This week, Youtube personality Jennie Bharaj made the news with a new crowdfunding project called BasedGamer.com: she wants $50,000 to create a Rotten Tomatoes style review site for games. She says on her page that this site would “feature a genuine aggregation of game reviews” along with “other great features.” A lot of people agree with her that this is a good idea since she has already raised $10,000 at the time of this writing. But what are they getting for their money? And why does she want so much?
No one on this site needs reminding about the problems in the game industry, and the need for a new way to review games. The corruption in games media is simply shocking, and Jennie is right to want to do something about it. But there are a lot of questions that she needs to answer before she can ethically take money from concerned #gamergaters. What exactly is this site that she wants to make? What makes it different? And why does she need so much cash?
Jennie is asking for enough money to make a down payment on a house, and her explanation for what she’ll spend it on is short enough to fit on a milk carton. Here it is in its entirety:
BasedGamer will be devoted to a community driven by gamers. Similar to the popular website, “RottenTomatoes.com,” BasedGamer will feature a genuine aggregation of game reviews and other great features.
That’s it. Two sentences. She wants $25,000 per sentence. All we’re told is that the site is “devoted to a community” and that it will feature an “aggregation.” This is meaningless pablum. We already have a review aggregator site: it’s called Metacritic. It allows for user reviews, it aggregates reviews from various sites, and everyone hates it.
How will her site be different? How will it decide how much a score of “B-” on one site is, compared to a score of “82” from another? How will it handle sites with outrageous biases in their scoring? And how is the site going to make money? Two people have already paid $1,000 for the opportunity to have “any kind of gaming-related content” promoted on the site four times. If they decide to use the site to promote games of their own, will their content be properly identified as such? These are simple, basic questions that Jennie needs to answer before she can take money from anyone.
And why does she need $50,000 to make a review aggregator site? Jennie tells us that she estimates the project will take 650 hours, which comes out to 76$ an hour. A salary of 76$ an hour equates to $160,000 a year. Even accounting for Indiegogo’s cut, a web designer does not cost $160,000 a year. Web programmers do not cost $160,000 a year. And testers most certainly do not cost $160,000 a year.
There are two possibilities here, and neither of them are good
The first is that Jennie is not experienced with web design, and is overpaying for expensive consultants when she could find someone to do the work much cheaper. This is a very old story, and if this is the case she has nothing to be ashamed of. I’ve personally seen this happen to billion dollar companies and savvy businessmen with years of experience. If this is the case, the right thing for her to do is cancel the project now and put out a call for help.
#Gamergate has tons of talented web designers and programmers willing to help the cause. Has she asked any of them? This is 2014, not the mid-90s, and very good websites can be made very cheaply using existing frameworks. If she looked around, she could very likely do this either for free or for much less than she’s asking for now.
The second possibility is that Jennie is using #gamergate to line her own pockets. I don’t know Jennie, and I’m certainly not claiming any knowledge of her inner thoughts, but the amount she’s asking for is exorbitant, and one possible explanation is that she’s skimming off the top. Is Jennie taking any money from the Crowdfunding campaign for herself, either as salary or by simply dropping it into her own bank account? Is she just trading on her Youtube fame and the goodwill of the #gamergate community for a quick payday? The woefully inadequate breakdown of project costs on her page doesn’t answer this question.
Reaxxion is a gaming review and opinion site, not an aggregator. I don’t see us as being in competition with BasedGamer any more than the New York Times is in competition with RottenTomatoes. I think a good review aggregation site, especially one with a pro-#gamergate slant, is something that we would all benefit from, and I sincerely hope that a project like this succeeds.But until Jennie Bharaj can answer the very basic questions I’ve outlined here, she has no right to take any money from anyone. She needs to refund the money she’s taken so far, cancel the project until she can tell us exactly where the cash is going and why, and then start over. Anything less would be as unethical as anything we’ve seen during #gamergate.
Update: Two days after this article went to press, and over a week after asking #Gamergate for money, Jennie posted a document with more information on her plans. The document differs greatly from the information posted on the crowdfunding page. For instance, Jennie will be paying $12,000 of the money raised to a “manager for a women’s empowerment corporation” for unspecified legal costs. Readers are free to review it and make their own conclusions.
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