An Interview With PlaySimilar.com

Finals has made me insanely busy so it might take awhile before I get to Part 2 of my RE7 analysis, but to make sure I’m still semi-consistent when it comes to posting content, here’s an interview I recently conducted with the head of PlaySimilar.com. PlaySimilar is self-described as a, “Similar Games Search Engine” which is exactly what it sounds like. If I were to search for Age of Empires on this site, PlaySimilar would give a basic rundown on the game itself, including the genre, platforms the game is available for etc., but it will also bring up a list of games that have similar features and you’ll probably enjoy as much as Age of Empires. Think of if the “similar titles to this” section on any website such as Amazon or Steam had a full website dedicated to just showing you other games you might like and you have a simple idea of what PlaySimilar.com is (here’s a link to the site: https://www.playsimilar.com/) . I thought this was a fantastic idea for a site, and got a chance to interview its founder, Sean Keith, over a couple days (the site’s owner lives in the German Time Zone so our questions and answers were spread out over a day or two). I thought this would be a fun short little piece to write now since I’ll be busy all through finals week so here you go:

Bosskiil:

First off, what gave you the idea for the website?

Sean Keith:

So the idea actually arose based on the fact that I transformed from quite a heavy PC and console gamer to a more casual mobile gamer within the last decade or so. While I used to enjoy spending most of my time on few big game titles, be it the old Nintendo 64 titles or later Battlefield 1942, Counterstrike, World of Warcraft and the like, I now more than ever enjoy exploring and trying out new games. When looking for a new game on the App Store or Steam I naturally had the joy of playing some old game title in mind, that I would like to re-experience in my next game. Depending on the mood I’d like to experience the excitement of playing something like Age of Empires II or Mario Kart, or the thrill of Call of Duty or Return to Castle Wolfenstein. Also when playing through more modern games I often have the desire to extend the experience by playing something similar, which most often is not something easy to find. Anyways, this is somewhat how the idea evolved and its now easier than ever before to find similar games to those you really enjoyed in the past:

B:

So how does the website learn to recommend certain games? For instance, if I search for Uncharted 4 and Lego Batman pops up, is there an algorithm that determines how those games are similar or do you manually place games in a recommended category?

SK:So on the top level there’s actually a very performant search algorithm in place that takes care of matching games by comparing their different sets of data. Every game has a variety of attributes that describe things like the theme of a game, the player perspective, genres and so on. The data sets are constantly enriched both automatically and manually with the help of a content management system. There are also plans to have user behaviour and user feedback directly impact the results. This, in addition to tweaking the weights of the different attribute types in the matching engine, improves the matching quality over time. If you look at the Similar Games Section on , you’ll notice there’s a little indication of what types of game attributes have been found to match. E.g. it says “Matches: Perspective 1x, Modes 2x, Themes 2x” etc. This is a little excerpt of what the matching algorithm has done to detect the similarity. So for the match with LEGO Marvel’s Avengers it detected the action theme, third person perspective, multiplayer capabilities and so on. This is probably a match, that would not have been obvious and placed by hand, mainly because of the visual differences, so we’ll see how it will evolve. Overall its a very organic, breathing system.

B: 

One last question I have for you; in the future, are there any improvements you plan to make to the site besides refining the algorithm?

SK: 

So currently in the pipeline are three major improvements: first there will be new filtering options that allow filtering by price, release date and store availability. If you’re on Steam, you might want to browse through the latest indie games available on Steam; or as a Prime member, see whats new on Amazon in a given price range etc. Then there will be a lot of effort put into improving the search system. If you have a game in mind, that you would like to start your exploration from, search needs to reliably provide you with that entry point. And one more thing that seems to be of interest is some sort of indication that supports you on your final decision making. If you’re presented with a lot of games that you have not come across before, you might feel a bit overwhelmed and something like a game rating system might provide some guidance. Other than that the main task is to observe and listen to the users and try to follow what features and improvements make sense in the specific domain.

B: 

You’ve been very helpful thank you!

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