Every once in a while, I'll look in my GotNext e-mail box and find that Chris has forwarded a press release that he'd like turned into a news article. It doesn't happen too often, as anyone paying attention to the writer credits in the news column may have noticed, but it's not totally unheard of. While I do write up most of what I'm sent, it's not a 100% definite thing. What follows is a train of though started by a press release that I blew off.
So, it turns out that Kameo has an official website to call its own. After reading the press release and then browsing the official Kameo site, I came to the conclusion that the website was as newsworthy as a banner ad. I spent twenty minutes of my life looking in there for anything of interest, and despite personally looking forward to playing the full game based on my time with the demo, I came up blank. Not only is the Kameo site little more than an obvious advertisement for the game, it's a boring one as well.
So what makes for an interesting single-game oriented website, anyway? Well, I imagine different things appeal to different people, but I like to hear from the people involved in the game's creation. Let's take Guitar Hero, for example. On the one hand, there's the official Guitar Hero site. As these things go it's not bad, being nicely informative although still feeling a bit too much like an ad for my taste. While there are several pages of content, not to mention an active forum, most of the site feels too much like a magazine ad I'd skip over without even noticing I was doing it. Still, it's not a bad page as these things go despite the heavy use of marketing-speak.
The game info I found interesting, though, I didn't get from the official site. It turns out one of the Red Octane game producers set up a small journal on MySpace, and it's a really interesting read. There are no pictures, no fancy graphics, and I don't get the feeling I'm being sold something. (There is annoying music looping endlessly, but the power button to my speakers is within easy reach.) It's just production notes from a guy who really believes that he's involved with something special. There are entries on why certain bands have songs and others don't, designing the guitar, getting their cover band to re-record the songs, why it was necessary to have a cover band in the first place, and more. It's a good read for anyone interested in the game, and well worth checking out.
I'm left with a nagging question, though, and it's this- If it's ok for a game producer to have an online journal, why wouldn't it be linked directly from the game's official web site? This is the stuff I love to read, because every game is a huge endeavor involving a lot of people doing some very interesting things. It's not all high excitement and amazing days, of course, but things like concept art and stories of game features that turned out far more interesting than originally anticipated make for great browsing.
Also, why are so many game sites so amazingly dull? Why do they feel like little more than a bandwidth-intensive version of something I'd see on tv? A game site should exist to excite people, not inspire the same reactions that make us reach for the Mute button when the ads come on. I want a feel from them less like something the marketing department, long ago stripped of soul and personality, threw together to seem in step with whatever version of "cool" kids are going for nowadays. I want something with some meat on its bones, and its not impossible to sell a game and provide actual interesting content at the same time. The day that content arrives is the day I stop viewing game-specific sites as a chore to view.