giftguide1.jpg

Now that all the holiday issues are out from everyone, the wave of Christmas gift-giving buyer's guides is finally over for the year.

These guides are something I always dreaded writing during my editor days. They take a metric ton of time to collate, much more than when you're writing typical previews or features. You spend forever tracking down assets and figuring out what's appropriate for the guide. Then, once it's all done, you look back over the proofs and wonder to yourself (or I did, at least): "Is anyone actually going to use this? Are people besides the PR folks I talked to reading these things?"

So gift guides are always a challenge to writers, but still they come out every year, all clockwork-style and such. For example, Game Informer's December '09 issue has an eight-page guide (which is available online as well) that features games, hardware, DVDs, toys, and assorted pricey video game merchandise. It's well-executed and nice to look at, sure, but it's also not drastically different from any other gift guide you can see in competing mags, which also sport a lot of 'em.

Curious, I wondered if these print-mag gift guides have changed much in tone over the years. So, naturally, I went to the oldest video-game magazine in my collection -- the first issue of Electronic Games, dated winter 1981. Game Informer in 2009 has a "Holiday Buying Guide"; Electronic Games in 1981 had a "Holiday Gift Guide." There's one difference there, I suppose.

giftguide2.jpg

A few humorous comparisons:

Most Expensive Item
1981: The Champion Sensory Challenger, a standalone chess computer ($375, or $877.25 in modern dollars)
2009: A replica costume and sword for Altair from Assassin's Creed ($1111.50)

Most Embarrassing Item If Someone Actually Bought It For You
1981: A vinyl Space Invaders jacket "for the gamer who truly matters"
2009: Star Wars-themed "chopsaber" chopsticks

Most Inappropriate Gift
1981: A portable electronic horse-race analyzer
2009: The Tauntaun sleeping bag

Best Cheap Gift
1981: The $50 Casio wristwatch that actually plays a game (ooooh)
2009: The $25 remote-control Warthog

Conclusion: In 28 years, game-mag holiday gift guides have not changed at all. Yet they're still a huge pain in the ass to write. What happened to progress?

[Kevin Gifford breeds ferrets and runs Magweasel, a really cool weblog about games and Japan and "the industry" and things. In his spare time he does writing and translation for lots and lots of publishers and game companies.]