Posts Tagged ‘magazine’

Informed Gamer

30 November 2009

Dear J-

I got the 200th issue of Game Informer in my mailbox over the weekend; they list the 200 greatest games of all time, which are of course like any other game review completely subjective and subject to scrutiny by fans objecting to their favorites’ ranking.  Unusually, instead of counting down, it starts from number one, which leads you to start flipping the pages, musing that surely this game — ah, there it is.  For the most part, the scope is limited to NES games and newer, with the odd arcade title (Donkey Kong, #103; Pong, #158) and early computer titles as well (Zork makes it (#66), but over another Z-Machine game like Planetfall? And no Archon?).  For my part, I have sampled more of the games than I care to admit, especially in the shmup and RPG genres.

GI went through a magazine makeover a few issues back; I wish I’d saved some of my ten-year-old titles just for comparison, but it’s almost as though they poached the design team from play — content has become heavy on graphics and screenshots, lighter on content.  Perhaps that’s indicative of the industry as a whole; instead of innovation, franchises and sequels (hello, Madden and Rock Band/Guitar Hero iterations) are the money-makers:  each year brings much of the same, only in a different wrapper (to be honest, you could say the same thing about most jRPGs:  lone hero gathers companions to fight evil hoping to destroy the world; rinse and repeat).  As the rag with probably the highest circulation (due in no small part to their position as the party voice of the ubiquitous GameStop), they could probably afford to experiment with their look at will.

Thing is, I remember when they were called Funcoland, a Minneapolis-based chain of stores offering pretty much only what you saw on the shelves; the industry was smaller and more diverse then — multiple publishers, niche genres, and no great eBay equalizer driving prices.  Maybe I’m just getting too old for this; you spend too much time thinking about the way things were, you start to cherry-pick the good (man, you had so many compelling stories to choose from) from the bad (games weren’t any less expensive then, and you had to perform ritual cleansing of cartridges on a regular basis) without realizing it.  Life is good — downloadable content, multiple sources of help — and the annoyances are just that:  nothing heart-stopping.



Outside and About

8 June 2008

Dear J-

I’ve inexplicably received a subscription to Outside magazine. I suspect that it may be due to renewing a discount card at the local used video game store and, in response to the list rattled off by the bored-looking clerk (“Uh … there’s Official Playstation Magazine, Official Nintendo Magazine, Official XBox Magazine, …”) I responded that I didn’t need any of those, so clearly, they gave me the magazine targeted towards twentysomething slackers and video game folks. Either that, or I’m mis-representing a nice gift someone got for me.

As magazines go, it’s not bad, but not terribly memorable either: the last magazine I consciously subscribed to was Games, with many fond memories of hours spent poring over the different clever puzzles and game reviews it contained. Well, forty bucks later, I was having flashbacks again, but this time because the magazine was running, in lieu of new content, what they termed “Classic Games Puzzles” — which I recognized from twenty years ago. Plus I started to remember something distinctly less pleasant: I wasn’t very good at the puzzles then, and still wasn’t very good at the puzzles now, preferring (thanks, Mr. Larson!) to stick with what I call whodunits — logic puzzles, which showed up maybe once every quarter in Games. The next time I was at the newsstand, I invested five bucks in a book of logic puzzles and have since concluded that was an excellent buy, having lasted me nearly as long as a full year of Games.

But this is about Outside, a study in contradictions. On one page you have spiritual transcendence: the world is both bigger and smaller than we think it is, its natural wonders overwhelm and awe us; yet on the next, gear reviews aimed mainly at separating fools and money (if I’m spending $2 000 on binoculars, they’d damn well better go out and get the sights for me — while I sleep — download them, and put on a slide show when I get back, Nikon ED glass or not). So I note with some amusement how Marc Peruzzi’s (the resident grump) column (“The Big Idea”) in the July issue decries the ubiquity of surf culture, focussing on the money (selling out) and hypocrisy (how can surfing be so noble if it’s neither risky nor mellow?) of it, like that of any other sport. There are those (in other words, the majority) who feel that the NBA Finals were rigged in a way — Kevin McHale, GM of the Timberwolves, pulling a blockbuster trade of Kevin Garnett to the Celtics (McHale’s former team) and forming them into something formidable, just as Jerry West, formerly of the Lakers, retires just before Memphis sends their best player, Pau Gasol, to the Lakers, who promptly rip back through the playoffs following a few years of aimlessness with Captain Kobe at the helm.

What bothers me more about Peruzzi’s column is not so much the content (or malcontent, if you will), but the sneering attitude behind it. The whole thing faintly reeks of holier-than-thou (it’s a sweet, cloying odor) and of being able to pass judgement because, somewhere, somehow, someone’s decided he’s more hardcore than you, or whomever he criticises. It’s not the facts he cites, which are sufficiently compelling, or the advertisers he skewers, but the personal anecdotes he brings in just make him look like an ass and detracts from the overall tone of the essay. Oh, and note to the editor — putting this at the end of the column:

EDITOR’S NOTE: See page 110 to get styled for summer’s coolest sport. Shakka-gnar, brah!

only serves to prove that either you don’t actually read the content and/or you’ve missed the point.