Some loved it, some hated it, but either way, the original GameCrush got a lot of attention as gamers tested out the concept of paid online dating via video games. Two years later, GameCrush has received a makeover and has relaunched with the same concept but with some big changes. Cofounder Eric Strasser talked to TechRepublic about the revamp and the reasons behind it.

GameCrush login screen

TechRepublic: Tell us about the controversy that surrounded the initial GameCrush launch.

Eric Strasser: GameCrush was the first to monetize social interaction online. It allowed users to post profiles and accept invitations from other users to play cam-enabled video games for a fee. GameCrush also provided a credit-based system where users can purchase and give virtual gifts, these gifts were then transferable back to real-word value. The idea was to facilitate a new way for people to meet each other online, similar to buying a drink for someone in a bar. It also addressed a gender imbalance that is common in online social communities.

GameCrush received significant worldwide attention after it was covered by several prominent gaming sites. During this time GameCrush became a top Google trend as the controversy over “should men pay to play girls” became a hot topic in gaming forums, blogs, and radio shows.

TechRepublic: What points in that controversy were valid?

Eric Strasser: The gaming community saw it as the ultimate taboo — “why would anyone pay to play someone a game?” was a common sentiment. While the site grew in popularity and was responsible for many thousands of connections both online and in real life, it couldn’t shake a negative connotation.

TechRepublic: Were any points/comments made that GameCrush begs issue with?

Eric Strasser: Social interaction undeniably has a value. The ability to equate this value to real-world dollars is what was the twist. However, if you consider the bar situation again — it is absolutely accepted that someone can give a stranger a drink as a way of showing interest and to break the ice.

GameCrush was an 18+ site, and anyone can register, post a profile, and receive and give game requests and virtual drinks. It also provided a way for users to rate their experiences with other users, and block them if necessary — so other users would know if someone was not being respectful. It is important to know that the TOS explicitly forbid nudity, and all images were moderated to high community decency standards.

TechRepublic: So, did GameCrush ever pay anybody to play games and socialize with others?

Eric Strasser: Many of our users made thousands of dollars socializing while playing video games.

TechRepublic: Tell us about the revised GameCrush. What aspects of the original will remain?

Eric Strasser: We listened to both our fans and the less-than-thrilled. We learned, adapted, and it soon became clear there was an opportunity to do something very different, and that the original GameCrush was missing the mark. In response, we have transitioned to a site built around natural social interaction rather than the “pay-to-play” site that we once were.

TechRepublic: What is changing with the new release?

Eric Strasser: Users are rewarded by receiving a status upgrade and free credits for staying active on the site. This includes earning credits for everything from creating a bio, sending a first chat, or posting a picture. Credits can be used to buy other users virtual gifts and badges.

TechRepublic: Describe to us how the new GameCrush game play works.

Eric Strasser: The game play remains the same — users can meet others that are interested in playing the same games (including console, PC, or casual). They can chat and send private messages to get to establish a social connection, and then invite them to play a two-way cam-enabled game.

TechRepublic: What makes the new GameCrush better?

Eric Strasser: GameCrush is now free to use. We also added additional profile details including location, relationship status, and interests. Users can easily earn credits and PowerPlayer status upgrades just by staying active on the site.

TechRepublic: What do you hope to achieve with the new GameCrush?

Eric Strasser: Ultimately time will tell if the original GameCrush was just ahead of it’s time — or if users are in fact interested in making online connections with other like-minded users. While the financial reward worked for some, it turned off others who were on the site to just make new friends. Our goal remains to be a fun place to meet, match, and play others.

Some GameCrush profiles

Let us know in the comments section what you think about GameCrush, especially if you’re active on the gaming site.