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GameCrush is a travesty

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On March 23, www.gamecrush.com opened its virtual doors for a public beta. However, minutes later the site was down and the company claimed that the requests had overloaded its server capabilities. According to the company, they received over 10,000 requests in their first five minutes of operation. For those of you who are unfamiliar with GameCrush, the site offers to connect “Players” with “PlayDates” — essentially virtual escorts that are paid for their time — over their web-based Flash games or on Xbox Live — for a fee, of course.

The stereotype of a “gamer” — or, in GameCrush’s terminology, a Player — is of an unkempt, either morbidly obese or woefully emaciated, awkward, socially inept male firmly in the 18–35 demographic. However, this is simply not true anymore. In today’s world of causal games and widespread publicity surrounding video games — EA’s $3 million Dante’s Inferno Super Bowl ad in particular — the hardcore gamer demographic is spreading from Mom’s basement to the real world. GameCrush’s very existence stinks of catering to the lowest common denominator, and it is clear, even from the company’s own press material, that they have few aspirations but to sexualize the experience of playing games in groups. By offering a “dirty” or “flirty” experience — terms quoted directly from the company’s March 23 press release — GameCrush makes it clear that the PlayDates are there as little more than a virtual escort service.

Now, I am not sure if I would have chosen PlayDates as the label for the presumably busty women waiting to be objectified by hopeless gamers shelling out $6 to $10 for a 10-minute window of desperate come-ons and fruitless attempts at real conversation — the term seems more like something an infant’s mother would arrange for her nascent offspring. However, the company seems to have settled upon that terminology. No doubt it was chosen in part because of its slightly demeaning connotation. In addition, the label for the paying participants — Player — is an interesting throwback to those of us who remember the usage of the word “player” as a complimentary term for a male who earned the affection of many females. “Player” does, admittedly, have a neutral connotation in the context of video games, but this hierarchy adds an interesting connotation to the site as a sort of meat market where the Players select their PlayDates and then pay them for their services.

Were the site not so obviously sexist — all of the example PlayDates are attractive women and seem to be losing in all of the screenshots — it might be a little more tolerable. It seems like the service, which claims to be “designed to appeal to male and female gamers alike,” has neglected the latter group of its supposed market share, unless we assume that the only females who play video games are lesbians. Perhaps the service should be oriented toward matching gamers with other gamers of commensurate skill levels or choosing PlayDates who seem less like models and more like real people.