Changing with Change

Inscribed on Captain Nemo’s dinnerware in Jules Verne’s novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is the motto Mobilis in mobile, which can be translated as “moving within the thing that moves” or, more simply, “changing with change.” I think it’s as good a motto for a media company like The Escapist as it is for the Captain of the Nautilus. It’s particularly meaningful for me today as I start my tenure as Editor-in-Chief.

Before we get started, you should know a little more about me. I first started writing freelance videogame reviews back in 1998 and liked it well enough to make it a full time gig. Like any first-time freelancer, I paid my dues, which in my case meant reviewing all the schlock that the staff editors didn’t want to touch. I wasn’t reviewing Half-Life or Starcraft or EverQuest; no, I was reviewing stuff like Jeff Gordon’s Pepsi Racer. It may not have been glamorous, but it was better than making copies at Kinko’s.

I stuck with it and soon moved to San Francisco to start working in-house for a new network of sites bundled under the name IGN. At the time, I was merely “the wargames guy.” I had been a student of military history and was hired because IGN wanted PC Gamer’s Desktop General, Bill Trotter, but couldn’t afford him. Eventually, I moved up to take charge of the site’s PC content and become Editor-in-Chief and, a few years later, Executive Editor. I also got to enjoy a few months of browsing through yacht catalogs before the dot-com crash and the subsequent roller coaster ride down the slope of our declining share price.

After things stabilized, I began pining for a lower cost-of-living and discernible seasons, so I moved back to North Carolina and took a job as Managing Editor here at The Escapist. Since starting here last year, I’ve been in charge of the day-to-day operations of the site. I’ve been deciding, among other things, what you see on the front page, what we’re reviewing each month, and how we cover the big trade shows. Behind the scenes, I’ve taken a larger role in nurturing our relationships within the industry and among the various departments that make it possible for us to publish the site each and every day.

Now I’m taking over as Editor-in-Chief, which means I’ll be working alongside our publisher to set the overall vision for our editorial content and continue to deliver the same high quality content you’ve come to expect. I couldn’t be more excited to bring the same energy and focus the site has shown over the last few years to the changes and challenges that lie ahead. And make no mistake; as a website devoted to covering the gamer lifestyle, we’ve embraced two of the world’s fastest changing industries, videogames and the internet.

In my thirteen years working on the Web, I’ve seen the dot-com bubble bloat and burst, shopping and social media dominate the time we spend online, and content sharing blur the lines between creators and consumers. I’ve also watched traditional media struggle and fail to keep up with the sudden and unexpected evolutions of the Internet. They were, in a sense, unable to “change with change.” Even supposedly nimble and otherwise discerning online media companies fell by the wayside as they failed to capitalize on the ever-shrinking window between tomorrow’s Next Big Thing and yesterday’s Old News.

The pace of change for the game industry has been nearly as rapid. For one thing, games aren’t just games anymore; they’re full-fledged media properties, with budgets and cross-marketing potential on the scale of Hollywood movies. But even as titles like Call of Duty and World of Warcraft redefine our expectations for what games can achieve, in terms of both technical presentation and cultural impact, we’re also seeing an entirely different approach succeed for the likes of Angry Birds and Minecraft.

We as gamers have changed as well. The once-monolithic concept of “gamer” has been shattered. From my three-year-old daughter who plays Fruit Ninja on my phone on the way to pre-school, to my relatives who would never call themselves gamers yet spend hour after hour on Farmville each day, gaming is expanding beyond its traditional definition. We are teenagers who queue up for midnight launches, armed with pre-order vouchers and a handful of DS games to pass the time. We are moms and dads struggling to carve out a few precious hours to reconnect with a beloved hobby, or even to share that love with the next generation of gamers. We are hardcore tabletop gamers, who watch with interest as the methods and successes of physical and digital gaming bleed into one another.

So what does all that mean for The Escapist? Well, first, that we have to acknowledge those changes if we want to maintain our claims that we celebrate gaming as a lifestyle. Neither can we neglect the present innovations and coming revolutions in online media if we’re going to retain our position as an award-winning, thought-leading website. Does that mean abandoning our core principles or diminishing the value of what we currently offer? Absolutely not. But it does mean we have an amazing opportunity to continue doing what we do best while we also enlarge our borders and apply The Escapist‘s strengths to exciting new areas.

The Escapist has always served as an antidote to some of the more unfortunate trends in videogame criticism. You won’t find one-sidedly optimistic previews here, or reviews where the commentator’s personal likes and dislikes masquerade as actual criticism. You also won’t find news stories that just repeat facts but provide no framework of understanding, or features where the writer clearly cares more about word-count than actual commentary. What you will find are some of the most talented and insightful contributions anyone is making to our side of the industry. I’ve been proud to work alongside these talented people, and I’m excited to help them meet the challenges ahead.

Ultimately, The Escapist is too big to be defined by one person or one concept. We’ll be rolling out some new ideas in the coming weeks and months, and I’m very interested to see what you’ll think of them. Feel free to follow me on Twitter or drop me a note through the forums. I’d love to hear what you have to say.

Thanks for reading!

Steve Butts

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