The girl gamer is definitely a subject of some debate amongst those in the video game scene. To fill that void, a new service has emerged, GameCrush – allowing gamers to match themselves with cute and video game capable girls as well as play with them online.
I already know what you’re thinking, “Why would I do that?” And I’m not here to advocate one way or another, it’s your decision to make. However, I can’t help it if my interview with co-founder, Eric Strasser, regarding the site’s true service (it is not an adult-oriented site), influence, expansion, and a mess of other things, convinces you to check it out.
In addition, I got to ask some of the girls who work for the site, two of six who had come to PAX, some questions as well – living the dream of any journalist, interviewing cute girls who love to play video games. Check out the interview and form your own conclusions but don’t forget to check out my own thoughts at the end:
Trung Bui: What was the origin of GameCrush?
Eric Strasser: Originally, we tried to think of ways to bring matching on gaming into a deeper form. Right now if you look at Xbox LIVE and you have two people using Xbox LIVE, it’s really hard for them to meet each other. You have the world of gaming, which is predominantly men and few women, and the women that are on there don’t necessary get treated that well. What we wanted to do is find a way to elevate the profiles of women online and create a dynamic way for people to meet. That’s the GameCrush model. It was really modeled after a sports bar, if you will. A sports bar does happy hour, guys buy girls drinks, it’s a very social atmosphere. A place where there’s a common interest, so GameCrush is kind of like a sports bar online, that’s what we thought we would make the company into.
TB: Do you have plans to expand? If so, how would you go about doing so?
ES: Expansions already going to be happening in the next three weeks (Interview took place on September 4, 2010), when we launch the new site.
TB: It’s in beta right now, right?
ES: Yeah, it’s closed beta. You can’t even access it completely unless you’re already a user. The new site which is launching will offer a much more dynamic and open architecture for people to meet. Offer any game they really want to play as long as they can meet in a virtual world. Increase the profiling to a deeper level for both players and Play Dates. Players are the pay-to-play and the Play Dates are the ones that typically get paid. Either can be guys or girls, it doesn’t matter, we really want to try and make a site that’s more about the social networking and interaction, it is NOT an adult site.
TB: So the interaction between players is the real goal of the site?
ES: Yeah. And if you’re asking where we’re going from there, (we’ll be aiming for) deeper areas that you can actually get into more specifics of who you want to meet, what games you want to play, genre-specific, specific levels. Being able to educate each other on how to level-up in a game or interact in the game in a different way than what you normally expect – than just being matched automatically through a service’s matchmaking.
TB: This is sort of a tricky question because it’s one that’s going to want to be answered. But it’s sort of the, “why would I want to do that? Why would I want to participate in this pay service?” What do you say to the nay-sayers? Because there will be nay-saying to the positive comments.
ES: I think any time you change… this is a new dynamic online. There’s been really no one who has taken a payment structure and taken it to social interaction. We are all commercialized. Every social networking site makes money off you, every video game company makes money off you through advertising. What we’ve done is, instead of shifting the money through advertising, we don’t do advertising right now on the site.
What we do is create an opportunity to create value through interaction. And that interaction and its value gets paid to the person who is providing it. This is something that’s not being done today and because of that, I think there’s a lot of controversy, there’s a lot of misunderstanding about what it is. But that’s why I brought two of the Play Dates here today to talk about their experience because I think it’s important for them to explain what it’s like to be on GameCrush.
TB: Luckily enough, I do have questions for the girls. So how did you get started with GameCrush?
SuperVillain (Screen name, obviously): I got started way back in November, before they were online, before they were in beta. I found an ad on Craigslist asking for women interested in getting paid to play video games. I was really bored one day and Googled “Getting paid to play video games” and I signed up, I got an e-mail saying they would let us know when they were launching. I made a profile and waited everyday and checked my e-mail and found out when they were launching and that’s how I got my start.
TB: I had a friend who saw that ad too, actually.
Ambibambi23: I found it on a blog. It was a video game blog, Mancouch. And they posted this whole thing about girls getting paid online to play games. I thought why not? I play video games all the time anyway. I went on the site, checked it out, it was around two weeks before beta launch and so I just went on and counted down the days until launch. When the site launched, it had crashed within ten minutes because of all the traffic, so I had just kept refreshing the page until I could make a profile and right when I finished, the site had crashed again.
TB: Do you have any likes or dislikes about working for this company?
AB: I’m all likes. I don’t think I have any dislikes about the company at all. I haven’t come across any problems with any Player or Play Date on there, whom all I like. I’ve never had an issue.
SV: Yeah, everything was very well thought out. The safety of the girls is very important and they made a huge effort toward that. I haven’t run across any random dislikes so far, and I’m not just saying that. Everything has been working out pretty well. So far, we are in beta so there are a few glitches here and there, but those get taken care of quickly. So by the time the site launches officially and all the glitches are gone, the site should be great.
TB: Do you feel you’re helping the mysticism that surrounds the girl gamer?
SV: Yeah. Every time I log on to Xbox LIVE and guys hear my voice, they usually think it’s a little boy. So when I tell them I’m a girl, it’s this huge… like I’m a freaking unicorn, you know? This whole, “oh my god, no way!” thing. It really does help. We currently have over 6000 Play Dates on the site with all these girls that play different games. It lets people know that girl gamers are out there and that they’re easier to find on GameCrush.
TB: What do you feel are particular strong points and weak points for GameCrush?As you said, the company is the first of its kind, so that in and of itself is a weakness, but very much a strong point.
ES: I think our weakness was proven when we launched the site in beta and crashed almost immediately. I think we were unprepared for the popularity of the site. Also, I think a weak point is the understanding of what people think the site is. Because we have a payment structure in place for what many people argue should be free, there’s a bit of controversy around that and I think we need to overcome that. If we were a free site, we wouldn’t have that dynamic we’re trying to bring.
We have over 6000 Play Dates, 90% of them women, and they spent a lot of time producing profiles of what they do and who they are through YouTube videos, blogs. They interact with each other to make sure they cover what’s going on in terms of the latest trends in gaming. We couldn’t have created that without having some sort of monetization in place.
I think it’s a weakness, but it’ll be a strength of ours in the future. The product we provide through the social interaction you’re getting is a step up from what you’re getting if it was just a free site. I think the other opportunity we have is because we failed (when the site crashed), we put everything on hold and re-evaluated what we had and talked to our community and found out what we needed to do right, so when we launched again, we weren’t going to crash. With the new site we’ll actually accommodate what people have asked for, who didn’t get on the first site.
TB: Do you have an official start date for the site?
ES: Three weeks from today, September 26ish, 27ish. We learned our lesson and not included a countdown on the website. We don’t want to say it’s one particular day, because we don’t want 10,000 people trying to access the site in a matter of minutes.
TB: Have you guys been doing pretty well with your presence at PAX? This seems like it’s the place to go for you guys with the “for gamers, by gamers” motto.
ES: That’s what’s interesting. One of the things we wanted to do was put a face to the Play Dates. We brought six Play Dates that we’ve flown from all over the country, in fact we had one in from Canada. We wanted them to really represent the site and they’ve done a phenomenal job. It’s been great and we’ll continue to do this so we can really put a face behind the company and the profiles. And I think if you asked the girls, they’ve really enjoyed being here too.
TB: Which was my next question, actually. Have either of you girls been to PAX before?
AB: This is my first PAX and I’m from Boston. I haven’t even been to PAX East yet.
SV: Mine too, and I live in LA.
TB: Would you go back?
SV: Yeah, of course! I would go to any gaming convention!
AB: Me too.
ES: For the new site, we’re going to have different zones, the girls will tell you what they’re all about.
AB: Zones act as difficulty levels of the kind of games you want to play: Arcade, the Academy, Arena, and The Edge. The Arcade is for casual games, the Arena is for shooter-type games, the Academy is a really interesting idea that GameCrush came up with, it’s for anyone that wants to learn a particular game or learn how to get better at a game. We have, I guess you can say an Academy “Professor” which is one of the Play Dates who specializes in a particular game, and you can come in, have them work with you and improve your game, show you how to level up, get better, etc. The Edge is for the really hardcore, out for blood players.
TB: Counter-Strike people.
SV: Yes, that’s me!
ES: We really want to move away from that adult site buzz and bringing webcams into the site, however, there’s going to be some of that. I’m not going to sit here and tell you there’s going to be none of that, because any time you have good looking girls, that’s normally what guys are going to be asking for, and sometimes that does happen. But that’s not the majority of the site, we’re really trying to keep it focused on gaming.
We’re also going to do a thing called “The Foundation” which is more about raising money for charity events, we’ll have celebrities who you can play against and raise money with, or you can specify your own charity you want your money to go towards. It’s a social site and it’s a fun way to meet new people. I appreciate you coming to meet us and letting us share the real story behind GameCrush.
After talking to Strasser about the site, I was clearer as to what GameCrush was really about. Yes, at first, I did think it was something adult-related, but after that had been cleared up, I came to the conclusion it’s an interesting concept. That being said, I already know many people would object to using the service simply because you must pay.
However, you have to think about the millions of people who use online dating sites with monetization systems like Match.com or eHarmony – services that most people accept without question.
The video game industry has a unique place in popular culture, spawning all kinds of different services and products. If nothing else, GameCrush is representative of the expanding influence of game culture as well as a result of the constantly evolving industry.
What are your thoughts on GameCrush, Ranters?