Former Escapist and Kotaku writers launch independent websites

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Departing journalists from The Escapist have set up Second Wind, while ex-Kotaku journalists have launched independent site Aftermath.

Earlier this week, the editor-in-chief of gaming site The Escapist, Nick Calandra, was allegedly fired for – in his words – “‘not achieving goals’ that were never properly set out for us.”

The move prompted a flood of resignations from The Escapist, including Ben ‘Yahtzee’ Croshaw, host of the popular Zero Punctuation video reviews.

Now, Croshaw and other former Escapist employees have announced a new venture called Second Wind. “Second Wind is the new home for the former team of The Escapist,” reads the description on the Second Wind YouTube page. “On 11/6, 2023, the entire team was either fired or resigned after The Escapist’s parent company fired Editor-in-Chief, Nick Calandra. Second Wind will be focused on creating content that’s informative, interesting and fun, and everything that you came to expect from the team behind The Escapist. From creators like Yahtzee Croshaw, Sebastian Ruiz, James Read and more, we have a lot in store for you.”

There is also a Second Wind Twitch channel and Patreon page. A welcome post on the latter explains that at 11am CT today, Croshaw and Calandra will be “live to discuss our plans for Second Wind, along with going over what happened.”

At around the same time as Second Wind was announced, a group of former Kotaku writers launched Aftermath, an independent gaming website. The site has been founded by Nathan Grayson, Gita Jackson, Riley MacLeod and Luke Plunkett, and will also see contributions from people like Chris Person and Alex Jaffe.

“You might remember most of us from Kotaku, where we broke news, covered events, and brought you hard-hitting investigations,” reads the site’s welcome post. “You might also have seen us at Motherboard by Vice, The Washington Post’s games vertical Launcher and The Verge. We got back together to start this site not just so we could all blog together again, but to try something new for ourselves and for games journalism.”

The site aims to remain independent, and will be funded by reader subscriptions. The welcome post explains the reasoning for adopting this model: “The past few years have seen mass layoffs and site closures, with remaining writers being asked to do more and more with less and less. The ad-supported model is crumbling, social media is a mess, and the businessmen and private equity firms buying up news outlets don’t care about workers, readers, and quality writing, they only care about profits. The four of us saw our sites closed, ourselves and our colleagues laid off, and our workplaces turned hostile in management’s pursuit of growth at all costs.”

“This couldn’t be happening at a worse time for the games beat. There’s a lot going on: widespread labor organizing, industry-changing mergers and acquisitions, sweeping layoffs, and somehow through it all a ton of amazing new games from big studios and indies alike. We need a curious, independent press to hold power to account, to cut through the marketing hype, and to elevate the voices of those affected by the gaming industry’s upheaval.”

It’s been a tough year for the games media, with several high-profile sites closing or being stripped of staff. For example, Vice’s Waypoint site was shut down, while the Washington Post closed its Launcher gaming section, and there was a wave of layoffs at the GAMURS Group, which owns The Escapist and Twinfinite, along with various other gaming sites.

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