June 14, 2002
Almost four years ago, ESCmag launched to, well, very little publicity. Thats pretty well defined our run here: great quality, lots of fun, next to no publicity. Some days thats nice; most others, its frustrating. But I get ahead of myself.
In early 1998, a game-company press rep got in touch and asked whether I wanted to review a certain title. (Im sad to say I can no longer remember the rep or the game.) I had to explain that Id recently left the major metropolitan newspaper, where Id started a home-computing page. He told me I should start my own site game companies love online review sites even more than they do print, because gamers can read the review and immediately order the game or get more info.
Armed with an idea and a name ("Escape Key," which evolved into ESC and then ESC Magazine), I approached childhood friend and webmaster Toby Davis. Toby was excited; I was excited. We launched ESCmag at the beginning of August, 1998.
Over the past four years, weve had some great times. The stable of volunteer reviewers grows and contracts, with senior reviewer Erich Becker remaining the constant. I cant actually remember a time when he wasnt writing for us. Well, I can, hazily, but that feels more like a dream.
I still do this out of love. Theres a thrill every time a new game arrives. Weve gotten to see some of the best this industry could produce, and some of the worst. Some steaming piles of Romero.
You know Im building to something, right? Right. Toby and I knew early on that ESCmag would not be a cash cow. We never planned it to be: We were reviewing games out of love, not to get a paycheck. We never sold ads. We never put up a PayPal link. We did once join a network (FGN, if you care), which was quickly taken over by folks who cared only to promote the sites with the most traffic.
There are plenty of downsides to being the little guy. We dont get too many exclusives, or advance looks at major games. We dont get quoted in magazine ads. Were not worshipped as living gods at E3. We very infrequently get fan mail, though I do have to thank the nice person who wrote recently: Hed been turned off by GameSpot hiding content in a pay area, and discovered that our reviews are just as good and free.
You know what? Were better than them. So for ESCmags fourth birthday, Im focusing on doing everything in my power to get us away from small-site status. Banners, T-shirts, link exchanges; hell, at this point Ill pose nude in public if it gets more traffic. We even considered adding a babe of the week, and then saw just how much that helped PCXL.
(C) 1998-2002 ESC