March 3, 2007 7:31 AM |
['Game Mag Weaseling' is a weekly column by Kevin Gifford which covers video game magazines from the late '70s all the way up to right now.]
As I mentioned last week in a rather derisive fashion, both Future and Imagine Publishing in the UK have been experimenting with what I suppose you could call "boutique" game magazines, high-priced one-offs printed on top-of-the-line paper and meant to attract hardcore gamers. In the US, though, things are a little bleaker -- the number of one-off specials has plummeted in the past two years, and only Future puts out a large quantity of them these days.
I realize that most US specials are pretty forgettable to all but hardcore collectors, mostly consisting of recycled content from the "mother" mags, so I'm not exactly lamenting this turn of events. Still, even if pretty much all of the US-printed specials in my collection are not great triumphs of literature, a few are memorable in their own way. Witness:
GamePro's Celebrity Gamers (1991)
This is 68 pages of pure silliness, here -- sort of like the celebrity corners of early-era Nintendo Power, except multiplied to silly proportions and lacking most of the top-name celebrities. Published chiefly to advertise the JD Roth-hosted GamePro TV show (which premiered September 1991), most of the magazine is devoted to Roth interviewing a series of stars and getting tips for their favorite video games from them. These stars (none of whom are above 20) are a veritable who's-who of 80s sitcom kids -- David Faustino, Mayim Bialik, Soleil Moon Frye, Sara Gilbert, the littlest Huxtable, the older sister from Full House, the little girl from Growing Pains, Corky's sister on Life Goes On, and so forth.
The big star of the show (besides Roth, of course, who has a full-page ad for his fan club in this issue) is Macaulay Culkin, who's not so great at PR apparently -- when asked if he knows about the three Home Alone games THQ is making, he replies "They're making Home Alone games? I hadn't heard about them." Figures. If only Culkin had input into them! They maybe they could've been saved! (His favorite games, by the way? "Splatterhouse, DEFINITELY ...oh, and Bloody Wolf." The ESRB, if they were around back then, probably would not have approved.)
EGM's Player's Guide to Summer Gaming (1998)
Summer Gaming is almost singlehandedly the work of Crispin Boyer, veteran EGM editor and one of the nicest folks in the industry, and reading the issue you can't help but be a little jealous. The brunt of it chronicles a car trip Boyer took with a photographer earlier in the year, driving the frog-green "New Beetle" on the cover (on loan from Volkswagen) and visiting game centers across the country. If you don't know what Crispin Boyer looks like, you'll be fully aware after reading this 30-page odyssey -- it's packed with pix of him playing Virtuality, stuffing his face with Dave & Buster's food, morphing his face with that of an albino monkey, and checking out the World's Tallest Thermometer in Baker, CA.
The article's interesting for research purposes if you're into old arcade stuff, but just seeing Crispin -- who looked kind of like Superman's pal Jimmy Olsen back then -- doing all this stuff is enough to make you want a Beetle and an expense account of your own.
Game Player's Sports for Kids (1989)
Not strictly a special, the bimonthly Sports for Kids reportedly lasted until publisher Signal Research went bankrupt in late 1991, although I've never ever seen an issue besides the one I own. Although the advertising is all from video-game companies, there's only a few pages of game info in this 100-page mag -- the rest, as you'd expect, is a sports magazine for kids, similar to the Sports Illustrated spinoff that launched not long before this one.
Unlike Celebrity Gamers, Sports for Kids was damn good at picking its talent to profile. On page 8, the mag kicks off with a piece on 13-year-old, skinny-as-a-rail Eldrick "Tiger" Woods, who's already got his goofy grin and "Ooh, I wish I had that shot back" expression at this point in his career. Michael Irvin, the late Hank Gathers, Alonzo Mourning, and Elvis Grbac (who had a great college football career and an okay NFL one) also get profiles and interviews -- all names I still recognize today, which is more than I can say for more of Celebrity Gamers' lineup. (There is also a spread of photos showing Mario Lopez in a wrestling championship, but I'll forget I saw that.)
EGM 3-D (1995)
"The book that you are now holding in your hands is a concept book," writes Ed Semrad at the start of EGM 3-D. "It is an experiment of sorts, and you just happen to be the guinea pig. For all intents and purposes, you shall be the final judge as to whether or not this little 'experiment' is a success or an abysmal failure. However, we think you're like it. No, let me rephrase that, we think you'll be tickled pink!"
Since I'm the only person I know who owns a copy of the $9.99 EGM 3-D, I think it's fair to say that the magazine was not a major success. The title comes packed with a pair of ChromaDepth glasses, diffractive lens that makes red colors appear closer, and blue colors farther away, from the wearer. This works on any photo, in theory, but in reality, it just seems to make EGM 3-D's game spreads a total mess. Peraps it's because my pair of glasses are old and a little dirty or something, but as far as I can tell, it just makes the magazine look blurry instead of providing any sort of 3D effect. Ah well.
Categories: Column: Game Mag Weaseling