This post was inspired by Brendon Mroz's piece, Print is Dead; Long Live Print. I started thinking about what it would take to get me to pick up a gaming magazine again. Nostalgia aside, I don't think it would take much… but things would certainly have to be different this time around.
It is with a quivering lip that I acknowledge all the ways video games and print media have grown apart. A relationship that was once so beautiful and essential to the industry has steadily turned into an ugly break up complete with a domestic disturbance complaint.
Everyone probably suspected things were on the rocks but no one could have guessed things would end up like this. A world without envelope art just feels so empty. Where did it all go wrong?
Perhaps too many game magazine's spread themselves thin trying to compete with digital media instead of refining the valuable elements that lie within the pages of physical media. The internet took the basic mechanics of old school gaming journalism and raised the bar to a place where print can no longer reach.
In the past, a decent gaming magazine would deliver as much coverage over the entire industry as possible. That coverage usually included a couple of feature articles, a few previews, a few more reviews, a section near the back for PC gaming, and a smaller section in the back for sports. Then special issues would be used to cover events like E3 and TGS. No doubt this covered all the bases for any type of game enthusiast out there (save for the really hardcore otaku import dudes).
(Full-coverage courtesy of American Apparel)
Today, it only takes a couple minutes with google to yield endless content about whatever niche in gaming you love the most. More specifically, sites like Kotaku, Joystiq, and GameTrailers cover more ground on a daily basis than a print magazine could in a month. To top it off, it takes me less time to visit those sites combined than it would take me to read my favorite issue of EGM. Consuming the information we lust for has never been cheaper, faster, or more direct.
The ugly truth is video games left print for “bigger and better things.” Of course, print might feel like sulking in a poorly lit room listening to indie music for two months sleepless and without food while the internet and video games make more blog babies…but I think it’s time for print to take a stand and explode from its impending grave like a phoenix from the ashes.
Now that game enthusiasts consume most of their essential gaming related content on the internet – gaming magazines are in the perfect position to become collectible bench marks of game history… Allow me to briefly explain…
I collect records and posters because they are limited editions. These items have art work that will never be reproduced and they represent a place in time that I can easily revisit simply by looking at them.
If a gaming print magazine is going to stick around the first thing it needs to do is become a real collectors item. Every issue needs to look elite and come packed with game art created by readers and professionals. In addition, drastic changes need to be made to the construction of feature articles, previews, and reviews.
Easy access to game related content online eliminates the need for a print magazine to please the masses. This means instead of wasting resources on trying to cover all-things gaming related, a print magazine can concentrate on what print does best – Providing deep, quality, and reflexive articles about specific topics which resonate with anyone who is passionate about games.
With this new focus print media can also throw traditional previews and reviews out the window. A preview could now consist solely of a few great looking screens or even concept art, but printed out on high quality paper and printed out as big as quarter, half, and even, full pages. This will also help every issue become more like a collectable art book.
(I would love to have some full page Force Unleashed concept art even though I didn't care so much for the actual game)
Now that everyone is using internet reviews to help them decide whether to play a game or not, print reviews can now become less of a “buy/don’t buy” breakdown and more of an open critique on how a game generates emotion, engages a player, or creates a unique experience for the reviewer.
Another fundamental filler that needs to be overhauled is the “interview.” Every interview has the potential to become a unique and exclusive piece of content. The problem with most interviews is that every media outlet is asking the same questions; What have you worked on in the past? What game are you working on now? What’s that Like? What can we expect from said game?
Although I do enjoy hearing all the multifaceted answers to these questions from various industry professionals – I’d rather hear about theories on game design, inspirations for projects, challenges in the industry, and just more engaging questions overall.
Lastly, it is important for readers to learn about the magazines staff. The more we know about whose writing an article or who does all the mock ups – the more likely we are to actually feel like part of the community.
If gaming print wants to stick around then it’s going to have offer something that the digital press cannot – A tangible piece of gaming history composed of art, critical thinking, and community.
…What about the envelope art you say? I am sure we can figure something out.