After recently stumbling upon the blog A Life Well Wasted, the brain child of freelance journalist Robert Ashley, I began wondering about the video game magazine industry. Ashley had picked up on the death of Electronic Gaming Monthly, talking to various ex-editors and contributors about what it was like to work on the publication in it’s golden age.
It got me thinking about the way we consume our gaming journalism. Before the internet, magazines were king; it was the only way gamers could find out news and reviews of the latest titles. I used to read my copies cover to cover, taking in every word before I was comfortable lending them out to friends. Video Games hadn’t become mainstream enough to be included in rental stores, so the only way I could check out a game was to buy it at full price. Magazines seemed to be the only way of knowing if a title was worth your hard earned pocket money. We’re very sceptical of the opinion of reviewers and critics these days, but I think back then gamers were much more trusting.
The internet has of course, blown our past time out of proportion. Video games are now socially acceptable, so we no longer need magazines for a sense of community or belonging. Excluding the enormous wealth of enthusiast blogs and reviews, there are still dozens of gaming sites creating journalism that can be accessed for free. Advertising is becoming stricter, but as consumers we now have access to features, reviews and cheats on demand. The issues revolving around ‘Tips and Hints’ already seem archaic in the wake of walkthrough sites such as Gamefaqs.
Publishers used to justify increasing the cost of a magazine by offering freebies. The most important, of course, was the demo disc. The only way to play a demo was to buy the corresponding magazine, so I would always rush out to buy an issue when it featured a title I was interested in . A magazine would pride themselves on the exclusivity of offering a particular game or video first. Now though? We get our demo’s for free with the click of a button on Xbox Live or PSN.
So this leads to the title of my post. With so many websites offering unique, quality content, is there any need for video game magazines? I would like to believe so. Writing for the internet is a different craft to print, due to the nature of scan reading and reduced space on the world wide web. The magazine can often have a larger word count to allow analysis and discussion, spreading across multiple pages and interviews. With so many distractions on the internet gamers are quick to lose interest in an online review, absently clicking on a new tab or their latest reply on messenger. When you’re sat down with a magazine your attention is a commitment, often rewarded with a more engrossing read.
You might look cool reading the news on you’re iPhone, but for on the go practicality paper media is still the way forward. A magazine can often be a lifesaver when you’re sitting on an aeroplane, waiting for the bus or just bored on the toilet. Still simple to stuff in a bag, show to your friend or hold onto for safe keeping. It’ll be a shame if we all end up staring at tiny LCD screens for our long commuter journeys.
Or maybe i’m just being too traditional. Perhaps the internet really is king and video game magazines as we know it are about to die out. I’m not trying to say they’re all good; here in England at least half on the rack of Borders are rubbish. There are still a few gems though, like Edge and GamesTM… which I just hope can still find a place in our ever changing hobby.