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"Goodbye, Jean-Luc, I'm gonna miss you. You had such potential. But then again, all good things must come to an end."
- Q, Star Trek: TNG

Gleemax: The Future of Lame

by Ken Newquist / June 14, 2007
Graphic: Gleemax

Wizards of the Coast has launched a new online community for strategy gamers. According to Wizards' press release: "Gleemax will be built on three pillars – community, games, and editorial content – each representing the essence of what WotC has been providing strategy gamers for more than 15 years."

And it's called Gleemax. Gleemax.

The name's a lot to get past. So is the fact that they oh-so-recently killed of Dragon and Dungeon magazines. While this site isn't meant as a replacement for them -- it's designed for Magic: The Gathering players and such -- the fact that Wizards killed off two magazines with three decades of gaming history and then turned around and gave us something called "Gleemax" disturbed me to my very core.

And then I saw the web site.

In its press release announcing plans for the new site, Wizards said: "specific site features will include an online social community, existing and future releases of WotC digital gaming properties as well as independent strategy games, player profiles, interactive analog and digital community activities, editorial content including community message boards, WotC and player blogs, regularly updated industry news, and game rankings and reviews."

Ok, that could be interesting. Except that's not this site. Right now Gleemax is little more than a phpBB forum knockoff with a new theme and a handful of web pages containing proclamations from Gleemax "himself". This is Wizards of the Coast's crack at a virtual reality game and consists of a few cryptic messages and a big list of photos the floating head demands its readers submit to it.

I LOVE BEES it is not.

Buried deep within its innards is a podcast called Gamer Zero … but I can't point you to its RSS feed because it doesn't have one.

I understand that this is essentially the "pre-launch" web site, and that Wizards is continuing to work on Gleemax with plans to formally roll it out at GenCon. But compared to Facebook, MySpace, or hell, my personal favorite hangout the Dire Cafe, it's a joke.

Admittedly, it could be that at 35, I'm no longer in the demographic that Wizards is trying to reach with this site (though looking at the site without reading the press release, would you know who they were trying to reach?). But as a friend said, it's like Wizards looked at the whole wide history of gaming, considered all the names that could possibly have meaning and resonance with gamers … and then tossed them in favor of the lamest name they could think of.

Gleemax.

Not some reference to slack, or Discordian philosophy, Monty Python, the extended Magic universe, geek culture or hell, anything that makes one bit of sense. No, instead we get to maximize our … glee. I don't know about you, but I've never sat around a table playing Pirates of the Spanish Main and thought … "you know, I wonder how I could maximize my glee?"

I could have gotten past the name though, if there was any there there A social network for gamers could be cool, as the Dire Cafe illustrates, but you need to do more than simply re-theme your existing forums and call it a social network. You actually need to step up, spend some money, and develop a real solution -- something that takes social networking and kicks it up a notch by deploying net-only games that take advantage of Web 2.0 strengths. Imagine a site where you have a profile, but can then make turn-based moves every time you login. The game could generate an RSS feed of what moves have been made, which you could then subscribe to via a feed aggregator, Yahoo, Vista or Dashboard widgets to know when you need to move again. That would be interesting and who knows, that might be coming ... but based on what we've seen so far, I'm not optimistic.

As is, Gleemax is a joke. An embarrassing joke that does not bode well for whatever the hell Wizards is planning to replace Dragon and Dungeon with.  When the magazines were cancelled, I was skeptical that Wizards was capable of launching a web site capable of replacing them. Gleemax has only deepened my skepticism.

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Comments

When I seen the first post about this, I felt that perhaps that gleemax was 'misunderstood' and was a name that I didn't understand. Comments regarding Dragon and Dungeon just made me feel that there were change issues.

But I went to the site twice and I still don't really get it. Going there I feel confused and the site feels awkard. It is a "Welcome to Oz" moment.

There is a lot of variation between "what we want to do for the community" and "Randy's Blog" or "Johnny Lives Here". A moderator (moderator to me means structured) named Wizo_Chaos. Is this professional? Is this how to bring people in - having a message of "WELL DONE, MY MINIONS"

I echo Ken's thoughts. I'm uncertain if I fall into the demographics this is meant to appeal to and I would like to apply some sort of logic or plan to what is happening. And I'm trying to understand. I'm not a parent but I'm not certain if I could understand my child going to a site as such.

I feel its a painful experience for me a customer and as someone who would like to contribute to gaming.

Ok, I'll take back what I said about them finding an obscure bit of gamer lore to name the site. I got out of Magic after Ice Age, so I may have missed that one; in any case the site itself still remains lame.

The ARG is a perfect example of this. I may have missed something, but Wizards could (and I will argue, should) have launched the alternate reality game as a promotion for Gleemax with the site launching at GenCon. Forum posts to the Wizards community; obscure blogs out in the middle of no where, garbled images, and everything else that made ILOVEBEES and the LOST experience so much fun to play (or just watch). That would have given us a chance to get to know the character that is Gleemax.

As is ... well, I stand by my opinion that a re-themed message board and a hodgepodge of garbled text messages and corporate speak press releases do not a social community make.

It might get better. I'm not holding my breath though.

To me the Magic reference is just stupid. It isn't from a canonical tournament legal set or even an old set. It's from a set, what? Less than three years old? and a self-parody set at that.

Stupid. Not interested.

*slap*

Yeah. Thank you, WotC. I figured out I wasn't part of your target demographic ages ago. I'll go. More money to spend on Savage Worlds, Privateer, Reaper, and all sorts of other things.

I was just talking with T1Mirage about this the other day: have we become grizzled old gamers? It was in a different context, but the question remains the same -- has the 30+ crowd (hell, the 25+ crowd) passed out of Wizards' scopes? Are we now a demographic they're willing to abandon in pursuit of expanding their market?

IMHO, growing the market would work better by catering to those self-same gamers and getting them gaming WITH their kids, which isn't a tact I've seen Wizards take.

But I digress. Does stuff like Gleemax not resonate with us because we've become grizzled old gamers ... or because it's genuinely lame? I'm betting on the later.