Cover for The Escapists first issue: "Gaming Uber Alles"
Type of site
|Video game website|
|Alexa rank||10,826 (March 2017)|
|Launched||July 12, 2005|
The Escapist (formerly known as Escapist Magazine) is an American video game website and online magazine. First published as a weekly online magazine by Themis Media on July 12, 2005,The Escapist eventually pivoted to a traditional web journalism format and became well-known for a roster of popular video series.
In 2018, Escapist Magazine launched Volume Two, a rehauled website in conjunction with its purchase by Enthusiast Gaming, which also owns Destructoid. The site name reverted to The Escapist in April 2020.
The Escapist was conceived as a PDF-format magazine by Themis Media, whose president Alexander Macris had previously found success with its sister site WarCry Network. Editor-in-chief Julianne Greer had not been involved in the gaming industry before The Escapist, and had a background in marketing and new media.
The premier issue featured pieces from well-known gaming-community authors including Jerry Holkins, Kieron Gillen, and John Scott Tynes. Following issues included work by Tom Chick, Allen Varney, Jim Rossignol and other top writers from in and outside the game industry, including a four-part piece by leading game designer Warren Spector. According to Themis, by late 2006 the website had 150,000 monthly readers. The website MMORPG.com noted that the webzine had become the "flagship brand" for Themis, which runs other websites and ventures related to the gaming industry, with the reputation of "a widely read and highly respected form of game journalism" and "paying writers top dollar".
On July 9, 2007, the site relaunched with a completely new design, which also saw the end of the weekly PDF issues and a shift in layout to one more similar to other websites. Although the weekly topic and publish schedule was retained, new regular content additions included more game reviews, editorial articles, conference coverage, and a relaunch of Shoot Club by Tom Chick.
The most notable addition to the content lineup was Zero Punctuation, a weekly animated review series that led to a four-fold increase in web traffic. Within the next four years, The Escapist contracted several creators including LoadingReadyRun, Miracle of Sound, and Bob "MovieBob" Chipman, as well as helping launch Extra Credits as a rebrand of its creators' videos.
In 2010, The Escapist launched a membership service called the Publisher's Club which for $20 a year removed advertisements from the site, conferred forum benefits and entry into special contests.
Around the end of July 2011, there was a dispute between The Escapist and James Portnow, the producer of Extra Credits. After not being paid for months, the Extra Credits team needed to pay for surgery for their artist, Allison Theus. They began a charity fund on RocketHub, separate from The Escapist, and received substantially more money than was necessary for Theus's surgery. They planned to use this extra money to create a game publishing label, where the revenue would go directly into funding subsequent projects. Alexander Macris, owner and co-founder of The Escapist, stated the money should have been used to create more episodes of Extra Credits for The Escapist and to compensate Themis Media for donation incentives, such as premium memberships and T-shirts.
During the dispute, a number of other contracted creators spoke out in support of Extra Credits, relaying similar stories of mistreatment by the management. Among them were MovieBob, LoadingReadyRun, and the creators of No Right Answer. Later, those creators would also break ties with The Escapist, leaving Yahtzee as the sole contracted creator by 2017. As a result, Extra Credits broke ties with The Escapist, moving to Penny Arcade and later becoming independent.
On November 15, 2012, it was announced that Themis Media had been acquired by Alloy Digital for an undisclosed sum. For a few years afterwards, Alloy cross-promoted Smosh Games on The Escapist. In 2014, Alloy Digital merged with Break Media to form Defy Media, with a consolidated portfolio that did not mention The Escapist.
On January 21, 2015, Defy Media announced it was cutting staff across a portfolio of its main sites including The Escapist, GameTrailers and GameFront. In 2016, The Escapist laid off a 'number of employees' and shuttered its main office in Durham, North Carolina leaving the website's main operation out of Seattle.
In July 2018, The Escapist was purchased by Enthusiast Gaming, owner of Destructoid, and a relaunch was announced with editor-in-chief Russ Pitts at the helm, which came into effect September 2018 and the website name changed to Escapist Magazine Volume Two.The Big Picture, produced by MovieBob, was the first series to be officially relaunched alongside the continued Zero Punctuation. Following a Twitter exchange with Zoë Quinn over a now-deleted article about Gamergate, Russ Pitts announced he would be taking a "voluntary leave of absence" from The Escapist in February 2019. Nick Calandra, who joined the site in 2019 as the Managing Director of Video, replaced Pitts as Editor-in-Chief in July 2019.
In April 2020, the site name reverted back to The Escapist. The site also launched The Escapist +, which allows readers to view the site without advertisements.
The Escapist has hosted a number of ongoing video series and webcomics, most of which pertain to video games, although they have expanded to other aspects of geek culture. Note: time postings are in EST.
Zero Punctuation is a weekly video game review series created by Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw. In the show, Yahtzee plays an animated caricature of himself who doesn't stop speaking for any punctuation, hence the name of the series.
The Big Picture is a general media discussion series hosted by Bob "MovieBob" Chipman and is the first show to be revived since the website was acquired by Enthusiast Gaming.
Escape to the Movies is a film review series hosted by Chipman. It was previously cancelled with Chipman's departure in 2015, and was revived in November 2018 alongside his film reviewer presence on Geek.com.
Gameumentary was founded in January 2017 by Nick Calandra and acquired by Escapists parent company Enthusiast Gaming in October 2018. All Gameumentary content was moved under Escapist in July 2019 after Calandra's promotion to Managing Editor of Video.
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March Mayhem: Developer's Showdown (commonly referred to as March Mayhem or simply MM) is an annual event hosted by The Escapist to determine the most popular video game developer in the industry. The event was first introduced in 2008 and takes the form of a series of opinion polls, split into four divisions (North, South, East and West) each consisting of 16 developers. In each round, developers are eliminated down to two, who then compete in the grand final.
The event was criticised by many site members due to the site's policy of allowing developers to advertise on their own websites and games in order to gain votes. Further criticism ensued in 2010 when Zynga was permitted to enter the competition despite multiple controversies surrounding the business practices of the company and debates whether Facebook applications could be considered games. There was also significant controversy over the 2011 result, considering winner Mojang hadn't officially released a game as of March 2011. As a result of this criticism and a generally negative opinion of the contest by Escapist users, March Mayhem did not take place in 2013, but was then revived in 2014 in much the same format, albeit with greater community input in the initial 16 developers chosen.
In May 2008, The Escapist won the Webby Award and 2008 People's Choice Award for Best Video-Game Related Website. The Escapist also won this award in 2009 after a protracted voting battle between the members of The Escapist and the website GameSpot. In 2011 The Escapist again won three Webby Awards: Best Games-Related Website, People's Voice Best Games-Related Website and People's Voice Best Lifestyle Website.The Escapist also received a Mashable Open Web Award for Best Online Magazine in 2009 and was named one of the 50 Best Websites by Time magazine in 2011.