Hands On

GameCrush Offers Male Gamers a Social Life


The most popular people at the annual E3 video game conference in Los Angeles last month weren't the creators of Nintendo's 3D handheld device or Microsoft's (MSFT) controller-free system, Kinect. They were, instead, the duo of Amber Syr and Gina Tran, two 21-year-old women who walked the showroom dressed in matching tight black short-shorts and tank tops that read "Play Me." Syr and Tran are "PlayDates" on GameCrush.com, a new Web site that offers predominantly male gamers a chance to do something many of them may not otherwise do: meet women. While playing video games.

The site, created by Bay Area friends Eric Strasser, 40, David Good, 35, and Anees Iqbal, 37, is part social network, part adult dating site, plus a heavy dose of Grand Theft Auto. There are now more than 1,000 registered GameCrush users, known as "Players," who can choose from a roster of more than 5,000 PlayDates, a mainly female constituency they can chat up through Instant Messenger or Web cam while gaming. (The registration process occurs online, without screening. However, all Players and PlayDates must be at least 18 years old.) PlayDates select whether they are "Dirty" or "Flirty," though Strasser says this function might change before the site comes out of private beta testing.

Financially, GameCrush resembles a familiar, old-fashioned business model. In the beta version, gamers pay $4 for 10 minutes of playing with a companion on the Xbox Live system. They pay $4 for six minutes of playing online versions of casual games such as Battleship or Connect Four. (The online version charges an additional 60 cents for every extra minute.) GameCrush intends to split profits with the PlayDates, though Strasser says the pricing structure may change before the launch later this month.

Syr first discovered GameCrush by Googling "get paid to play video games." In a good week, she makes up to $150. Syr—who lists herself as "flirty"—says guys have been respectful. "Every now and then I'll have someone ask...," she says without elaborating. "I don't do the more risqué things."

Some people do. Strasser contends that GameCrush isn't a porn site for gamers. Only a small percentage of the women play "dirty games," he says. "You find yourself talking more about games—it's not just, 'You have a nice chest!' " Still, that happens. GameCrush does not monitor users' interactions. Its slogan: "Be a Player."

Satariano is a reporter for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.

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