I’ve mulled this letter for a few weeks now, wondering what exactly to say, how exactly to say it, and come to the conclusion there is no easy way for me to say this. So, I suppose the “like a Band-Aid” approach is best: I am leaving The Escapist.
I didn’t start at Themis Group (the owner of The Escapist) as the Editor-in-Chief – The Escapist didn’t yet exist when I joined. Rather, I was hired to be a marketing copywriter, a job for which I was only lightly qualified. I came from a background of medical research and held a university degree in history – ancient history, specifically. But it seems I have a flair for writing, and in (what I hope I have proven to them to be) their wisdom, Alex Macris and Tom Kurz brought me on board for what was to be one hell of a crazy ride.
In winter 2004-2005, a few months after I started at Themis, we decided to do something about the state of the media covering games. It was troubling; not that the outlets of the time weren’t doing well at what they did, just that there was so much more to cover. Games are consumer products, yes, and they should be reviewed and discussed in and of themselves. But the people and the companies and the histories behind those games are just as important, even more so in the widespread establishment of game development in its proper place as an art form, as an innovation leader and as one of the most vibrant industries in the world.
We were jumping in not to compete with IGN and Gamespot, but to bring something new. So I researched Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, The Economist, Harvard Business Review and several other magazines of similar stature. I wanted to figure out what makes these publications tick, what their goals are, why they are so good at what they do. From this research, and from the mission decided upon by our passionate team of founders, I wrote the first set of submission guidelines for The Escapist‘s then-future contributors. On the strength of those guidelines, and likely because I was the only writer on staff, I became the Editor-in-Chief of The Escapist, a mantle I’ve proudly carried to this day.
The Escapist launched on July 12, 2005. Those were interesting times, the early days of The Escapist. The very small and rather green group on staff at that time created not only the processes still in use today, but also the heart and soul of the site. Though we produced more written content than most print magazines covering games (around 45,000 words a month!) and our pages were as beautifully designed and displayed as any print publication out there, we had only one editor, one artist and one-and-a-half tech people working on day-to-day operations. Those months of late nights, early mornings and non-existent weekends, while hard, were necessary to fulfill the important mission of The Escapist: to cover and treat the games industry in the way it should be, with respect for its creativity, innovation, vitality and significance.
And you, our dear readers, responded to that mission. You trickled in at first; over time, you told your friends, word got out and now you come in droves. In four years, we went from nothing – no website, no freelancers, no forum-goers, no videos, no staff – to one of the top games-related websites in the world, both popularly and critically. No, really:
- Each month, we have over three million users from all over the world, visiting our pages over 30 million times.
- We are home to one of, if not the, most popular video series on the web.
- For their work on The Escapist, our staff members have been nominated for various journalistic, design and technology awards.
- We have won three Webby Awards, of both the academy-given and popular vote variety, for being the best videogame-related website in the world.
Of course, what should follow now is: Why are you leaving all this?
It is time. I feel like I’ve accomplished what I set out to accomplish. I cannot explain it better than that. The editorial team I leave behind is an excellent one – I know, I built it myself! 😛 I’m not afraid to build a team of people smarter than me, which is in part what teamwork is about – you see, their success is my success. And I fully expect to continue being successful for years to come. But there are a couple of thank-you wishes in which I hope you’ll allow me to indulge:
Alex and Tom, thank you for trusting in my judgment and ability to steer this ship. As I mentioned above, I do hope I have proven your wisdom in placing that trust.
Team Humidor, thank you for being creative, inspiring and solid enough to allow me to feel I can roll on, knowing the hard work of so many, including myself, over the years will be safe in your care.
The Escapist staff and freelancers, thank you for your passion. You have fed mine over the years. Do not lose it, for the ideals upon which The Escapist is founded are Strong and Good.
Game developers, thank you for your willingness to put your heart and soul into your work; it shows. Your work is important, for there is little sweeter in life than to bring joy into someone else’s.
And finally, Escapists, thank you for keeping me on my toes, calling me on my mistakes, congratulating me on my wins and generally pushing me to be my best, every day. You are the engine which propels this place to greatness.
And so, on the eve of The Escapist‘s fourth birthday, I turn the reigns over to my original partner in crime, my very first hire: Russ Pitts, whom you currently know as “Head Video Dude.” As dramatic as vaulting onto my horse and riding off into the sunset would be, I will still be around on the forums discussing games or home remedies or whether toilet paper should roll over (yes) or under (never). And you may even see my byline on an article now and then, something I rarely had time to do while on staff. It has truly been a pleasure and an adventure.