Last week, whilst browsing through my Twitter feed, I stumbled across a tweet which talked about an ongoing project to make a new open source aggregate website for video game reviews. Curious, I went to the website to find about the project.
The project is called Start Button, and is being led by a user known in the gaming community as Drybones. I reached out to Drybones (
@Drybones5) to find out more:
Mark: What led you to make startbutton.net and when did you start?
Drybones: The idea came around the time GamerGate.me was launching. Moltar, the editor-in-chief of GamerGate.me, I and a few others, discussed what we could do as an end-game solution to #GamerGate. We knew these sites and groups wouldn’t likely give up, since it’s been 3 months and have shown no intention of changing. So we said what if we could make our own site where their journalistic integrity is at stake for being written off. Where reviews aren’t scores, their opinion is weighted against their ethical breaches, and the ones that review in horrible ways due to those ethical breaches would become white noise as they, and their respective news groups, continue to act improperly. The system will start to account journalists integrity behind a review, and breaches of ethics would render them less important. Just as people write you off for corruption, so would the system.
Mark: How many people are working on http://startbutton.net/?
Drybones: I would estimate around 10-12 people so far. They are all people who are involved with GamerGate.me. The site is going to be open source so anyone can contribute, but I’d like a close team that does more of the leg work and coding together.
Mark: Who are they and what is their experience?
Drybones: The core group so far has a few people who come from big tech companies; I will not reveal names nor will I reveal what companies they work for, they would have to decide to come out on their own. They joined the gamergate.me group privately, so it really isn’t my business to name reveal information without consent, but I am very confident in them. Some are system administrators and some are programmers for these companies and have a lot of knowledge in these fields that I lack myself.
Mark: What do you hope to achieve with http://startbutton.net/
Drybones: With startbutton.net, we hope to create a large aggregate system and video game database. Like a combined system of say, IMdb and Rotten Tomatoes but for videogames, with the extra functionality that you can review games but also review the reviewers and journalists.
We would also like to build our own network of trusted reviewers as well as create a network for indie developers to have a review embargo for their games; this way reviewers can have proper play time to come up with a fair experience to review, something that is currently granted to privileged publishers that can enforce this.
I would like it to be a place where it becomes a one stop shop for information on video games, where if you want to know the details of a game, you would go to startbutton.net, type in a title in, and then the site starts listing games by what you’ve typed. This would allow users to easily find games they may not know how to spell.
The site would list all the information on the game, screenshots, no-commentary gameplay videos, trailers, release dates, reviews, summaries, promotion material and art, and even streamers streaming that game on twitch and hitbox. And when they view a review, it isn’t a quick number (or even color) that they use to decide instantly if a game is good or bad based off a snippet.
Mark: Who and how will game journalists/websites be accredited? Will accreditation be granted by users?
Drybones: This hasn’t been fully decided yet. We will definitely be putting in “strikes” against a journalist and or a media group ourselves and have a site wide weighting system, but how the users can affect this in a FAIR manner without abusing the system is still undecided. This is where algorithms are going to come HEAVILY into play. How will the algorithm gauge users fairly? Giving weight to users can make older accounts prone to abuse for having a heavy weighting but not having a weight could make newer accounts affect scores easily, like with Metacritic.
Having a voting system or not doesn’t help or stop this issue. There are a lot of things to take into account here and we need to plan it out and create an algorithm for it.
Mark: How will the site sustain itself economically?
Drybones: At the moment, it is all donations based, like my other websites, but I expect that if the site is successful, ads will be a necessity for the financing of the site’s servers. I am footing the server costs by donations and out of pocket as I have done for GamerGate.me, the 8archive.moe and the vidya.fm radio, as well as other 8chan community projects currently hosted by me but that are not public. My current infrastructure could support the site, but we have plans (and a server design from experienced system administrators) on creating an optimal setup for this site.
As for the cost to develop the site’s code there is none. As a community made open-source project, everyone is donating their free time and effort, just like people contribute to Firefox, Linux, and other open source projects.
Mark: Does the site require sign up? Is it free?
Drybones: This isn’t a known thing yet. It most likely will have a sign up to prevent abuse, but we will most likely have a system for you to stay anonymous and or have everyone anonymous on the site, but still have a login. Yes, everything will be free. [Insert joke about a Gold account subscription here]
Mark: How do you intend to prevent developers exploiting the ratings system? For example developers mass up voting their games or paid people with multiple accounts?
Drybones: This is the biggest concern. Not the biggest just because of idea of the abuse’s results, but because of the challenge of coming up with a fair system to prevent this as much as possible. We will do our best to manage this.
Mark: When can we expect http://startbutton.net/ to launch?
Drybones: We have no expected time frame yet. We have to draw up the plans soon and decide what features will be at launch as the site will be in continuous development far after the initial launch. I want to launch by February 2015 but it could be sooner. Depends on what we decide is needed at launch.
Mark: A lot of gamers have their blogs and gaming sites—will http://startbutton.net/ have a third party plug in for user generated game review scores?
Drybones: Yes users will be able to review games and have their own profile for their reviews. Reviews will also have a weighted input to the community generated review “score”. Slightly related, we have also considered the idea of “per-user custom weighted reviews”, where a user can choose the weight a journalist / media group has for their own personal viewing. This presents a technical challenge but if implemented could be a [good] feature. Not everyone likes to be told how they should view a group so giving them controls over that would be neat.
For updates on startbutton.net, visit Drybones’ blog.