A new gaming mag plans to use crowdfunding to support its writers. Co-founder Mattie Brice talked with Holygrenade through email about the site and its goals.
I originally did this interview back in May, but of course the responding email got lost in my junk folder. I do apologize if some information is dated—of course, I will make any necessary corrections.
The world of journalism is transitioning from a stable line of income to one more volatile, the Internet being the culprit. Revenue streams from newspapers and magazines have dropped torridly as outlets frantically look for ways to monetize content, from paywalls to forcing journalists to work pro bono because of their “passion for the medium”. This has created uncertainty for what the future of journalism holds.
One revenue stream has been passively mentioned in the conversation as the future of online journalism. Crowdfunding—familiar to indie fans and especially those of Double Fine—has risen to the role of saviour, at the least in supplanting the minimal revenue from online ads. Major newspapers normally receive one tenth from sites as compared to print advertising, leading to online outlets publishing non-sourced stories. Or in the case of games journalism, the halfhearted “rumour” posts because another site implied a story is true.
An outlet trying to subvert conventional gaming media is re/Action, a self-described “alternative gaming journalism” platform surviving strictly on its readers’ collective goodwill. Co-founder and journalist extraordinaire Mattie Brice plans to run a semiannual crowdfunding campaign aimed at paying writers appropriate wages for their work, an opportunity she says for the gaming community to “put their money where their mouth is.”
Brice describes alternative games writing as “writing that isn’t centered around informing people as consumers.” The content on re/Action forces readers to think about games on a deeper and more critical level—think The New Yorker meets Game Informer—but in a way that doesn’t offer what Brice calls “dry news”.
In a piece titled “A re/Action” before the recent redesign, she said re/Action was a “last sanctuary” of games criticism. A place talented writers could look to for proper payment, and the freedom to speak their minds. In this way it has stayed true: two recent pieces discuss console gaming as inherently exclusionary of the poor, and on the emerging genre of improv games.
David Jaffe, mastermind behind Twisted Metal, in April wrote about his plan to “fix” gaming journalism. He proposed gathering the best minds and dealing out raised funds through Kickstarter, choosing one of five reporters to reward $125,000. The plan was a self-admitted “half baked” approach, but it was the first time someone had publicly thought about crowdfunding gaming journalists.
When I asked Brice about the similarities of re/Action’s funding to Jaffe’s plan, she flatly denied there was a correlation. She even asserted Jaffe “has no idea of how the media works” and that, because of who he says deserves recognition, “doesn’t know about the critical circles that need the support we’ll be giving.”
Crowdfunding as a revenue model is sketchy but hugely beneficial if executed correctly. The Kickstarter fund for Double Fine Adventure made $3.3 million from 87,000 backers. Those numbers sound impressive, but if a site were to receive only 87,000 hits a day, ad revenue would be nowhere near that lucrative total. Jaffe linked to an article from the PA Report, which explains the situation fully. From Ben Kuchera’s (the writer of the article) model, essentially 87,000 hits (from $5 generated per 1,000 hits, higher than most sites) means a profit of $435. Not even comparable.
Therefore, re/Action would have the resources to pay writers regardless of the hit count, but complications arise if the Kickstarter drive doesn’t reach the targeted amount. Brice says magazines pay merely 20% of what re/Action plans to, no matter how wax poetic or irrelevant the content. That’s not to say that will be the case, though. It’s a promising avenue for young writers (like myself) looking to break into the industry or for established writers who feel undervalued. Which to say is common in modern journalism–and why so many writers make the employment jump to publisher PR.
(On a personal note, I highly recommend checking out the site. Here’s a link. Engaging content if you like games, and thought-provoking if your brain aches for some mental titillation. As well, at the time of this writing, the Indiegogo fund stands well short of its $41,000 goal. Go donate if you can spare some change.)
If re/Action is unsuccessful in raising the projected amount, it could either be because the fund wasn’t as widely advertised as needed, or the demand isn’t there. In the case of the latter, that’s grossly unfortunate. The industry only has shades of critical thinking despite games entering an unprecedented level of popularity. Sites like Nightmare Mode (run by Kotaku‘s Patricia Hernandez) and Bit Creature carried the load for some time, but those sites rarely produce content anymore. “Alternative” games journalism is entering into a bleak future.
To find more from Mattie Brice, follow her on twitter.
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