The Escapist is an odd beast. There are the fine words of our writers, the fancy art, the sleek back-end. But which is it that brings people back?
Is it the content? Is it the presentation? Is it the feeling of looking at a print magazine, without the clutter? I suspect it's some combination of all these factors, plus some. And I further suspect that combination is completely different for each person.
This is the same for games. The debate over the importance of various aspects of game creation is hot. The quest for the perfect balance of story, gameplay, beautiful graphics, new themes, old favorites is, in essence, one without end. Or perhaps, no one end.
So, what do we do in this case? How do you entice people to return?
The thing(s) which bring people back to The Escapist, I think, are our strong choices. We didn't go middle of the road on much. We went way different on user interface; we went way different on art style; we went way different on editorial, at least from the rest of the gaming media.
As such, we're quite polarizing. I get letters each week saying, "I love the look of your magazine - why don't all sites look like this." Those are sitting right next to letters asking, "Why is your site broken? This is the web, not print!"
Yes, it's risky. But so was making a game in which the object is to roll everything up into a ball to make a star. So was making a game where we all got the chance to rock out on a guitar on our guitar-shaped controller. So was spending four years creating the most beautifully rendered colossi as foes.
Is taking risks the be all, end all method for success? Eh, that's just my opinion. But, in order for you to help form your own, this week's issue of The Escapist, "Ludo, Ergo Sum" focuses on the philosophy of game design. Dave Thomas returns this week with an interview with one of the brightest stars in interactive entertainment, Trip Hawkins, discussing everything from Trip's total fascination with game stores to Digital Chocolate. Mark Wallace talks to luminaries of the ludology v. narratology debate about their recent gameplaying habits, and returned with interesting results. And Allen Varney discusses roleplay theory - tabletop style. Find these articles and more in this week's issue of The Escapist.