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Ryan Davis talks up Giant Bomb's explosive re-launch

Kyle Orland

When Gamespot Editorial Director Jeff Gerstmann was abruptly fired under controversial circumstances late last year, it set off a sort of domino effect. In the wake of the scandal, Gamespot staffers Ryan Davis, Brad Shoemaker and Vinny Caravella all decided to leave the venerable site to start a new project with Gerstmann: a project called Giant Bomb. A skeleton of the site has been up since March, but the project really got going Monday with an overhaul that mixes user-created, wiki-style pages with editorial reviews, videos and podcasts from the four-man ex-Gamespot crew.

We talked to Giant Bomb co-founder Ryan Davis about his thoughts on the new site and his departure from Gamespot, and game journalism in general. Some excerpts from our conversation (be sure to click the "Continue" link for the full interview):

On Gerstmann-gate and the state of game journalism
"Obviously we still have lots of friends and a ton of history there [at CNET], but we're so focused on the good stuff we're doing now. ... [Gerstmann-gate] certainly helped get our names in people's mouths in certain circles. ... Before [Gerstmann-gate] even happened, I felt like people needed to be more skeptical about what they read, with the massive influx of news-blogs giving little distinction between rumor and fact.

"We're not in the business of reporting news, but as far as the review process goes, we're being very open about a review being that person's perspective. We don't use fancy math to come to our reviews, we just go with what the reviewer feels the game merits. I think when a review has to represent an entire organization's perspective on a game, that's where you can run into trouble. Also, for what it's worth, I've never considered myself a 'game journalist.' I think they exist, but I'm a reviewer and a commentator more than anything."

On what makes Giant Bomb different
"We're still just four guys, and we still feel that there's plenty of places to get 'coverage' out there. Our focus will be on commentary and perspective on the significant goings-on in video games. And, you know, fun! We don't want to run sales numbers stories. There's enough business out there in the game press, everyone trying to be Serious Journalists. I've got big respect for the way guys like N'gai and Totilo carry themselves, but no ... I'd rather do stuff that makes me laugh. ... I'll be honest, I wasn't 100% sure this was going to work before we launched, but the response we've gotten so far has been so overwhelming, I'm confident that we're doing something that no one else really is."

"I think when a review has to represent an entire organization's perspective on a game, that's where you can run into trouble."

On relying on user-created content for much of the site
"The response we've had so far is completely staggering. Right now our biggest concern is recruiting moderators to help us get the tidal wave of information we've received up onto the site. ... We've registered over 10,000 users in just over 24 hours, so there's obviously a big demand for what we're doing there. I've seen a lot of comments of people saying that the whole process of editing pages and linking pages together is addictive, and I know that on the moderation end, it's amazing to see everyone's video game obsessions laid bare. There's a dude who's just going through the database, linking every game that features fog of war to the Fog of War concept page. There are developers filling in their own pages.

"I think we're just seeing the raw passion that people have for video games. ... I've described our system as an RPG, except instead of grinding orcs, you're contributing to a huge community of people who share your passion for this stuff. It's interactive, so it makes sense that people who play video games would enjoy a certain level of interactivity, no? Our tools are extremely easy to use, and I think our barrier for entry is lower [than other wikis]. Also, it was built with games in mind, so the data structure caters to video games in a more meaningful way than a general wiki."

On balancing user-created content and editorial
"As significant as that [user-created] stuff is, we're still focusing on providing the same kind of game coverage as we did with the blog ... same style, same tone. We all ended up feeling really good about the coverage we had for E3, which was essentially a handful of casual video wrap-ups and a lengthy podcast at the end of each day. ... [The two types of content] share the page in a number of spots, but we have enough dedicated spots on a page that will always be editorial."

"I think, for us, one of the key differences is that we don't have a sales team on one floor and an edit team on another, each making decisions with vastly different priorities."

On ads
"At some point down the road, there will be ads. We're still hammering out how exactly we're going to approach that stuff, and it's something that we're going to talk with our community a lot about. ... I think how it's approached, and how the organization decides to prioritize it and approve it, are all critical. I think, for us, one of the key differences is that we don't have a sales team on one floor and an edit team on another, each making decisions with vastly different priorities. And with our relative size, we don't really need a lot of money to do what we want to do. that helps."

On ambitions
"There's this piece of property on the moon that I've had my eye on for a while. I'd like to make enough money to settle down there. You know, I think we want to maintain our small editorial team, until it makes sense for us to expand it. We don't want to force the growth. It should be organic. ... Up until Sunday night, my ambition was to launch the site. Now that it's launched, we're all totally focused on making sure the site is doing what it ought to."

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