On Strategy Wiki's failings

Recent news in the videogame world concerns the launch of Strategy Wiki, a wiki intended to contain videogame strategies. This is a fascinating coincidence for reasons I shall outline later, but for now, let's take a look at what SW is doing, and what they're doing wrong.

First glance: it doesn't fall into the standard low-budget-wiki trap of failing to deviate from the default wiki design. The layout, I will attest, is clean, functional and attractive, more so, even, than the original Wikipedia. I will give them points for that.

But looks do not a site make. It's a long-known truth on the internet that content is everything; indeed, superiority of content can completely negate the necessity for a decent layout. I would maintain that that's no excuse for not having a good site design, as HTML is as easy as breathing, but it is true, and the opposite also holds: without content, your site will fail no matter how sparkly it looks. Strategy Wiki, I think, fails in this respect. It seems to be taking GameFAQs - a massively successful site which started out with a seriously ugly layout (to which many devoted users still cling (and let's face it, the shiny new layout only seems to serve to convey more adverts into our faces, so fair play)) - and doing what GameFAQs does, only in a Wiki format. This is at first a good idea, because many games are so huge no single person can provide a complete guide, and looking through half a dozen "complete" FAQs for the piece of information which is only in one of them can indeed be frustrating. There is too much ground for one man to cover. There is a need for, you know, images now and then. Not everything works better as a wiki, but videogame guides do. Besides which, there's no room for them on the original Wikipedia.

But the general response has been lukewarm. The reason for this, I reckon, is content, original, lack thereof. GameFAQs isn't perfect but it does plug a sizeable gap in the market, better than SW does right now, at any rate. That's forgivable - there was no way SW was going to have X thousand articles to compete with the X thousand GameFAQs guides which already exist coming out of the gate. But what SW does have is stuff we already know. Case in point: their OoT guide. Where, I say, is the killer content? All we have is walkthroughs and Heart Pieces guides, instructions for the gosh-danged controls. Stuff everybody can already find in a million places. That, and my long-term nemesis the Splash Page seems to have tainted their site too.

SW is a superb concept - had it launched five or even three years earlier, there is absolutely no question as to which of it and GameFAQs would rule the roost guide-wise right now. May it live long and prosper; we'll see who's first at the end of time. Its only failure, really, is failure to stun.

Which is something I think we - we who? good question - can do much better.

I am going to run a massive risk of looking like an complete idiot a year or so down the line and say that we are going to do what SW did and do it right. In a videogaming community which I'll name if they decide they want me to, an idea arose (mine originally) to create a wiki of strategies for that game, for the above-mentioned reason that nobody is un-lazy enough or knowledgeable enough to construct speed guides for every single level, and it would be handy to have a centralised resource of strats. (Note: this happened roughly a week before Strategy Wiki was formally launched - this is NOT a copycat effort, just unfortunate timing.) Then somebody else had the bright idea of creating just such a wiki, but making it for all the games that speed-runners favour. There are massive communities dedicated to speed-running Quake and GoldenEye and Mario Kart and myriad other games, and the stuff we've discovered collectively is stuff which 1) is, in most cases, NOT listed on GameFAQs, but all over the place (such as this site right here, y'all) and 2) would make your HEAD SPIN, but there is indeed too much of it for one man to keep a grip on. The IMMENSE OoT thread on SDA is a testament to that. We decided to make a wiki of Speed Runs (and high score runs, and miscellaneous other insanity), a wiki which doesn't hold your hand through cakelike bosses but tells you how to do what you're already doing a dozen times faster and better. This is a project which I think will succeed where Strategy Wiki failed, by offering original content, awesome content.

We are working on a launch and a name and many other things, but this IS going to happen. Have faith: the best is still to come.