Late last month I spoke with Michael Jordan of “Public Posting Geek Blog” Ship2Block20, about his latest project, Mukyou.com. Mukyou.com is very similar in many ways to a project we discussed in the early days of our site, Jennie Bharaj’s BasedGamer.com. Readers will remember that I was very critical of Ms. Bharaj’s project when it came out, due to the large amount of money she wanted and her insufficient transparency as to where the money would be used. Nonetheless, the idea behind her project is a sound one, and I’m happy to see that Mukyou.com is taking up the slack.
Most readers are no doubt familiar with Metacritic, an aggregate system for review scores that allows you to quickly get a general sense as to the quality of a title. It combines the review scores for a game from tens or hundreds of sites into a single number, which offers a great deal of convenience but at the same time comes with certain drawbacks, chief among them that there’s no easy way to tell who wrote a review, and what their biases might be.
What Mukyou.com is going to be is a customizable version of Metacritic that that allows you to filter by site/journalist, to ensure that you’re getting a clear picture of a game’s quality that’s not being distorted by biases that you don’t share. If a reviewer hates sports titles, for instance, you’ll be able to filter him out when you’re looking at reviews for the latest Madden. If a reviewer has a strange, unhealthy fear of female anatomy, you don’t have to worry about him unjustifiably stopping you from purchasing a game you’d otherwise buy.
The framework for Mukyou.com is already complete, as you can see by going to the site. Right now Mr. Jordan is running an IndieGogo campaign to allow him to do the data entry he feels the site needs, and put in all the reviews and journalist info that will allow the site to go toe to toe with Metacritic. The amount of cash he’s asking for is only 10% of what BasedGamer.com wants, and his site’s already up and running.
I spoke with Mr. Jordan via Twitch.tv. Since I have no idea how to record a Twitch.tv stream, this interview is reconstructed from my notes.
So, tell us about your experience with programming, journalism, and with the video gaming community.
I’ve been doing E3 for 10 years. I have experience working in Japan for small publications, for local stuff. I’ve done small projects for marketing, or for reviews, or for different websites. I’ve done a lot of background work, and I’ve been to more industry parties than I can count, and I’ve seen and heard a lot. ShipToBlock20.com and Mukyou.com are me breaking in more to the public side of things, as opposed to the information side.
I’m an experienced programmer right now and I can do it on my own and it won’t break for people. The website is up and running now. As for video games, my first memories are of playing games. It’s in my blood.
Tell us about why you’re raising money via IndieGogo.
IndieGogo. This money is paying for data entry, primarily, as the shell site itself is already finished. This (Data Entry) is the lifeblood of a company. I’m going to step away from other side projects, and just do data entry. This means cataloging reviewers, inputting games, and ensuring that the site’s database is complete. The reason why it’s 5,000$ is to cover expenses for 3 months, plus approximately 500$ for some to help debug the site if I need it. So it’ll be a 9-5 job. (More like 12 hours a day.)
So you feel that you need to put in the time and effort now, to get it out while there’s still a lot of focus on gamergate? As opposed to just having it be a longer-term side project.
There’s a lot of focus on Gamergate. But (Mukyou.com) is not just about focusing on Gamergate. While Gamergate is one side of something that’s very vocal, I get so many people from the industry, game developers, professional reviews etc. that are upset with Metacritic, and this is intended to be an alternative. This is not strictly a gamergate project, it’s intended to redress larger issues with Metacritic.
People are feeling censored and I’m so opposed to that. Look at what happened with Hatred. There was no real intelligent discussion going on with it. I don’t feel like I would play Hatred, but I would support its right to exist and the right for people to talk about it.
What concerns have game developers and pro sites raised with you?
Metacritic is the end-all be-all for bonuses and paychecks. As a game developer, you might not get paid your bonus because of something cultural. I don’t feel like you should be punished because somebody felt you gave the player too much cleavage.
So how does Mukyou.com address that issue, just by having filters to take out reviews that are overly focused on the reviewers individual hobbyhorse?
It’s addressed by people have the ability to see individual reviews. This brings a level of accountability that other sites don’t offer.
Also, by having individual discussions about a reviewer or review. What could help for developers is, for example, the ability to take off five reviewers off of the aggregatation list for contract and bonus purposes.
I also want to lower the bar of entry, since the Metacritic bar of entry is so high. Metacritic funnels people into bigger sites like IGN, Destructoid, and Gamespot. I want to put more focus on the little guy who can’t meet Metacritics 10 reviews a month, 100 reviews a year or whatever Metacritic’s requirements are. If you’re only writing a few reviews a month, you can still come talk to me, send me an email, and I can put you on the aggregation list. So this will help the smaller sites be better known.
OK, that makes sense. So going forward, how will the site fund itself? That was a big concern with BasedGamer.com, which we’ve also written about.
Everything I read about BasedGamer.com was very… I hate to use the word juvenile, but they’re inexperienced. Like the mobile app, for instance, I don’t think that’s where the audience is.
The usual way is build up a brand and advertise. You start off with adsense, and then afterwards, move into something like ProjectWonderful. Maybe mix and match the two. Monthly site sponsorships, perhaps. But any sponsorship would have to be something that I feel has value. It has to be something that I have experience with and can relate to the project. I wouldn’t have a Kane and Lynch site sponsorship, for example.
I think that’s how you have to do ads, it has to be something you actually like. I wouldn’t mind Mt. Dew having a sponsorship, ’cause I drink a f*ck-ton of mountain dew. Amibos as well, I love amibos. Does that answer your question or do I need to go on?
No, that answered the question nicely, actually. So you would say the big difference between you and BasedGamer.com is that you have a level of experience, both as a writer and a coder, that they don’t?
It’s not just as a writer and a coder, I’ve been a part of more communities than the people associated with BasedGamer have ever been in.
The first time I was in a community and I made a community, I made a Geocities page with a forum and walkthroughs for Pokemon, with my parents helping to fund it. That was when I learned HTML coding. I was working on it 4th or 5th grade, and I was just coding on the computer. In the end there was a couple thousand people and it blew my mind.
I got into cooking when I got out of high school and moved away from cooking, but kept making flash animations and flash games. After high school I went to culinary school and got an art degree. (I still always played video games)
I did freelance work in culinary school, and I’ve been doing E3 since I was 18-19, and went to TGS when I was in Japan.
Being part of the community for so long, and having it so ingrained in my life, I understand the ideologies. I understand how the community works, and how deep it can be.
Any last comments?
Despite all the stuff that looks really horrible, everybody needs to take a moment and step back,
At the end of the day, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar and piss, and relentlessly attacking people doesn’t reinforce your point, it just hurts people. This goes especially for within the communities, ’cause we’re all gamers here. We all need to be a little bit cooler than each other.
I’m very grateful to Mr. Jordan for taking the time to speak with me. If you feel that this is a project you’d like to contribute to, you can do so financially via the link above, or volunteer with data entry by contacting him via the information here. It’s looking like the project is going to have difficulty getting funded, so you may be better off with the second option.