Interview – W.J. Walton (The Escapist)

The Escapist is a website dedicated to RPGs and the RPG community.

Starting off with a more personal question, The Escapist was founded in 1995 as a central site that people could visit to learn what RPGs are, how to get involved, how to get kids involved, how to give back to the community, etc. So what keeps you going? What keeps you enthusiastic about working in the RPG industry?

I get almost all of my encouragement from the emails I receive from the people who read my site and write me to tell me how much they appreciate the resources it provides. Usually they simply say “Attaboy, keep up the good work,” but from time to time I’ll get an email from someone who wants to share a story about how they used my site to show someone else that RPGs aren’t dangerous or evil, or someone who has decided to share the hobby with their kids or friends who have never played before. Very recently, I got a message from a teenager who told me that he used one of my YouTube videos to convince the school administrators to let him have an RPG club at the school. That’s really what the site is all about, and that is what has kept it going strong for nearly 16 years now.

Earlier this year, the site was nominated for Best Website. What did you think of the ENnies when you found out that you were nominated?

I was thrilled. I’m not really the competitive sort, so the nomination was an award in itself, as far as I was concerned. I know that a wide audience of gamers participate in the ENnie awards, so this was a great opportunity to get more people interested in the promotion of roleplaying.

Did your nomination affect site traffic?

It did, and it also helped get the word around, which made me very happy.

What projects do you have on the schedule; anything you can talk about?

To be frank, I’ve been making this up as I go for the last 15 years. Just about every project and feature on the site is something that popped into my head one day, and got stuck up on the page to see if it would take off. Some do well, while others… not so much.

So I don’t really work with a schedule anymore, which means everyone will have to keep checking the site and the blog (and the Twitter account, and Facebook…) to see what harebrained idea I’m trying out next.

Now that we’ve been around for over a decade, what do the ENnies mean to you both personally and professionally?

Part of the roleplaying advocacy effort is improving the quality of the hobby for those who play, and that’s one of the aspects of the effort that I don’t cover very much on the site. That’s because there are so many other great websites that do a better job than I ever could. The ENnies do a great service to the roleplaying hobby, by encouraging excellence in RPG books, supplements, accessories, and resources, and I have asked my readers to participate in the voting process for several years now.

Last question; if someone who had never heard of the ENnie Awards walked up to you today and asked, “So what are these ‘ENnies’ you keep talking about,” how would you answer them?

Well, if it was someone who already had an understanding of RPGs, I’d probably just send them to the website, and encourage them to get involved in voting and discussing their favorite nominees and winners. That way, they’re already on the site as they’re learning about it, and would therefore be more apt to participate.

If they didn’t know anything about RPGs, I’d first have to go into an explanation about the hobby, how awesome it is, how it promotes creative thinking and teamwork, and how they really should give it a try. But that’s just the way I do things…

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