Earlier this week, the Escapist was acquired by Enthusiast Gaming. This went along with Russ Pitt’s reappointment as editor in chief and led to talk about how the site was not going to cover politics at all.
And like many such announcements in past years, this didn’t go down too well with journalists on Twitter. In their eyes, any coverage has a political slant to it, and by merely choosing what to cover you’re making a political statement of some sort.
However, I don’t think this is the case. In fact, I think a video game site can work perfectly without politics, and plenty out that show that’s the case.
For example, look at GoNintendo. RMC has never covered political content on said site and has mostly kept his political views out of coverage even when Nintendo gets into the news for political reasons. Remember that idiocy with Paper Mario Color Splash and GamerGate? Yeah, no politics about that on GoNintendo, just Nintendo’s statement and a message that the news happened at one point.
And he’s definitely not the only one. No, dozens of Nintendo news sites keep their political views out of their coverage. My Nintendo News? No politics. Nintendo Everything? No politics. Japanese Nintendo? No politics. Instead, they just focus on what their audience cares about, news related to Nintendo games and fan works.
In fact, this pattern is legion on more specific, niche websites about video game manufacturers and franchises. Zelda Dungeon is mostly non-political. Serebii.net and PokeJungle and various other Pokémon fan sites are non-political. Nintendo wikis in general tend to be non-political too, with Mario Wiki and Zelda Wiki and Bulbapedia not tolerating political claims and rants about social issues on their pages.
As they all prove, a non-political stance is 100% doable for a gaming site.
But wait, you may ask. Isn’t non-political coverage boring?
Well, no. Firstly, if you’re bored by simple video game news, then I should probably ask you what you’re doing visiting a video game news website. For the rest of us, stuff like this:
Or even this:
Is exciting on its own. And those are just trailers released by Nintendo PR teams! All of them can provide easy jumping off grounds for articles and forum discussions without a hint of politics and social commentary involved at all.
(They’re also great examples of amazing, exciting trailers that DON’T lie about their work’s content, but that’s another story)
Still, if you don’t find ‘typical’ news interesting, it’s not like no politics limits you there either. Here are a few bajillion other things a non-political gaming site can focus on:
Unused content in video games. For example, all this stuff that was planned for Breath of the Wild is absolutely fascinating:
As are all of Liam Robertson’s articles about cancelled games, or GameHut’s videos on game development for titles like Mickey Mania and Sonic R.
You could also take about game design too, another fascinating field of study that’s had whole books written about it. Like that one Daniel Johnson wrote about Wario Land 4, or what not. It’s the focus of tons of great YouTube channels too, like Mark Brown’s Game Maker’s Toolkit or Extra Credits or First 30 of Game Design.
There’s also content about retro gaming facts and trivia, as shown by Slopes Game Room, Top Hat Gaming Man and
Guru Larry (among many, many others online):
Or even game mechanics in a truly in-depth way on a per game basis. Tens of thousands of people watch Pannekoek’s videos on Super Mario 64 mechanics, and Stryder 7x’s Paper Mario videos are equally good too. Same goes with Pikasprey Yellow’s video on Soft Lock Picking for unwinnable situations in Pokemon or what not:
Other topics include glitches and bugs in games, boundary breaking like in Shesez’s videos, video game related comedy (which is sadly quite rare after a certain Zelda satire site went quite a few years ago), interviews with prominent people in the industry (as my own site shows, those can be incredibly interesting even with no political or social commentary), fan creations like games and artwork, video game programming tutorials and help, the list just goes on and on. There are thousands of topics a gaming site can talk about while leaving politics at the door and staying a million miles away from Trump or GamerGate.
Hell, even the plain old news site format could be made more interesting if you think outside the box a bit. How about a few ‘in universe’ news sites that talk about gaming news related to a series as if they’re being written/recorded by someone in the game world itself? That could make some incredibly amusing video game coverage. For example, imagine if a Pokémon site didn’t just say ‘here’s the Team Rainbow Rocket trailer for Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon from YouTube’, but covered it like it was a police bulletin from Hau’oli City or a press release from the (now Faba controlled) Aether Foundation?
That would be an incredibly interesting read. As would a Mario Odyssey piece from the New Donk City Gazette, or a WarioWare Gold site that was supposedly written by the WarioWare Inc employees (kind of like the Japanese Smooth Moves website was).
You could also create your own ‘fictional universe’ or character too, and roleplay as them when talking or writing about games. That’s kinda what Arlo does on YouTube, and it’s how the Angry Video Game Nerd and Nostalgia Critic work. It’s also why Red Letter Media’s review of the Star Wars prequels is so famous; because not only is it amazingly well done, it has a unique character in the form of Mr Plinkett. Would anyone care as much if he was just a bearded hipster standing in front of a camera? Hell no, the fact he’s a fictional serial killer talking about Star Wars made it stand out more.
The point is, the format of a story can sometimes be as important as the actual content, and by mixing a unique setup with a unique story, you can make something amazing without ever touching politics or social issues.
Is this what the Escapist will actually do? Not sure, but from the signs we’ve seen, the answer seems to unfortunately be no right about now.
But it’s possible none the less, and there are both many sites doing the non-political gaming beat successfully and many open niches for new ones willing to take a risk and step outside of the medium’s norms.
Thanks for reading.