Tuesday, February 07, 2006

This Week's Escapist

Someone wrote in to the Escapist this week and griped about the fact that the articles don't really have much content in them any more. I agree: when it started, I liked 2-3 of the articles in each issue. Now, I'm down to only one per issue. (And the editor's comments and one or two of the letters - those're always interesting.)

This issue, for example, starts off with a whimper: Pat Miller writes an essay about SecondLife. It's a painfully pedestrian story which says literally nothing that hasn't been said before in the Escapist itself. He (or she, I suppose) also skips some of the most important points to the modern SecondLife situation: the way the economy is fluctuating due to Linden Lab's hostile takeover of real money transactions and the sudden changes in the teleportation rules.

It doesn't even contain any up-to-date content. What other purpose do magazines serve?

Patrick writes an article about alternative challenges and goals which probably interests someone, but is pretty old hat for me. No offense, Patrick. Just not news to me.

Bruce Nielson writes about money, and the expense of maintaining a game. Unfortunately, he doesn't actually say anything. At all. He says, "sometimes, customers want too much for too little. Maybe it would be best if they could create content for you, but maybe not. Maybe something else - I don't know what - is best." Except he says it in 1000 words.

Why not talk a bit about the fun chaos that is content creation, Bruce? I know you only had a spotlight - not many words to bandy about - but you wasted many of them on the rather pointless NWN example. I understand it's near and dear to your heart, but you didn't have enough words to talk about yourself.

Joe Blancato's essay on "Fraternizing With the Enemy" is probably the only essay I like in this week's issue, assuming Friday doesn't pull something amazing out of its ass. And it's not a "wow! Woo-hoo!" like. It's a "Huh, that's interesting" like, like the like I get from an article in a local newspaper. It's the same interest I get from reading that Boeing laid off its workforce again.

This is pretty much the standard success rate for me and the Escapist. It's been quite a while since I've given an essay in the Escapist two thumbs up.

I think the Escapist is in a good position, but, like a photon, I can't tell where it's going. Or if it's going. I hope that they can get some really solid content up soon, or they'll lose their inertia and some of their critical readership. However, looking at their future issues - concentrating on Blizzard, for example - I don't see how they could get more than one solid essay in any given issue.


In the interest of revealing potential bias, I must say that the Escapist did turn down my little pitch. However, this was due (I'm pretending) mostly to me thoroughly misunderstanding the deadlines. It doesn't change the fact that the most entertaining pages of the Escapist are the first three.

That's not good!


Patrick Dugan said...

I have to say I agree with most of what you're saying, including the bit about my essay. You're amoung the few people I know who GET social challenge and are actively trying to explore it, but for the greater audience, particularly designers who feel stuck in a rut, I think it needed to be said.

I think the big problem with the magazine is that they pretty much accept proposals on a first come first serve basis, which allows a lot of mediocre content to get in. I recently pitched five article ideas, each of them at least novel and current, but was rejected because the issues were already "full".

I didn't read Pat's article because I already heard the story more fully here on this blog, which you told for free.

Joe is a good guy and writes reliably good articles. He's also a pretty good editor.

If I were them I would put proposals on tenous status until about two weeks before the content deadline, identify the cream of the crop and let everyone know who's writing and who isn't.

The magazine also needs to encourage the perspectives of people on the cutting edge of emerging trends. Cotkiyan's two articles were amoung the most classic seen in the magazine, and Crawford's, while despised by many and fairly ham-fisted, exploded waves of interesting controversy.

I figure all I can do is write good content for them when I can...

Next time they release their calender you should batch your ideas to them.

Craig Perko said...

Actually, that's the problem I had. I thought their submission deadline was to allow them to choose the best submissions before that deadline, but it's actually their "publish or die" deadline.

That's not bad, I suppose, but it's not what I thought it was. So, I was also turned down. :)

Ham-fisted or not, Crawford's essays were, at least, interesting to read. That's not something you can say about many of the others. If you stick to things which won't piss anyone off, nothing ever happens.

Patrick Dugan said...

Thats why the first sentance of my article said "gamers are whats wrong with the game industry."

Controversy is great man.

I think I might propose to Julianne that they adjust their submission process down the line.