Former editor-in-chief Russ Pitts has stepped down from Enthusiast Gaming Media and the The Escapist V2, effective immediately. The news comes courtesy of Pitts himself, who penned a meaty missive on Medium detailing his mental health issues, living with trauma, and how he’s trying to work through it, hence his departure from The Escapist.
The piece was published on May 10th, 2019 to very little fanfare. It was picked up by Twitter user Mombot who fired an arrow into the proverbial knee of Pitts, reminding him that he kowtowed to the Social Justice outrage machine before hanging up his boots.
You should read his entire diatribe.
It’s the harrowing journey of a man discovering that his mental health isn’t worth some internet clout.https://t.co/CFunbvtl7g
— Best Mom Eva (@mombot) May 13, 2019
The piece meanders through a number of topics before settling on his time at The Escapist (the first time) and how he was allegedly sexually harassed and psychologically harassed, writing…
“My time working at Escapist between 2006 and 2011 was one of the most painful and punishing periods of my life. Some of the details of how the company was managed have already become public knowledge. I’m reluctant to share more here for legal reasons. What I will say is I felt like I was in a cult. Unpaid overtime seemed expected and off-hours fraternization felt mandatory. My payroll was late more than once. My benefits expired more than once without warning. I observed and/or was a target of psychological and sexual harassment. More than one of us became so ill from stress and abuse that we could no longer physically work there. And all of this was before Gamergate.”
“Yet, through all of the above and somewhat to the side of it, there were those of us at Escapist who were purely focused on the work, the audience, and the creators. In spite of all of the horror and challenges we faced, we created something truly remarkable. We were proud of it.”
The reason he’s not legally able to dive into what really happened is because the story takes a 180 turn when you get testimony from former employees who worked at The Escapist.
In fact, Pitts and Enthusiast Media were part of a lawsuit that that spawned from Pitts referring to former staff as “Nazis”, which led to a defamation suit.
It’s a far different take than what Pitts portrays in the Medium piece.
As a matter of fact, Pitts paints himself as the victim, writing…
“My experience living through psychological abuse and trauma at Escapist helped me understand the deep impact of mental health. The career I built there and at Polygon helped me create an even greater impact with the founding of Take This. People were more likely to listen to what I had to say because I was a “name” and I’d been through it. When I was finally ready to acknowledge that myself, I finally began to heal my symptoms.”
Pitts then goes on to write about his experience with reviving The Escapist V2 (which was supposed to be politics-free but that promise was quickly abandoned), his run-in with the outrage mobs led by people like Zoe Quinn (although he avoids naming her), and his eventual deletion of an article where he discussed ethics in games journalism.
Again, he doesn’t name this incident by name, but after deleting the #GamerGate article at Quinn’s behest, Pitts then took a leave of absence from The Escapist back in February of 2019 after being incessantly harassed by Social Justice Warriors.
It’s very convenient what sort of information Pitts leaves out of his memorandum.
After stepping away from the outrage culture machine and having time to reflect, Pitts came back believing that he’s not cut out for stepping back into that cycle of hate. He shows some small modicum of self-reflection before conceding defeat, stating that he’s resigning from The Escapist as the editor-in-chief… again…
“I don’t know if games journalism has changed or if I have, but the current social media trend of treating arguments as entertainment has made it all but impossible to conduct measured conversations about complicated or nuanced issues. Meanwhile, the very medium of games itself has become wonderfully more complicated and nuanced. Not only do I find this disparity personally abhorrent, but I believe it’s a disservice to the audience, the creators, and the industry as a whole. I hope that the culture of hate-posting will change, but I am no longer interested in fighting it.
“Learning to step back from all of that has been a blessing. I’ve regained my center. And. to my great surprise, that center is private.
“Therefore, effective immediately, I am resigning as editor-in-chief of Escapist Magazine, and from Enthusiast Gaming Media entirely. The last (as in previous) chapter of Escapist is no longer its last (as in final), and its next will be decided by others.”
Pitts names Anthony Agnello as the new front man to lead The Escapist as the editor-in-chief.
The site has yet to catch a spark of interest from the community other than being a hotbed of controversy. So Agnello has his work cut out for him.
As for Pitts? He says he’s going to get back to his films, spending time in the garden, and raising a family.
(Thanks for the news tip durka durka and mombot)
(Main image courtesy of Mundane Matt)