMORPG Tycoon.

I await the outpouring of user reviews.

In related news:

Latest from Blizzard, and it’s hot:

‘Warcraft’ Sequel Lets Gamers Play A Character Playing ‘Warcraft’

Plus, no matter what game you’re playing, red team wins more often. Seriously. It’s scientifically proven.

Penguins on Google Earth

Something’s afoot on the interweb. It’s The 21 Steps, a thriller story set . . . in Google Earth.

Penguin on Google Earth

This is the latest offering by Six to Start, an ARG design team based in London. The founders, brothers Dan and Adrian Hon, were part of the Cloudmakers network that cracked The Beast (one of the first ARGs). They went on to design ARGs themselves, lately spending two years on Perplex City. Now they’re working on several independent projects – The 21 Steps is the latest.

The 21 Steps is a thriller story by Charles Cumming. It’s part of an interactive fiction series by Penguin called We Tell Stories. Six to Start is also working on five more stories by Penguin authors, with one story rolling out every week from now on. You can follow the series on their website and experience The 21 Steps, as well.

Having read it I can tell you it’s really cool and works very well as an interactive Google-Earth experience . . . thumbs up. Takes about an hour (if you read fast).

And there are rumours of a seventh story, cunningly hidden for those with the ability to find it . . . follow the white rabbit, they say . . .

The Internet: Serious Business as Usual?

Wired magazine recently ran an article on griefing in online games.

trippenbach thought it was pretty good:

“We’re just in it for the LULz”

Games are powerful, and these guys are just reminding people to regain media awareness once in a while. Makes you appreciate it more.

Plus, these guys are wicked. Programming a rain of bouncy pink phalluses? It’s straight out of Snow Crash!

While I agree that an assault by dancing dildos is just the sort of thing that Hiro Protagonist might have to deal with, I feel somewhat differently about the article as a whole.

What I loved was the photograph of the goons that Wired used. You’ve got this band of shit-talking innanet tough guys (“you win by making other people quit”), and then the picture makes them look like the Three Stooges. Awesome.

That said, they really aren’t gaining much in the way of media awareness. They’ve been pulling these shenanigans for years, and yet for the most part, people outside the various game communities have no idea what’s going on. When an article like this comes out, you get a couple of different responses:

1) “These guys are awesome.” Maybe you love their guerilla hacker styles. Maybe you just like the idea of making other people miserable. Either way, the Goons pwn nubs!1!

2) “These guys are monsters.” Maybe you object to people who get their jollies by making others sad. Maybe you have no sense of humour. Regardless, the Goons are cyber thugs who should be dealt with!

3) “Man, video games are so stupid.” People who don’t game, or who don’t really ‘get’ gamers, are most likely to take this view. Dancing phalluses? $10,000 virtual spaceships? Terrorism? It’s all happening inside a game, so what’s the point, much less the big deal?

What you can’t get around is the childishness of the antics. Whether it’s making a Furry Horror Theme Park in Second Life, corpse-camping lowbies in World of Warcraft or lagging the server to get a Titan kill in EvE, what we’re ultimately talking about is the sort of boorish, bullying, unsportsmanlike behaviour that is frowned upon in schools and in the workplace. It’s John Gabriel’s Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory in action. And that doesn’t make games seem more powerful or relevant or worthy of appreciation. It makes them seem like an outlet for bored or angry nerds, a place where the immature can rub shoulders with the socially retarded.

Yes, it’s true that there are many, many stupid games out there. But there is an increasing number of truly inspired and intelligent games out there. EvE is an incredibly deep game that permits a great deal of player freedom, but which doesn’t protect players from the consequences of their actions. Mass Effect asks players to make sometimes difficult choices while offering compelling character interactions. Portal offers excellent fast-paced gameplay and top-notch writing in a single package.

But the only time you hear about this stuff is within the gaming community. Whenever the “larger” media talk about games, it’s to discuss Internet hooligans or talk about how much money Microsoft is spending on testing Halo 3. No one outside the gaming community seems to know, much less care, that Half-Life 2 and Bioshock feature some of the best, most compelling writing in visual entertainment of the last few years. Oh sure, some people like to claim they know what’s going on in games, but by and large the public is clueless and gamers are often made to feel marginalized or embarassed about their hobby. Don’t believe me? Ask your wives or girl/boyfriends what they think of video games. I’ll bet you a dollar that in a majority of cases the answer will be something to the effect that games are foolish/a waste of time/childish. As the median age of gamers is currently hovering in the 25-30 range, that’s a perspective we should be trying to change. The Goons aren’t helping.