['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.]


How much does the Japanese PC game industry not matter outside of girl-themed, usually pornographic adventures and sound novels? It matters so little that the one completely PG-rated magazine in Japan that covered the scene -- and, in fact, the oldest and longest-lasting game magazine in Japanese history -- folded this summer after 388 issues and I completely failed to notice.

LOGiN launched in May 1982 as a quarterly magazine from ASCII, the biggest computer publisher in Japan at the time. It was the first computer mag ASCII published that wasn't primarily targeted at an IT/business/industrial tech audience, and therefore it was written at a much more casual and engaging tone, sort of like what Creative Computing was simultaneously doing for the industry in the US. (LOGiN didn't coin the term "otaku," but it was one of the first national publications to use the term in print to refer to PC and anime hobbyists.)

In April 1983 LOGiN went monthly and shifted its focus from programing and tech topics to video games, a restructuring that proved to be a major success. This shift accelerated when Fumitaka Kojima (later the founding editor of Famitsu) took on the EIC job in September 1984.

From that point on, LOGiN took on a very silly, almost Python-esque sense of humor that is probably its greatest legacy in Japan mag history, frequently publishing humor articles that had little to do with games (or computers) even as it covered new games, new technologies, and all the other things the then-exploding PC industry was up to. The formula made LOGiN the number-one game mag in Japan -- the 1980s issues are all thick as a brick, and in 1988 the mag went biweekly, the first computer title in Japan to do so.

LOGiN was also where Famitsu itself got its start. The original Famicom Tsushin was a section of the magazine that debuted in the March 1985 issue and included the usual assortment of game previews and strategies. The section grew and grew until ASCII gave it its own biweekly publication in June 1986, no doubt noting how much advertising cash rival publisher Tokuma Shoten was raking in with Family Computer Magazine at the time.

(Just as the very unique writing style of Your Sinclair and Amiga Power largely defined the voice of British game mags, so did LOGiN and Famitsu take the for-kids content of past game mags and make it just mature and funny enough to keep adults interested. You don't see it quite as much in modern-day Famitsu, but then again video games are the purest definition of mainstream and Famitsu's its primary coverage outlet in Japan. It had to grow up sometime.)


The '80s PC gaming boom in Japan largely settled down by the mid '90s, with casual gamers drifting to consoles and hardcore fans growing pubes and playing dating sims by the handful. For LOGiN -- which, by 1992, boasted so much fantasy/sci-fi/geek content that it had as many non-gamer readers as PC otaku -- it was the end of the party.

By 1997 most of the far-out humor pages were gone, and the title evolved back to its roots as an orthodox PC game mag. It returned to monthly publication in 1998, got taken over by Enterbrain in 2000 alongside the Famitsu lineup, and by 2005 its circulation was down to only 50,000 copies (a figure almost certainly inflated, just like all Japan circ figures are).

The last issue (July '08) came out last May. In its place now is the website LOGiN Web Magazine, a fairly decent-looking news blog type site that has put up some of LOGiN's '80s content for free. B's Log, an Enterbrain sister magazine devoted to yaoi PC games, still exists, to my extreme embarrassment.

I don't think anyone in Japan really paid much attention to LOGiN after 2000 or so, but its passing is still mightily symbolic. It's not the end of print-mag PC coverage in Japan, because PC gaming in East Asia essentially means MMO's and there are a few different titles covering that beast.

But it's certainly a turning point in game media over there. I mean, think about it -- if you're a Japanese-speaking PC gamer who's not into FFXI or Ragnarok and you're also not a registered sex offender in the making, it's now the Internet or nothing for coverage. Weird.

(Yes, I know not all Japanese PC adventure games are pornographic. The fact that aficionadoes have to defend their genre by clarifying this point before anything else says a great deal, however.)

[Kevin Gifford breeds ferrets and runs Magweasel, a site for collectors and fans of old video-game and computer magazines. In his spare time he does writing and translation for lots and lots of publishers and game companies.]