Bob Chipman, also known as Moviebob and the Game Overthinker, has been let go from the Escapist. His last video for the site appeared this week. The firing is pretty clearly connected to the closure of Joystiq and the firing of a number of other Escapist regulars—it seems like the video game newsmagazine format is not as profitable as it once was.
This is truly sad news. In recent years even the Zero Punctuation videos have begun to lose their sheen, and the main reason to go to the site was Chipman’s criticism in his articles and his two video series—Escape to the Movies, a weekly review series, and The Big Picture, a loosely formatted show that looked both critically and not-so-critically at pop culture.
Chipman has always been a rare breed—a critic well versed in pop culture and with an interest in the sleazy and cheesy world of science fiction and video games, but who has enough in-depth training in an art form that he can bring some intelligent, sensitive critical judgment to the table. When he agrees with the mainstream point of view, he always seems to go one further by stating his points more eloquently than others have. When he disagrees, he usually has an interesting point that others have overlooked.
It was through his shows that I was turned onto films like Cabin in the Woods, The Raid, ParaNorman, Detention—smaller movies I would otherwise never have heard of, let alone seen. If it wasn’t for his review it would never have occurred to me to take Michael Bay seriously enough to watch the astounding Pain and Gain. I believe his takes on the battles and blowups in pop culture criticism have more accurately and regularly captured the lay of the land than anything else, and his explanations of trivial comic book minutiae are always entertaining. The annual Schlocktober event has always been a great pleasure.
Even his misfires—his initial praise of Man of Steel, his mawkish review of Michael Bay’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, his incessant slamming on the beneath-contempt Sony Spider-Man movies—have left him looking pretty good over all. And this is saying nothing about his work on video games, with which I am less familiar (though I’ve been impressed with what I’ve seen).
The loss of Chipman’s shows and column should come as a great blow to anyone who wishes to turn a somewhat serious eye to modern pop culture. While the Escapist has to do what they have to do, and Chipman will no doubt find some other outlet soon, one has to wonder about the strategic wisdom of firing the people who make the site worth visiting. Certainly the “journalism” there is largely worthless, and with the recent culling I have to say that the site is of considerably less value to the community than it was in its heyday, and I can’t imagine I’ll be visiting nearly as often as I used to.
Official announcements from Chipman can be found here and here. His site carries a PayPal tip jar for those so inclined, and he also has announced that he will likely be running a Patreon campaign in the near future.