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In March, RaptorLC gathered questions from GameFAQs board users for myself about the site, the boards, and CNET, and put them into a single Q&A session. Although it took a while, I've finally provided the "A" part. So, without further ado...
Usual questions off the bat, to get them over with: How did you come up with your username, and how exactly is GameFAQs pronounced?
In college, the crowd I associated with had a total of 5 "Jeff"s. In order to differentiate, everybody got a nickname of some sort: one was called by his DJ stage name, one was referred to by last name only, and so on. I became "C.J.". A few years later, I'm creating an AOL account, and I needed an online nickname, so I go through various permutations until "CJayC" is accepted as unique.
GameFAQs is officially pronounced "gaam faks".
How exactly was GameFAQs started? Like, was it just a project that you did in your spare time that started to grow, or did you actually focus a lot on it in the beginning?
Throughout the early 90's, there were two major sources of video game information you could find on the Internet: Andy Eddy's FTP Archive at Netcom, and the Fighting Game Archive at Brawl. Throughout my college years, I fondly remember gophering to these sites and browsing FAQs for the latest games at the time (like Mortal Kombat 2 and Super Street Fighter II). Unfortunately, by 1995, it was next-to-impossible to access the sites during peak hours due to the sheer number of other users who had found these sites.
In 1995, I was living alone in Houston with two cats and working full-time in Information Technology at a computer company. In the fall, AOL began offering 2MB of web space with their accounts. I decided to make an archive of Andy Eddy's site in web format for easier browsing over a weekend, called it the "Video Game FAQ Archive", and on November 5th, I listed the site on Yahoo and posted the URL on a couple of newsgroups.
Over the next four years, the site slowly grew, updates went from "whenever" to weekly to daily, ad revenue started paying the bills and even supplementing my work salary. In the Summer of 1999, I decided that if I dedicated myself full-time to GameFAQs, I would be able to create an extensive set of message boards for the site, one for each game - something that hadn't been done before, as far as I knew. So, I quit my "real" job, and GameFAQs became my full-time occupation; a 40-hour a week job.
By 2003, GameFAQs was more like an 80-to-100 hour a week job. I was doing the work of a site editor, message board administrator, technical supervisor, server administrator, and all-around troubleshooter. I was on call 24 hours day, and couldn't ever be very far from an Internet connection in case a server decided to go down. Over the years, I had received several offers, but I had never honestly considered selling the site, but by this time, I realized that I could no longer do it alone, and I honestly didn't have the money to hire outside help. Luckily, CNET was interested, and the purchased the site that summer.
Through early 2005, the site went through a long (and sometimes painful) integration, but today, GameFAQs is integrated with GameSpot at a technical level, yet still operates as a separate entity from an editorial standpoint. Aside from having Sailor Bacon as an Associate Editor, there's a dedicated technical staff who work to keep things up and running. I work a standard 40-hour week, I don't carry a pager, and I have much more time to spend with my wife, and the same two cats I had back when it all started.
Since this is GameFAQs and all, are you still a gamer when time permits? If so, what's your current favorite game?
I don't play nearly as many games as I used to, and that's probably due to a different set of priorities in my life right now. In the past few months though, World of Warcraft has taken up a good portion of my time, and I spent a recent week plowing through God of War.
What aspects of the site do you see to be the strongest, and which do you feel could use the most improvement?
The strongest and most important part of GameFAQs is its contribution community; those who submit FAQs, reviews, cheats, and more. Without them, the site is nothing. And every part of the site could use improvement; I'm constantly seeing things that need to be fixed, upgraded, and added, so it's hard to pick out just one.
Where do you think GameFAQs is heading, and what are your top priorities as of now for GF?
To be honest, I think GameFAQs is just going to be "more of the same" for the foreseeable future. There are tons of little additions and tweaks to be made on the site that can make it better, but at the same time we've got an incredibly successful site as it stands, and I don't want to change it so much that it drives people away. As the name implies, the site's core focus will always be the FAQs and Guides, and it's my job to ensure that doesn't change anytime soon.
My top day-to-day priority is keeping things running; that means posting new contributions, keeping an eye on the boards, and fixing critical problems (like downtime). As far as improvements and enhancements go, well, those plans keep changing. :)
What's your typical day on GameFAQs like?
It mainly consists of going through and tackling the submissions queue, handling pending and suspended board users, going through any feedback received, and repeating. On a typical day, I go through the above three or four times a day, and then use remaining time in the day to handle other problems that pop up (like database stability issues and board security issues, these have been taking up a lot of time recently), and if any time is left over, it can be used on development and fixing bugs.
It's not really the most glorious of jobs, and I can't really say that I play video games for a living, as fun as that sounds. But, it's still a great job, and I still enjoy it, and I'm amazed that I still get to do it after almost 10 years.
Do you do much board browsing at all nowadays?
I browse a few boards now and then, but I don't post too much. I tend to stick to gaming boards, as the social boards are just too busy and my presence tends to be far too much of a big deal there.
A lot of people are wondering why you're not an active poster anymore. Is it due to the usual reaction you get from your posts by the more sheeplike users, or is it just due to not having enough time anymore?
It's both of those, but there's also something more important to consider. When I started GameFAQs, I was in my early 20's. It's been nearly ten years, and while I've gotten older, the average age of the message board user has stayed pretty much the same. Also, as the site has gotten bigger and bigger, I've become more and more of a "celebrity", which is something I've never been comfortable with. I'm a bit of an introvert, and after more than a few "stalking" incidents, I make it a point to keep my private life out of the public eye.
Also, why don't you post mini-reviews on the homepage anymore? People miss those.
To be honest, I don't play games nearly as much as I used to, or at least not nearly as many different games. The days of me getting shipments of import games every week have long since passed, although I do still pick them up from time to time. Plus. since changing the format of the home page to be more site news based, I don't really have a good forum to do that in, although that's something I'd like to change in the future.
How do you respond to the complaints about CNet "invading", trying to take over, etc?
People see "CNET" as some massive, evil corporation solely intent on making money. In reality, that's just the advertising department.
In all seriousness, GameFAQs would not be alive today without CNET. The effort to run the site back in 2003 was already more than I could sanely handle, and the site has continued to grow wildly since then. I would not have been financially and physically able (not to mention emotionally and mentally able) to continue running things by myself without either selling the site, making a massive change (like shutting down the message boards), or just shutting it down altogether.
While CNET owns the site, I still have editorial control, which is what's really important. "CNET" doesn't decide what gets posted on the site - That's all Sailor Bacon and myself. We decide which message board accounts get banned, which contributions get posted, and what yes, even how the pages look. While the GameSpot design team came up with the current site design, I approved it.
I don't control which ads run on the site, mainly because I don't care - there's an entire department devoted to running ads, and while they don't always run ads that everybody likes, user complaints about ads do get heard, and "bad" ads that cause real problems for users do get pulled (although it sometimes takes a while, especially when the complaints start coming in after normal work hours).
People seem to worry about "CNET" taking over everything, without realizing that there is no "CNET" - there's just a group of people working for the same company who are all just doing their jobs. The GameSpot staff is a hard-working, honest group of gamers who are too busy running their own site to worry about GameFAQs. The advertising team is trying to bring in new accounts and make sure our particular part of the company pays for itself. I'm part of "CNET" too, and my job is to run GameFAQs.
When CNET (the company) purchased GameFAQs, the decision was made by people who knew the site and were committed from day one to preserving what makes GameFAQs what it is; the community of users who contribute and communicate here, including myself. That hasn't changed, despite what some users believe. It's still me, just with some help.
What were the reasons for merging with GameSpot and the other things that have linked GameFAQs to them? (note: wow, CNet links to us? =p) Obviously it wasn't planned like that in the beginning. What changed?
For the main site, we moved GameFAQs into GameSpot's existing system for technical reasons. Having a single database of games makes much more sense than two, and having everything run off the same platform means that there's only one kind of system the tech support team has to support.
For the boards, back in 2003, GameSpot ran on its own separate message board system, which had its own set of problems. While they had in-depth boards for some games, they didn't have the traffic to support a real community for any but the largest games. What we've done is taken the original code and database that ran the GameFAQs boards and upgraded it to support multiple sites. We "merged" (and how I've come to hate that word) the gaming boards for GameFAQs and GameSpot because it made sense, from both a technical and community perspective, to only have one community discussing any given game instead of two.
Did all the flaming between gf and gs users after the merge really come as a surprise?
A small one; we expected some backlash, but not as much as we got. Of course, people complain virulently about _any_ change to the site, and when it's that a change that makes it seem like GameFAQs is losing its identity, that goes triple.
Of course, things have calmed down immensely since then. The benefits eventually outweighed the negative side, at least for me personally, and it doesn't seem to be a real problem with the large majority of users on either site anymore either.
Given the explosion of users since the merger, do you find the boards growing to be too unwieldy even with the backing and ownership of CNET?
It's just as out of control as it's ever been. Our current moderation team, at least on GameFAQs (I can't speak for GS) is doing a phenomenal job at keeping things running smoothly. Technically, this is definitely the longest period of smooth operation we've ever had (remember the days of 30-second load times during peak hours?).
How much input does CNET have on how the boards are run and maintained?
On the GameFAQs side of things, none. I still make the day-to-day and long-term decisions as to what's happening there. While there was a legal issue some time back dealing with posts about drugs, that would have happened with or without CNET (and likely would have been much worse without them).
How much control do you currently possess?
All of it. Seriously, there's never been any kind of "directive" passed down from upper management concerning anything on GameFAQs. I suppose if I started just posting random swears on the front page of the site that the management might have something to say about it, but the reason CNET purchased GameFAQs is because the way I run the site is the way that they like their sites run.
How much attention does GameFAQs get from CNET compared to GameSpot?
Not much, outside of GameSpot itself. From a hierarchical perspective, GameFAQs is considered a part of GameSpot, even though outside of that it's operated as an independent site. This actually works out great for me, as I report to someone who knows the site extremely well and is totally and completely concerned with the quality and image of both sites: Greg Kasavin, someone so important he has a Penny Arcade strip about him.
Is the direction with the merger going to be towards creating a more unified Gamespot and GameFAQs look, or will the sites maintain their individual goals and appearances as time goes on?
As long as I'm here, GameFAQs will maintain its own identity, as it's still kind of an extension of my own. When and if I retire someday, I hope to hand over the reins to someone who will continue the vision. GameFAQs is far too unique of a site (and has far too many of its own unique users) to even consider completely merging things together.
Would you be able to arrange having a CNET representative come onto the site and have a Q & A session about GameFAQs? CNET tends to strikes people as an "invisible overlord" that makes decisions from above, but unless the board users cause a "Jamster" sized ruckus, they feel that they have little say. This might help quiet a few fears.
Like I said, there is no "CNET". I mean, I'm as much of a part of CNET as anyone else who works here. If you have questions for, say, the head of GameSpot, or the whole Games and Entertainment division, I'm sure they'd be happy to answer. Of course, once you go higher up in the chain of management, then they'll start talking about "paradigms" and "visions for the future", which is what upper management is supposed to do, but likely won't provide any insight as to what's going on.
Overall, how would you rate the success of the GameSpot merger?
Well, the site's still running, which means it was a success. It really has been for the best, given that we have a single technical system that everything runs on.
Will there ever be any new features added to GameFAQs that are subscription or "pay-only"?
Maybe someday, but I've been saying that for two years now. There's no real drive or push to do it right now, which is fine by me.
What are your plans for the post editing feature, and how will you ensure that it's not abused?
Assuming we add in the editing feature (and I'm still debating whether or not to do that), it would be like GameSpot's, where an archive of the original message is stored in the database and can be viewed at any time.
You mentioned more private boards for high karma users. What will be the karma requirement for getting one? Will there be a limit on how many are given out?
Initially, I'll probably limit it to the highest level users to make sure it works out okay, then slowly add more. The initial test run where I gave out 10 boards has worked very well, and a couple of strong communities have formed there.
Any timetable of when we can expect to see features such as custom stylesheets, game collections, quoting, and other things mentioned in your future plans topic?
Before Duke Nukem Forever comes out.
Unfortunately, development is always my lowest priority, given that the day-to-day running of the site and handling of any new crises take priority. This is primarily due to the fact that I don't take advantage of any of the other development staff available within GameSpot, as I'm very choosy about what code actually makes it onto GameFAQs.
What are some of the plans that you are excited about the most?
Private boards, game collections, and the custom home page.
Will a user's game collection list be able to be imported from GameSpot?
Yes, assuming we don't just use the same collection database (hasn't been set in stone yet).
Will the HTML update be done with both new and old themes in mind?
The goal is to have a single HTML page that can be used with stylesheets that will render the page as either "classic" or "new". While the "classic" stylesheet might not look exactly like the "classic" view, it should be close... And it'll give us room to
Any other features in the work for users level 31 and over to make attaining new levels more worthwhile?
The private board system is the big one; haven't decided on anything else yet.
Are there any other future visions that you have planned for GameFAQs besides the ones you announced in the MBA topic that you'd care to share?
Not just yet, as I hate getting people's hopes up and not being able to fulfill in good time them due to other things that crop up.
In the game info page, could company websites be linked to?
When we have a company URL, it's only just one click away. The problem is that we don't have every company's URL in the database, which we should probably fill in by allowing contributors to add that data... Hey, now that's an idea...
For online games, can the game's website be linked to on the game info page?
There's really not a good way to do that outside of the company link, unfortunately, and not enough games of that type to make it worth implementing.
What are your opinions on what makes for a good ad banner, and what is an intolerable one?
A good ad gets your interest without offending or forcing you to take interest. The only kind of ads I really hate are the pop-ups, especially ones that defeat pop-up blockers. It seems kind of crazy to force an ad on a user who's made it extremely clear that they are not interested in seeing that kind of ad.
Why do you have an XHTML 1.1 doctype when the site's not valid? Do you plan to make the HTML valid in the future?
Yes; the doctype is valid for the new HTML that was added in December... but that's just the header and footer of the page. My mistake, and one that will hopefully be fixed before too long.
Are there any plans on changing the classic layout to more closely mirror the old layout? Also, will the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP be added to the systems bar at the top of the page?
See "Will the HTML update be done with both new and old themes in mind?"
Will there be any other stylesheets coming out soon or the future?
Yes. Please be patient.
Is working on browser compatability an important issue at this time? Some stylesheets don't look that good in browsers like Firefox.
I use FireFox, so I'm familiar with this. But again, see the previous HTML question.
Why exactly was the site statistics page removed, and will we ever see it again?
The main site stats page mainly consisted of a few data counts (number of FAQs/Reviews) and the backlog, and to be honest, I haven't seen that much demand for it back (since the backlog's on the main Contribution page). The board stats page simply took too much database work to generate on the fly and was actually dragging down performance.
When will the upcoming PS3, XBox2, Revolution, Gizmondo, Zodiac, and Mobile systems get general boards and be fully implemented? Also, will the latter three
have topicality on their game boards?
Soon, and yes. Pretty much every new game added to the site will have topicality.
What is your stance on adding old systems to the database that are currently missing? There are users who would love to contribute material for the Amstrad CPC464 and ZX Spectrum, but neither are listed on the site.
We actually have some short-term plans for adding these in. There's a bit of work that goes into supporting a system, so it's been a low priority, but expect some new systems in the next month.
Since the boards on this site have long since expanded beyond mere video games, would you ever consider accepting FAQs or guides from special interest boards? Think of it- Character guides on television-based boards, recipes on the proposed food and culinary board, continuity guides for the comic book/graphic novel board.
No; GameFAQs is solely about the games. But as you can tell, CNET's slowly branching into other areas of entertainment...
A lot of users wonder about the Summer Contest that is coming up, is there even going to be a summer contest? And what changes, if any, would you make to it so that it is less predictable and more enjoyable to the site's users?
Yes; and you'll know when I know. I've got some ideas, but I'm still throwing them around in my head.
Will there be any more Spring Contests in the future?
Yes, there's one now. It just doesn't make sense to run a second "Best Game Ever" contest so soon.
Would it be feasible to have a game contest this summer, a character contest next summer, and so on in alternating fashion? It would give us users the best of both worlds, and keep the contest where it was from the start: the summer. If time is the major issue, alternating would be the best solution. Plus, it'd extend the year over year volatility to two years, which would make those contests insane to predict.
That's one idea; we'll see what happens with this year's contest.
What is the priority for fixing the blank screen a person is directed to after posting a message with an autoflagged word?
It's been fixed.
Why does karma seem to fluctuate 2 or 3 points for some users through the course of a day? It's not moderation related.
It's a combination of caches. The data in the user info screen is itself cached, so the karma count there might be off by a point, and the page itself can be cached in your local browser, preventing you from seeing the most recent version of the page. There's nothing that actually changes your karma in the database at any point except moderations and the daily increase, and I've yet to see any substantial documentation (i.e. someone taking screenshots over a period of time showing this fluctuation), so as far as I know, there's no real issue.
Will banned users be allowed to sign in and view their moderation history?
The overwhelming majority of users know precisely why they were banned, and once a user is banned, we're really not interested in encouraging them to return. But, I'll probably look into a more informative page before too long.
There have been reports of user accounts resetting, and the system creating a brand new GameFAQs account for their universal account. Have you heard anything about this, and do you have any tips for users to avoid such an occurrence?
Read the instructions. For the most part, 99.99% of these happen when people already have a GameSpot/Universal account, then _upgrade_ (and not merge) their existing GameFAQs board account, creating two accounts. They then get confused and never log back in to their old account. There have been maybe 2 or 3 cases out of a few hundred that were not caused solely by users not reading or understanding the upgrade/merge procedure.
On the Contributor Page, reviews are listed in alphabetical order by system. Why aren't codes and secrets listed in the same fashion?
That's a bug. I never noticed it, to be honest.
Also, if a contributor submits game data, why are the names of said games not included under their own section on the Contributor Page?
A small oversight; something that can be corrected soon.
Is the site-wide FAQ clean up the FCB is currently undertaking helpful, or is it more of a nuisance because of the backlog increase?
It's both good and bad. It's good when it's done on a reasonable scale and people report guides that really should be taken off, but bad when there's a witch hunt and every incomplete guide is reported without the reporter actually _looking_ at the guide first.
Will you implement review hit counters and finally fix whatever's preventing the Review Rating System from working properly?
Yes, and the rating system will undergo a larger change soon...
How critical is the ability to link contributor accounts on your "GameFAQs To-Do List"?
The ability of users to link contributor accounts has been there for ages. Under the new system, currently it's done manually, so it's a bit slower, but that's something I hope to fix in the next week or two.
Why is there little notification about when and why a user's contributions are removed?
Good question. Removals initially happened so infrequently that there didn't seem to be a need, but now that more people are aware of the system and reporting issues, I definitely need to create a feedback loop there.
Are there any planned contributor goodies coming?
A question about games with many FAQs, specifically SSBM. Complete guides are always accepted if they're well-done despite being written late, but what about character guides? There's a lot of new information constantly coming out, but it's hard to decide to write for the game simply because a lot of intruction manual-types were posted in the weeks following the game's initial release. Are there any set limits to this sort of thing, and have there ever been?
There's no set "limit". Specifically for SSBM, I'd be happy to accept any new large, comprehensive character guides that actually cover what people tend to complain needs to be covered.
As far as other kinds of character guides:
* We don't post character guides for console-style RPGs, simply because in most RPGs characters are interchangeable, and the data in those guides (magic use, skills) have already been covered in complete detail in other in-depth guides.
* Wrestling/Dynasty Warriors Games: Since the characters are very interchangeable and all have similar play styles, one guide per character.
* Fighting Games: If the game is over two or three years old (i.e. it's no longer being played competitively), it's highly unlikely that a character guide would be accepted, as there's nothing new that can be said at that point. A counter-example here is, in fact, SSBM.
Are there any plans to broaden the contribution system? For example; news editorials, features about game companies, etc. They'd be judged for inclusion on the site more harshly and with more stringent criteria than the current contribution criteria.
Game Company data is something that you'll likely see a form up for in the very near future. As far as other types of contributions, editorial-type stuff isn't really what we do here, although there are a few other things I'm looking into.
On a scale of 1-10, how well do you think the moderators are doing?
9. These people are great volunteers, and they get at a minimum 95% of their calls right. They're not perfect, of course, but given how much they do and how problem-free the boards are for the insane number of users on them, there's very little to complain about, unless, of course, you like to complain.
Do you take the complaints about moderator abuse/misbehavior seriously? And if so, how do you handle them?
When there's a real complain from a user who hasn't brought problems onto themselves, then it's taken seriously. However, as you might imagine, that doesn't really happen often, if ever. There have been a few cases where a moderator has overstepped his or her bounds, but that's almost always when the complaining user has goaded the mod into doing so.
Are there any specific or general plans for moderator applications in the future?
Yes, likely in the early summer.
Do you think mods should reply to contests more often?
Sometimes, there's really nothing that can be said. The overwhelming majority of contests are upheld, and probably 99% of appeals are as well.
What kinds of "administrative duties" do/will the lead mods handle?
Right now, they're primarily in charge of bringing forward board issues and handling sticky topics, and that'll slowly expand over time (as well as the number of lead mods).
Any plans on updating the contest system so that moderaters can see and respond to accepted comments?
Will a feature be added so users can reply to a mod's contest response for an appeal?
Will moderators ever get the ability to read deleted posts?
Any comments on the increased number of complaints of odd moderations a couple weeks back?
Those were the days that the moderators went in and went through _every_ mark from _every_ user in one day, not just the high-priority ones. When more moderations are made, there will no doubt be more complaints; the number of complaints was pretty much in the same ratio as the number of marks they went through.
Will moderators or admins be able to make pertinent topics "sticky" in the future?
The future is now.
Can we get an explanation on the Black Mist incident? Several people said they emailed you after the account was axed as you asked them to, but their accounts were never restored. (Note: This was when littleman1314 gave his accounts to Black Mist, and BM suicided them, which got a crapload of people banned due to a lot of accounts being shared, and led to the "send me an email titled 'What was I thinking?'" announcement)
While I can't remember exact numbers, I can estimate. Let's say that there were 30 people banned due to that incident. I probably received over 100 e-mails from people asking to be unbanned due to it. Since there were more than three times the number people claiming to have been banned over the incident than were actually banned, it was insane to try and sort out which ones were real and which weren't, and I didn't have the time. So, this is a case where the majority ruined it for the minority.
Why is there a rash of accounts being set at level 4 off the bat, and then set to read only, effectively being made useless?
The people this is happening to tend to know precisely why this is happening.
Will the option to reactivate read-only accounts ever come back? If so, when?
Yes, in the medium-term future.
Any chance of spaces being allowed in user names again?
Probably not; we're working to "conform" to CNET naming standards from here on out (so it's consistent across sites), although you don't have to worry; existing usernames will not be retro-fitted anytime soon.
When accounts are purged can another person use that screen name?
If an account is purged due to inactivity, then yes. If an account is purged after being banned, then no.