Review by: Bill Jones
Breaking away from the single-product reviews for a moment, Pads & Panels is happy to present its first “company review,” and with good reason. Fashionably late to the party, we stumbled upon SplitReason several months ago, though the Vancouver-based web company has been around since 2003. Its slogan is “Gear for Geeks and Gamers,” and we were immediately sold on several of the t-shirt designs highlighted on the main page, featuring everything from the trademark Half-Life crowbar, to a design combining Ghostbusters and Pac-Man. After touching base with Brian Penner, who heads the site and contributes many of its t-shirt designs, he was kind enough to offer us $75 in credit to sample and review items from the site, as well as get the experience of shopping on the store, because SplitReason does its best to cater to us nerds.
The site has a simple layout that’s easy to browse, with the navigation section at the top left, divided into “Men’s wear,” “Women’s wear,” “Other Stuff,” “Top Sellers,” “What’s new?” and “Clearance.” The “wear” primarily consists of hundreds of original t-shirt designs, but also features hats, panties and hooded sweatshirts. In addition to the original artist material, SplitReason carries officially licensed clothing and products for The Escapist (with famed video review show Zero Punctuation), Explosm (Cyanide & Happiness), Destructoid.com and Ctrl+Alt-Del.
Women will be happy to know that their section isn’t simply relegated to a few pink shirts and demeaning designs. The selection is notably smaller, and does feature some more specifically female items – “Achievement Locked” panties, for instance – but the ladies will also find things like the “Cocktail Party” Left 4 Dead shirt, simply in a baby tee cut rather than a standard men’s t-shirt. And the items that do cater specifically to a female gamer either have a sense of humor – such as the Explosm “Squeeze” baby tee, which features one of the trademark stick characters “squeezing” the shirt with drawn ripples right around where a woman’s right breast would go – or have some attitude to them – as with the CAD “Forget headshots, I aim for the nuts” tee – rather than cutesy designs.
The “Other Stuff” includes game-inspired coffee mugs, Halo 3 action figures, posters, stickers, plush toys and shot glasses.
The clearance section, when checked, featured about 25 items priced at roughly $10. The regular t-shirts are reasonably priced between $18 and $20. United States ground shipping isn’t the cheapest around, but the items are coming from Canada, and still seemed reasonable, totaling just under $16 for two orders that totaled $75.
But for those who feel shipping is a little high, part of the fun in shopping with SplitReason is collecting gold pieces like Mario, which can then be turned in for actual store credit. Shoppers can earn these coins by filling out a survey and making purchases on the site. The coins correspond directly to a dollar amount by moving a decimal (1750 points equals $1.75), and with nothing else to do with the coins, it seems like a needless step, except that it gives the site more of a gamer feel.
And then there is the contributing side of the site, that has the potential to benefit both designers and active users who provide feedback – a move that seeks to maintain a community at SplitReason, rather than just a seller/buyer exchange experienced with most stores. Designers can submit ideas for consideration, and if a t-shirt is ultimately used, that designer receives the shirt for free, as well as $250 . But before it gets to that point, it goes through peer review on the site. Participating in the peer review earns account holders some of those aforementioned gold pieces, which can be converted into credit. It also gives buyers a say in what they might be wearing next, putting the icing on the cake of what makes SplitReason.com a great store and community for geeks and gamers.
What we got for (just a little more than) our $75 credit…
Zero Punctuation “Critter” shot glass ($2.99) and “Pants” t-shirt ($18.95)
Gamers would have to be “Pants-on-head Retarded” not to like the defining feature of The Escapist, Zero Punctuation, at least star reviewer Yahtzee might say so. In the ongoing series, Yahtzee tears into the faults of faulty games, often in a very un-PC manner with hilarious results. The bright yellow shirt from SplitReason features black text with the “Pants-on-Head Retarded” line made famous in his Halo 3 review, with a cartoon character displaying the literal meaning. It’s one of the best lines to pull from the series and toss on a t-shirt, and it is pressed on an American Apparel shirt that comes nice and loose in its sizes. Buyers may want to consider, though, whether it is a good idea to wear this one out in public.
The shot glass features the “Critter” logo printed onto the side of a clear shot glass, made of actual glass, not plastic. Not bad for $2.99.
“Head Stomp” beanie ($15.95)
SplitReason is the official seller of the coolest beanie, probably ever. The all-brown heavyweight knit-cap is of high-quality, with an embroidered face featuring the iconic eyes, brow and mouth (with underbite) of the famous Mario villain. The hat is roughly 8.5 inches long, comes one-size-fits-all and stretches well over the head, essentially turning the wearer into a goomba ready to be stomped. Just watch out for plumbers in search of missing princesses.
Explosm – “Naked Sleazy” plush ($14.95)
The Explosm plush was definitely not the coolest item we grabbed from the store. While it is a neat idea, bringing the crudely drawn stick characters to life in plush form with their disproportionately large heads and dangling cloth stick-limbs, the 13-inch plush feels a bit cheap, like a carnival plush. That said, for anyone considering purchasing one of these, there are a total of six options – three colors (green, blue and naked), each with “happy” or “sleazy” expressions. “Naked Sleazy” is the way to go for the creepiest version, but the lack of color makes it feel rather bland, and lends those unfamiliar with the comics to call it a light bulb with a face.
“Busted” t-shirt ($18.95)
The “Busted” t-shirt is a great example of the amalgamation of nerd culture possible with the original designs on SplitReason. On it, three Ghostbusters-like figures lay a trap down in what appears to be a maze full of pellets for three ghosts, recalling Pac-Man. One is caught in a proton pack stream and turned blue. The shirt is a 100-percent cotton crewneck, and similar to the “Pants” t-shirt has a nice, loose feel, and comes pre-shrunk. The design also comes in poster form.