We’re deep into the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, which got me thinking of all the ways I used to spend those precious extra hours of free time. As a kid (or #teen), I would often pull out all my game magazines and either re-read them, admire the unique cover art or just absentmindedly flip through their pages, pausing occasionally to recall a game I’d forgotten about or a special password I never used.
Point is, those magazines bored their way into my brain, but none more so than the first issue of each one I discovered. Not the literal first issue of the magazine, but the first GamePro I read at a local supermarket, or the first Nintendo Fun Club News that was practically a myth in my first grade classroom. In those pre-internet days, you had to wait 30 to 60 days for the next issue to arrive, and in that time I’d read that damn thing at least 10 times. That intense waiting period was never as intense as it was the first time I picked up a new magazine.
So during this fall break, I thought it would be fun to discuss your first issues and how that cover sticks with you, or how some story inside brought you back again and again. Please sound off in the comments or on our Facebook page. For now though, here are mine!
Nintendo Fun Club News (April/May 1988)
Near as I can tell, this is the first “game magazine” I ever read. A friend brought it to class and I’m pretty sure seeing this cover permanently altered my body chemistry. That moment stands out more than almost any other memory from first grade, as it was… a whole magazine… about… Nintendo???
Mere weeks later, Nintendo Power would arrive and offer 2-3 times as much content as Fun Club News. A magical time!
This issue also contained winners of a Metroid fan art contest. I stared at these for countless hours. Still think they look cool as hell. http://www.gamingsanctuary.com/Mags_N_Ads.html
Videogames & Computer Entertainment (Dec 1988)
VG&CE felt a little more buttoned-up than some of the other magazines of the day. Maybe it was the super-literal, descriptor-free title (no Power? No Pro?) or the way the magazine was laid out… not sure, but I do recall this issue’s custom Blaster Master cover!
Most magazines of the ’80s/’90s crossover days had to use custom art like this, either because PR/Marketing was so wild west back then that they wouldn’t even think to offer official assets (or even have them), OR because said assets would’ve been so lo-res that splashing them across a magazine was probably not best for business.
One other thing about this mag that stood out – words like “Commodore” and “Amiga.” To this day I know so little about either platform, partially because neither took off in the US. But then again, the Sega CD and TurboDuo kinda flopped too and I knew what those were!
Game Players (November 1989)
Years before it was purchased by Imagine (aka the “I” in “IGN” aka Future before snowball.com… seriously read up on all of that), Game Players began in North Carolina as a Signal Research publication. I can’t recall if the ’89 era was as silly and irreverent as the ’90s iteration (followed by Ultra Game Players and to an extent PSM), but I do remember this goddamn Mega Man 2 cover!
This was right as the Genesis launched and the Super Mario Bros Super Show hit TV… an interesting time, as The Simpsons had also begun its historic TV run and Star Trek: TNG was well into its incredible third season. Needless to say, the end of ’89 was pretty exciting for little me, and this issue was always by my side.
GamePro (November 1989)
While Nintendo Power was always the go-to magazine back then, GamePro was the “other” magazine I read the most. I appreciated the look at other platforms not covered by NP, and that the custom cover art would leap from magazine stands. They’d be really general “adventure!” concepts like first issue I read (above), custom character art created just for one issue OR they’d be super out-there ideas that stick with me to this day. LIKE THIS!
Now, when I think of GamePro I can’t help but also think of the house artist that drew numerous covers and their actual GamePro comic book. This artist – Francis Mao – would sometimes sign the covers and give them an extra special spice (in that they felt like they came from a real person and not magically pulled out of the ether).
I eventually worked alongside Francis for four years at Capcom, and one of his farewell traditions was drawing departing folks in his signature style. So after staring at his art for years, I now have a cartoony portrait from the Gamepro guy. Pretty happy about that.
Electronic Gaming MONTHLY (February 1992)
From ’89 to ’91-92, I mostly stuck to the aforementioned magazines. But when Street Fighter II took arcades by storm, even my middle-of-nowhere shops caught the fever. And when EGM jumped on that hype train, they elevated the magazine from a fourth or fifth thing I couldn’t possibly ask my parents for in addition to the other magazines I was reading to the MUST HAVE book of the month.
Granted, it’s pretty weird to use Ken’s standing jab as a cover, but that’s how hot SFII was – the fact it was on the cover was all I needed. I read this damn thing cover to cover countless times, subscribed right away and remained a regular reader well into the 2000s.
EGM was fun because of the four-person reviews, the extensive import ads in the back and, in the late ’90s, the sense of fun from the staff itself. It changed a lot over the years, but damn, those ’92-’95 fighting game covers really made a difference.
Next Generation (Fall 1994)
When Next Generation suddenly appeared on a Wal-Mart shelf, most other magazines were trying to out-’90s each other. Lots of jokes, lots of attitude, lots of hype and cynicism is equal measure. But NextGen (as it would eventually be known) took the opposite approach – an attempt at grown up, tech-based “adult” coverage that spoke to those with their own disposable income.
Even at 14 I appreciated the distinction. This debut issue – printed on high quality paper, of course – did an excellent job of making itself feel just as advanced as the Virtua Fighter cast on the cover. It felt smart, clean, classy… all words I couldn’t necessarily attribute to the comparatively garish competition. That said, I still read them all 😛
While there were things I did not like about NG (namely its boo-hiss-2D-games-are-bad mantra), it was still a welcome new option. It somewhat cracked open the mystical dome surrounding game development by interviewing accessible western figureheads (Trip Hawkins, Bill Gates etc) and, when possible, Japanese heavies too. It also landed in a time when games (and games writing) desperately wanted to be taken seriously. NG did a better job at this than, say, Cybermania.
PSM (June 2004)
So, this isn’t the first issue of PSM I ever read. It’s the first issue I was published in, way back in 2004. I had flown out for an internship during March of 2004 and while there, was trusted to review The X-Files: Resist or Serve (7/10!). That made this issue important for all new reasons – the reader had become the writer, and could I have written text in someone else’s first issue? Head-spinning thoughts, here!
While June 2004 was my first article, May 2004 actually featured an actual cameo in PSM’s goofabout comic section. The magazine continued the clubhouse tone of Game Players (as it included some of the same staff) and that meant some good natured ribbing on my last day in the office. A year and a half later, I’d be working at Future/GamesRadar as a for-real salaried employee.
Phew! That took longer than I expected. But now I’m curious to hear what your fawned-over magazines were back in the day. Links to covers are always cool too – I grabbed mine from RetroMags, by the way. Very helpful resource!