Baldur’s Gate 3 is a massively detailed game, and players of all kinds are bound to want to look something about it up at some point. Whether they’re searching for weapon stats or class builds, or trying to make their Astarion x Reader fanfic as accurate as possible, they’re probably going to end up on a wiki.
Wikis are some of the most heartening sites on the internet — repositories of knowledge collected, edited, and verified entirely by dedicated volunteers. Fan wikis, in particular, can get incredibly granular, with countless hours of unpaid work going into creating and maintaining huge amounts of information on even the smallest details.
But most fan wikis are hosted by third-party companies, such as Fandom or Fextralife, which aren’t always popular among wiki contributors or fans in general. Although the people building and maintaining the wikis are doing it out of love, the host sites are for-profit companies, creating tension between them.
One of these tensions was voiced by Reddit user Taylan, who created and shared a Baldur’s Gate 3 wiki as an alternative to the existing Fextralife site at the beginning of 2022. “In my opinion [the Fextralife wiki] isn’t a particularly nice wiki,” Taylan wrote. “It shoves ads in your face, and claims copyright ownership over anything you write. (Essentially, if you add something to their wiki, you’re doing unpaid work for their company. Not to be a hater, but I dislike that.)”
Ads and other distractions, like Fextralife’s embedded Twitch streams, are annoyances to users, even if they use ad blockers to avoid the worst of them. But the ownership issues involved in these wikis are less immediately obvious. Fextralife’s wiki license states that contributors “give the site ownership over the content” they produce, although the site also returns rights to contributors to use the portion that they contributed. This is a more restrictive agreement than the CC BY-SA license used by most wikis, including Fandom, which states that contributors retain copyright, although they must also give blanket permission for it to be reused and remixed with attribution so that the wiki can be updated and changed.
Regardless of the details of their individual copyright policies, as Taylan points out to me via email, these companies are making money from people who offer their time, energy, and expertise to the wikis for free. “Contributing to [wikis] amounts to being an unpaid worker,” he says.
Over the years, wiki editors have been breaking from third-party-owned sites and setting up their own alternatives, with examples like the Runescape wiki moving away from Wikia in 2018 and the Zelda wiki’s decision to leave Fandom last year. As far back as 2010, fans running independent wikis have banded together into groups like the Nintendo Independent Wiki Alliance, under the belief that “fan communities should be run by the fans, and not corporate entities that don’t put the community first.”
Actually hosting a community-owned site isn’t as tricky as it might first appear, says Taylan. Although initially setting it up required his time and expertise, Taylan was spurred by his love of the previous Baldur’s Gate games. “I’m not that big of a gamer [but] I’ve played them so much as a kid, the nostalgia is intense, and I believe they’ve aged like fine wine too.” And once set up, the majority of the work of filling in the wiki is, like always, shared among a wide network of volunteer contributors, meaning no one has to do more than they want to. “[Now] it’s mostly smooth sailing,” says Taylan. “And the costs are surprisingly low if you go with a cheap hosting provider that’s ‘good enough’ for such a community project.”
Contributions to the Baldur’s Gate 3 community wiki fall under a non-commercial Creative Commons license, so writers retain copyright over their own content. It’s similar to the license used by Fandom, but it also prevents Taylan, or anyone else, from ever putting ads on the site.
Taylan’s community-owned wiki has grown in popularity, but it doesn’t have the easiest time spreading to potential readers or contributors. Corporate-owned wikis are able to make use of their parent sites’ good SEO — getting to the top of the Google results in the searches I mentioned earlier. Being independent makes it harder to rank in the results. Even a search for “BG3 wiki” returns the Reddit posts about the site, and its associated Twitter account, before the site itself, thanks to social media companies’ prominence in Google’s algorithm.
“Google has been very unkind to us,” says Taylan, while noting that the site does rank better on other search engines, such as Bing and DuckDuckGo, which Taylan prefers. But since Google is more commonly used, the wiki has been finding other ways to get the word out. As well as posts on social media and Reddit, they’ve been working with content creators and giving them room on the wiki in return.
“Judging by how fast we’ve been growing, and the number of visitors the site is getting every day, I would definitely say it’s been effective. We’re also slowly climbing up on Google again, and will hopefully hit the first page of results sooner or later,” says Taylan.
That’s Taylan’s focus, but some fans have voiced their discontent at corporate-owned wikis more directly. After one smaller Baldur’s Gate 3 subreddit accused Fextralife of vote manipulation and banned the domain, one of Fextralife’s creators posted on their own site to deny the accusations and explain their viewpoint. As well as stating that they are “a very small team working [their] butts off to create content for the games [they] love,” they encouraged people who want to create their own sites: “Having more places making content is a good thing for any game.”
“I don’t condone the aggression some fans have directed at Fextralife,” Taylan says. “A business has to do what a business has to do. If we’re unhappy with their decisions, we shouldn’t let negativity take over, but rather direct our energy towards something constructive, like contributing to the community wiki.”
Nearly two years in, the independent Baldur’s Gate 3 wiki is extensive, and its contributors have been keeping up with the wealth of new information created by the game’s full retail release. It’s also building its own community, and adding to the growing number of alternative sites outside of the control of the profit motive.