A friend of mine recently emailed me to ask if I had heard about The Escapist, the new weekly magazine about video games and gaming culture. I hadn’t, even though it was covered at some blogs and gaming news sites…and Slashdot, the productivity killer which I’ve successfully been able to avoid for some time. Apparently this magazine is not just a new competitor for PC Gamer or Electronic Gaming Monthly. From the first issue’s letter from the editor:
The Escapist is an ambitious magazine, written, edited and styled with a fresh approach to communicating with gamers. We are the complement to the current gaming journalistic efforts. While the others give you up-to-the-second news coverage, we give you broad looks at news over time, discussing trends and proffering glimpses into the future. While the others provide previews and reviews of the next big thing, we give you a taste of the Cinderella game that might just steal the spotlight, plus a look at why. And while others ask developers about their latest projects, we delve into the masterminds’ thoughts and histories to find out what makes them tick.
So it is meant to be a magazine for mature gamers who don’t want hype and juvenile humor to litter their gaming literature. It’s for people who want to read about game culture instead of just news on the latest titles.
First impressions: I like it.
The magazine is free online (there are syndication feeds available), and there is a high quality PDF version to let you print out the magazine yourself if you choose to do so. I think I would like to actually order a subscription through the mail, but they don’t seem to offer that option yet. Also, their website apparently doesn’t work too great with Firefox if you increase the font size, and IE doesn’t let you change it at all. They hard coded the text to match the images, so the small font size isn’t fun to read, and increasing it makes it difficult since it will cover or get covered by other elements on the page. They tried to copy the print magazine (which doesn’t really exist!) look and feel onto their website, and that just doesn’t work well. Luckily, XFree86 (I use Debian so I don’t have X.org yet) lets me zoom in on the screen, but it is a silly thing to require this workaround.
Still, the content is good. I may not agree with the opinion of everyone who writes for it. For example, I don’t think “gamer” refers only to people who play games exclusive to everything else, and I don’t think that definition is as commonly understood to be the case, as claimed by one author. I also don’t think that games should be considered “crack-like” and “addictive”, as the article on Greg Gorden described them. But it is refreshing to read an entire magazine that discusses the topics in a mature manner that I’ve generally found exclusive to blogs.
It’s also quite informative, as Max Steele’s article on mobile gaming in the 2nd issue shows. Being American and fairly isolated from international news in general, I didn’t know that the N-Gage had sold so well in the rest of the world, but Steele’s article touched on that platform while talking about the upcoming Mobile Platform Wars between Sony, Nintendo, and Nokia. Until then, I didn’t even know Nokia was involved! And the article also described who each company is targeting. I don’t know if Nintendo will end up the clear winner and I don’t know if I agree that Sony’s system will be disgarded as just more-of-the-same-but-smaller. I also don’t know if anyone likes reading an author talk about himself in the third person. But it was definitely a high quality article that made good arguments. A different article in the same issue focused on that video feature for the PSP while another complained about the loooooong load times for it, so there was plenty of depth and breadth to the magazine.
The Escapist is definitely staying in my RSS feeds, although I wish that the website version wouldn’t be so badly “ported” from the PDF. At the very least make the text larger. Ideally, the web version should be made for the web.