GameCrush.com РA Socially Awkward Penguins Paradise [Expos̩]

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GameCrush.com РA Socially Awkward Penguins Paradise [Expos̩]

It is infamously known as a webcam porn service under the guise of video games.

Many people visited GameCrush.com out of pure interest. Some signed up as a “PlayDate” to earn money, and some have even signed up to actually pay to play with these “PlayDates.”

Two questions: why would someone actually pay for such a service and who are these “PlayDates”? Well, I’m here to find out who and why. Go past the break for the full exposé.

GameCrush.com Introduction Video

History of the site

Last year, GameCrush made headlines by announcing the beta opening of its website and service.  Many of the headlines, unfortunately, were very negative. Many writers were outraged that a service like this would even exist. Several “girl gamer” writers were particularly unhappy, feeling the site was a blow against gender equality among gamers. After doing some research online, I learned that GameCrush has a huge backing:

In August 2010, TechCrunch‘s Michael Arrington revealed that GameCrush had raised $700,000 in an angel round featuring Scott Banister and his wife Cyan, among other angels and VCs. The public launch was loosely scheduled a month out from the article, September 2010. [Wiki]

Why would anyone want to invest in a service like this?

Time to do Some More Research

I received a press release from GameCrush’s founder, Eric Strasser, about the new “Crush-O-Matic,” a basic chat roulette feature that you pay for. I asked if we could try it out with a press account and see what changes had been done now that the “press dust” has settled. Eric agreed to let us onto his site and said:

We stirred things up quite bit when we first launched but have been getting more positive press now that the dust is settling a bit. Here is a recent review for example: GameCrush Review: Working ‘PlayDates’ Offer Opinions
http://bit.ly/hcKAXu

More positive press? Well, that’s good to hear. Hopefully they have learned from their mistakes and realized that sex in the gaming industry can only go so far.

After loading up the homepage, you’ll see GameCrush is still using the the G4tv/Evony business model: advertising sex first then games second, hoping this will bring in the viewers. But still, I wanted to give this site a fair chance. So, I proceeded to login and hoped for the best.

What You Actually Do on the Site

GameCrush is essentially a pay-per-minute webcam service.  It revolves around a user (or “player”) having a webcam session with a “PlayDate.”  Signing up for an account is free and allows you to view all the “PlayDates” and chat with them. “PlayDates” are broken up into four categories:

  • Arcade – For the people that just want to play a casual or web-based game.
  • Arena – For people that are serious about gaming (FPS, RTS, etc.).
  • Academy – For the people that want to learn new tips and tricks from experienced “PlayDates.”
  • Edge – On the site, it says, “This could get interesting. Not for the faint of heart.” We all know what this means….

With the first three categories being legit, the forth still shows us that this service mainly revolves around advertising sex.

In order to start a play session with a “PlayDate” you must first buy credits. A user can purchase credits in five different payment options:

  • 360 credits for $6
  • 612 for $10
  • 1560 for $25
  • 3180 for $50
  • 6600 for $100

All play sessions cost 36 credits per minute.  A session allows for you to see your hired PlayDate on webcam and, if you so choose, let them see you as well.  Credits can also be used to “tip” your PlayDate.

The PlayDates

Out of the 500 PlayDates listed on the site, only about 92 of them were male. According to my interviews below with some of these PlayDates, there is no screening process when signing up to be a PlayDate. When viewing a PlayDate profile, you have a chat room, a bio and a photo gallery of that PlayDate.  Each profile page reminds me of a typical MySpace page where each photo gallery is filled with photos ranging from the common “MySpace angle (without cleavage and with)”, to the “duckface“, to the “look-at-my-score-on-the-screen”, and to the “bent-over-with-no-panties-on.”

According to the Terms of Service:

AND PLEASE, LET’S GET THIS STRAIGHT. GAMECRUSH IS NOT “PORN” SITE AND EXPLICIT DESCRIPTIONS OR DISPLAY OF SEXUAL CONTENT IS NOT ALLOWED. THE SITE AND THE SERVICES ARE ABOUT ENHANCING YOUR GAMING EXPERIENCE AND WE WANT YOU TO HAVE FUN WHILE YOU PLAY. HOWEVER, CHILL OUT ON THE SEXUAL, PROFANE, PORNOGRAPHIC OR OTHERWISE INDECENT STUFF OR WE WILL BOOT YA. GOT IT? OK, NOW ON TO MORE THRILLING READING BELOW.

Yet, there seems to be no moderation going around the site to make sure that no one is uploading photos, that would suggest that this site is “not a porn site.” There are many photos of PlayDates showing off just enough skin to entice you to play with them.  And then there is Ms. KinkyNurse. Check out the screenshot of KinkyNurse’s profile and look at the 2nd photo’s thumbnail. (Link NSFW)

Instead of using my free credits to play a game or two with these PlayDates, I decided to use my credits for research and interview them.

KittyOfDoom

PG: When becoming a “PlayDate” was there any screening processes you had to go through?
KoD: Nope, anyone can do it. All you have to do is upload a picture before you show up as a PlayDate but they don’t screen that or anything. I mean, I once saw an ukulele dressed in some paper underwear as a PlayDate. So none at all.

PG: Have you made any money yet from the site?
KoD: Yep, I’ve made much more than I originally thought that I would.
PG: Can you give us an estimate?
KoD: It’s varied from $200-500 a month

PG: Have you had any weird or awkward requests?
KoD: Haha yeah, quite a few. There was a guy who wanted me to pretend I was his wife but he wanted to be a girl and I was suppose to pretend to punish him or something by having him fully cross dress. Also requests to see my feet, and a guy who wanted me to insult him and tell him how bad he was at games. I didn’t do any of those though.

The amount of money one makes as a PlayDate caught me by surprise. For the next interview, I found a male PlayDate.

Tyrandal

PG: What interested you into becoming a “PlayDate”?
T: I became a PlayDate because of the chance to make a little side money while doing something I love doing… playing games!

PG: Was there any screening processes you had to go through in order to become a PlayDate?
T: I’m sure there was, but I didn’t hear about it. When I applied and joined, it was an application and various agreements.

PG: Have you made any money as a PlayDate?
T: Some.  For males, as you can imagine, it’s very rare to get any games because of the original orientation of the site was to attract guys who game to play with good looking women. So, being a male PlayDate comes at a steep chance of not making anything.

For the next interview, I found a fairly new person who has signed up as a PlayDate.

SweetSynergyGC

PG: So far you’ve been a PlayDate for about 2 to 3 weeks now, correct?
S: it’s actually been a bit longer than month… I know I signed up within the first week of December.

PG: Can you estimate how many “sessions” you have had thus far?
S: Roughly, about 30 b/c the sessions sometimes crashed then we had to start over.

PG: What is a “crashed” session?
S: Well GC still has bugs so sometimes the session will crash/end abruptly in the middle of a game.

PG: Are PlayDates still paid for those sessions?
S: As long as the time goes over 1min, PDs get paid for it. If the session crashes before the 1 min mark, no credits are dispersed.

PG: Can you give us an estimate of how much you have made from the site?
S: About $300.

PG: Have you had any memorable moments or awkward requests during a session?
S: There’s the usual “can I see you naked” requests which are annoying. But I guess as long as you have a set of tits, you’re prone to that. My most memorable moments were during the beginning my membership with the site. I had made a lot of friends who have taught me how the site works which I really appreciated because I came into this practically blind of what to expect.

The next interview was a PlayDate, named Ieva, that I was specifically requested to go and have a chat with.

Ieva directed me towards a similar website and service to GameCrush called PlayWithMe.com. PlayWithMe’s domain name was registered back in 2003 and is part of the Friend Finder Network. This is the same network that hosts AdultFriendFinder. GameCrush’s domain name was registered in 2005. The only difference between the two sites is that it has female and male PlayDates. Either than that, GameCrush seems to be an exact clone of PlayWithMe.com.

An interview with a “Player”

Over the weekend, I found a regular GameCrush player and asked if I could interview him over Skype chat.  “Vamp” is a 21 year old male from the Netherlands.  He learned about GameCrush through an ad on NewGrounds.

PG: Do you yourself buy credits to play with PlayDates?
V: Yea.  It’s fun to play with them, and they are very nice to people

PG: How much, if you could estimate, have you spent on credits?
V: In total, about $200 USD

PG: What do you generally do during your sessions?
V: Talk, play pool or back 2 back and watch the playdate on cam

PG: So, do you generally user the service to talk to girls?
V: Nope, play a game with a nice and beautiful girl and mostly a girl who likes her games

PG: Are there no girls around your area that you can play games with?
V: Nope, most are most into make up and shopping then in games.  Most girls I find know just a little bit about games and only play simple puzzle games

From this interview, it clicked in my head.  There are people out there that sometimes need this service.  With $200-$500 a month being distributed to various PlayDates, GameCrush has definitely found it’s market and is making money.

Interview with Tara from Zaxy.com

I saw that Tara, over at Zaxy.com, went undercover and signed up as a PlayDate to also write an article about GameCrush.  I decided to do a Skype webcam interview with her to learn more about her experience.

Overall Opinion

I agree with Tara that the site does has a few qualities that can be good, if thought out more. Also, after a couple of interviews with “players” that regularly use the site, I’ve learned that, as sad it may be, there are people out there with a need for this kind of service.

If the site had a free trial period, was designed better (I mean seriously. Who uses frames?!) and didn’t rely heavily on advertising sex to gamers, it could be a respected place to hang out with other gamers.

The site could be used as a useful tool, specifically in the Academy. Think about it, if real gamer pros put themselves on the site and offered to teach other players how to game better, with 1-on-1 sessions, the site could become a productive community.

But, in the end, it just seems like a place for socially awkward penguins with money to spend. If you are one those people out there, I would suggest just saving your money.  There are many girls out there that will play games with you, as long as you are not creepy and treat them respectfully.

tl;dr? – Socially Awkward Penguin will help you out below.