Digital Polyphony

film, games, memories & random thoughts


Childhood Magazine Revivals (and the big question "why?)

Posted on April 12, 2010 at 6:11 PM

Childhood Magazine Revivals (and the big question "why?)

So Gamefan is back in publication (as noted here)  This is following that of Electronic Gaming Monthly (EGM) return to magazines and Gamepro overhauling, well, everything - two other magazines from my younger days, also revived in the past few months after going under. It’s all surreal and surprising, seeing as how the internet has made most print, especially videogame-related print, pretty much obsolete. Ask yourself, do you look at screenshots or watch trailers? Have you ever read something in a magazine before it hit the internet? I suppose you can say “there are good feature articles” but then I’ll ask “why?” I mean, of all the things for something to cover where the internet should take priority over print, would videogames not be one of them? At the point, videogames and internet are as inseparable as Bert and Ernie.


Well, despite those questions, I will say I like the memories of classic videogame magazines I have; those weekly visits to the mall bookstore or plaza video store and scanning the periodical aisle for the cover and hoping it wasn’t stuck in a bag to where I couldn’t look inside. Occasionally I’d pick up a Gamefan for a more international look at games (and, what I thought, were the best screenshots out there mainly because they piled it on), a Gamepro here and there and, if I was feeling frisky or was attracted to a pretty image, a Computers and Videogames issue.


Mainly, though, it was all about the Nintendo Power and Electronic Gaming Monthly. At the time, before we had things like the internet to educate us of such things, a kid such as myself had no idea that Nintendo Power was just a monthly giant advertisement from Nintendo. Their reviews were often overly favorable, their stats and hyping always at the top of the hype-o-meter and were had no idea that they were more or less brainwashing us to buy their stuff even if it was utter crap. Here’s the thing, though: it really didn’t matter.

At the time, the only game in town was the Nintendo Entertainment System. Whatever covered that the most was all that mattered and Nintendo Power fit the bill.

I had tried to think of when the first time was that I received a Nintendo Power. I know it was the first issue and I was in the third grade because I drew pictures of Mario and Contra out of it and sold them to my classmates for a quarter (which resulted into me staying after school, I might add). According to the mighty Internet, that was 1988 – the height of the NES’s popularity and before Super Mario 3 even graced our innocent, quarter-scamming ears. I’d bring issues to class and the other kids (that meaning the other boys, girls couldn’t care less then as much as they couldn’t care less now) would gather around my desk. Our eyes wide at the shots of Mario and Link and the lengthy Metroid map that was more intimidating than helpful. It was gleefully innocent and one of my fondest memories as every month, we all looked forward to least until the teacher came in and it was a wait until recess.


Magazines back then were like a monthly Christmas gift. I checked the mail every day, even if I had just received an issue, for something from Nintendo Power. To reach in, feel around and pull out a magazine to find it as your golden idol was all that mattered after school. Screw homework, I need to read about Nester’s shenanigans and see if anyone else shared my hatred for the impossible game that was Back to the Future.


There was also advertisements everywhere for the Nintendo tip line called the Nintendo Power Line. I never called it myself, even I wasn’t dumb enough to fall for an 800-number scam. But there was a tips and tricks section that let people write in and ask questions if they’re stuck. Kind of odd now, isn’t it? Today we’re so used to sending off a quick email or a message on a forum with instant response. Back then, we had to write and wait three weeks.

I only did this once with another horrible LJN game, Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The game itself is actually incredibly easy, just incredibly tedious in the process. Like so many gamers, as I would find out once I grew older, I could get up to Judge Doom and promptly get my ass kicked. I tried for days and could never figure out what I was supposed to do. I wrote in a letter asking for help.


Now I can’t tell you what their response was, although I was excited when I did get a response, but I can tell you that it didn’t help because I never beat the game. I know I tried numerous times what they told me to do, and I could never do it. Only until the internet completionist LordKat started his series was I finally able to see the game beaten.

There was also little goodies you could order out of Nintendo Power. Naturally, you could order games from the rather questionable advertisements at the back of it, but you could occasionally also order Nintendo themed products such as a gamers chair, cups with Mario and so on. I only ordered one thing, and it wasn’t until I was well into my teens. Nintendo Power had not only games, but comics in it as well. One series was based on the Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past which was, at that time, my favorite game. Once it was done, if I recall correctly, was an offer to buy the entire comic in a graphic novel format. Now that I ordered immediately. On top of it all, looking back at it now, it wasn’t half bad. You can actually see the entire comic here. The art was pretty decent, it loosely followed A Link to the Past but took a lot of liberties because, let’s face it, Zelda has never had a deep, involving narrative. Now look at that: nearly 200 pages of Zelda and I couldn’t have been happier.


Eventually, I started a subscription to EGM about the time I bought a Sega Genesis (sorry, my parents bought a Sega Genesis for me for my Birthday). I suppose this was about 1991, a year or so before I bought a Super Nintendo. I started getting into their reviews covering a lot of platforms, the Quarterman rumors and their surprisingly nice arcade coverage, of course the arcade in my town (yes, that’s “arcade” as in one) updated rarely but it was cool to see the new arcade games coming out. That was a luxury that was soon to be forgotten as arcades eventually died by the late 1990s. I still stayed true to Nintendo Power, though. The SNES was next on my purchase list and Power wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

A few years pass, by this point I had an original Nintendo, a Gameboy, a Genesis/Sega CD and the mighty Super Nintendo. About 1995 or 96 I ended by subscription to Nintendo Power. I can’t recall why, growing out of it I suppose and the talk of all the new systems EGM was covering was far more interesting than what Nintendo Power was providing at the time. I was also drawing more from EGM’s game reviews, which I noticed were not nearly as nice towards games as Nintendo Power (plus, I like the variety of reviewers they had as well).

I can’t recall when, eventually, I stopped reading EGM. I know it was around 1997 because one of the last issues/games I remember getting covered was Final Fantasy VII, and boy was the hype for that game through the roof. I was so wrought in anticipation, I bought magazines I rarely read that covered it. One being Gamefan (see, turned it right back 'round) and I recall that having the best coverage and shots of the game as I looked it over in my History class sophomore year in high school. Like back in third grade, other guys would gather around my desk and we’d look at it together. I didn’t know half of them, but I felt like I was nine all over again. That fleeting, slightly childhood feeling was short-lived as, by 1998, a wonderful new thing called a “computer” entered our home and the internet along with it.

Proof again that the internet might have ruined everything, but I can’t imagine my life without it now.

And that still doesn't explain why old magazines are coming back, much less exist in the first place in the era of immediacy...then again, I'm not going to complain.


Signing off


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Reply frdrizzt (Anthony)
2:23 PM on April 13, 2010 
I have that issue #1 of Nintendo power. I got it for the LoZ: Second quest map, as I was having trouble locating one of the dungeons. I also remember writing to NP's help about the LotR RPG which you have had the honor of discussing before.

Unless they're maintaining websites & break some news (and not just "compile other people's news), there's no way the magazines can make money. I just can't see it happen with all the free news available. At least a website (with free & paid content) has the potential to hook perspective customers.
Reply toosmartforbond2
8:59 AM on April 28, 2010 
I never liked EGM, but I read it occasionally. I gave up my Game Informer subscription some time ago, in favor of the internet but also because I didn't need news as much anymore. I didn't care. I find the games I want to by through some magical divining capacity, heretofore unknown to even myself. The magazines just take up space and cost me money.