['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.]


Whenever I have to write a column and don't have any particular idea for one in mind, I take a walk around my office/ferret room/magazine library and fish out random issues from the shelves in search of inspiration. When that doesn't work, I turn to Electronic Games.

The grande dame of game publications in the U.S. -- a mag whose issues still go for a fair bit of cash on auction sites, something that almost nothing post-Nintendo Power can claim -- is always fascinating to thumb through.

This was the first U.S. game mag of any kind, period, and it was very much inventing the style of such mags as it went along. I've written before about how Bill Kunkel and crew had to invent terms like "Easter egg" and "screenshot" for the purposes of this magazine, but they were also the first outlet (and the only one at all, at the time) to spell it "videogame," and not "video game."

The etymology of this word or words is pretty interesting to media nerds like me. In 2007, Kunkel wrote that the standard was "videogame" in the late '70s, when he started writing about them in print, and therefore that's what he stuck with.

I'm not too sure about this belief, though, given that every other contemporary piece of game media I've read from that era spelled it as two words -- including the Pong-console guide Video Games, published in 1977.

When Kunkel edited Tips & Tricks for a year in 2006-07, he wanted to make "videogame" the standard term used in the mag. As Kunkel wrote, he was shot down by Andy Eddy on the idea because "video game" produced far more hits than "videogame" on Google.

But the one-word term's had a recent resurgence in print media, definitely -- Edge switched from "video game" to "videogame" in 1997, and it was the standard for all the Ziff mags and their brethren after a certain point as well. Natural evolution of the English language, or print-mag editors trying to sound elite and refined?

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I'm not sure, but I've completely veered off the subject I had in mind for this week, so let's discuss why you see the above images as part of this post. The December 1983 issue of Electronic Games arguably shows the mag at its peak -- it's big, hefty, has a lot to talk about, and is remarkably well written to boot.

Along with the usual gift guides and the like, the issue contains the attached fun feature showing some of the fan mail Hanna-Barbara received for the Pac-Man cartoon. Most of them are completely mental -- and also eerily reminiscent of the stuff I read from kids who sent physical mail in to GamePro in the early 2000s -- so have fun reading.

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[Kevin Gifford used to breed ferrets, but now he's busy running 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 of publishers and game companies.]