Gaming Magazines

Back when I turned nine-years-old, the Birthday Badger was kind enough to bring me a Nintendo 64, along with Banjo Kazooie.  Having fallen head-over-heels for the game while sampling a demo of it at Toys R Us, I just had to have it.  And I got it, because I was (and still am) a spoiled rotten little brat.  But the Birthday Badger still had some tricks up his sleeve, because I also got a strategy guide to Banjo and a subscription to Nintendo Power magazine.  Oh, and a T-Shirt.  I guess it was some kind of bundle the store my daddy bought the console from had to offer.  Either way, I was the proud owner of an extremely wrinkly shirt and a Nintendo 64.  I didn’t really put much thought into the Nintendo Power subscription until I got my first issue of that the following month.  And then I did get it, and I didn’t care.  Because I was already a subscriber of the Official PlayStation Magazine, and it had demo discs.  Nintendo Power didn’t.  It also offered nothing that I couldn’t find online.  And it never did.

My first issue of Nintendo Power. It had the truly, truly awful Bomberman Hero as the cover game. It was an omen.

The recent news that Nintendo Power is ceasing publication has been met with universal sadness from bloggers and Twitterers.  I’m not sure I’m capable of understanding it.  I didn’t grow up in an era where magazines were the only resource for getting news on gaming.  GameSpot (or videogames.com as it was back then, at least if you wanted console news) and IGN were already up-and-running by time my gaming life began, plus dozens of other sites that offered breaking news and previews.  Breaking news for a gaming magazine means you read it three months after it happened.  Sometimes only two months later if the stars were lined up properly.

In a different era, I could understand why Nintendo Power, Gamepro, EGM, or other gaming magazines could be popular.  But once the internet came around, wasn’t that the ball game?  What could you get from those magazines at $6 an issue that you couldn’t get from the internet, for free?  I guess the same argument applies to newspapers as well.  I know that many people are leery (perhaps rightfully so) at the prospect of a world without newspapers, but that time is coming.  It’s coming faster than you want.

But, this is about gaming magazines, and specifically Nintendo Power.  Now even as a nine-year-old, I wouldn’t expect Nintendo to package a Nintendo 64 cartridge with every issue.  That wouldn’t be cost efficient.  But then, Nintendo consoles moved towards disc-based stuff.  And yet, they still refused to get with the times and include the one feature they could do that websites couldn’t: demos.  As a kid, every new issue of the official magazines for PlayStation, Dreamcast, and Xbox were practically events for me.  And the demos actually worked towards selling me games that I probably wouldn’t have picked out of a line-up at Toys R Us if I had the choice.  The Dreamcast magazine sold me on games like Chu Chu Rocket, Crazy Taxi, and Rush 2049.  I played the demo of the stunt course on Rush 2049 so much that by time the game was released, I was already bored with it.  That’s how much play value I got out of it.  They also packed in a free “full” game, Sega Swirl, that I burned many hours playing against my father with.  Without hyperbole, the Official Dreamcast Magazine was probably my favorite thing in the whole world.

And then the final issue hit.  It had no demo disc.  This was mostly because Sega had thrown in the towel for console development and had decided to quit supporting the Dreamcast.  Still, not even getting a demo as a send off would be like not getting a final meal for an execution.  Sure, by this point Xbox was on the horizon, and with it a new shiny magazine no doubt chalked full of demos.  But at the time, I was inconsolable, like a friend had just died or something.  No more Dreamcast demos.  None.  Gone.

Which brings me back to Nintendo Power.  They never got with the times.  No demos.  Mediocre writing.  Nintendo Power to me always felt more like a promotional brochure than a true, critically thinking publication.  As a kid, that was fine with me.  Gamepro was more or less the same way.  Once I grew out of it, I only kept getting it because we never remembered to stop the auto-renewal of it.  Incidentally, that’s the same reason I still get Highlights for Children.

When news hit that Nintendo Power was toast, people started reminiscing about the good times, like when they got a free copy of Dragon Quest (or Dragon Warrior, because questing is for weirdos or something) just by subscribing to the magazine.  Or about features and comics in the magazine that are no longer a part of it and haven’t been for decades, such as Howard & Nester.  Or about the batshit insane covers some of the early issues had.  Like this one.

Jesus Christ! I mean.. Jesus Christ! Isn’t this supposed to be a children’s magazine?? That shit is going to give me nightmares.

That’s just the second issue!  I mean, good lord!  I can’t believe it made it another twenty-four years after that.  And yet, it survived.  I wonder why other kiddie mags never tried the “scare the ever-loving shit out of them” approach.

Turn to page 14 and try to find all nine dead teenagers in the hidden picture.  I would SO buy this issue.

Oddly enough, most of these things happened either before I was born or long before I was into gaming.  To me, Nintendo Power was always that strange little magazine that I got for my birthday one year and it just kept coming, month after month, with stuff I had already read about online months earlier.  The best stuff to come out of Nintendo Power was their strategy guides, but they discontinued them in 2007, with Prima Games taking over duties.  Which was fine with me.  The last time I really used a strategy guide was for Star Ocean: Till the End of Time.  Fucking guide for that thing would rival mid-range city phone books in girth.  But, by that point, GameFAQs had evolved to the point of being the more convenient means of getting help with a game.

Really, isn’t it just time to let this era go?  Gamepro is dead.  Nintendo Power is dead.  EGM is back from the dead, but it’s not the same.  Soon, all that will be left is, shudder, Game Informer, which I’m pretty sure you get a free subscription to just by parking your car at a GameStop.  All the Nintendo Power stories I’ve been hearing are twenty or more years old.  So it’s not really about the magazine, is it?  It’s about nostalgia.  So I pose this question: how does Nintendo Power shutting down affect your childhood memories of reading the magazine?  People have taken my stance on this to mean that I’m against print media.  I’m not really.  I just don’t see what printed gaming magazines have to offer me.  Crazy talk?  No, paying $10 an issue to read shit I already know, now that is crazy talk.

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11 Responses to Gaming Magazines

  1. Dave Voyles says:

    At least you acknowledged why people may have enjoyed these magazines.

    As someone who grew up with Nintendo Power as a household item since I learned how to read, it was pivotal in my desire to play games and learn more. The late 80’s and early 90’s were a completely different era for gaming, especially in terms of communication and how we learned so mjuch about games.

    The strategy guides in these things were priceless.

    Game Informer was another one that played a huge role in my gaming career. I’ve been subscribing since the first issue! They’ve had their ups and downs, but in the 90’s they were more relevant than ever. I still remember some of the strategy guides, such as Resident Evil 1, in the March issue of ’96 where they walked you through Chris’ campaign.

    The only way I ever knew how to pull off any moves in Mortal Kombat II in the arcade was because of that damn magazine!

    With that said however, these are all from an era long gone by,and I don’t see the nostalgia, or their relevance returning any time soon.

    • Actually, I believe the nostalgia for them will grow while the relevance of them will shrink. I mean, I’m sentimental too. I miss that feeling of getting a new, shrink-wrapped issue of Official Dreamcast Magazine in the mail. That’s something I will always miss. But it can never be replicated in the modern era. It just can’t be.

      • Dave Voyles says:

        I can still remember reading my official dreamcast magazine in my 8th grade history class, and thinking “Floigan Brothers 2? This game looks awesome!”

        Time flies.

        I agree, it can’t be replicated at this point. The flow of information is just too great to make magazines relevant to the way they were before.

  2. Justin says:

    That cover is what got me to beg my mom for Simon’s Quest.

    They should’ve just had a screenshot of Simon falling through one of those stupid false floors. That would’ve scared me off.

  3. Tim Hurley says:

    I realize you didn’t exactly grow up in that era, Cathy, so the news doesn’t have that same emotional tinge to it for you that it would for others. I’m not exactly broken up by it (magazines have been going bye-bye for quite some time, obviously), but it does mark the end of something that was / is important in my life. I’m with Dave in saying that the mag (and EGM, Next Gen, OXM, among others) was a staple. There was a lot of good memories there.

    I was on Nintendo Power from the beginning, even had all of the issues up until seven or so years ago, when I did finally unsubscribe. Sadly threw them all out the last time I moved. I agree that the news in each issue was old news by the time the mags came in the mail, but I would still read them cover to cover like they were brand new. I still buy my books in physical form. I’ve always appreciated my news in print, ditto for gaming. And even the old stories seemed new with a different writer’s take on it. Hell, you could say that’s why sites like ours can co-exist; people like to hear different arguments on a game.

    Still, well said. Their era has come and gone. It’s just one of those things. Next time I raise a glass, though, I will toast the NP.

  4. JazFusion says:

    I was never much of a Nintendo Power fan. I played PC games more often than not, and read whatever subscription my dad subscribed to. Probably PC Gamer or Computer Games magazine. I hold many happy memories sitting at the breakfast table, flipping through the glossy pages, reading the reviews and editorials. It was my generation’s gaming blogs (Well, those born in the early to mid-80’s). We didn’t have the internet the way it is today back then. Information was not entirely accessible; if you were even lucky enough to have an internet connection. Not even all of my friends had computers.

    I mourn gaming magazines because they are an end of an era. I accept this, because I know time is finite; something we as humans construct. But, it’s like watching my son grow up. I miss the infantile days when I could hold him in my arms. Now he’s five, and it is exhilarating to watch him grow and become his own person. But nostalgia will remain. Always.

    I work with the elderly, and it can be entirely frustrating to listen to them rant about how the 40’s and 50’s were the best years in America. Despite the Great Depression, racism, sexism, etc. Yet were you to ask them, today we are declining as a society. But really, it’s they who are resistant to change.

    I think the internet is very good at keeping things, especially old things, locked up in a tidy vault. There is such a plethora of information you can share that you couldn’t even when NP was in wide circulation. Because that is how we circulated it. I think my generation and successive ones are much more open to change.

    Days past were good days. And I acknowledge that. But there are better times ahead. Even for video game journalism.

  5. GaTechGrad says:

    I still have my collection of Nintendo Power magazines, including the first issue with Mario 2 on the cover from ’88. However, I wrote my passwords and high scores with a marker on the cover. Looking back, I wish I had kept it in mint condition.

    I subscribed all the way back since the last issue of Nintendo Fun Club News, and I was a subscriber through most of the SNES era. Somehow I missed out on the free Dragon Warrior game due to the time that I resubscribed, but I know others who did get the game. My subscription was canceled sometime in ’93, which was before the N64 era. I remember the Mickey Mouse covered killed it for me, because it was clear they started targeting a much younger demographic.

    When I was a kid, my bedroom walls were totally covered with the foldout posers from the magazines. I also created quite a few designs for their “design the next MegaMan robot” contest, which I also hung on my walls. Unfortunately, none of my designs were used (or maybe they were? :-/) I also remember sending in one or two envelope art submissions, along with a photo for their high score charts. Each month, I remember anxiously awaiting for each issue to see if there was an update for the release date for A Link to the Past. They were really good a releasing information at a drip’s pace to keep people waiting for the next issue.

    I do agree that Nintendo Power lasting this long is really surprising. Back in the day, Nintendo was synonymous with video games, as they held a huge market share with Sega a distant second. There were other knockoff video game magazines, but they only covered third party titles and didn’t use the official art and trademarks from Nintendo. Around the PS1 era is when I subscribed to EGM for a year or two, but it never had the same appeal of Nintendo Power. For one thing, Nintendo Power never had any advertisements (though some would claim that the whole magazine was an advertisement). Plus, at that time dialup Internet access was still pricey for most people (AOL/Prodigy/Compuserve was $10 for 5 hours and $3 for each additional hour per month). For these days, the only time print media beats the Internet is when you need something to read in the dentist’s waiting room where Wi-Fi isn’t available.

  6. I entirely agree with your analysis here, but that doesn’t mean I don’t mourn the loss of NP. When I was growing up this was one of the only ways to see what a game actually looked like in the game aside from looking at the back of the game box itself. Imagine if you went to a store selling games and the ONLY thing you had to go on was the box art and the description/screen shots on the back of the box. Nintendo Power was one of the few places you could get more info on a game, and maybe an idea of what the actual game play was like. Eventually video rental stores had the bright idea of renting games as well, but until then this was it. Also as mentioned the guides could be very helpful, and the foldout maps (with posters on the other side) were lifesavers in games like Metroid.

    All that said I haven’t had a subscription to NP or any other video game magazine since the mid 90’s. The rise of the internet made them largely irrelevant. Hell, in 2002 G4 provided not just additional screenshots from the games but full on game play video, and then by 2005 YouTube came out and we could see videos of any game we wanted at any time.

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  8. I still subscribe to (new) EGM. It’s got some analysis and opinions and reviews you don’t find elsewhere. Magazines need to have something that isn’t available online and I never felt Nintendo Power did that well. They were a clearly biased magazine reporting mostly Nintendo news and cheat codes… nothing you couldn’t find faster elsewhere. I subscribed to Nintendo Power for most of the NES era and into the SNES days but it’s been a long, long time since they were relevant to me. It’s sad to see them go still mostly because of how much I enjoyed their NES coverage in my youth.

  9. kriswd40 says:

    I still subscribe to (new) EGM. It\’s got some analysis and opinions and reviews you don\’t find elsewhere. Magazines need to have something that isn\’t available online and I never felt Nintendo Power did that well. They were a clearly biased magazine reporting mostly Nintendo news and cheat codes… nothing you couldn\’t find faster elsewhere. I subscribed to Nintendo Power for most of the NES era and into the SNES days but it\’s been a long, long time since they were relevant to me. It\’s sad to see them go still mostly because of how much I enjoyed their NES coverage in my youth.

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