If you’re unfamiliar with the show, Extra Credits is probably The Escapist’s most intelligent feature, a series of short videos dealing with games as an artistic medium in an extremely level and even tempered manner. They cover subjects ranging from the changing face of music in the gaming world, how race, gender and sexuality are approached (or could be approached better), graphics versus aesthetics, and a myriad of other worthwhile subjects. They are a group of individuals who treat games like a medium with the potential of film and books rather than just a vehicle exclusively meant for brainless explosions and exposed tits. They are the kind of voice people who care about video games really ought to be paying attention to.
You can read the whole hubub over at the Extra Cedits team twitter and the Escapist’s response (for their side of the story). Because a twitter feed is a dynamic, living beast, here are some highlights;
“Dan and I work on it for free and I pay Allison’s salary out of pocket each month, then, in turn, The Escapist was supposed to pay us - not much, but enough to cover Allison’s wages - unfortunately they were never able to. That meant when Allison hurt her arm I was out over $20,000…which is why we had to turn to all of you.”
“Unfortunately, I had to ask the Escapist to send me some of our money then to help Allison (this was before I put up the Rockethub) When, after a lot of wrangling they sent us $1000, we asked them if we could trade them some of what they owed us for our IP back because the contract they had us sign made us give up all the right to the show”
“But they shot back informing us that they felt like they were entitled to 75% of the Rockethub money and that, despite having paid us once over a year, we actually owed them $9500”
“The short of it is we told them we wanted to discuss our IP and they gave us a long run around saying they magically found money and wanted to make sure we got paid before we started to talk IP (which would have basically ensured that we didn’t get our IP back) but the money never materialized and so we gave them notice two weeks ago and terminated our contract last Friday”
Again, for those unfamiliar with the show, several weeks ago they made it known that their artist, Allison Theus, was in immediate need of surgery if she had any plans to continue making art. They started a RocketHub fundraiser to pay for the operation, which met unprecedented success and shattered the roof of what they were expecting in a matter of hours. A new outlet was needed for the unexpected overflow (you can only buy your artist so many surgeries after all) so James Portnow announced that any extra funds they raised would go towards founding a non-profit independent video game publisher in order to give back to the community.
The main point of contention between the two parties seems to be over the wording used when James asked for the Escapist’s permission to start a donation drive. He apparently stated that he wanted to use the fund to “save Extra Credits”. While he could have very well just meant that as in “make sure our artist doesn’t lose her ability to draw”, Escapist Publisher Alexander Macris responded;
I reasonably interpreted “save Extra Credits” to mean that anything beyond what was needed for Allison’s surgery would be used on Extra Credits production.
So he assumed that all extra funds raised by the charity drive would go towards paying off the Escapist’s own $20,000 debt towards the crew as well as fund future episodes that were inevitably going to be added onto that bill. While some fans are claiming “yes, money raised in an Extra Credits donation drive should be put entirely towards Extra Credits production” others are maintaining that a fan charity drive should not be skewed into a “cover my boss’s debt” drive without the donor’s knowledge.
Fact of the matter is, Escapist was not paying them and then expected a fan-funded donation drive for an unrelated cause to pick up the bill. Saying “We did NOT ask that James send us $9,500 - we said he should use $9,500 to create more episodes of the show that the money was supposed to be used to save.” is still admitting that they believed the $9,500 (along with the rest of the surplus) was theirs to spend.
Since then several other individuals have come forward regarding their own experiences Escapist’s spotty payment habits; including Name Game’s Elisa Scaldaferri, Robert Moran of Unforgotten Realms, First Person Marketer JP Sherman, Kyle Martinak of Drinking Games, Creature Caster Masters creator Peter Gehm, and columnist Allistair Pinsoff. If you yourself have any outstanding debts owed to you by the Escapist, now is probably the time to add your voice to the chorus. When asked if they were planning on aiding the other contributors in similar situations, the Extra Credits crew responded “Yes, if at all legally possible”.
The team is asking people to spread the word that their show will continue on the Youtube channel, ExtraCreditz until they are able to find a new outlet. So hey, this is tumblr, pass it on.