Boing Boing, the group blog edited by Cory Doctorow, was once an icon for the hipster generation and a byword for successful blogging. Yet the progressive outlet’s foray into games journalism via Leigh Alexander’s Offworld vertical is foundering.
Launched nine months ago in the aftermath of the GamerGate controversy, which pitted progressive games journalists against ordinary gamers who were tired of reading narrative over facts, the site promised to be an “unequivocal home for women and minorities” and a place for people who think games “aren’t for them.”
Their progressive pitch does not seem to have worked, however. Site comparison data shows that Offworld trails sites favoured by GamerGate supporters, such as NicheGamer, by a considerable margin. According to SimilarWeb, NicheGamer receives approximately 600,000 visits per month, compared to a more modest 35,000 for Offworld. Visitors to NicheGamer also spend an average of 1.48 minutes on the site, compared to 44 seconds for Offworld.
Even lone bloggers are doing better than Leigh Alexander’s site. The Ralph Retort, the personal blog of GamerGate supporter Ethan Ralph, receives approximately 230,000 visits a month, with visitors spending an average of 1.49 minutes on the blog.
Offworld’s Alexa rankings are no better. The site is currently ranked 689,274 worldwide and has dropped 17,883 places in the last three months. NicheGamer, by contrast, is ranked 90,874 worldwide and has increased its position by 5,031 places over the past three months. The Ralph Retort also edges Offworld, with a worldwide ranking of 171,184.
Offworld was a revival of Boing Boing’s previous gaming section of the same name, which was founded by Brandon Boyer in 2008, who later became chairman of the Independent Games Festival (IGF) in 2010.
Selected as the site’s new editor-in-chief was Leigh Alexander, a games journalist with a reputation for antagonising gamers. She became one of the catalysts for the GamerGate controversy in late August 2014 after she published an article on Gamasutra accusing gamers of being “wailing hyper-consumers” and “obtuse shitslingers” for questioning the professionalism of games journalists.
Under Alexander’s editorship, Offworld enacted some curious policies. Soon after the new site was announced, Alexander said on Twitter that her site would only accept contributions from “white cis men” if they a) worked for free and b) were at the “top of their field.” This attracted considerable criticism on Reddit. “She does realise this is racism/sexism, right?” asked one user. “I have no time for sexist/racist people wrapped in a shell of feminism/social justice,” said another.
Pro-GamerGate sites like The Ralph Retort have not been without criticism in their own right. Threads on GamerGate hub KotakuInAction accuse the blog of “clickbait.” Unlike Offworld, however, it seems that pro-GamerGate blogs still attract readers despite their critics.
Breitbart Tech reached out to Alexander for comment on her site’s performance but received no reply.