GameCrush insulting to gamers, geeks of both genders

By Luke Wilusz

Our society has long held a very specific, stereotypical image of a geek or gamer. It’s the image of an awkward, socially inept, mouth-breathing basement dweller who has never spoken to a girl and wouldn’t have the slightest idea of what to do if he were given the chance. Female gamers are often forced into a complementary stereotype. They’re idolized as if they were some sort of rare, mythical creature and placed on a pedestal to be worshipped by the poor, pathetic losers mentioned above.

These stereotypes are, frankly, grossly inaccurate and deeply insulting, and an online service called GameCrush seems to be basing its entire business model around keeping them alive.

GameCrush allows users 18 and older to pay money to play video games online and chat with the site’s “PlayDates.” For about 60 cents per minute, customers can either play a browser-based or Xbox Live game with a GameCrush PlayDate. They can also chat with them via webcam on a computer or via an Xbox Live headset. What happens in the chat is more or less unregulated. It’s left up to the player and the PlayDate, although players have the option of tipping, and the girls are free to try to earn tips however they want.

The fact that this service even got up and running—not to mention the fact that it’s been in business for about a year now—is incredibly insulting. What it suggests is the negative stigmas attached to geeks and gamers are so strong a group of investors somewhere thought they could make a killing giving gamers a chance to interact with women. As in, the gender that constitutes roughly 50 percent of the Earth’s population. It is not inconceivable for a young male geek to meet, talk to and develop friendships and relationships with women. I’ve done it, and I have many friends who have also done it. It’s not exactly rocket science.

Furthermore, women who play games—or read comic books or play tabletop games or any other geeky hobby—are less rare than people seem to think. I have several female friends who play games, and some of them are even more hardcore about it than I am. They are regular people and regular geeks just like the rest of us. They shouldn’t be exploited and marketed as some sort of exotic commodity.

Even more disturbing than the services GameCrush provides, however, are the types of people who have paid for them. blogger Tiffany Nevin went undercover as a PlayDate at GameCrush for several weeks. Some of the players she interacted with were just shy guys who seemed to have problems socializing with people. One player was genuinely interested in just playing games and talking with Nevin. Others utilized the service like a sex chat hotline. And then there were the truly disgusting ones, who would berate and insult her when she refused to take her clothes off on camera.

These are the types of people who sometimes make me ashamed to call myself a gamer. They make up a relatively small percentage of the community—there will, after all, be scumbags and creeps in any demographic—but people only seem to notice the bad ones, and they make the rest of us look bad.

Pop culture continues to make gamers out to be some sort of weird, maladjusted fringe group, despite the fact that our hobby is a thriving multi-billion dollar industry. There may have been a time when the majority of gamers were teenage and college-aged male misfits, but that time is long past. Today, games are played by everyone from soccer moms to grandparents, which should be a strong indicator of the hobby’s appeal to average everyday people.

Almost all of the gamers I know are perfectly well-adjusted individuals who maintain healthy social lives. I know I like to think I am. We are regular people who just happen to be interested in a specific hobby. As such, all gamers should feel an obligation to speak out against and boycott services like GameCrush that do nothing but exploit the prevalent negative stereotypes for a chance to make a quick buck.