Editor’s note: We made a tier 1 donation to BasedGamer early on. We believe the gaming community can benefit from sites like this, even more than one, and would contribute to help other such sites if any prospects came forward.
We previously covered several sites that have taken a stand to support more ethical behavior in games media, but there’s also been a call for new media to address the aggregate review site Metacritic. Out of the wave of recent scandal in the games industry, gamers and developers have begun to question whether use of Metacritic as a gauge for bonuses is fair or ethical. I’m of the opinion that new media out of all this recent scandal is exactly what is needed. It’s all well and good to take the corrupt sites down a peg or two but in the end they will either change or they won’t and I don’t really believe anyone can make them go away completely. They’ll always hover around the edges at least, writing clickbait for pennies until they eventually fade away from lack of interest rather than lack of funding. One of the sites that is attempting to rise from the fire is BasedGamer, a community driven aggregate review site that aspires to compete with sites like Metacritic, and correct some of the issues with that format.
A great deal of information can be found on the site’s IndieGogo page, as well as an online business plan that was released to the public a couple weeks ago. Key highlights and features will be support of video reviews, a mobile app, and the ability to filter your search by any or all of the four review scoring criteria for a game. I think that’s the most interesting because when you talk to gamers about the games they like, most disagreement hinges on certain aspects of the game rather than its entirety. The four scoring categories will be storyline, visuals, gameplay, and entertainment. If visuals are less important to you than mechanics and story, you can filter out the visuals score and see how games rank on the categories that are important to you.
Another feature of the site that may be a challenge, but a great benefit if it’s utilized correctly, is a sort of upvote/downvote to reviews. The intention, from what we gather, is to prevent trolls and obviously intentional good or bad reviews from effecting a score. A review that is downvoted enough will be removed so as not to effect a game’s score.
Most all of the questions we had were answered in the business plan, but one we had to dig for in the AMA that was held on Reddit. I was curious whether BasedGamer was intended to be a for profit endeavor or not, since they talk about using ads. From the explanation in the AMA, any funds raised would go to maintaining the site, as well as pay the staff a salary. Extra funds will go to a gaming related charity. From other questions we also see that none of the seed money from the Indiegogo will go to paying staff, and they will not pay themselves until the site is sustainable. I think this is important as there are some accusations the team at BG are trying to ‘cash in’. Of course, they could just be saying these things, but as has become a popular saying in the consumer revolt, it’s on the accuser to prove their accusation, not the defender to disprove it. At some point we have to take people at their word when they’ve given us no reason to do otherwise.
The aforementioned seed money is probably the biggest hurdle for BasedGamer. There are obvious questions about transparency and ethics, clearly due to the recent shakeups at gaming media sites since August, and most of those questions have been addressed. While ethics is still a concern for some, the $50,000 price tag to start the project seems to be more of an issue. I had a web developer I work with look at the business plan and based on what he saw, and projects he’s worked on this is a fairly modest price. Sites similar to the projected plan, with the kind of development involved in the application, can run costs as high as $150,000 to start. Now, of course take that as you will. For obvious reasons I’m not about to get someone involved in the current scandal who doesn’t want to be, and there will always be people that won’t believe a word they read unless it comes with a seal of approval and personally meeting the source, so it’s just a matter of how much faith is needed to take a risk on something that could be great.
In the end, that’s what it boils down to as far as I’m concerned. Every new endeavor is a risk, but in this case if the project never gets funded then the only risk is not finding out if this is exactly what we need. I firmly believe that sites like BasedGamer, and others that are starting to come out of the #GamerGate scandal, are desperately needed if we are going to have any chance of making lasting changes to our beloved industry. We need sites with a standard of ethics and transparency that consumers are now demanding. Personally I’m afraid, even if all the current games media sites agreed to conform to higher standards today and the revolt was satisfied, a lack of real competition would just allow these sites to go back to corrupt business as usual in just a few years. So, take a look at BasedGamer, review the information that’s out there, and decide for yourself if the risk is worth the reward. I think it is.