The Escapist Returns

By Shamus Posted Sunday Jul 29, 2018

Filed under: Notices 127 comments

I’m sure you remember that I used to write for The Escapist. Then the site sort of fell apart and most of the creators were let go. It ran like that for a couple of years before it died completely and they got rid of everyone aside from Yahtzee. The site has since been in this zombie state and I think a lot of us have been assuming the domain would go dark the next time it was up for renewal.

But this week Russ Pitts – who was Editor-in-Chief back when I was recruited to write for the site back in July of 2008 – announced that The Escapist had been acquired by new owners and he was now EiC again.

People are wondering if I knew about this and if I might work for them. Yes and maybe. We’ve each expressed that we’d like to work together again, but nobody has made any concrete plans.

On the Escapist side, I’m not sure how I’ll fit into their plans. Games media is obviously a lot more video-based now than it was a decade ago, and I imagine that’s where a lot of focus needs to be. On my side, I can’t take on any work that threatens my schedule here at Twenty Sided. Over 400 people support me on Patreon, and I have to make sure I meet the expectations of those people before I go running off to take on more work.

There’s one thing about the announcement that I think needs to be put into context. At one point Pitts says:

Politics are everywhere, but they don’t have to be everything.

One thing I can tell you without delay or equivocation: We’re leaving politics at the door. Most of us have thoughts about politics. Just like most of you. And, because we’re creators, those thoughts might show up in our work. Avoiding that would be unnatural. That said, I can promise you no one here will share their politics in an attempt to convince you yours are wrong. And your worth will not be calculated based on whether you’re on the left or on the right. Politics are everywhere, but they don’t have to be everything. We’re going to focus on what’s fun, and we hope you’ll join us in that.

A few people took this to mean that the site was never going to acknowledge politics. They sort of assumed that Pitts was promising some sort of hazy milquetoast editorial voice that would be unable to discuss things like the racism / classism messages in BioShock Infinite, the mangled racism metaphor in Deus Ex Mankind Divided, or any of the loaded political imagery employed by Spec Ops: The Line. So I think some context is required to understand where this “no politics” idea is coming from.

After the Escapist died its first death, it began to slide into the realm of overt political messaging. This was after I left and I’m not aware of any concrete examples, but I’ve got friends on the left and the right and I’ve heard both complain about whatever the site was doing at the time. They didn’t like that The Escapist had decided to “get political” by hiring politically-charged creators or publishing certain articles or whatever. (Rumor has it that the management leaned one way politically while the editorial staff leaned that other. So you’d end up with this strange mixed messaging where policy and hiring decisions favored one side but the text of articles leaned the other. I have no idea if this is accurate and I’ve never fact-checked it with my former Escapist colleagues because there’s no way to ask about it without sounding like a jackass.)

While I’ve never been an employee, never visited the Escapist offices, and have no special insider knowledge on what was going on after I left, I strongly suspect this political stuff was less about pushing an agenda and more about trying to make money. I could be wrong, but I’m willing to bet that someone noticed how easy it is to get clicks if you piss people off. “Outrage as engagement” is a powerful tool. Like I said on Twitter last week:

The Escapist even had a section of their forums dedicated to talking about politics and religion. Again, I doubt this was out of a desire to create a marketplace of ideas. I’m sure it was because flame wars equals traffic equals money.

The problem with this behavior is that it’s poisonous to the site as a whole. It stops being a place to go to discuss your favorite hobby and instead becomes a place where you get into nasty protracted arguments with the idiotsYou can tell they’re idiots because they disagree with you. of the internet. That’s good for pumping up the traffic numbers in the short term, but it changes the focus of the site. If people are here to ride their bandwagon through a landscape of crowd-sourced demagoguery, virtue signaling, and moral panic, then they’re no longer here to talk about games. Even if you’re like me and you avoid that sort of business, it’s off-putting to have every comment thread devolve into the same right-vs-left brawl. The site will get more traffic in the short term, but in the long term it loses its identity and becomes unappealing to risk-averse advertisers.

So when Pitts pledges that they’re “leaving politics at the door”, I imagine he’s promising they’re not going to be doing THAT nonsense.

So that’s what’s going on. Russ is still building his team so it’ll probably be a little while before we see what the new Escapist looks like. I don’t know if I’ll be involved, but I’m really hoping it’s a success either way.



[1] You can tell they’re idiots because they disagree with you.

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127 thoughts on “The Escapist Returns

  1. poiumty says:

    >Rumor has it that the management leaned one way politically while the editorial staff leaned that other.

    It’s not really a rumor. Archon is a conservative while most of the staff was left-leaning, sometimes radically so (*looks at moviebob*).

    I could go into more detail but I’m not sure that sort of discussion is welcome here.

    >The Escapist even had a section of their forums dedicated to talking about politics and religion.

    That section’s really old, and it used to be much more interesting several years ago, before the political climate became so pent-up and divisive. It WAS mostly religion-bashing, but there was actual discussion and people trying to put forth their points as best they could.

    1. Gethsemani says:

      The short and non-controversial way to describe what happened was that when GamerGate happened, The Escapist decided to not take sides (it notably did a bunch of articles were proponents and opponents got to voice their opinions about it) and in the process explicitly allowed GamerGate discussion, during a time when many other gaming sites and forums shut it down. This saw a huge influx of new users, most who were GG-supporters that finally had a place to congregate that wasn’t the Chans or Reddit.

      Several content creators had issues with GG and decided to part with the Escapist over it, which caused a bunch of others to also depart. The result of this was that the Escapist was suddenly pretty low on content. So in a bid to capitalize on the influx of GG-supporters, the new hires became a bunch of people that were chiefly known for their support of GG on social media. One of them went on to write the ill-fated article series about mismanagement of Star Citizen, which had Defy Media and the Escapist threatened with lawsuits over libel and defamation. All in all, the new hires did not provide the boost the Escapist needed and the plug was pulled on everyone but Yahtzee in the spring of last year.

      Which has left a bunch of us old regular forum users as the inmates running the asylum essentially. Whether Pitts intends to keep the community around or will kill it off to reboot the Escapist entirely remains to be seen.

      1. AndrewCC says:

        The jury is still out on StarCitizen being missmanaged (my personal 2c is on yes, it’s been like 6 years already and no release in sight, only “micro”-transactions designed to exploit whales to the bone), so while the articles did expose them to legal threats, how is that different from any other piece of journalism that aims to whistleblow on bad practices from some company or corporation?

        1. Gethsemani says:

          In this case mainly that due journalistic diligence hadn’t been exercised, as far as I could tell. Sources hadn’t been vetted properly, CIG hadn’t been given enough time to respond to accusations from sources etc.. It is over three years since it happened, so my memory is sketchy, but this sums it up pretty nicely (sorry for external linking, Shamus!)

          In essence, the place that prided itself on Ethics in Gaming Journalism absolutely dropped the ball when it came to living up to that claim.

      2. Michael says:

        Yeah, the gamergate infestation is when I stopped visiting. That just turned into a mess fast.

    2. Redrock says:

      I feel like politically charged creators can work well with decent editorial oversight. In my opinion, Movie Bob’s work declined in quality sharply after he went solo because these days he lets his emotions and political views get in the view of his more thoughtful insight on pop culture, which he most certainly has. It’s heartbreaking, really.

      1. Adam Souza says:

        He still produces quality content, (his Really That Good series is some fascinating stuff) but he definitely lets his politics intrude on pretty much all of his ongoing work. I guess I just don’t notice it as much since I tend to agree with him in broad strokes

    3. Distec says:

      Like (I assume) many people here, I had a long history of participating in gaming forums before completely transitioning to blogs and social media platforms as of late. And I recall almost every single one having a ‘Politics’ subforum that often rivaled the popularity of their ‘General Off-Topic’ or Actual Game counterparts.

      What was different then as compared to now is… uhh… how much healthier it seemed back then? At least in hindsight. The ‘Politics’ section was often an effective quarantine, but I imagine only because the community culture had the will to enforce that norm. I remember having regular, heated arguments various members in those places, and while I would hesitate to call them productive, now I kind of admire the reliable fixtures some of my interlocutors were. There were always several conservative/liberal regulars who hung around, sometimes for YEARS. Even today I can remember several usernames that I was always having debates with. At first I hated them, and then I warmed up to them when I realized that the place “wouldn’t be the same without them”. And there was an unspoken understanding that whatever baggage was generated in ‘Politics’ should be left there. You might have vehement, vulgar disagreements with somebody over the Iraq War, but god damn if this same person wasn’t giving some neat insight into Counter-Strike patch notes a few subforums over, or whatever.

      This dynamic seems to be dying, if not dead already. The last few gaming communities and blogs I was frequenting started developing extremely protectionist attitudes, both naturally grown and dictated from up top. The kind of guy I could argue with for several years is now more likely to be banned, or otherwise “shown the door” by a snarky, “power poster” clique arbitrarily gatekeeping the boundaries of their communities. People hound you repeatedly for a bad post you made several months ago. Dogpiling has always been around, but now you can quantify the pWnAgE by how many upvotes or “This Post is AWESOME” button-presses it gets. The effect got diluted in older forum setups because posts were laid out chronologically and you’d have to browse a few pages to follow the conversation, rather than reflexively throwing your weight behind the first “sick burn” in the thread.

      1. Thomas says:

        I hadn’t thought just how punishing Reddit would be to the more conservative voices who used to hang around the forums I did. I guess they either give up on Karma or they go and find the conservative subreddits.

        That’s a shame, I think politics & religion forum arguments were an important part of my younger years and the disagreement was even more important.

        1. Redrock says:

          Heh, I’m still pretty new to Reddit and made the mistake of writing a post where I, in the gentlest way possible, mentioned that I noticed that in Horizon: Zero Dawn the characters’ morality seems to correlate oddly to their gender, race and sexual orientation. I thought it was a curious phenomenon worth discussing. This did not go well. What annoyed me most is that I either got downvoted by people who might be called SJWs, but I also got support from right-wing assholes whose support I really don’t want. There’s very little middle ground this days, and that’s extremely annoying.

        2. Bloodsquirrel says:

          Reddit is pretty much trash for any kind of genuine discussion in general. The voting system inherently encourages groupthink, punishing dissent and ensuring that serious disagreements can’t happen.

          You wind up with either subs that are entirely pro or anit-something, or subs that have nothing but very meek, surface-level commentary on inoffensive things. You can’t have much in the way of deep, serious arguments over things. Even subs like r/whowouldwin are very shallow compared to similar boards elsewhere.

    4. Siert Boevink says:

      Describing Film Robert as “radically” left-leaning is silly, when he’s a milquetoast liberal centrist. He’s regularily getting dragged for his bad centrist takes by the left on Twitter.

      Shows quite well how far to the right political discourse, especially in the US, is shifted.

      1. Bloodsquirrel says:

        Most people don’t consider advocating eugenics against people who disagree with you “milquetoast centrism”. That even that isn’t considered extreme enough by some people in your movement should be a wake-up call.

        1. Siert Boevink says:

          His eugenics takes are precisely one thing he is being dragged for by the left on Twitter.

          And yes, liberalism being close with the right (because eugenics is an idea of the right), while distancing itself from anything left, is exactly what makes it milquetoast centrism. Fish hook theory, in essence. Or in a cute slogan: “liberals hate leftists more than fascists”.

          That should be a wake-up call.

          1. Bloodsquirrel says:

            I’ve seen fishhook theory cited as anything other than excusing left-wing extreism as “really right-wing”. Actual moderate liberals (like, say Dave Rubin) who take exception to extreism don’t try to reframe it as “right wing”, they call out radicalism as radicalism. And they’re usually immediately declared to be right-wing wackos for their efforts.

            And it’s beyond dishonest to call it “fishhook theory” and “centrism” at the same time. Those two things don’t go together at all.

            1. Siert Boevink says:

              Yup, shows a lot of the political climate in the US if Dave hecking Rubin counts as a “moderate liberal[]”.

              Compared to the rest of the world (which, contrary to what the average person in the US seems to be believe, does exist), the US doesn’t have a left at all, it has a moderate right and an extreme right.

  2. Daemian Lucifer says:

    A few people took this to mean that the site was never going to acknowledge politics.

    Really?But….thats the exact opposite of what he says.He specifically says that that would be unnatural.

    I get where he is coming from.Offering your interpretation of a work is fine.If you think a work has a political message,and you say what you think that message is,that perfectly ok.Even if your interpretation is that the work is nazi propaganda,yet no one else thinks that.But if you go on and say that people who disagree with you are subhuman,or akin to terrorists,you are crossing the line.

    1. derjungerludendorff says:

      Yeah, but that’s like five lines deep, in the middle of a paragraph.

      If someone only reads the first line or skims the paragraph they would probably miss it. And we all know how careful people read when they’re outraged

      1. Cybron says:

        I’d say you’re being generous to assume a majority of people even read any text from the announcement instead of a headline or angry tweet.

  3. Roofstone says:

    Who looked at The Escapist in it’s current state and said “Yes this is worth money”?

    I am genuinely not being facetious. The escapist is.. I don’t wanna say ghost town, but it is trying to be.

    1. Decius says:

      It’s worth at least as much as the backend software and art is.

      They might have gotten the company for less than it would take to make new art assets.

      Plus they got free(?) publicity, for example here.

      1. Thomas says:

        As Zero Punctuation has never spun-off from The Escapist, maybe they own the show rights. That by itself would be worth a lot of money.

        Also, can I just say, how weird that was to see ZP continue to use essentially a zombie site and YouTube channel? I would love to know the full story as a piece of internet history. Civilisation fell and Yahtzee Continued and now the tribes are rebuilding in the post-apocalypse around the still functioning tower of ZP.

        1. AndrewCC says:

          I really liked your metaphor. Got a good chuckle out of it.

        2. GoStu says:

          I’ve always just figured that whenever someone signed Yahtzee to the Escapist, they laid aside a serious fund of money to fund his contract. In whatever fallout surrounded the Escapist’s meltdown, that money stayed untouched and keeps paying him out.

          I can’t recall exactly where I saw this, but apparently his deal with the Escapist (or whatever’s left of it) was quite satisfactory, to the point that he never really considered going independent.

      2. Guest says:

        The backend isn’t worth much, it’s pretty out of date. It’s more the license and recognisability, and presumably, all the IP they have rights to, like ZP etc.

    2. Shamus says:

      In addition to what Decius said above: Page rank is worth a lot, and the Escapist is still pretty important as far as Google search knows. Media / publisher connections as also handy. If you’re trying to get the scoop on a story, or an exclusive look, or if you want to be invited to a publisher’s media event, it’s way easier to do that with a familiar brand than as some no-name startup.

      Also, there are certain costs to setting up a business, securing the trademarks, and establishing it as a legal entity. It’s nice to have that framework in pace.

    3. Ninety-Three says:

      I’m not convinced this is the answer, but plausible theory: They’re not buying The Escapist, they’re buying Yahtzee, who is either weirdly loyal to the site or too lazy to go through the process of jumping ship.

      1. GoStu says:

        As I mentioned a little higher, apparently his deal with them was quite nice; while no details were disclosed I remember seeing on some source that he’d never seriously considered going independent. He’s paid well enough to be happy and doesn’t have to handle distribution or anything and gets to use the Escapist brand/platform to keep marketing his stuff.

        1. AzzyGaiden says:

          Agreed, I think it’s just a mutually beneficial relationship. Yahtzee has never struck me as inclined to the kind of hustle it takes to build a digital brand independently. IIRC (and I’m certain I’m missing details and nuance) The Escapist picked him up very early based on the strength of maybe 2-3 reviews he posted on proto-YouTube. He more or less owes his career to them and they seem to have done much of his “managing.” While he’s popular he doesn’t command the kind of massive subscriber count you see with many of his contemporaries, and even then he strikes me as the type to prefer a reliable salary from a loyal employer rather than deal with the kind of nonsense YouTubers often have to deal with, justly or otherwise (he’s certainly made some comments and ill-advised jokes over the years that could easily have made a trigger-happy hosting service take action).

          1. Thomas says:

            He was picked up based on a couple of reviews of demos that he did (they were massively popular though).

            He’s got 1.1 million subscribers, so he probably makes a fortune on every video. The subscriber count of the YouTube channel was specifically mentioned by the buyers as a reason for buying.

            For contrast: Kotaku has 1/4 of that and RPS has 1/22 of that – despite them actually existing. A plan which just involves also running MovieBob and LLR videos from the same channel is probably worth a lot of money by itself.

  4. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I’m sure it was because flame wars equals traffic equals money.

    People keep saying that,but I dont see it.I mean twitter was open to EVERYONE for quite a while,it was full of people yelling over each other left and right,it had huge traffic,and yet it was constantly bleeding money.Traffic is meaningless if you cant monetize it.Worse,its costing you because heavy traffic requires more server power.And just plastering ads all over the place is definitely not the way to earn money because it requires a ton of people to go through WITHOUT using an adblock,which majority of people are doing.

    1. Richard says:

      In the short term, it does work for ad-supported sites.

      You get a lot of traffic for a while, thus a lot of ad revenue as people yell at each other.

      Then you die, because after a while nobody new joins and the existing visitors get bored and leave.

    2. Shamus says:

      Well, if you’ve got a banner ad on top of the page (and down the sides, and in the background, and below the content) and that ad is monetized by pageviews or clicks, then it’s pretty easy to see a causal relationship between views and money. That’s certainly the case for the Escapist at the time.

    3. ElementalAlchemist says:

      which majority of people are doing

      No they aren’t. Depending on who you talk to, desktop users are around the 40% point, but mobile – which makes up over half of all web traffic these days – is only around 20-25%. That means your average site is probably getting close to 70% of its traffic “unprotected”, as it were, ripe for exploiting with ads.

      And that’s without taking into account the millions of users, especially on mobile, that are suckered into using scam apps and addons that claim to be ad blockers but are actually harvesting all their data. There was a story about this sort of thing just the other day on Ars Technica, and also that Red Shell article by Shamus the other day. This is the future of web advertising. Not banners and popups, but malware.

    4. Guest says:

      Twitter is a tech startup though. Most social media sites have, or still do, run as essentially unprofitable startups, that make bank of the worth of the company, through investment, under the assumption that they will make it big eventually, and that they’ll actually run at a profit.

      1. Kylroy says:

        AKA the Facebook model: “We shall cross the Money Sink Desert until we reach the Oasis of Ubiquity, whereupon we shall bask in the endless Waters of Monetized User Data.”

        Problem is that this is not a magic formula, and I suspect the market for monetized user data is much, much smaller than techbros think – Moviepass is the latest of these ???-to-profit schemes to go under.

  5. Daemian Lucifer says:

    As for you getting back on escapist,Id like that.Especially if it involves you making comics again.I mean,I enjoy your words,but you have first drawn me in with pictures arranged in a humorous fashion.

    And hey,if they allow you to do a “exclusive here first” deal like you had before,couldnt you post your retrospective there,then repost it here a week later?Youd basically have only a single week of disruption here,and have zero extra work.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      Hells yes.
      I first heard the name ‘Shamus Young’ thanks to the Stolen Pixels comics you did for the Escapist.
      (Also, occasionally I re-read DM of the Rings & Chainmail Bikini ‘cos they’re great)
      So yes, would love to see more comic-style content from you. Maybe the new Escapist would be interested?

      Also like the ‘exclusive here first’ idea, but I’d be very surprised of the Escapist went for that.

      1. Redrock says:

        Funny, for me Shamus was always “the only gaming columnist who knows what the hell he’s talking about”. I only discovered the more humorous content, including comics, way, way later.

      2. Profugo Barbatus says:

        Shamus didn’t really show up on my radar until his regular column started, and I quickly grew to love it. The day he he left was the day I cancelled my pubclub, and followed the exiled creators. Maybe I’ll have to check it out after the resurrection is completed.

        Shame too, I found so much of the content I still follow to this day through the Escapist. Jim Sterling, Shamus, Miracle of Sound, and a dozen more slowly lost to the passage of time.

  6. Decius says:

    It’s possible to discuss politically charged subjects fairly.

    You end up being accused by partisans of both sides as being biased against them.

    The same is true of attempts to troll people using discussions of politially charged subjects: partisans of both sides accuse you of being biased against them.

    In related news, so many people can’t tell the difference between fair discussion of politically charged subjects and trolling that it makes sense to just ban both equally.

    1. Inwoods says:

      I think in the situation you describe, it’s not left/right clashes so much as serious/troll clashes. Serious comments are going to be trolled, and if people don’t have a good faith objection to a point someone will make a bad one.

      I don’t think the answer is necessarily to throw out the baby, because that’s just letting trolls have a hecklers veto. The fact that trolls “can’t” tell the difference between a good post and a bad one because they engage in bad faith isn’t a compelling argument. The suggestion that no bystander can tell the difference between a good argument or a bad one is also a little weird. I guess you could present a very strong argument for a reasonable view so ironically that nobody knows you’re trolling? But that’s like Key and Peele taking 20 years to infiltrate a bank and rob it from the inside.

      1. BlueHorus says:

        I think you’re misjudging the internet (in a generous way).
        Almost any opinion – from seemingly simple, you’d-think-it-was-nonsensical-to-disagree stuff like ‘the earth is round’ or ‘the sky is blue’ will garner disagreement from someone – and it might even be genuinely meant!

        Never mind if you touch on an emotive opinion as seen in most politics or religion discussion. It doesn’t matter how well-meant, well-argued, balanced or constructive your opinion is – someone out there will read it, disagree, and turn the discussion into the same old argument you can find somewhere else. It’s not about the issue as much as it is the tone/quality of the ‘debate’ that – inevitably, sadly – stems from it.

        Not everyone’s interested in expressing ideas, rational debate or hearing the other side’s point of view.

        1. Actual Lee says:

          The earth is amorphously spheroidal. Saying that it is merely round is an over simplification. And the sky is not blue, it is black.

          Just doing my job. I’m Actual Lee

          1. Viktor says:

            You treat it as a joke, but there are actual flat-earthers running around. Will the Escapist* be taking a stance on this controversial political issue, or will they allow reasoned debate on the subject where everyone’s opinions are treated as equally valid?

            *and it’s contributors/mods

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              I dont get flat earthers.I mean the ones who honestly believe in that shit,not the plethora of trolls going around that “community”.The roundness of the earth is one of the easiest experiments you can do.Especially if you leave near a coast or a desert.You dont even need any equipment,just your eyes.

              1. Thomas says:

                I’m sure it used to be a joke, but it seems like there are at least some genuine people now.

                Unfortunately the coast thing is how they convert people. They tell people to go to the coast, put a piece of cardboard to their eyes and then they bank on people not being able to see the curve.

                Pseudoscience is actually one of the things that attracts people. Instead of listening to experts tell you what shape the earth is, you can discover yourself!

                In the latest Flat Earth convention people flew from all around the globe to display models of how a flat earth works and ‘experiments’ to prove it.

              2. Viktor says:

                Same reason people disbelieve global warming or evolution. The evidence might be blindingly obvious and unopposable, but tribalism, a distrust of experts, and an information bubble make all that evidence not matter.

                Teach people that every other source of info is suspect, that I am the only one with the truth, and suddenly everyone who disagrees with me is just proof that they’re in on it. But those of you who are smart enough to see through it agree with me, right? Don’t you want to be one of the smart ones who knows what’s really going on, too credulous to be taken in by those “scientists” and their “facts”?

                Combine that with people’s natural tendency to ignore opposing facts and double down, and the fact that plenty of places are unwilling to ban arguments on something just for being veritably false(Facebook’s statements about holocaust denial come to mind), and you’ve got a perfect recipe for creating a group of people who will argue in support of a viewpoint well after it has been disproven beyond all doubt.

                1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                  Not believing global warming I get.You really have to dig deep into a bunch of various physics systems in order to understand how the weather is fueled,and then correlate those with the rise of industry,and to discount the natural causes.Its really a lot of work.Same with evolution,which is a compilation of a bunch of observations from geology,genetics and paleontology.But everyone on earth can just find a flat piece of land and look at the horizon while walking towards it.Not willing to do that is beyond just laziness and ignorance.

                  fact that plenty of places are unwilling to ban arguments on something just for being veritably false

                  I am against that too.When it comes to scientific facts,I think its better to explain to people how to conduct experiments on their own.And when it comes to stuff like racial hate,I think Daryl Davis has a far superior method than just banning discussion.

                  1. Kylroy says:

                    Re: Global Warming

                    Plus, after doing all that work, you come to the conclusion that a lot of things need to change that a lot of powerful people (and a lot of less powerful people) don’t want changed. Plus *plus*, if you’re living in a first-world economy, it means you should probably make a bunch of personal changes that will make your life harder. Given that, I’m somewhat surprised that global warming has gotten as far into the public consciousness when it’s only advantage is being, y’know, *true*.

                2. Shamus says:

                  Another really big cause of the problem: The people on the “other side” are often abusive towards them.

                  Imagine a flat earther that sees some evidence of a spheroid earth that’s persuasive. Imagine the mental discipline required to turn around and agree with those people who have been mocking you, calling you stupid, and subjecting you to public shame for years. That’s like befriending your bullies.

                  This is one of the reasons I’m genuinely worried about the negative feedback loop of social media. It focuses that tribal bullying, which ties the target’s sense of self-worth to the bad ideas we’re hoping to refute. It only takes a few assholes to ruin someone’s capacity for self-correction, and there are ALWAYS a few assholes in every debate.

                  1. Guest says:

                    I actually really don’t like the flat earth mocking or the anti-anti vaxxers for this reason. They’re picked a position that most people hold, and they’ll make their little memes about it and whatever, like they’re being radical or dangerous thinkers by saying something that almost everyone is saying.

                    Oh, the Earth isn’t flat? Edgy. Like, they picked the simplest, easiest things to be right about, even though most of them are hardly science literate themselves. It’s especially bad on Reddit or Imgur, because the upvotes mean you get to see the circle jerks rise to the top, and you have to wonder: Who is this actually responding to?

                    And I agree wholeheartedly: It totally doesn’t help to advance their argument. If you actually cared about vaccination or people knowing that the earth isn’t flat, you should be trying to convince people, not preaching to the choir to boost your own self esteem.

                    1. Syal says:

                      With Flat Earth specifically, does it even matter? Is there some tangible loss from people thinking the earth is flat? Are they trying to convince people not to fly or something? What about the position warrants bringing them up at all?

                    2. Mephane says:

                      [Maximum comment nesting depth reached, hence I reply to the parent comment.]

                      With Flat Earth specifically, does it even matter? Is there some tangible loss from people thinking the earth is flat? Are they trying to convince people not to fly or something? What about the position warrants bringing them up at all?

                      A while ago I heard that a large majority of the (already extremely small) number of flat earthers are actually just doing it for giggles, as parody, or pranks, and don’t sincerely believe the BS anyway. This particular issue might very well be a non-issue.

                    3. Kylroy says:


                      Currently, it doesn’t matter. But I’m gonna throw out the old Voltaire line: “Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.”

                    4. Syal says:


                      That’s sort of the question. How many Flat Earthers have tried to make you believe an absurdity?

              3. BlueHorus says:

                I have a similar thing about chemtrail conspiracy theorists.
                (Others too, but chemtrails is the least ‘political’ one)
                My response is a baffled avalanche of ‘but why would-‘ ‘what kind of nonsense-‘ ‘who would bother-‘ ‘that’s a really inefficient to-‘ ‘so why isn’t it worki-‘ ‘who would believe this cr- and other things, all in quick sucession.

                Anyway, best theory I’ve heard is that there’s something in it for the theorist on a social level. Whether it’s belonging the the group, feeling like they know something other people don’t, being drawn to feeling like an outsider, just looking to start arguments…etc etc etc.

                And if that’s what they’re getting from it, then the actual belief is actually somewhat irrelevant.

        2. default_ex says:

          This is where the internet and by extension primarily ignorant masses eats everything alive. Even if you chose to stay out of the whole flat Earth nonsense. What if you were explaining geo-coordinate system? You can’t ignore the fact the Earth is round in those equations and any attempts to explain it otherwise sounds like complete gibberish to the intended audience. Yet you will still be called out by the flat Earthers for taking a stance the Earth is round and requires estimating arc distances to accurately represent position. The same sort of thing holds true for just about every subject you can imagine that has a political arena for it.

          I have yet to see many websites that simply don’t step into the political arena. Most get goaded or trolled into it eventually.

  7. Thomas says:

    I’m personally happy reading whatever you write wherever you write it (as long as I can get to it from here). If there’s a chance to do something with The Escapist and you think it’ll bring more viewers to your other work, I reckon you should go for it.

  8. AndrewCC says:

    I don’t like that MovieBob is back, he was fine early on but he grew into an irrational Marvel-fanboy and DC hater.

    1. Christopher Wolf says:

      Did he hate on Wonder Woman? That is the only widely well received DC movie recently. Marvel movies in general are widely well received, so its kind of hard to split fan boys from the average movie goer, unless he was having issues movies had pointed out to him and he was saying no, those were not problems at all.

      1. Ranneko says:

        Summary: He liked it.
        “3 stars (out of 4). This is the one you have been waiting for.”

    2. Redrock says:

      MovieBob was fine while he was working for the Escapist. The Big Picture was a fine show. In Bob We Trust, his independent version of TBP, is, for some reason, way, way worse. So are Really That Bad/Good. I often have discussions with my old-school journalist colleagues, and many of them are sceptical about YouTube/blogs because they feel that the lack of editorial oversight leads to worse content in case of people who lack the proper self-control and don’t set standards for themselves, which is most people. I don’t know if I fully agree with that attitude, but Bob makes a great case in its favor. As does Jim Sterling, who I feel is way too self-indulgent these days. But then you have Shamus and this site, which flourishes partly due to its independence. Me, I remember balking at having to run every piece past my editor and/or the editor-in-chief. But, on the other hand, these days I’m not working as a journalist and don’t trust myself to start a blog or a YouTube channel because I know I have a tendency to get self-indulgent. It’s a precarious things and there are trade-offs either way.

      1. Ninety-Three says:

        I agree that Jim is extremely self-indulgent and it makes me not like him, but the guy’s raking in a hundred sixty thousand dollars per year on Patreon (steady for the last six months, rising since 2016). I’m not sure if we can really say he’s too indulgent, given how well it’s working out for him. Whatever we may think of the content, there’s clearly a market for that kind of thing.

        1. Guest says:

          True, but he’s definitely gotten lazy. He recycles content, and barely edits his scripts, which is sort of in his favor because it gets him past that ten minute mark the algorithm favors. His reviews are mostly first impressions of him DarkSydePhil-ing it up in whatever game he’s covering.

          I like him, and I agree with him, but he really ought to improve. Making higher production value vids with better sets and costumes and animations doesn’t mean much if it’s another 10-15 minutes on a topic he could have covered in 4. I genuinely hope he can fix that. There’s always gonna be a market for him. He’s built a massive, loyal audience that follows him, and he’s doing well at gaming the algorithm. Success doesn’t mean he can’t do better.

          1. Redrock says:

            Thing is, I used to watch every Jimquisition because he had something interesting to say. These days I can tell exactly what the video is going to be about by the title alone. Hell, don’t even need the title. It’s going to be “greed-greed-greed, TRIPLE-AYYYE, bodily fluids based insult”, looped for 15 minutes. It’s mostly just boring and predictable. The lack of positivity really bothers me. Maybe I’m wrong and that’s not so much self-indulgence as it is pandering to his audience, which is always a risk with Patreon.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              Ha,his last video was a positive one about how much he loves switch and wants a bunch more games for it,so you are wrong.

              Joking aside,its not the negativity thats the problem,its just that he is tired.And I get it,saying the same thing over and over because it just keeps repeating over and over is tiring.Its not that he is wrong,its just that nothing changes despite how many times he points out the flaws.And while it does get tiring to watch,I keep reminding myself that one of his points is that precisely because it keeps happening,many have stopped talking about it because “its old news”,and thats exactly the reason why things keep getting worse.This does not apply just to video games though.Just think about any thing that has gotten worse over time,and how people complained at first but have been beaten into submission because “its old news”.So while I dont exactly like that he is repeating stuff over and over,I do appreciate that he does it.

              1. Asdasd says:

                Yeah, it’s not entirely fair to criticise Jim for always complaining that AAA publishers are greedy. Or maybe it is, but it’s equally fair to criticise AAA publishers for remaining greedy and not obliging him to talk about something else.

                Why do politicians make grossly unpopular decisions despite being accountable to their electorates? Because even if they cause widespread outrage (never a guarantee in this apathetic age), the suits make the calculation that people won’t be able to stay angry forever. Most will have forgotten by the end of the week, and the ones who haven’t will eventually be tutted into submission for their fixation on old news, lack of positivity etc.

              2. Redrock says:

                Well, you probably know my stance by now: I think Jim goes a bit over the top in his condemnation of the industry, to be honest. I don’t agree that all microtransactions are inherently bad, for example. I also consider “greed” to be a childish word to use when covering a market. I think Jim used to be a bit more analytical in his approach. But these days it’s just “publishers bad” over and over again. Jim takes a radical stance and I’m not a fan of radical approaches. Again, I think it’s a relatively new thing for him. When he worked for Destructoid and The Escapist and was forced to write reviews, do poetry with Yahtzee or whatever else, it kinda kept him balanced. Which is exactly the point I was trying to make.

                1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                  I don’t agree that all microtransactions are inherently bad, for example.

                  Thats not his stance however.He is against microtransactions in games you pay for in advance not because “grrr microtransactions bad”,but because its a dishonest way to sell a product.If you want to charge $90 for a thing you made,then charge $90 for it.Dont sell just the main menu for $60,and then charge $5 for every level.Which is the same reason why he was against the loot boxes from the start:Not because they allow you to purchase a thing for $XX,but because they hide the real price behind randomness*.If you watch his videos for a bit,youll see that basically every criticism he has of publishers boils down to “they are dishonest”,and the only difference is the type of dishonesty.

                  I also consider “greed” to be a childish word to use when covering a market.

                  Both he and Shamus have covered this already.Theres nothing wrong with greed in a capitalist society.But some(many)of these companies really go too far.They dont just want to make money,they want to make ALL the money and NOOW,to the detriment of everything else.Having long term growth,stable fan base,good products,none of that matters as long as they can make just a bit more money this instant.EA has proved that with the whole loot box scandal,throwing not just their products,but everyone elses under the legislation bus just so they could wringle a bit more money from an incredibly lucrative franchise theyve snagged.

                  As for being radical,he is praising the switch,a nintendo product,a product from a company notoriously unreasonable when it comes to fair use,the very thing his livelihood depends on.If he were really that radical,he would be boycotting them till the end of time.You know,the stance TotalBiscuit had towards sega almost up to his death.

                  Jim is over the top though,and not liking that I get.And he did admit that he is often childish and petulant,which can also be irritating.

                  *And often not so randomly skewed mechanics.

                  1. Redrock says:

                    Well, the funny thing is, Jim is also against increasing the price of games, because, apparently, the 60$ price is written on a stone tablet somewhere. Also, no, Jim’s stance is exactly that all microtransactions are bad. I remember him attacking Deus Ex: Mankind Divided for including the option to buy Praxis points, even though the game was in no way skewed to push you towards buying Praxis and basically showered you with EXP. I remember Jim going out of his way to criticize Overwatch for selling cosmetic items, because the mere fact of an item being available for sale and someone owning it is an insidious manipulation to make people spend uncontrollably.

                    As for the Switch, he was also damning it a couple of weeks ago for “steamafication”, I think he called it? Because god knows supply and consumer choice is a terrible, terrible thing. Also, Jim’s livelihood doesn’t really depend in fair use because that’s what Patreon is for. He doesn’t care about demonitization. And as for copyright strikes, hell, Jim can make all of his Nintendo videos without a sliver of relevant footage and neither his viewership not his Patreon will suffer.

                    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                      Jim is also against increasing the price of games

                      No,he isnt.He is against the idea that “games are so expensive to make these days,but they still cost just $60”,precisely because of all the hidden little fees,preorders,season passes,…He detailed precisely this in his video on the subject.He would not mind the price of games jumping if all that went away.

                      As for deus ex,that is a game you pay for in advance.When talking about it,he said that that is the least offensive way to charge on top of selling the game,but it was still trying to charge more money on top of selling the game.And really,lets not forget the “augment your preorder” thing that they tried to push,so having praxis for money not being heavily pushed was most likely the result of backlash against that.

                      As for overwatch,it was not selling cosmetic items,it was selling a CHANCE TO WIN a cosmetic item.Basically,loot boxes.

                      And again,he was never against microtransactions in free to play games.Warframe specifically was praised by him for their payment model.So not against microtransactions,but against microtransactions ON TOP OF macrotransactions.

                      Because god knows supply and consumer choice is a terrible, terrible thing.

                      Um,no.Not even close.If you follow his loooong tirade against steam,it has nothing to do with this.Boiled to a single sentence:the biggest problem with steam opening the flood gates is that many small publishers get buried under the avalanche of asset flips.Chances of switch getting to this level though are not that high,but they arent 0.

                      Also, Jim’s livelihood doesn’t really depend in fair use because that’s what Patreon is for.

                      It does if nintendo decides to sue.He spent a lot of money trying to fight against ridiculous claims by some nobody,so imagine how much money he would actually need to fight against nintendo if they ever decided to go after him,even if it were to be dismissed.

                    2. Redrock says:

                      First off, Augment your preorder has nothing to do with the actual microtransactions that wound up being in the game. It was also cancelled. As for buying Praxis with cash, what’s the harm? If someone has more cash than money and want a particular upgrade sooner than later, why not give that option? As long as the game isn’t intentionally stingy with resources that can be bought via microtransactions, why criticize this at all? Why is increasing the price of games for everybody better than giving people who wish to spend more the option to do just that?

                      As for Steam, I wasn’t talking about Steam, but the Nintendo eShop. Which is nowhere near the state of Steam which doesn’t stop Jim from complaining about it. Because complaining sells.

                      As for Nintendo suing instead of using copyright strikes or any other instrument, withoout warning or a cease-and-desist, well, yeah, that’s a risk. About as big a risk as them sending katana-toting Yakuza after him. Not a big risk, is what I’m trying to say.

                    3. Daemian Lucifer says:

                      As long as the game isn’t intentionally stingy with resources that can be bought via microtransactions, why criticize this at all?

                      He had a video about this,but I dont remember when.So I cant really quote him on this,but there are multiple reasons as to why do it.I think(but I may be wrong) one of the reasons was “even if we believe that this one company is actually sincere and they wont compromise the game in order to push microtransactions,they do normalize the trend for other less sincere ones”.

                      Which is nowhere near the state of Steam which doesn’t stop Jim from complaining about it. Because complaining sells.

                      No,but because thats how steam started.Slowly,by allowing only the select few to be there,then by allowing anyone with enough fan support,and now by allowing anyone willing to pay a small fee.Whats wrong about wanting to preemptively stop that from repeating with a different company?

                      Not a big risk, is what I’m trying to say.

                      My point was not about the risk,but that if he were really that radical he would be riding the nintendo hate train for their practices long ago,just how TB did with sega.Jim just calls things bad when he thinks they are bad,and calls them good when he thinks they are good,even if that means both criticizing and praising the same company.

                    4. Daemian Lucifer says:

                      And here,in the todays jimquisition,at the end he says basically why he complains about things:

                      “The industry better not get too complacent and think they can keep doing this”

                      Its a nice summation of his work.Not just about todays topic,but most of the topics he covers.

        2. Mephane says:

          I agree that Jim is extremely self-indulgent and it makes me not like him

          To me it always looked immediately like an over the top parody. I mean, he wears a top had and a sceptre while speaking from a podium, he uses phrases like “me, the greatest showmaster alive”, and ends his videos with “thank god for me”, no way this is not satire.

      2. Guest says:

        Oh yes. I think a lot of it stemmed from that Pixels review, which was a low point for him as a reviewer, but a high point in that the movie was panned by everyone, and his colourful review actually got him a lot of press, I think even on television in some places. And it’s not that the movie was good, it’s that his review was garbage, just him demonstrating an impressive talent for cursing.

        Really that good was meant to be about positivity, since everything he was doing was so negative, but it was just boring pandering. Making videos longer than half the film you’re covering to praise it, when it’s already incredibly popular, is just incredibly lazy, and when he stretches a video that long, you realise that he knows a lot about pop culture, films, and nerd stuff, but very little about actual film *making*. Of course, he jumped the shark with that one too, with “Really that bad” where he completely sold out the positivity of how the project was meant to run to do more DC whingeing, and yeah, I hate BvS as well, but Bob’s video was terribly timed all things considered, massively overlong, and missed the forest for the trees in my opinion. It did not help that a lot of the stuff he complains about there really doesn’t make sense, from a film or story perspective, and that he relies far too heavily on Marvel as a point of comparison.

        He needs an editor to reel him in. If he told an editor he wanted to make several hours of badly written whining about BvS, they’d shut him down.

        1. Fizban says:

          I feel like you may not have watched much of the Really That Good series, since all of them that I’ve watched clearly had tons of research behind them, lazy I think not. The Really That Bad episode is ridiculously long and not a great idea, but it still had tons of information surrounding the movie that I had no idea about, which is what I’m there for. And considering he’s been trying to build up a personal patreon brand, if the people demand Really That Bad, it’s probably a good idea to make it.

          Bob could probably use an editor, but I doubt he’s making enough solo to support one.

          1. Redrock says:

            Mostly, I think he needs someone to tell him “no” from time to time. Basically, that’s what an editor does in a newsroom most of the time, from my experience.

    3. Dreadjaws says:

      It goes well beyond the Marvel/DC spectrum. He’s clearly noticed that, like Shamus’ tweet up there says, controversial opinions gather more clicks, so he’s abandoned intelligent discussion in favor of just saying what he figures will anger the most people.

      It’s shameless and disgusting, and made me lose all respect for him. I don’t care if he has mouths to feed, I refuse to get anywhere even close to his content.

  9. Cinnamon Noir says:

    This is actually kind of inspiring. I remember having a Youtube comment discussion several months ago with someone who said that the Escapist should just admit that Zero Punctuation was the only thing worth watching on it. I compared that to Nintendo changing its name to “The Pokemon Company”, but then the Escapist essentially did just that. I was surprised that Yahtzee didn’t leave the Escapist at that point, to be honest; it can’t be that pleasant to be the only contributor to a defunct online magazine.

    I’m heartened to see that your friend Russ Pitts understands the difference between discussing political themes that a game brings up and trying to read your own implicit political message into a game that is explicitly about something else. While I find most critics’ attempts to replace the message of a work of art with their own philosophical musings pretty distasteful, it’s especially bad with politics because people cherish their own political attitudes so much that critics won’t back down, even if what they’re saying is entirely irrelevant to the work they’re reviewing.

    I do hope that they reach out to you for the occasional article, maybe around E3 or some time of year when a lot of high-profile games come out. Regular commission work might interfere with your work on this website, but I don’t think an occasional spotlight on you would hurt.

  10. Daniel says:

    I’ll give it a chance, but Bob being one of the first re-hires has me very concerned about how long that “no politics” rule will last. He’s not exactly… tolerant of the right these days.

  11. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    As a patron I wouldn’t mind at all if once a week one of the articles here was a redirection to a post on the Escapist. I’d be happy to know it would be additional income for you, and I’d still get my content.

    1. Liessa says:

      Same here – I’m a patron and I’d be happy to see you doing stuff for the Escapist, even if it meant slightly less frequent posts over here. Making a living is important as well.

      1. Bloodsquirrel says:

        I’m the same. I’d love to see more of the kind content you were making for the old Escapist. Maybe the extra income will help avoid problems that get in the way of blog content?

        Either way, it’s not like I have to pay extra to read anything you post on the Escapist.

    2. Lars says:

      The reason: I mostly read the blog on the laptop at work. And The Escapist is blocked. Like a lot of other not work related sites.

      1. Gargamel Le Noir says:

        Can’t you read it through the google cache or on your phone? That’s the tricks I use with my work proxy.

        1. Gargamel Le Noir's boss says:

          Oh really? So this is what you are doing when you should be working?

          GET BACK TO WORK!

          1. Karma The Alligator says:

            I’m reading, er, tutorials on how to improve. Yes.

  12. Bubble181 says:

    While game journalism in general is more video-minded these days, there’s definitely still a market for text and images. You’re best known for long-form analysis and critique. That can certainly work in video, but as you’ve proven here for years, in text as well.

  13. Drathnoxis says:

    I’m pretty sure the Escapist has an R&P forum to stop the endless political discussions from clogging up Off-Topic. Threads in R&P don’t even show up in the ‘latest posts’ box.

    I hope the Escapist doesn’t go all video or anything like that. I still like text articles, especially really long and in depth ones. Most of the time I’d rather read an article than watch a 10 minute video. It’s just a more efficient way of consuming information, in my opinion.

    1. Veylon says:

      IIRC, that’s exactly how the Religion and Politics forum was created. They created a box for the toxic crap to go into so that people who wanted to avoid it could and the people who wanted to wallow in it – like me – could wallow to their heart’s content.

      1. Guest says:

        It is. On one occassion, with the recent closure of a subforum, certain people were agitating for the RnP board to close too, and it was pointed out that RnP was designed to cordon off that stuff, instead of having it in Off-Topic, because it was inclined to cause flamewars.

        They did the same thing with their “Game Industry Discussion” board.

        Generally, they don’t make a lot of rules beyond what they have to get rid of certain topics, they give them their own sub if those topics stick around so that it doesn’t end up dominating the place.

  14. BlueHorus says:

    …flame wars equals traffic equals money.
    The problem with this behavior is that it’s poisonous to the site as a whole. It stops being a place to go to discuss your favorite hobby and instead becomes a place where you get into nasty protracted arguments with the idiots of the internet.

    I don’t know if this is appropriate or not (I’m sure Shamus/Paul will step in if not), but holy shit, this is the story of for me.
    That site used to be a lot of fun. Articles like ‘5 Insects That Can Totally Kill You In Your Sleep’ or ‘7 Awesome Soldiers That History Forgot’. Fun clickbait, kinda informative in a ‘random trivia’ kind of way, and a great place to just waste 5 mins or more of your time.

    But then (circa a certain Presidential election in 2016) the articles changed. Someone in the site’s management realised that an article about Donald T- sorry, You-Know-Who garnered more clicks and comments for effort in than the other stuff.
    So the old articles like ‘The 6 Most Baffling/Horrifying Erotic Fan-Fiction Sex Scenes’ disappeared to be replaced by rants about You-Know-Who and other obviously-inflammatory clickbait. Why research weird trivia online when you can just put up an opinion piece article that starts a fight?

    And of course, offended right-wing people of all types flocked to the comments to Do Battle with the article, other people responded, and the trolls jumped in to gleefully fan the flames all around.
    The comments section turned from pun threads & jokes riffing on the article into the same old culture war/dumpster fire you can find all over the internet in almost no time.

    1. Michael says:

      Nah, the decline of Cracked started years before that. It didn’t get really bad til 2014, but I noticed that more explicitly political (two guesses as to what kind of politics) were being published by authors around 2013. Then, slowly, it became more and more flame-bait and less fun trivia, until it was nothing but unfunny political rants.

      1. Xander77 says:

        You’ll be happy to know that the new cracked bent over backwards to kick out all the frequent contributors and anyone with left-leaning politics.

        As anyone with a brain might imagine, the site is NOW utter garbage.

        1. Redrock says:

          When was this? It’s still pretty left-leaning, last I checked.

        2. Bloodsquirrel says:

          Yes, I can clearly see that with such articles as “How Jordan Peterson Repackages Alt-Right Ideas As Self-Help” being on the front page and all.

      2. Dreadjaws says:

        Indeed. Cracked had been on a slow decline for years, well before Trump came in. They started prioritizing politically-charged content over fun. And when I say “politically-charged” I don’t just mean stuff about US politics, I mean everything that generates controversy. The worst part came when they just started stating their opinions as fact, insulted everyone who didn’t share it and of course, if they were proven wrong about something, they’d ignore it or pretend their opinion was the opposite all along.

        It was made all the more obvious when they started just outright firing every writer that made articles that were pure fun instead of opinion pieces. Seanbaby is still there because he’s not just a writer, but he only puts out an article or two a year now, when he used to have a weekly column. Photoplasty articles that used to be made just for fun are now strictly “fact” lists or just a shower of people’s personal opinions on subjects. Then they started to literally charger people for the ability to rate comments, in the process ruining the comments section, which was one of the best comments sections on the web up until that point.

        I used to visit the place daily, but now I only go once every few weeks to see if I happen to run into something mildly interesting.

    2. Guest says:

      They actually lost most of their long time contributors. A lot of the classic writers had bled off, and they fired a lot of their biggest ones a while ago.

      That’s why it’s so trash, there’s even been outright plaigarism occuring. Like most text based sites, they’re not able to find a good business model, that’s why they went for downsizing their senior contributors (Which trashed their content), and e-begging, and now running “Native Content” advertising.

      I’m not going to say those articles are good, but I don’t think they’re necessarily wrong. Just lazily written, cookie cutter stuff that’s guaranteed to get clicks as you said.

      1. Thomas says:

        Cracked spent a lot of money a while back trying to switch to video. This is when they did _two_ after hours.

        They timed it awfully, pretty much everyone, including ArsTechnica was trying to switch to video at the same time, and most people failed. They lost a lot of money and ended up firing not only the new video people they’d brought in, but most of the old people too, as they switched back to text.

        For me that’s when Cracked died. I enjoyed a lot (but not all) of their political articles – I thought their weird interview series was genuinely the best thing out there, but they’ve pretty much gone full BuzzFeed ever since they switched back.

  15. Aaron Nowack says:

    In this day and age claiming that anything should or can be apolitical is widely seen as a partisan political statement. Most of the folks who feel that way will simply see that statement as a declaration of being on the other side, regardless of what the intent behind it is.

    1. Thomas says:

      That’s exactly what has happened :( if you look at Russ Pitts twitter he immediately got attacked by left-wing activists for saying it, and then a bunch of GG people came to support him. From the sound of it, GG supporters arranged a huge harassment campaign against his wife back in the day, so he couldnt stand that and told them all to go away.

      Now he’s stuck having an argument about politics with both sides yelling at him.

      Apparently he deliberately had avoided the word ‘apolitical’ for this reason. I’m interpreting it as he basically wants to go back to the level of politics from his era of the Escapist, avoiding any bait articles. But it’s hard to be neutral in such a charged environment, especially as The Escapist has a _lot_ of baggage.

  16. Dreadjaws says:

    Both your firing and the preference for pre-emptively attacking the audience on political leanings were the reason I abandoned that website for good. As someone who doesn’t live in the US, I certainly don’t care for US politics, but this goes well beyond that. The website started doing that thing that most major websites do these days where they try to pretend consumers are disgusting, racist and sexist beasts while defending everything corporate, and I certainly don’t need any more of that.

    “Oh, you don’t like this casting decision? Clearly you’re obviously a racist jerk, even if you happen to share the same race as that actor! There can’t be any other reason for you not to like it! Oh, you didn’t like this movie? Its quality has nothing to do with it, you obviously just hate women, even if there are literally hundreds of other previous comments made by you praising female-led movies, you sexist pig! Oh, you don’t like [thing]? That’s because you belong to [opposite political party], even if [thing] has nothing to do with politics, you live in a different country with different politics and you’ve evidently never shown any interest in politics whatsoever!”

    So, if I interpret that statement by Pitts correctly, that is the sort of thing that’s going to end, which I consider a strong, well made decision, the kind that would make me come back to the website. But we’ll have to see if it’s true.

  17. Nessus says:

    I suppose I’m in the minority in that I’d actually prefer The Escapist just died rather than see it’s old content creators return to it. I get that having a shared platform helps exposure and all, but I always felt like The Escapist was actually kind of a rubbish platform.

    Mostly because of the way it handled ads. It was REALLY aggressive and terrible in both the amount of ads and the lax vetting thereof. And to add insult to injury, they had an explicit policy in their TOS of “don’t talk about adblockers, and don’t talk about how you’re not allowed to talk about adblockers”. That was just really creepy and grasping.

    I also feel like those ex-Escapist content creators that I still follow are doing way better work as independents than they were under the Escapist, and those who I no longer follow largely earned my disinterest incidentally to their affiliation or independence from the Escapist*. So I don’t really feel like there’s much to be gained by people rejoining them, and there is stuff to be lost.

    The website was also sliding into a web design Charlie-Foxtrot by the time the creator exodus was in full swing. Every once in a while they’d revamp the site, making it a bit less intuitive to navigate each time, and that really started to add up. To be fair, this isn’t unique to them. I dunno why, but a lot of media and social media websites seem to get worse and worse design-wise as they age. For years now Facebook has been completely bass-ackward upside down inscrutable if you’re not already used to it. The Nexus retooled to a Metro-ish design about a year ago, and now it’s a horrible laggy, inefficient to navigate POS. Escapist was showing the early pustules of that disease when the exodus hit.

    *Extra Credits lost me before they left, as a result of occasional moments of glaring intellectual dishonesty eventually eroding my ability to take them seriously as an authority. Moviebob was thriving for a while after leaving, but eventually broke down and joined the “long-winded rage-posting as entertainment” bandwagon., and now he’s joined up with some other site and his content is split between accounts, which is never a great idea IMO. I still listen to Jim Sterling’s podcasts, but his Youtube journalism has gotten weak lately, and his rant/insight ratio has degraded over the last year or so. LRR on the other hand is rocking ever harder and thriving like kudzu, and apart from the falling out with the Spoiler Warning team, Shamus Young is as strong as ever.

    On the flip side, I basically stopped watching/reading Yahtzee when he became the only thing the Escapist had left. I didn’t stop enjoying him; he just wasn’t enough by himself to keep me to going back to that shambles of a website, so him staying ended up dropping him off my radar instead of keeping The Escapist on it.

    1. Redrock says:

      Never understood the negativity aimed towards Extra Credits. It’s a show that represents a different perspective, that of a developer. I find it refreshing and often find out something new from their shows. It’s always good to have a break from the “give-give-give” mentality of most gaming journalism and blogging.

      1. Viktor Berg says:

        A lot of people take issue with them stating opinions as facts. Remember the infamous “we’re gonna run out of bandwidth in the air” video? It was poorly researched and outright false in many aspects, and yet it was presented in a very matter-of-fact manner. Many of their videos are also very much politicallt charged, which definitely doesn’t help.

        1. Bloodsquirrel says:

          Their early videos were good, but a little before they left the Escapist they exhausted their stable of subjects that they were qualifed to talk about and started talking out of their asses while still presenting themselves as authorities. If I wasn’t on mobile I’d look up the video they did about that MMO that was changing how drops work, and saying that it was “objectively better for players” because they would get more useful items, without it ever having occurred to them that drop rates are set to progress the player at a certain rate in the first, and that the traditional system could drop just as many useful items just by doubling it.

  18. Mephane says:

    So when Pitts pledges that they’re “leaving politics at the door”, I imagine he’s promising they’re not going to be doing THAT nonsense.

    I hope you are right and it is just that. I am not a fan of sites that try to uphold a false balance, or refuse to talk about certain relevant topics altogether because that would require taking a stance.

    While I am grateful that this particular blog here is expressly meant to be apolitical, for a major news site, including gaming news, I do prefer those with a clear political leaning, because then it is clear what angle the staff are writing from. I prefer it when articles clearly show the author’s political intent over text that follows a subtle, possibly intentionally concealed, political agenda.

    1. Redrock says:

      I dunno, I feel that news shoudn’t have political bias. That’s what opinion pieces and columns are for. Neither shoud consumer advice reviews. You write a review in the style of ACG, tackling all points that an average consumer might be interested in. Than, if you wish, you post a column next to this review, where Ben Kuchera describes how offended he was by the fact that the female characters in Dragon’s Crown 2 weren’t covered head to toe and how much he despises himself and his children for being male (yes, that last part really happened). That’s how you get the best of both worlds, I imagine. Although, if it was me, I’d also publish an op-ed by, I dunno, Erik Kain, calling for rationality and peace right next to Kuchera’s piece. Balance shouldn’t mean not taking a stance. Balance means intellectual honesty.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        I like how Philip DeFranco does news:He tells the details of the story first,and then proceeds to give his opinion.Thats how honest journalism should be.But sadly,that does not sell as much as just biased piece from start to finish.

        As for consumer advice,that depends on what the product in question is.If its a piece of art,then I see no problem with politics seeping into it,as long as the reviewer tells his politics right up front.If you know how similar or different the reviewer is from you,then you can make an informed decision.

        1. Redrock says:

          But games aren’t exactly art or at least not just art when it comes to consumer decisions. Games are also a product and a service. Game reviews should probably be much closer to smartphone reviews than to film criticism.

          Yeah, DeFranco’s approach is decent. I don’t watch his show because the news he covers don’t interest me, but he is, at least, honest.

          1. Bloodsquirrel says:

            Games are part of both. There definitely needs to be narrative and thematic criticism in game reviews. But it needs to be honest.

            A good critic needs to be able to identify what a game is trying to do and engage with it on that level, not presuppose that the game is there to further their pet agenda and trash it when it doesn’t. I’ve always said that “just their opinion” is a useless form of criticism. Opinions are not special. I can get an opinion from anyone, including people who haven’t even played the game. A critic’s opinion needs to cut deeper than that. A game reviewer’s job isn’t to tell me whether he enjoyed a game or not, it’s to give me a good idea of whether I would enjoy a game or not.

  19. JCap says:

    I have read and enjoyed this site for quite a while but this post about the Escapist has resurfaced some of my reservations about the concept of have “No-Politics” rules. “No Politics” in my experience just means “Don’t question the status quo”.

    Politics isn’t just Red vs Blue, its the application of power structures in society. Just because an writer doesn’t acknowledge how those structures manifest in games doesn’t mean they’re not there. Places like Polygon and Kotaku are panned for calling for minority representation in games but failing to even acknowledge the overwhelmingly white, male and straight line up of video game main characters is equally political. It forms an implicit approval of the status quo, a political act that goes unnoticed because it doesn’t challenge readers.

    This is something that has been bouncing around my head for a while so feel free to critique. Just from what I’ve seen, its hard to apply “No Politics” without being totally hamstrung by it.

    1. Bloodsquirrel says:

      Places like Kotaku and Polygon are panned for calling for “representation” in a game about medieval Bohemia, and then badmouthing the game when it came out because the developers stuck to their guns and didn’t buckle.

      This is a classic example of the “everything was fine until you disagreed with me” mentality. Challenging the status quo isn’t what makes it political- there are plenty of ways that the status quo is challenged around here. The attitude that *my* challenging the status quo is a holy crusade and everyone who pushes back is an evil extremist is what makes it political.

      “No politics” means to stay away from subjects where that’s happened to the point where every conversation is now a barfight by default. But that’s hard to abide by when your attitude is that it’s always the other guy who started the fight, and that none of your opinions are ever extreme or controversial- only the opposition to them.

      1. JCap says:

        I would challenge the notion that Polygon and Kotaku are dismissed as SJW rags purely off the basis of the Kingdom Come commentary, I’m not that old but I remember that being the general feeling around those sites for at least that past half decade. Also I didn’t follow that particular controversy and don’t know much (if anything) about medieval bohemia so I can’t comment!

        However there are some things you raised that I would like to explore further. Firstly, I take your point about some conversations being an immediate barfight, but my view would be that the difficulty of the discourse doesn’t make that conversation not worth having.

        Secondly, I think you might have missed my point a little, but I apologise if I was unclear! Typing this hastily at work doesn’t help with clarity. I explicitly call out that challenging the status quo isn’t what makes something political, the thrust about what I’m trying to get across is that by refusing to comment on the status quo because of a “No politics” rule is itself a political stance because the existing structures surrounding and informing the creation of video games have been created by, you guessed it, politics. Therefore, refusing to talk about that status quo becomes an implicit defense because it prevents changing that status quo.

        1. Ninety-Three says:

          Granting for the sake of argument that it is an implicit defense, there’s something really weird going on for you to call an implicit defense of X equally political as an explicit attack on X. This implies the bizarre result that either implicit and explicit defenses are equally political, or that explicit defenses are more political than explicit attacks.

          1. JCap says:

            I kinda of get where you’re coming from but I don’t think that the ranking of things as more or less political adds anything to the discussion and is more of a distraction. Saying this is more political or less political is really semantics as far as I’m concerned. Someone explicitly being a Nazi and someone else watching Nazis gain political power in their country but not opposing them on the basis that it doesn’t affect them are obviously not as bad as each other, but the point is that they both have a role to play. One might be more political, but they need to other less political side not to say anything to get what they want so in the end, the distinction doesn’t matter.

            The key point here is whether or not you believe that enforcing a “No politics” rule in essence just prevents challenges to the status quo and that being recognised as itself a political act. I believe it does, and ends up just empowering some of the worst elements of the gaming community.

            In my experience and I’ll grant if yours is different, sites trying to remain “apolitical” or “politics-free” throughout the gamergate period resulted in them standing on the sidelines while hordes tried to harass women and minorities out of gaming spaced for fear of being accused of engaging in the dreaded “identity politics”. I suppose that is really my main issue, if we define only challenges to the status quo as political and call everything political in gaming explicitly bad, then we simply empower the people that the status quo benefits to maintain their position by preventing gaming sites from engaging in political discussions. TLDR: “No politics” for major publications like the Escapist are just the gag that the worst elements use to maintain power in gaming culture.

    2. John says:

      I think that Shamus’ desire to not have to moderate a bunch of angry, shouting comments is totally understandable and I don’t blame him for it one bit, especially when he also has to produce the content everyone is commenting on. For a larger organization with a dedicated staff of moderators, however, I think an explicit No Politics rule is a bit suspicious for exactly the reasons you mention.

      1. JCap says:

        You’re right on that front about Shamus needing some way of moderating this fun house as a one man band, so I take your point! Should have clarified that its mainly the Escapists of this world that I have an issue with, thanks for pointing it out though :)

    3. Daemian Lucifer says:

      As Shamus mentioned in another thread:

      There’s a huge difference between being willing to engage with a game that touches on political topics, and running up a flag saying, “GREEN TEAM #1”. Both of these are different still from posting “PURPLE TEAM SUCKS!” articles because you know that will score clicks and engagement from outraged purples.

      To me,what Pitts is saying is that first two are natural,and will definitely arise from time to time,but he does not want the third thing on the site.Thats a reasonable stance.

    4. Ninety-Three says:

      Places like Polygon and Kotaku are panned for calling for minority representation in games but failing to even acknowledge the overwhelmingly white, male and straight line up of video game main characters is equally political.

      This is a false equivalence. If the statement we’re considering is “Games are too white and that’s Problematic”, surely an equally political statement is “Game are just white enough and that’s great”, or heck, “Games are too black, more white people please!”. Compared to that, “No comment” looks way less political.

      1. Viktor says:

        “No comment” is just “Games are just white enough and that’s great” but without the balls to actually say it. If you don’t challenge the status quo you are supporting it.

        1. JCap says:

          I didn’t know how to phrase this but I think you hit the nail on the head Viktor.

        2. Shamus says:

          “You are either with us, or you are with the terrorists!”

  20. ccesarano says:

    In a lot of ways I’m fond with this decision. I feel that the best years for The Escapist were under Russ’ supervision. In fact, while Russ would be a continued presence elsewhere I’d frequent regarding games writing, it was The Escapist that I first learned his name. His wife Susan, who is also good people, tried her best, but I feel like Russ just did the best stretch.

    However, I’ve also always missed the origin as a “webzine”, where it was just five articles released in a given week. I recall having pretty much one thing to read a day, and I read just about everything they posted regardless of personal interest. There were investigations into gamer and fan culture, there were highlights of those less represented, there were in-depth stories on development or deep dives into the impact a game had on the writer or the writer’s subjects… for the longest time The Escapist was my favorite site, and I’ve always thought them grabbing Zero Punctuation was a great bit of foresight on their part. I was so happy when you were picked up by them, Shamus, and it was through Escapist that I discovered Sean Sands and then GamersWithJobs, where I would write for the front page for a while and be encouraged by their editor Erik Hanson to improve.

    I don’t know about any specific downhill movement, but I really think… well, GamerGate was a major catalyst, but for me personally it all started with that first episode of Feminist Frequency. I remember thinking “Yes, I would like to see better representation of women and minorities in video games” and I wasn’t some radical SJW for these thoughts. However, I also remember watching that first episode and thinking “I dunno, I agree with needing greater representation but this argument just isn’t very convincing to me”. I shared it with some female gaming friends of mine and found other female YouTubers to see if I was just being some ignorant man and I found I wasn’t alone. But go out into forums and other areas of social media and to think any such negative thoughts about that first episode made you wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong and you’re just some ignorant white privileged man.

    Which is right about where GamerGate bursts onto the scene, and God help me I almost fell victim to it. You ever read some of what’s come out about the downfall of Channel Awesome? Evidently GamerGate created a huge rift, where despite their feelings one way or another the gaming-based content was effectively shunned simply because they were gamers. Being Right-of-Center politically, I found myself being driven closer and closer to defending GamerGate because I was tired of the divisive attitudes that told me I was wrong about everything. Those that were Left-of-Center, meanwhile, were so offended by the worst of the GamerGate mob that they had no choice but to migrate to the furthest Left extremes.

    I still consider it a stain on my past, and I was never even a participant of GamerGate proper. But I could never go back to The Escapist because their efforts to be apolitical rang hollow and I saw plenty of articles closer to the Right-wing spectrum that were just… garbage. It became the Fox News of video games journalism in regards to written content.

    When Russ Pitts says he’s “leaving politics at the door”, I trust his meaning. I know he still wants to put a spotlight onto games that may bring to light progressive ideas or are thought provoking, but he doesn’t want to use the place as a personal soap box.

    What does this mean for MovieBob? That’s a good question. I used to follow his Game Overthinker series as well, and in hindsight I think the problems with MovieBob have little to do with his political leanings and more to do with his ego and logical fallacies. His character “The Game Underthinker” is a straw man character intended to insult a type of gamer in order to elevate his own opinion and perspective. It is immature and any proper writer or critic would not resort to such a childish caricature in such a clearly biased manner. That MovieBob’s politics would be so insulting and flamboyant to those who disagree with him is no surprise, but I think is a symptom of a greater problem of character. As such, I have no interest in his content and have not for a long time. Perhaps he’s grown up, but when I stopped watching I had the feeling that his success had gotten to him. I will not hold my breath on whether his content has matured.

    In truth, part of me is wondering if there’s a place I can submit interest in being a part of the new Escapist staff, but my qualifications are pitiful. Simultaneously, I’m not a journalist. I’m a critic, and a critic that caters to a very, very small audience. I can’t put on a well-polished video, I can’t update videos more than every two months at best (I’m assuming any writers would be part-time, given the modern state of things), and making videos distracts from my writing, which has been similarly focused on mechanics and narrative themes I just do not expect to get traction.

    But y’know what? Russ Pitts used to hang around GamersWithJobs, so maybe my pal Erik Hanson can help me figure out if it’s even worth a try.

    We’ll see.

    Final note: I’d gladly keep submitting to your Patreon even if you were getting paid to write for The Escapist. I’d rather you have as many reliable streams of income as you can than only have a limited and unsteady supply.

  21. Shamus says:

    The hell, guys? I’m massively disappointed in how many of you went straight into politics. I get up this morning and the thread is full of overt political discussion that has nothing to do with games, The Escapist, or gaming media.

    Thread closed.

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