The Escapist Magazine is having a charity livestream event this Friday. John Markley, Liz Finnegan, Ian Cheong, and the rest of the Escapist plus guests will be raising money via Extra Life to support the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Over the past few years, I’ve come to know and be friends with most of the people involved with the gig, so I thought I’d take the time to introduce you to each of them – based on the experiences and memories I’ve had with them all.
The website itself probably came to most of your attentions after GamerGate took off in 2014. Alexander Macris was one of the earliest adopters of the ethical reforms GamerGate wanted out of the gaming media outlets. Josh Vanderwall gave me a chance to start somewhere in gaming journalism, and for that I’m forever grateful. Given the obstacles thrown his way the past few years – the fact that the Escapist is still standing today is something incredible. He, Liz Finnegan, and Ron Whittaker keep things on the site going, in the face of the ever-changing landscape of games media. One of the ideas that Josh came around to, was letting the Escapist Magazine Twitch channel have a chance to fully shine. You’ll have likely seen it going – right on the front page of the website
At the center of the Escapist streams is John Markley. He’s the headliner that makes the whole engine chug forward. The most important thing I can bring up about him, is that Markley has found his niche. The distinction between a streamer, and an awesome streamer, is how they present themselves. Markley has that energy, that gusto, needed to make the experience stay interesting on a regular basis. Hot new game just come out? You can bet that Markley is all up in that on stream. It’s the best way to get a sense of what a recent release plays like, for sure.
But to kick things up a notch, John and Ron Whittaker brought on Liz Finnegan and Ian Cheong for the Escapist podcast show. They’ve managed to do it on a weekly basis for the past few months now. They talk about video games they’ve played, and gaming industry news. With zero bullshit.
Liz “Go Home Gamer Girl” Finnegan is one of the toughest yet sweetest ladies I’ve ever met. I feel like I won the lottery, having had the chance to call them my friend for these past few years. What you as a viewer will probably notice about her first is her Rhode Island/Philidelphia accent, speaking with flavor whenever she says words like “Coffee”. She started at the Escapist back in March 2015, and in that relatively short length of time Liz managed to prove herself to the Escapist through her hard work and consistency. What makes Liz more of a standout is the fact she actually knows about video games. Her favorite might be The Legend of Zelda, but her gaming palette as a whole is expansive across both PC and consoles (she could kick your butt in Overwatch).
The only time Liz ever lied to me was when she called herself a cold and calculated person, back when I first met her. That description she gave herself is incorrect. Back when she first started her Pixels and Bits article series, I’d count down the minutes to when an article would be scheduled to publish. I made it sound like a spaceship or a rocket launch was happening. It was halfway just a joke in our conversations, but back then it seemed like a big deal that Liz would have another piece go up on the Escapist. It’s a thing that she has kept in mind every day ever since. The bottom line is Liz Finnegan treats her job with a level of diligence and respect you can’t find anywhere else. And her dedication inspired me to give it a go for myself. Even then – Liz took the time to teach me how to do a decent job at gaming journalism. The necessary focus on trying to separate facts from emotional subjectivity, and the importance of focusing on the delivery of whatever truth is there. Everything she does, Liz does for her family. And she treats the internet like a second family, so everyone gets to share that warmth she brings to the live-streams.
Liz did ALL THAT, and managed to put up with me all this time. It may sound cliche to say the months have flown by ever since I met Liz, but time does indeed fly when you have that much fun. Because Liz Finnegan is a damn fine person.
Ian Cheong is known to most folks as one of the main people in charge of the video game website Gameranx. Despite the fact that he lives in some far-off Asian country, he manages to blend in with the Western world successfully. Two years ago, if you told me I would be best friends with Ian Miles Cheong, I’d have laughed in your face and said that was one of the biggest jokes anyone has ever shared. I’m so happy I was wrong about that.
Back then – Ian and I were both different people. More focused on political disagreements and the conflicts that came with that, instead of taking a look at the bigger picture. And when the Escapist had their layoffs in March 2016, Ian opened the doors of Gameranx to me anyway. Where the Escapist showed me the building blocks of how to do gaming journalism, Gameranx was when I got the chance to make something out of those tools and techniques.
Cheong worked my ass off. Ian had me writing about anything and everything. From gaming reviews to news. My time at the Escapist made me eager to dive into this stuff, and he gave me the opportunity to indulge in that. But Gameranx wasn’t the only thing on Ian’s plate. He chose to go the extra mile and do articles for Heat Street as well. Still not satisfied, Cheong did what he could at the Escapist too, ending up as a regular part of their podcast. When it comes to the question of whether Ian acts “genuine” or not, people expressed their skepticism at the change of heart he had towards gamers in May 2015. Ian realized the hyperfocus of political correctness was making his own life miserable, and he did a gutsy thing by admitting to all that. Now Ian tries to be decent to folks, and he’s a good friend who I’m able to talk to despite the fact we might disagree on certain topics. There’s no question to me, whether or not Ian Cheong managed to turn over a new leaf. He did. And he was a great boss at Gameranx during my time there.
The only reason I’ve been able to do so many great things this year is because of the support of these folks. You will never find a more fantastic group of guys and gals in this part of the internet. I guarantee it. This Friday, you should come hang out with my friends.