Some of the staff here at The Escapist have a big presence on the forums, and we try to communicate with you guys as much as possible about our content and the direction of the website as a whole. We realized, however, that there might be some questions burning a hole in your mind, that there might be some nugget of information about The Escapist that you’ve always wanted to know but didn’t have a way to ask.
A few weeks ago, in preparation for the anniversary of our fifth year of existence, we decided to provide that outlet. Audience members could log in to formspring.me and ask any question that they wanted. We circulated those questions to the staff, including some of the office denizens that may not have such a big presence on the site but who are vital to making The Escapist work. We compiled the best of their answers for your viewing pleasure. If the user supplied their profile, then we made sure to mention it, but otherwise the questions were asked anonymously.
Get ready for a bumpy ride. This is the true story when people stop being polite and start being real. The Escapist, Durham, NC.
Will you ever go print? I prefer reading online but it would be very fun to collect the articles like I do with GI.
Russ Pitts, Editor-in-Chief: We’ve always looked toward the future of media with everything we do at The Escapist. So when we were founded, in 2005, we could see the writing on the wall that print was on its way out as a viable medium, incapable of supporting the kind of company we wanted to be. So for us, going online just made sense, and still makes sense.
Yet we, too, would like to see our articles in print in some way, shape or form. It will never be our primary way of making a buck, but it’s something we’re seriously looking at.
What does the future of Warcry look like? And will Themis Media be starting any other endeavors?
Alex Macris, Publisher and CEO (Archon): As my spiritual teacher, Master Yoda, once said: “Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future.”
When’s the next PonyJam?
Susan Arendt, Senior Editor: July 2011. Be there or be square!
Susan Arendt: Why are you so obsessed with ponies? And how did the obsession start?
Susan Arendt, Senior Editor: The obsession isn’t pony-specific. I’m a lover of all things cute, and start my day with my Cute Overload email and calendar. I like kittens, puppies, ducks, hedgehogs … if it’s anerable (cute-speak for “adorable”), I’m fond of it. The pony thing grew out of a thread in which one member of our community made a joke about “Susan reviewing all the pony games.” I asked our artist, Carrie, who actually is obsessed with ponies, if she could make me a special badge and she said yes, on one condition – that she could have it, too. And thus began our path toward poniosity.
When are you going to invade Nintendo with Nerf bazookas and ninja ponies? – Asked by MarbleDragon
Carrie Keymel, Artist: Well, it takes time to train ninja ponies, they don’t just appear. Or maybe they do … they are ninjas after all. I’m not gonna outright say that we may be the cause of the Apocalypse in 2012, but just imagine a utopia where games are the number one source of entertainment and nerds finally rule all. It will be glorious and every person shall have a ninja pony of their very own (although hopefully at this point they will be Bionic Ninja Ponies with built in Nerf Gun attachments).
Our probability machine gives us a .00000000000009 chance of this outcome. I think that’s pretty decent odds. We are currently recruiting for our Cannon Fodder brigade, if you are interested.
What would you consider to be an amazing day at The Escapist? – Asked by Magnatek
Kara Lincoln, Sales Manager: Any day that includes baked goods, which happens quite often.
Do you guys regularly post in The Escapist forums, just for fun? What have been some of your favorite threads to read/post in? – Asked by Ramthundar
Susan Arendt, Senior Editor: I like to post as much as possible. I got into this industry because I love talking to people about games, and our community offers some of the most intelligent and informed conversation you’re likely to find. I enjoy posting in the forums because The Escapist is the type of site I would visit even if I didn’t work here. It’s also important to me that the community knows us as people, and fellow gamers, and what better way for them to find out what we’re like than to show up and chat?
What gave y’all the idea of setting up a Formspring page? Are y’all proud of The Escapist? If so then why? – Asked by DementedTeddy
Lauren Admire, Editorial Assistant: We decided to set up a formspring page because we realized that, though we know a lot about you guys, you may not know that much about us. Though the editorial team hangs out in the forums a lot, there are a bunch of other folks working here that you may want to get to know, and we wanted to give our users an opportunity to reach out to other staff members. We are very proud of The Escapist. It began as just a glimmer in Alex and Julianne’s eye, and it’s grown from there.
If you had a chance to voice act any role in any game, which would you pick? – Asked by Deofuta
Susan Arendt, Senior Editor: I’d absolutely love to be in a story-heavy game like Mass Effect or BioShock. The chance to play a really well-developed character would be marvelous.
Alex Macris, Publisher and CEO (Archon): I’d like to be a villain in a fantasy RPG. An evil sorcerer, perhaps.
What would be the oddest memory of working at The Escapist?
Susan Arendt, Senior Editor: There are plenty of odd moments. You kind of forget, in the day-to-day, how bizarre what we do for a living is. Every so often, you kind of have to take a step back and say “Yes … I am getting paid to do this. This is my job.” The most recent moment like that was while we were putting together materials for the Mario Party. Remember that video where we asked the staff about Mario games? Well, someone (Russ, I think) came up with the idea that we should all do the Mario at the end, but none of us remembered exactly how. So we gathered around a computer, looked it up, and took notes on what to do. There’s something extremely surreal about grown adults seriously studying Captain Lou Albano’s gyrations as the credits for a cartoon show run past. That’s my job, folks. Sometimes it is just very, very odd.
What are the consequences of attempting to fake the funk? I’m too scared to try myself.
– Asked by MarbleDragon
John Funk, Games Editor: No one knows. No one has ever lived to tell the tale.
Who’s the most underrated athlete?
Kara Lincoln, Sales Manager: Chicago White Sox’s Jake Peavy. He’s got a lot of heart, and isn’t so hard on the eyes. Though I liked him a lot better when he was playing for my Padres (don’t laugh!).
Greg Tito, Features Editor: I like the gamers, the guys that always put in quality play but never get recognized as stars. In basketball, I loved watching Tony Allen and his defense on Kobe Bryant in the Finals. But my current favorite is John McDonald on the Blue Jays. He’s a utility infielder that’s been in the MLB for over ten years and is a wonder with the leather, but unfortunately his bat will never let him start consistently. It’s just a bonus that he’s from my hometown of East Lyme, Connecticut.
How long has Funk been collecting those Gundam Models? How many? How much did they all cost? – Asked by Greyfox105
John Funk, Games Editor: I’ve been a Gundam fan since ~2000, but I didn’t really start collecting and building models until I was living on my own after I graduated. So it’s been about two years now, and I have on my desk 15 different models of various size and complexity. The smallest maybe cost me $15, most cost $30-50, and some of the bigger ones ran me $80-100.
I also have a 1/100th RX-93 Nu Gundam Master Grade kit that has been half completed since last April because the screws are stripped and stuck half-in the torso. I can’t get them out or in. Sadface.
Is there a preferred gaming platform amongst the staff? Do the staff have any sort of divides over what platform they think is best?
Kara Lincoln, Sales Manager: I think most of the people here have multiple platforms and aren’t tied to a specific one. A few years ago, pre next-gen platform gaming, it was definitely PC heavy here in the office but now not so much I’d say.
Do you have any suggestions for an up-incoming game programmer (like a better method to learn C++)? – Asked by twaddle
Jason Smith, Technology Director (Virgil): I only have one real suggestion – program as much as you can on as many different platforms as you can get your hands on. The good news is that there are a lot of opportunities available for you to do this – XNA for Windows/Xbox, iPhone/iPad development, and Unity are all freely available frameworks with plenty of examples to build off of. Or try your hand at building a mod or add-on for existing games – particularly the ones with heavy scripting language support. It doesn’t matter if they’re any good at first, but everything you try will make you a better developer, and the lessons you learn building them will be invaluable in your future endeavors.
Why are you all so awesome?
Nick Haines, Associate Producer (Capn Crunch): The process is really quite complicated. Those of us that were grown in the lab go through a period of rigorous scientific testing to ensure we meet the minimum standard of awesomeness for Escapists, measured in “Giga-Trons.” These tests may include “things that rhyme with Chewbacca,” “name an obscure 8-bit game,” and “using the 3 seashells,” to name a few. Those that score in the top percentile qualify for staff, and the rest are blended into a kind of congealed soup that smells a lot like bacon, which is then recycled to make the next batch of hopefuls.
The “free-range” Escapist staff have it much harder though; in addition to the testing procedure, they must undergo a ritual initiation by a shaman of each tribe: Atari, Nintendo, Microsoft, Sony, and Sega. The trials of the initiation process are as mysterious as they are dangerous – several of us bear scars from exhaustive flailing sessions with the Wii, and all have suffered the dreaded “controller claw” at the Trial of Atari. Those that pass all the trials are generally above the 200 Giga-Vader mark, and receive the honorific gold username and begin their training in Nerf warfare and the ancient practice of Dungeons & Dragons.
How many reports and complaints do you guys get per day? (On average)
Matt Kuliani, Community Manager (Kuliani): Honestly, I don’t know. I don’t count them or create a spreadsheet of effectiveness versus various number manipulations. It is my belief that if I did start doing that, the community has stopped being about people and more about page views, and when that happens, we might as well just get rid of all community functions and put more time into other monetizing ventures. Most of the big name gaming communities have already gone there and are being held together by die-hard fans and pressure from their parent company to keep things looking less corporate.
The volunteer moderators and I take a look at all of the complaints, reports, appeals, and PMs sent to us and get a “feeling” about how the community is doing. Trends are communicated and improvements discussed. There is a very good reason why the Posting Guidelines are guidelines instead of rules and why the moderators are all volunteers; no one wants a police officer or district attorney listening into their private conversations.
What kind of music do you guys listen to at the office? – Asked by TheMilkLizard
Allison Harn, Artist (Lima): Well let’s see, I listen to a lot of music. I’m a big fan of beat italiano and soundtracks from Italian action flicks from the ’60s and ’70s like Baretta 70; Crooners like Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin; French & French-Canadian punk like Les Breastfeeders, current indie music and jazz/soul singers like Dinah Washington and Etta James.
Some of the more well-known music I listen to regularly would be White Rabbits, Them Crooked Vultures, LCD Soundsystem, Mumford & Sons, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, David Bowie, Esthero, Muse, and Spoon.
At the end of the day it really depends on what kind of artwork I’m working on because that’s what usually influences what music I gravitate towards. If I’m working on stuff that involved blood and gore I might lean towards the beat italiano, punk music and trip-hop.
If I’m working on stuff that’s more fantasy based I may lean more towards jazz and the old crooners.
John Funk, Games Editor: I usually just find something on YouTube and listen to it (and others) over and over again. It really fluctuates. The other week was just Lady Gaga’s two albums over and over, but before that was Flogging Molly. Lately I just finished watching Macross Frontier, so I’ve been listening to that soundtrack on repeat …
Who was the first to come up with the name for the website?
Alex Macris, Publisher and CEO (Archon): I actually came up with the name for the website on 15th of March, 2005. The other name I came up with was “International Games Insider” so it’s probably for the best that we went with The Escapist …
How did you finally get the job at The Escapist? – Asked by dex-dex
Steve Butts, Managing Editor: I had been working fulltime for IGN for eleven years, first in the San Francisco office and then from my home in North Carolina. Earlier this year IGN asked me to move back to San Francisco and I declined. Not sure what I wanted to do next, I called some of my contacts here in North Carolina and asked them to keep an eye out for any new opportunities. As luck would have it, one of the people I reached out to asked if I’d moderate a marketing panel at the upcoming Triangle Games Conference. It was a great opportunity to get my face out there and meet some of the local folks, so I jumped at the chance. That night, the speakers and exhibitors were all invited to a party where I happened to meet with The Escapist‘s publisher, Alex Macris. He’d heard I was looking for a new job, so we grabbed a conference room and chatted about working together. At one point, he called me an “older guy.” Since we are nearly the same age, I let it slide.
I met with Editor-in-Chief Russ Pitts a few times over the next month or so to discuss our own editorial philosophies and some of the company’s processes. The Escapist needed a Managing Editor to run the day-to-day operations of the editorial department, and we both thought I’d be a good fit for that job. I had a few more meetings with the editorial team and the directors of the other departments. After a few more interviews, Russ rode down the elevator with me and offered me the job. A few weeks later, I found myself walking into the building as a brand new employee with a sack of tuna fish sandwiches and my Dr. Strange action figure.
Why did you choose to be based out of NC when there were so many other options? Brooklyn, Manhattan, Bronx, Staten, Queens, Washington, etc. All valid choices, yet you choose North Carolina. Explain.
Alex Macris, Publisher and CEO (Archon): Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina has been cited as the country’s #1 Boom Town, and one of the best places to live. It is also one of the country’s leading hubs for videogames. Epic Games, Red Storm, Insomniac, Atomic, EA Sports, Vicious Cycle, Emergent Game Technologies, and about 30 other companies are all located here. Additionally, our sister city Chapel Hill, NC, has one of the country’s leading journalism schools, and nearby Wilmington, NC, is the East Coast hub for film and movies; it’s called “Hollywood East.” When you factor in the warm climate and low cost of living, the area is actually just about perfect for The Escapist.
Well, this may be the stalker in me talking, but I would like to know more about the reviewers and the contributors personal life, like who’s married and such.
Steve Butts, Managing Editor: A stalker! It’s about time you showed up. I’ve been married for 13 years and have two children. I’m an avid reader, a student of ancient history and a part time musician. I moved to San Francisco to break into the gaming industry and got there just in time for the dotcom crash. After climbing through the ranks at a large game publication, I came back to North Carolina to be closer to my family and find a house that didn’t cost a million dollars.
Alex Macris, Publisher and CEO (Archon): I’m married. She rocks!
Greg Tito, Features Editor: I’ve been married to a beautiful girl for 6.5 years. We met in college while both working on the same play; I was the lowly stage manager and she was the star. As for other stuff, I love to read fantasy and other spec-fic books, but my reading time has been cut down since moving away from NYC. You never know how much you miss reading on the subway until you realize that you’ve been reading the same book for four months. Of course, it is Anathem by Neal Stephenson, so I have the excuse that it’s pretty dense.
Aimed at anybody, on a scale of 1-10, how much do you enjoy your job at The Escapist? – Asked by wrongsprite
John Funk, Games Editor: Awesome/10.
Steve Butts, Managing Editor: A lot. Which is that? 1 or 10? Personally, I can’t see many people who work here giving you a 7 or less on this one. Not just because it is genuinely that enjoyable to work here, but also because all of our bosses are going to be reading this.
What is office life like. Is it always serious behind the scenes? – Asked by twaddle
Alex Macris, Publisher and CEO (Archon): It’s exceptionally serious. I keep a thick leather shoe handy at all times, and when people get out of line, I bang it on the table and scream “I WILL BURY YOU.” Saliva flies, spittle like small thermonuclear explosions on the hapless employee’s face. They quiver in terror, and productivity soars. That’s how it is here.
What TV show makes you laugh the loudest?
Steve Butts, Managing Editor: The Simpsons, The Andy Griffith Show, Arrested Development, The Daily Show, FOX News.
What was your favorite movie as a child?
Susan Arendt, Senior Editor: Star Wars, no question, followed closely by Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Greg Tito, Features Editor: I’m going to go with Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. That movie shaped so much of my worldview that I’m still trying to skip out of real life.
To anyone wishing to answer it, what would you say is your favorite comic? – Asked by SparrowTag
Lauren Admire, Editorial Assistant: I’m a Buffy fan girl, so I’ve been into the comics since the show ended. I don’t actually like them too much, but I can’t bring myself to stop reading them. I guess I’m obsessed. Other than that, I enjoy Fables and Runaways.
If you had to pick one, non-staff member (including mods and news reporters) of The Escapist to save you from a horde of zombie cows with laser eye beams, who would you chose? – Asked by SparrowTag
Greg Lincoln, Production Director (Trujkin): My gut is Malygris. I’ve only had cursory dealings with him over the years, but every run-in has been colorful, smart and tentative. Assuming of course that we’d find him outside of his secret bunker to begin with, I’m confident should either of us be turned, that one would have no problem making a canoe out of the other’s noggin.
Alex Macris, Publisher and CEO (Archon): Russ Pitts has actually been officially designated by the CEO as security chief for The Escapist.
Why is the escapist for game geeks?
Russ Pitts, Editor-in-Chief: Because The Escapist is made by game geeks. If we were sports geeks, or car geeks, we’d have made a site about those things, but we’re not.
For all of us here, games are and always have been a huge part of our lives, so we write about and talk about what matters to us: games.
Interesting story on this topic: I enjoy doing outdoorsy-type activities in addition to playing games, and I have a big, yellow off-road vehicle that I like to drive into the mountains when I go camping and hiking, etc. I was recently looking for tires for this vehicle and so spent some time on web forums for off-roading geeks. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that, among off-road geeks, tire brands are debated with the same ferocity as game geeks argue their positions in the console wars.
The lesson there is that geeks come in all shapes and sizes. At The Escapist, we just happen to be off-the-rails geeky about games. If you are, too, then we’re glad you found us. For us, it’s a way of life, not a sales pitch.