['Game Mag Weaseling' is a weekly column by Kevin Gifford which documents the history of video game magazines, from their birth in the early '80s to the current day.]

With realism in video games ever-increasing, the rating system unevenly enforced in game shops, and everyone from the Federal Trade Commission to some lawyer dude from Florida picking on innocent ol' Take Two Interactive, the reputation of our hobby is being assailed upon from all sides. Perhaps, however, all we need is a PR boost of a different sort to turn the tide. Isn't there anything that us dead-tree enthusiasts can do about these attacks?

Well, the last time video games faced scrutiny for their violence, one noble publisher stepped up to clear their name. They wanted to show that games weren't some horrible plague, that gamers are perfectly well-adjusted, and games are just as wholesome as corndogs and Hummers. They did this...by publishing a newsletter for the parents of gamers.

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PlayRight, a subscription-only magazine published bimonthly for (I think) four issues from 1993 to 1994, made no bones about its target audience. "With thousands of video games on the market," stated a 1993 advertising flyer, "how can parents keep up with their kids' games? They can't. They have to stay ahead of them. That's why GamePro, the industry's leading game players magazine, has taken the lead once again with GamePro's PlayRight Newsletter...the first video game publication written expressly for parents."

GamePro! I knew they wuz rattin' on us! Mom confiscated my friend's copy of Mortal Kombat II and it's all GamePro's fault!

As you might expect from the above, the target audience of PlayRight were parents (and, in particular, mothers) who were scared. Yes, scared of their kid going straight home from school and playing video games all evening, then presumably growing up to become socialists. Written mainly by GamePro editors LeeAnne McDermott and Wes Nihei, each issue includes reviews of nonviolent games (pointing it out Christian Spotlight-style whenever a game has particularly bloody scenes), pieces on game companies engaging in public-service activities, and Q&As with people like child psychologists. The first two issues also include a sheet of nine "PlayRight PlayTime" tokens, the idea being that you'd give your kids these tokens as a sort of allowance for video-game time.

The style of the newsletter is never that overbearing, with one exception: the "Potential Concerns" column in the reviews. Here's what this helpful box has to say about the top hits of '94:

NHL Hockey '94: "Electronic Arts removed the fighting action, so players no longer duke it out over disputes."

Cool Spot:: "Overt commercialism may be a concern."

Prehistoria (a multimedia CD-ROM about dinosaurs): "Animated dinosaur battles are realistically graphic and bloody."

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For fans of obscurity, the first issue of PlayRight has two can't miss features. One is a two-page spread on Raya Systems, maker of Captain Novolin, Bronkie the Bronchiosaurus, and other disease-fighting Super NES games. "I recently sat in on a focus group of 12 asthmatic kids for Bronkie," recalls Raya director of development Aaron Baker in the article. "The minute the kids saw how the game worked, their faces lit up. They said their friends didn't understand why they couldn't do things like pillow-fight."

The other is "Parents in the Know," a one-page article covering three "industry insiders" who talk about how they deal with their kids' gaming habits. One of these insiders is none other than Howard Phillips, ex-Nintendo Fun Club president and (at the time) Director of West Coast Creative Development for Absolute Entertainment. (Did you know he has two daughters? I didn't.) Here's his take on game ratings circa 1994:

"Who should rate the games -- Sega or Nintendo? Players? Rental stores? An industry watchdog group? People answer the question differently depending on what information they want out of the rating. For me, therein lies the key. I think that the more information available the better. I do not suggest, however, that we rely on one source alone. We should encourage previews and ratings from a variety of sources, and we as individuals choose which ones to listen to."

GamePro apparently agreed with Phillips, because even when the PlayRight newsletter ended, the name lived on in a GamePro column that commented on the violent particulars of T- and M-rated games. I remember the staff occasionally debating whether to keep the PlayRight page in, but it managed to survive in the mag all the way up to 2004, when declining page counts presumably made it impractical to continue. I guess it lasted that long because it was a unique feature among game mags, but man, I don't think anyone at all actually read it.

Of course, maybe I should have kept my mouth shut -- now that I've spilled the beans on the removal of PlayRight from GamePro, maybe IDG Entertainment will get sued for pushing violent games on children. Sorry, guys.

[Kevin Gifford breeds ferrets and runs Magweasel, a site for collectors and fans of old video-game and computer magazines. He's also an editor at Newtype USA magazine.]