Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Is There Anybody Out There? The Internet's Top 10 "Gamer Finder" Sites

If your anything like me your gaming hobby consists of allot more than on line internet gaming.” You probably play some table top games, maybe some CCG’s and a fair amount of pen and paper games as well. That’s good. That makes you a well rounded gamer, or someone who is trying entirely too hard. (Just like me.) Well whatever your motivations are for playing all those games, we all share something in common. At some point we will need to reach out to a new gamer. Maybe you just broke off a friendship, relationship, moved away from the old neighborhood, or just want someone new to join the group. Finding other gamers in a new area can be a little daunting.

Back in the good old days a gamer or GM’s only option was to either hang around college campuses (which might be illegal depending how old you are) or stalking the shadows of your local hobby and game shop. While the latter seems like a fairly obvious choice it does have some problems. For starters, they are at a game shop. It’s pretty likely they are there to buy materials for the game group they are already in. Usually if a group isn’t shopping for a new player you might just be wasting your time. Many game groups (like mine) are tight knit. Outsiders have to be screened by every member and twice by the GM. Second, most gamers like myself tend to be shy. Now granted the trend may have changed a bit since I started playing, but in general gamers have never been the typical cool-guys. As such we tend to be a little withdrawn and not very enthusiastic about starting conversations up with complete strangers. Of course there are exceptions to these rules of thumb, so don’t go flaming me. Do what works for you.

Now while previously these were our only options, a great dandy invention has changed the face of gaming forever. Yes pants… No, idiot. I’m talking about the internet. The internet has made the world a smaller place and more accessible than ever. The internet is an easy way to buy pizza, catch a virus, order a bride, and yes… find other geeks to play our games with.

Where might on go to find such a person you might ask? Well typically we used to hang out in gamer forums, chat rooms, and even in the war rooms of our favorite online games (I found many a play tester on the Diablo chat board.) I even used to spend a great deal of time locating gamers in the old “Wheel of Time” chat room. However, in those days finding a gamer with same interest (and region as myself) were pretty hit and miss. These day, the only way to find a gamer of the same cloth as yourself… On Line Gamer Finders. I know sounds corny. But more and more people have started to create them.

An online gamer finder is a database of registered gamers usually sorted by region and interest. Finding a gamer (in most cases) is as easy as putting in your zip code, entering a genre and you will be given a list of other gamers in your travel radius. It’s that easy. Of course different sites do it better than others, so to make your life even easier I have compiled a list of the top 10 sites for you to find other gamers. Of course you will bring them back to RPGX to actually get some games together… won’t you?

1) Pen and Paper Games (http://www.penandpapergames.com)
This is my number one choice for finding gamers of all kinds. This site is run by Robert A. Howard and has been around for a little over 1 year. In that time frame it has grown to be the second largest data base for gamers not only around the United States, but in a few other countries as well. Anyone who signs up on this site (via a forum) will answer a series of game prefrence questions, location details (Which aren’t actually revealed to anyone searching you other than zip code) as well as some standard profile questions. Once finished a player can either manually search the player database for players within a certain proximity or be notified by e-mail when other players register within a certain travel distance. The site also serves as a gaming board and standard forum which enjoys a large amount of use. If you donate towards helping the site, the user is rewarded with special board features and access to the Pen and Paper Games war chest which features many invaluable tools, scenarios and other goodies to be used in various different games. If this is the SECOND largest database on the net, why did it get first you might ask? 2 reasons: First of all ease of communication. This site beat out the #2 pick because of it‘s forums. They are easily accessed, used, and maintained by the owner frequently. Second, find times. While my number 2 pick actually has a bigger data base the load times between the two are staggering. This could possibly be due to the list population sizes, but I doubt it. Something about the web design just feels tighter and less lazy. Pen and Paper Games is the stress-less solution to finding gamers near and far away from you. (Be sure to check out my other article this month where I get a one on one interview with the creator (and GM) of this fantastic site.

2)Access Denied (http://www.access denied.net)
Another great gamer finder site that almost took the number one spot right out from under Pen and Paper games. While it falls #2 on the list, don’t let that fool you into thinking that it lacks in features. Access Denied actually boasts a larger data base and a much longer run on the internet. But keep in mind that this registry spans more than one country. It may boast more total gamers registered, but are they in your area? Well, surprisingly YES. We ran searches for all 50 states and never turned up less than 25 gamers in our zip codes. Which suggests that there are actually more registered gamers on the data base than what the homepage is boasting. How easy was the site to use? Click search, enter in some info and click submit. Yep that easy… so how did the other site beat them out? The answer is speed and features. We tried to set up a new profile which proved to be a little more lengthy of a process (about 1000 more questions to answer) and searching the data base was a little more of a chore. Also, visiting the site really gives you a feeling of a more worn-in environment. A few less features and a lacking newsletter put this site behind P&PG by just a hair. Also not to mention that the site is actually affiliated with another bigger site that does the same thing. But don’t let that fool you, this monster is not to be reckoned with.

3)Nearby Gamers (http://www.nearby gamers.com)
This is a relatively new site on the net. Going back a little ways in the sites history reveals that it originally started off as another project by the site owner. The data base hasn’t had a great deal of time to grow but has a significant amount of features that I feel will propel this site ahead of the pack in the near future. I placed this site in the number three spot for it’s unlimited potential. The site’s core functions off of a type of Google map tool. On this map players may register a pin mark on the map where they can fill in some bits about themselves, a tag about what games they play, and even a profile picture. The site also sports some mini forums, that while not especially organized make a great IM board for gamers to post a bit about the games they are running. Searching gamers proves to be a little difficult at first, but after learning how the board works becomes easier. The whole site functions on tags. These are like key words that the engine searches for. Based on these tags the search function will return compatible gamers. As I said the site is still under development, but my ultimate reason for awarding this as the number three spot are because of the improvements I have already been told about by the web developer to come this year. In the near future NBG will have a function that allows a webmaster to integrate the game finder into their own page on their own site. Bloggers, webmasters, and homepage jockeys all around will be able to connect themselves and their personal pages directly to the tool and allow people to search for other gamers via their page. A great way to bring traffic to any gaming community as well as the NBG site itself.

4) RPG Registry (http://www.rpgregistry.com)
Let’s talk about commercialization a bit. The higher you can get your ranking on a search engine the more visible you are. The more visible you are the more users you have. The more users you have the more your site can grow and become useful. When you Google the words “RPG finder” or “Gamer Finder” this is the site you will get. Highly commercialized and widely used, the guys that own this site own allot of space on the net. While this site sports more features than all the sites on this list combined including, downloads, registries, rpg stores, character sheets, free campaigns, and much more I have knocked this down to my fourth favorite game place on the net. There is a point when a browser can be overloaded. While the tools on this site are fantastic and the uses for them unlimited, I can only take a limited number of ads. While even RPGX itself sports a few ads, it’s nothing like this. From page to page users are bombarded with not only affiliate ads, but ads for the site that you are already on. A great site for anyone with a pop up blocker or ultra high speed, but if you still live in the world of dial-up pass this one up.

5) SJ Gamer Finder (http://www.sjgames.com/gamer finder)
This site is proof that something can be great almost to the point of perfection, but still be completely useless to those who don’t use a specific product. Enter the SJ gamer finder. From here on in gamer finders will become decidedly more narrowed down. All the features of this board are great. Easy to use, accurate, large data bases, fast, tons of options. The problem… it’s only good for you if you play an SJ game. Now of course there is always the off chance that you will contact someone who is into another brand of gaming you are in (let’s be realistic) but you don’t have the option to search by this. Now this isn’t without understanding. It is in fact SJ games “gamer finder” we are talking about. Of course they want to promote their own product. But it would be a show of good faith in their gamers if they also offered options for other peoples games to be searchable fields. After all their products should be good enough to attract some attention from those other gamers. After all they did think to check SJ games for their D&D game.

6)Board Game Geek (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/users.php)
Easy to use and similar to P&PG in it’s design. But solely for finding other board gamers. A little limiting when making a search for that new party member.

7)Wiz Kids (http://www.wizkidsgames.com/usersearch.asp)
This search probably has the biggest data base of all but our number 2 pick. Unfortunately it can only be used to find other gamers playing WizKid games and tournaments.

This site (lacking a title) is operating under the same idea as NBG. It works almost as well. The only things holding it back are: A) The site limits itself by targeting only PS3 players, which is fine but we typically find each other on Playstaion Home Online. B) A small data base and a lack of features make your options very limited.

9)White Wolf (http://www.white-wolf.com)
There is such a thing as too spread out. While White Wolf does have a small game finder that isn’t narrowed down to just their games, it is hardly useable at most times. Instead White Wolf relies on their vast network to bring players together. By basically blog-rolling all the indi sites that worship them together White-Wolf uses this tactic to bring gamers closer together. However in the process you may end up doing more surfing that what you would have by stopping somewhere else. But in the long run, it is an interesting way to meet new gamers and sometimes the actual writers of the games as they spend a significant amount of time on the forums and their “blog-roles.”

10) RPG Gamer Finder (http://www.rpggamefinder.com)
This site comes in dead last for now as it has not opened yet. The site is currently shrouded in mystery. It was put up nearly 6 months about without any change. I only bring it up to draw attention so that we may watch it as it grow. Judging by the description at the bottom of their page, they feel they will have something new to offer us. Hopefully they will read this article and learn a thing or two about what real gamers want.

1 comment:

Micah said...

While not really a game matching site (yet), you should check out http://www.obsidianportal.com There you'll find lots of ongoing campaigns, and you might stumble on one in your area.

In the future, we would like to add a player matching service. However, unlike the other ones out there, ours would be based around existing gaming groups rather than individual players. Therefore, you would be able to find actual, running games in your area, not just disparate players. That's much more useful, IMHO.

Anyways, come check us out!