Hello! Let me explain…

Hello, this is Buried Treasure. A website dedicated to reviewing good games that aren’t getting the attention they deserve.

That’s what’s going to happen here. Lots and lots of reviews of interesting games you likely won’t read about elsewhere. My goal and desire is to create a space where unknown games are covered, hidden gems are discovered, and the number of clicks an article might gain is never taken into consideration.

And to do this, I’m going to need your support. Both financial and vocal.

Financially, to help Buried Treasure exist, and continue to exist, there’s a Patreon page, and I would be so delighted if you could sign up to it.

Vocally, it’s all about spreading the word, letting ignored developers know there’s an outlet interested to try their game, linking to articles on your social media and forums, scrawling the URL on bathroom walls, just getting the name out there so more and more people can play great games.

That’s the core of it. There are already a bunch of reviews of games you should definitely take a look at, and there will be new reviews arriving pretty much every day.

If you want more details, read on…

If these games are good, why are they getting ignored?

It’s all about business. The whole of the gaming press exists because of advertising. The greater the number of readers, clicks, impressions an article brings in, the more they can charge for advertising campaigns or gain from their remnant ads. That’s not a bad thing. That’s a business thing. The more readers you have, the more money you make, and the more your site can do. But there’s a very significant side-effect.

Tiny or entirely unknown games, no matter how good, just aren’t going to bring in clicks. So for nearly all major sites, the idea of paying staff or freelancers to spend a day, or days, creating an article about a game very few will ever read is simply bad business.

I know this very well, having co-created then co-run Rock Paper Shotgun for the last 12 years. We took a rather novel approach within the industry to this issue: we just didn’t care. We wrote about whatever we wanted to write about, knowing that the big stuff would probably make up for the small stuff, and were happy to lose out on the extra money compromising on this would have made. But even that has major limitations, not least when it comes to simple budget constraints when paying freelancers for little return. And while RPS wonderfully continues to give attention to the tiniest of little guys, there’s only so much even they can do as an advertising-driven business.

Plus, finding these games is a massive timesink. On Steam alone there are 20-40 games released a day. Most are terrible, some are average, perhaps one or two is worth playing. When trying to run a profitable company, you just can’t justify paying someone to sift through this madness in the hopes of maybe finding one quite good game that none of your readers will ever click on because they’ve not heard of it before.

But I can do that. I want to do that. I’m already doing it anyway. And if this project can receive a decent Patreon backing, I can subvert the way the industry works and provide reviews of these games to a dedicated, interested audience, who will then spread the word and help these buried treasures get played, and hopefully the developers behind them get paid.

You’re only going to write positive reviews?! Doesn’t that make you BIASED and CORRUPT?

I think if I can make any claim to my reputation over the last twenty years of games criticism, it’s one of not being someone to hold back my opinions. I’m a big fan of the truth. I plan to continue being that human for the rest of my life, including here. It’s just, here, I’ve the luxury of choosing to only write about the games I’ve enjoyed.

I play a LOT of dross in this endeavour. I also play a great number of almost-quite-good games, and find myself lamenting that if only they’d this, or had more time to do that, then it could have worked. And my critic brain starts penning mental paragraphs about this. But to which reader is that useful?

Negative reviews of terrible games are of vital importance as buyers’ guides, when that game is already in the public conscious. But to draw everyone’s attention to something they’d never have heard of otherwise, in order to say, “Don’t buy this!” is a pretty futile endeavour. And writing how the game could have been good would likely be some pretty useful free consultation for the developer, but hey, if you want consultation…

By this site’s very nature, its only useful purpose is to write about good games. So yes, reviews will be mostly positive, although by no means free from negative criticism. If something’s worth playing, I’ll write about it, even if that comes with a towering pile of caveats.

If you have a Patreon, and developers pay to it, won’t you be PURE EVIL?

First and foremost, the chances of my being organised enough to notice that I’m writing about something by someone who supports the Patreon are vanishingly unlikely. But still, sure, I get that this has become a favourite go-to proof of soul-deep fetid corruption among a select few, so I’ll address it:

If those planets align, and I notice (or it’s brought to my attention), I’ll make it clear in a review. I’m not going to not review stuff because of it, because honestly, no one’s getting rich here. I’m not going to give positive coverage to a bad game, and if you don’t trust me on that, don’t read? That seems a fair deal.

Why do you need a Patreon at all?

My son won’t stop eating. Every day. That’s the honest answer. In fact, I’ll be even more clearly honest about it:

After selling RPS in 2017, I received a fair chunk of money. They then paid me a decent wage to stay on for a couple more years, during which I did fun things like put a nice new kitchen on my house, and paid off a lump of the mortgage. But since April I’ve not received a regular wage, and my family has been living off our savings. I’m just so utterly astonishingly lucky to be able to do that, and do not take this massive privilege lightly. But I need an income again!

And yes, I could get a Proper Job. But I’ve also spent twenty years cultivating a skill and reputation as a games critic, and that’s what I’m good at.

When I left RPS, my motivation was to find a way to continue to talk about excellent games the rest of the industry was ignoring. I want great developers to get noticed. I want players to play games that will bring them joy. I have batted ideas around, poked around at creating jobs with other companies to achieve this end, but eventually settled on this idea. I hope it works.

If it works well, then that’s so much more exciting! If there’s a decent amount of money coming in each month, at that point I can start to pay freelancers to write too. And I have so many ideas there too! I want to create a space where unknown writers can get a paid credit to tuck under their arm as they approach the big players for work. Where new names are treated with respect, not deceived into working for “exposure”. And pretty importantly, to bring a range of voices to the site, especially to cover gaps in my genre knowledge. But that’s rather getting ahead of myself…

How can I help this site?

The number one way is to support the Patreon.

Then it’s all about communication. Tell others about it, tweet about it, put it on your TikToks or whatever it is you young kids smoke these days. And of course get in touch with games you think should be covered. hello@buried-treasure.org

Will you review my game?

I’ve no idea! But I would be absolutely delighted to receive code for any finished game, or anything on sale in early access. (This site won’t be doing previews, at least not for the foreseeable future.) So long as it’s PC, Android or Switch, I’m very happy to take a look.

There are absolutely no guarantees of coverage, and a lack of it in no sense suggests the game was bad. Just that there are hundreds upon hundreds of games being released every week, and I can only do so much.

Um, I’m sorry to be rude, but the site design is a bit… crap?

You’re not being rude. You’re being honest. I’m not a web designer. I really want to improve it. Right now my options are limited because I’m an idiot and paid for WordPress’s – it turns out – absolutely awful web-based version. Any help gratefully received!

Still, I like the circles.

23 Comments

  1. First of all, congratulations on the project; doing the Lord’s work right here. In 10 years of reading you at RPS I’ve probably agreed with about 3 of your reviews, but I can’t deny that you’re the kind of person this industry needs. I’m poor and I live in a 3rd world country so even 5 dollars a month is a commitment I have to take into serious consideration, but I’ll do my best to hop in on the action as soon as I clear some debts and stuff.

    For now, I might be able to throw some interesting stuff to cover at you, so question: Are you planning on covering only full, released games that are already for sale, or are you interested in previewing stuff in development? Because I’ve been following about a million projects for the last few years, and I could easily point you at a dozen small games that are still on early stages, but already have put out playable demos that feel solid enough that they only need more content, and they sure could use every bit of boost they can get.

    Like

    1. Hi. First of all, thank you. Second of all, I’d much rather you kept the money and had enough – spreading the word about the site is payment enough. Thirdly, for the moment I want to focus only on finished or available early access games. I don’t mind if they’re older games that never got attention in the past, but do want to stick to complete projects readers can buy.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a wonderful project, I really enjoyed reading how honest and transparent you were in this article. I’ll spread the word and I hope you’ll truly find joy in this new stage, I loved your reviews back in RPS and I can’t wait to see what you make here, I am 100% sure this will be a sustainable endeavor 🙂

    Just a question: would you ever cover any of the bigger games out there? not AAA Call of duties but games that aren’t literally unknown either, I really like the way you write and I’d love to see your thoughts behind games even if they are a bit popular.

    Best of luck with this again, it’s easy to read the passion you have in this project, that + your skills and experience are basically a guarantee this will become a very special corner of the internet, for everyone. 🙂

    Like

    1. Thanks!

      The plan is not to cover games already getting covered elsewhere (although I do very much hope elsewhere will cover games once they’ve seen them here). I’ll still be freelancing for RPS, pitching in reviews of more noticed games, whenever they’ll have me.

      Like

  3. I assume you have genres you are really not into, will you also cover hidden gems in those genres? Maybe a bit of a weird question, because your personal taste will obviously have a huge impact on the site. But I’m still wondering how that would work.

    I think this is a great idea and I wish you the best of luck!

    Like

    1. Yup, this is an issue. When it comes to RTS/TBS I’m not much use. However, if the Patreon goes well, this is one of the first things I’m going to address by paying freelancers with bigger brains than mine.

      Like

  4. I’ve been reading your words since the earliest days of RPS and I appreciate everything you’ve done, so very much. Time has shown we have very similar tastes so I’m really looking forward to whatever little gems you’ll explore for us.

    While the circles *do* look nice, I can barely draw a stick figure and wouldn’t be much help on improving the site, so I’m afraid the Patreon subscription will have to suffice.

    Like

  5. Congratulations! You’re one of my favorite writers in an industry I’ve followed for about 30yrs. I read your articles whether I have an interest in the game(s) being discussed and always have a laugh.
    Glad you’ll still be dropping into RPS from time to time and thanks for all your past work and I look forward to what’s to come!

    Like

  6. This is incredible! I also have a passion for bringing awareness to games that don’t have many eyes on them! I’ll support when I’m able to afford it! Just a question, is the Discord channel available to anyone, or only paying members?

    Like

  7. Not sure if comments are posted after a delay, or if my fumbling with WordPress login meant my comment was lost. Anyway, gist of it was that I hope you find a way to review shit games too, as those are the funniest reviews. Just find a way to do it ethically.

    Follow up point is that maybe you’ll do the odd mobile game too? Some crackers out there. Rogue Adventure definitely worth a shout out.

    Oh and thanks for Supraland. Never would have found it without your review. Brilliant game.

    Like

  8. Congratulations, John! I love the idea of this site, and I am so excited to see your next adventure unfold. So many pieces you wrote while at RPS have touched me in special ways, and I (no joke) cried on both the last Steam Charts and the *actual* last Steam Charts. I’ll be spreading the word and donating for sure. Thanks for all that you do.

    Also, I like the circles too. I don’t think the site design is poor at all. Keep up the great work.

    Like

  9. Tis’ Wednesday 11pm here in frosty Colorado. I knew that my weekly does of John Walker wouldn’t be there on RPS when I awoke on Monday morning. No Flibble Glibble alternative purchase recommendations, no octopus facts, not even a dead link to click on. Those 63 hours of withdrawal were tough, yes. And I was, frankly, thinking about alternative humor drugs that my mind could possibly consume.
    But then my RPS dealer sent me a link. Buried Treasure you say? This is the legit J.W.? Not some horrid knock off laced with horrid memes and actually funny jokes? Just the dry wit and deadpan delivery the way I’ve come to expect? Well yes then, I’ll click the link, look at some circles, and then throw one of those suction cup darts at my monitor to pick which link to click first. Bulls eye. Bulls eye indeed.
    I’m excited for this new journey into uncharted IP addresses and strange indie games which I will surely purchase and download, but may never play. Steam backlog currently 4 years, 3 months, 18 days, and climbing. Never mind that though. I’m excited to be a member of the audience.
    So tell me, what does the child eat? I shall patreon exactly 3 cans of whatever goop he consumes, commencing this very month. I shall do so in the usual exchange of money type currency, rather than trying to send by post halfway across the globe several actual cans of some soup or condensed milk or whatnot. Unless John, you have an anonymous postal box and would care for some locally sourced Colorado, uhm, well, beer. Mostly Colorado produces beer. Does the child eat beer? Or will it be the monies?

    Like

  10. Hey, I’ll definitely be watching this blog! But I have a few random, possibly terrible suggestions for making the blog stand out:

    -Embed short (1-10s?) videos in place of some images. Motion gives a better impression of the “feel” of an unknown game, pretty much every browser on the planet can play videos without eating much CPU or bandwidth, and it would make the blog stand out. Capturing and compressing them is fairly painless these days, and feel free to email me or reply for any sort of capture/encoding help.

    -Start a Discord server dedicated to undiscovered games, linked to this blog, and recruit moderators. That may sound like social media [insert explicative here], and I sympathize, but it really is a good platform for supporting a passionate community.

    Like

  11. Congratulations, and I wish you the best with this project, It’s hard starting something like this (I, too, am partly living off savings while doing my dream job), though I imagine it’s nice to get back to fresh roots like the start of RPS – and escape from Steam charts.

    Since some of my favourite games are things like FTL, Desktop Dungeons (alpha), Gato Roboto, Gone Home, I’m sure I’ll find recommendations here. Still There looks interesting, and the devs were pleasant when I shared their game on Twitter (because the screenshot seemed to be addressed to me). Down Ward looks pretty in a way that tickles my 8/16 bit game days (which live on via emulator).

    Good luck with the new venture!

    Like

  12. Please do this! This is excellent and good and brilliant and it might just save “gaming” – for me, at least.

    I am certain that I will be preaching to the choir if I tell you that there are many of us out here who have become jaded and – perhaps above all – bored to death with the dross that main-stream gaming produces each year.

    Keep the simple site design, too! Honestly, it is so indescribably refreshing to find a gaming site which is just a reverse-chronological list of posts about topics. And the circles rock! Take us back a few decades, John.

    Just do one thing for us: break your rule and review bad games that are none the less innovative. Don’t just tell us what we SHOULD play NOW; tell us what we ALMOST got to play – write about the innovative and the outstanding as well as the laudable. Write about the failed experiments as well as the epiphanies.

    If your mission is to shine a light into the dark gloom of indie gaming, to illuminate the vast current flowing beneath the advertising-dominated surface, then it behoves you to sift not only for gold but also for new ideas – even those rendered in lead.

    Like

  13. Hi John, it’s great to be reading from you again. Loved RPS in the beginning and it really reminded me of reading Amiga Power in my youth.

    I hope you’ll be covering traditional adventure games. I always loved your reviews in that particular genre. Best of luck.

    Like

  14. Hi! Love the project, already a proud supporter. I had written a long and heartfelt post that apparently got swallowed by the wordpress comment/login system…

    Anyway, seems that the discord invite expired, at least for me…? Did I do something wrong?

    Like

  15. Congrats John. I also miss your monday’s charts on RPS.
    I LOVE the web design of your site: no-nonsense, (almost) no trackers, simple and clean.
    Good luck on this!
    From Uruguay.

    Like

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