Happy Anniversary

Happy Anniversary
The Escapist's Bold Experiment

Allen Varney | 6 Jul 2010 13:26
Happy Anniversary - RSS 2.0

Nowadays, The Escapist traffic is one of Kurz's favorite topics, "because the numbers tell a great story":

May 2008

    Unique visitors: 2,292,696
    Pageviews: 16,122,379

May 2009
    Uniques: 3,137,084
    Pageviews: 27,577,438

May 2010
    Uniques: 4,875,694
    Pageviews: 41,333,474
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As what Kurz calls "the bread and butter of Themis Media," The Escapist closely matches the best case outlined in that 2005 pitch. Macris says, "We hit both our quantitative and qualitative goals. We now serve over three million monthly readers. We won the Webby Award two years in a row for Best Game-Related Website, and the Mashable Award for Best Online Magazine alongside The New York Times."

Themis was also oracular; she built the Oracle at Delphi. Here the symbol fails, because even now, nobody knows what's coming next. For example, over half the 2005 pitch describes a proposed Escapist Festival - "not a summit like DICE, nor is it a conference like GDC, an expo like E3 or a convention like Gen Con. Rather, it is a festival in the tradition of the Sundance Film Festival and the SXSW Music Festival." Will that ever happen? Macris says, "For various reasons, we didn't launch the festival and just focused on the website. But that remains a possibility for the future."

The website is now in its third iteration. "We were a pretty and clumsy newborn," says Hayter, "then went through an awkward kind of pubescence (Blue/Black/Yellow design), and emerged more on the adult side of design with our Blue/White design." The current design, rolled out in early 2009, was born of necessity. "We had more readers, more content, more kinds of content and a lot more staff updating everything on the fly. We had to rebuild our content management systems, how we managed our production, and we had to wrap all that in a design that our users would enjoy and one we were happy with ourselves."

The current design permits great modularity. "We wanted the site to work with the demands and expectations of the mutable web," says Lincoln. For instance, for the recent Apocalypse issue the Team re-skinned the entire site at almost a moment's notice. "The Escapist is a rich landscape of content, and we want folks to find it all, but the A-board out front will always be too small. This is our challenge, and I'm looking forward to some of the solutions we've assembled to deal with it." Hayter adds, "Rest assured, it will always be the aim to provide our amazing content in the best way possible."

"I'm particularly fond of our most recent version," says Smith. "We've finally been able to give our editors the power to hand-pick all the content we feature on the front pages of our different sections, using a visual drag-an-drop interface. The whole thing can be changed in second; it's something that would have been unthinkable when we originally launched. I like to think that we're always trying to push new ground, though not always in obvious ways."

The Escapist started as a bold experiment. Five years on, the experiment continues.

Allen Varney, a freelance writer and game designer unaffiliated with Themis Media, has written over 70 articles for The Escapist.

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