This interview is part of a series focusing on candidates in the running for the 2014 ENnie Awards. The Gen Con EN World RPG Awards (the “ENnies”) are an annual fan-based celebration of excellence in tabletop role-playing gaming, with voting beginning 7 a.m. Central on Sunday, July 20 through 7 p.m. Central on Wednesday, July 30. The winners will be announced at Gen Con, the Grand Hall at the Historic Union Station on Friday, August 15. To vote, see http://www.ennie-awards.com/vote/. In this installment I interview friend of the column and frequent interview subject W. J. Walton, editor/webmaster/grand poo-bah of theescapist.com
Michael Tresca (MT): Haven’t we done this dance before?
W. J. Walton (WJW): This is my third nomination. The previous two were in 2011 and 2013, and the site won the Silver ENnie in 2013.
MT: I know The Escapist well but for those readers who don’t, please tell us about the site’s history.
WJW: The Escapist began in 1995 as simple website that was inspired by a paper I wrote for a Technical Writing class on the stigmas associated with tabletop roleplaying games and collectible card games. At the time, the satanic panic scare was just starting to dwindle, and you could still occasionally see a misinformed news story on the danger of RPGs. Just as I started working on the paper, for example, a man named Caleb Fairley murdered a young mother and her infant daughter, and every story that covered it mentioned that he had Vampire RPG books and Magic cards in his home. Some even referred to them as “devil games.”
The site started out as an information resource for the true nature of RPGs and the benefits of playing them, and a platform for refuting the false claims made by the media and certain public figures. As time went on and the attacks against the hobby began to wane, the focus of the site shifted more to the benefits of play, encouraging new players, and getting future generations involved.
And that’s where the site stands today, as it gets closer to its upcoming 20th anniversary!
MT: Holy cow, 20th anniversary? I feel old! What distinguishes The Escapist from the other nominated blogs?
WJW: My site is unique in that it deals with the culture of roleplaying, rather than the games themselves. I’m not aware of many other websites that take that approach.
MT: What does it take to produce a successful digital presence like yours?
WJW: A broadband connection, a decent HTML editor, and a whole lot of passion for the hobby and the people who are involved in it. That’s all.
MT: Any metrics on the number of viewers to your site?
WJW: The site attracts several thousand visits per month, and has modest followings on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.
MT: What do you think of the new edition of D&D?
WJW: I'm very excited about it. I've picked up the Starter Set, and printed out a copy of the Basic Rules to keep handy whenever I have some free reading time. I really like the direction it has taken so far, as well as the fact that it seems to be mostly compatible with a lot of my old D&D stuff.
MT: And finally, there’s only one place to go for the blog…