I don't like to always be talking about other sites from within GiantBomb as that probably bothers the people behind GiantBomb, but this was just too fucking strange not to comment on. I mean, it is the weirdest god damn thing I've seen in the past week.
Basically, Polygon in their infinite nod to quality game journalism and in the wake of a few initial hitches and critiques (like getting $750k to make a documentary about making their website from one of the biggest gaming companies that they cover on a daily basis), has recently allowed GEICO (the insurance company) to "sponsor their forums".
And by "sponsor", I mean, they even have a guy from GEICO who has a presence in the forums and comments on things.
I'm glad I ditched that site after being told that questioning their adherence to their ethical polices was not allowed, because they have ethical policies (as if their existence was the same as following them). This is just... I mean, I know every media outlet is looking to make a buck these days and they're all doing sleazy stuff, but that just feels fucking gross and if that happened at a place I heavily frequented (like GB), I would probably immediately stop visiting the site. Even a place like GB, where I've paid for a subscription several years in advance.
Or maybe it's just me. Is there nothing kind of ... ick about this?
I mean, it's one thing to be like "these forums sponsored by Blah Blah Inc". But to have someone from that company representing that company actively monitoring and participating in the forum conversations as a representative of "@GEICO"...? Is... what the actual fuck?! No matter how they present or clarify it, that just feels so CREEPY.
EDIT: Let me re-iterate that nowhere in my above comments do I say that the GEICO sponsorship or forum participation is shady nor do I insinuate that it calls into question any sort of editorial integrity. I am just saying that it is fucking weird, creepy, and kind of shitty and crass. Specifically, the embedding of a GEICO rep in the forums (the sponsorship of the forums by plastering ads everywhere is nothing new to game sites and GEICO -- as a non gaming entity -- is actually otherwise a sensible fit, in that regard).
From Chris Grant:
In my Welcome to Polygon post, I mentioned that GEICO – the car insurance company that makes all the funny commercials – would be sponsoring our forums. You've undoubtedly seen their ads on the site over the past few days, but it was important to GEICO to do more than just run advertising; they wanted to be part of the community.
Considering it's an open forum and anyone can create an account here, it was an easy ask. Lucky for GEICO, their social media slash community guy is an actual gamer who was already excited about Polygon. You'll recognize his handiwork if you remember this bit of wwebsite-related Reddit success late last year. He is not, it should be noted, the little British gecko, whose hands are far too small to manipulate traditional video game controllers.
It's thanks to the support of companies like GEICO that believe in what we're doing and want to support the nascent community here, that Polygon is able to exist. We can use this thread if you want to ask Andrew anything about his job, what games he's playing, or why a car insurance company cares about a video game community.
Of course, keep in mind that just because Andrew's our guest, it doesn't mean you can't disagree with him. If he tries to convince you that Majora's Mask is the best Zelda game, you feel free to tell him where to get off. (It's Link to the Past, by the way, obviously).
Andrew will be posting under the handle 'Andrew @ GEICO,' so say hi if you see him around.
Reply from the GEICO dude:
Hi there. I’m Andrew from GEICO, and I’m here to sell you car insurance. But not really.
OK, let’s back up for a second here. Sure, I may be gainfully employed by GEICO, that company with an insurance-pitching gecko whose 8-bit analog you may have seen hopping across the site. And, sure, they may expect me to devote a decent part of my day in the pursuit of getting people to switch to GEICO. All that’s true, and I’m not going to try to pretend it isn’t. But that’s not what I’m here for.
The reality is that you’re probably not reading this thinking, "Wow, I DO need some sweet, sweet car insurance right now." You probably have it, or you probably don’t need it. You might already have GEICO. If you’re from the U.S., you’ve almost certainly heard about us. In light of all this, I’m sure the question is this: What am I doing here?
As Chris stated above, it was important to me to do more than advertise. Yeah, we’re going to have some ads on the site, but I hope they won’t get in your way. I worked really closely with our design team to concept them and make them fun and relevant; even if you don’t need insurance, I hope they’re worth a quick glance to you. But joining the community was something I couldn’t pass up, and to my knowledge, it’s something that’s never been done before in this way. And I’m all for new, crazy ideas.
So this is where the car insurance talk ends. I’m here to talk with you as me, not as GEICO or about GEICO. I’m just going to hang out. Lurk like I’ve been lurking. Hop into the conversations that are relevant to me and that I can add some value to. Really, I’m just going to do what any of you would do. And, frankly, it’s a way to do my job that is hopefully the least disruptive to you, and maybe even helps you have more fun on this little piece of the Internet.
As Chris said, let me know if you’d like to ask me anything. I’ll do my best to answer. And while I’m not playing much of anything multiplayer right now (too busy getting mad at every character in Telltale’s The Walking Dead and trying to avoid the constant allure of Guild Wars 2), maybe we’ll have a chance to meet up in game someday. Oh, and I started a GEICO Steam account called GEICOonSteam where I gift games for absolutely no reason sometimes, so feel free to say hi on there.