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Weekly Column by Andy Grieser
Column by Andy Grieser

June 14, 2002

Almost four years ago, ESCmag launched to, well, very little publicity. That’s pretty well defined our run here: great quality, lots of fun, next to no publicity. Some days that’s nice; most others, it’s 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. (I’m sad to say I can no longer remember the rep or the game.) I had to explain that I’d recently left the major metropolitan newspaper, where I’d 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, we’ve had some great times. The stable of volunteer reviewers grows and contracts, with senior reviewer Erich Becker remaining the constant. I can’t actually remember a time when he wasn’t writing for us. Well, I can, hazily, but that feels more like a dream.

I still do this out of love. There’s a thrill every time a new game arrives. We’ve gotten to see some of the best this industry could produce, and some of the worst. Some steaming piles of Romero.

You know I’m 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 don’t get too many exclusives, or advance looks at major games. We don’t get quoted in magazine ads. We’re 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: He’d 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? We’re better than them. So for ESCmag’s fourth birthday, I’m focusing on doing everything in my power to get us away from small-site status. Banners, T-shirts, link exchanges; hell, at this point I’ll 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.

So, look. If you like the site, drop us a line. Say something in the forums. Hate the site? Tell us why. Tell your friends. ‘Cause we’re not gonna stay small, and I want y’all along for the ride.

See Recent Columns

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