The Escapist Is…Columns


Last week, we announced a change in format for The Escapist. Rather than packaging a few specific features together each week, we’ll be considering all of our content offerings as part of each week’s issue. That means news, reviews, videos, regular columns and webcomics will all join the feature articles as important parts of each weekly issue. To help kick off this transition, we’re offering a quick look at the types of content we produce each week.

Today, it’s columns. Each week we feature several regular series where our regular contributors offer their insights on games and geek culture. From the financial costs and emotional rewards of gaming to the latest attempts of geek culture to break into the mainstream, our columnists break down how and why this industry does (and often doesn’t) work. Whether you’re looking to understand the ins-and-outs of a successful videogame marketing campaign, or just looking for tips for your own D&D campaign, our weekly series give you insight into a wide range of topics.

Here are just a few of our popular regular columns.

Ask Dr. Mark

imageMost of my colleagues would agree that rampant and ubiquitous technology use has changed the way families feel. It is not uncommon for an evening in the Dr. Mark household to involve five people interacting with five different forms of technology, some interactional, like gaming or Facebook, but none involving actual communication with each other. I have a remarkable relative with great ideas for clever games that actually make us play with each other, and when she visits, we have fun together, but it’s certainly hard to sustain that level of involvement on a daily basis.

We have talked a lot in this forum about achieving balance between gaming and the rest of life, and many of you have firmly asserted that this is possible–it’s often a matter of managing the hobby so school, work and other family obligations are met. I have truly known adolescents and young adults that find a way to function pretty well with five hours of gaming a day. This doesn’t mean that they couldn’t be more productive, better rested, or more engaged with the real world if they didn’t do this–it just means they have found a way to make it work.

Check for Traps

image“As a gamemaster, you will screw up. It happens to the best of us. At some point the caffeine-induced high will wear off, the Doritos will mess with your synaptic speed, and you’ll accidentally forget that a Gargantuan Kraken gets to do both standard damage and bonus constriction damage when grappling with a tentacle. Because of this mistake, the situation in the game world will bear no relation to what it would have been had you not erred. If you value consistency and realism in your game play (or are simply an OCD perfectionist), this is a traumatic moment.”

Experienced Points

image“You can hate Portal 2 if you like. Hate it for being only about 50% longer than the average shooter. Hate it for having fantastical pseudo-science setting instead of a gritty, ultra-brown motif. Hate it for being playful and witty instead of macho and serious. Hate it for having puzzles instead of murder as its core mechanic. Hate it because protagonist Chell is just a boring analytical Latina woman instead of an awesome white Ex-Navy SEAL dude with short brown hair. Hate it because it allows console and PC gamers to play together instead of maintaining the firm platform segregation that’s made the gaming community such a joy these last few decades. Hate it for experimenting with new ideas instead of sticking to what already works and has been done elsewhere. Hate it because you’re an indignant little rage-bot and you know deep down you don’t deserve something this good. But don’t hate Portal 2 for actually moving against the prevailing DLC trends. If you’re on a crusade against DLC, start with EA. Start with BioWare. Start with Blizzard.”

Extra Consideration

image“It’s true that consoles are capable of some pretty amazing things these days, but the same can’t be said for developers, who are squashy humans who still need time to go to the bathroom. Game development on the cutting edge is more of a rich boy’s club than it’s ever been before, and it’s no longer just about being able to afford the best rendering technology. The sheer amount of man hours that go into just a single level, between high-resolution textures, detailing, character animation, without even getting into gameplay or story design, is testicle-shrivellingly daunting for any team. It drives independent developers to more manageable platforms like XBLA or mobiles. And that’s why you’re not going to see much innovation on the triple-A side of things, since innovation in almost every creative industry drives the independent rather than the mainstream industry, which inevitably becomes more concerned with the aforementioned $60 roster update, the crankin’ of the guaranteed investment return sequel machine.”

Extra Punctuation

image“As promised, I’m going to give out some quick capsule thoughts on a selection of the third party game trailers from E3 to discourage anyone from getting excited, but first I’d just like to quickly address David Jaffe’s statement The Escapist reported on last week: that game critics need to call developers out more often on always doing the same old shit. Fuck yes, man, and I’m doing the best I can from my end of the trench, but I think everyone has to split the blame for the state of the industry – the press, the creators, and the audience that keep buying it. Besides, this coming from David Jaffe, David “Twisted Metal, Twisted Metal 2, Twisted Metal Black, Twisted Metal Head On: Extra Twisted Edition and Twisted Metal Again” Jaffe, smacks a little of a five-year-old faecal artist trying to blame his older sister for not tattling on him fast enough.”

First-Person Marketer

image“The last bit of marketing that Duke Nukem Forever got noticed for is the delay of the game, spun as “Duke never comes early”. At this point, the pool of people who would buy this game is pretty much solidified. There aren’t a lot of new acquisitions to be made. This freed up the marketing and PR team to make a lame pun about ejaculation and pretty much deliver it to the people for whom the message was intended. The group of people who had decided not to buy the game or participate in their marketing had also passed it off as another reason to not buy the game – it was a no loss situation at that point. It did, however, spike interest in the game and it was a PR and marketing success because it accomplished what it set out to do. Solidify intent to purchase among those who were predisposed to buy but either didn’t know about it or those who were leaning towards purchase.”


image“Even if you don’t encounter many women on a day-to-day basis, that’s no excuse to stay single. All those guys you work and game and hang with? Each one of them has sisters and friends, neighbors and coworkers. WoW guildmates. D&D regulars. Con buddies. Forum friends. All are potential connections in the making – and these women know women, who know women, and so on. All you need to do is ask. Rely on your social network to catch the fish you can’t. (And you thought Farmville was just a waste of time. It’s practice!)”


image“While it’s inevitable (and deserved) that comics fans will be using Green Lantern as a punch line for its numerous sins as an adaptation (are “glowy veins” the new “bat-nipples”?) its true failings are in the realm of basic moviemaking. This is Film Studies 101 stuff – the kind of problems you’d expect to find in an amateur YouTube production. And when you contrast it against the ginormous wall (soon to be ginormous discount-bin) of Green Lantern baubles at your local Wal-Mart, the picture becomes depressingly clear – and depressingly familiar. This is what happens when the people making the movie are interested in everything but making the actual movie.”

About the author