Prior to the collapse of both Play and Geek Magazine I sent Dave Halverson a couple of interview requests that I guess fell on deaf ears. After reading the forums and Frank Anderson's interview about Play's demise I began to reflect on what could be learned from the events that lead to — what some think — was inevitable. It's obvious to see that the world of print media needs a consistent audience, but Play's misfortune has shown what makes the game journalism audience so incredible and detestable.
As an act of ignorance and schoolboy fandom, I purchased Play as well as a number of other gaming publications directly from the newsstands, for the past three or four years. With hundreds of dollars spent on gaming magazines alone, I still scratch my head as to why I can't commit to a subscription. Be that as it may, I wanted to see what worked in print and what didn't. What I've learned so far is that given the small audience of games journalism — there is little room for cheerleading. If there is, the room is in a far off corner with a dim beacon.
One of the reason's Play Magazine failed was because it was so incredibly positive — almost to the point of it being alien and unnatural. It also probably didn't help that the EIC and cheif contributor to many 'positive' leaning reviews and articles wrote thirty-to-forty percent of a given issue. Dave, your love of nerd culture almost seems obsessive. The work ethic is beyond admirable, but how could all of this fandom of games, anime and all things associated to nerd culture — not be met with critical resistance?
Aware of the apparent stinch that Play Magazine was wafting into the noses of the gaming elite, I decided to try and draw eyes to writers on staff that represented the good of what I thought the publication had to offer. Heather Anne Campbell was the only person to return my e-calls. Truth be told, I didn't call many. The plan was to interview someone whose writing I agreed with [Campbell's] then to interview someone whose writing opposed my conventional thinking [Halverson]. I'm still a bit new, not as extroverted as I should have been, but it was too little to late.
I would gather that the kind of person who goes to a newsstand or fills out a gaming subscription form is within the vast 18-to-40 year-old demographic. Thanks to how this Play Magazine debacle has resolved itself, I've learned that most readers hare cynics. The reason they are reading is to find features or reviews on an obscure topic – that or they are looking for validating words that supports their love or hate or something [which I'm sure there is much of]. I know its a 'no duh' statement, but I believe this cynicism could be exploited. If we write in order to provoke critical thought out of our readers then shouldn't we occasionally … piss them off?
The impression I got from most of Play Magazine's reviews were in the vein of, "Look how awesome games are!" Reading issue after issue of the many gaming publications, Play seemed to have a staff that chose games based on what the individual writer was prone to enjoying. Not a new concept, but this [seemingly] limits that kind of challenging review writing you could get in any other outlet. However, there was something refreshing about reading a review that was not being overly critical about a game's frame rate or how innovative a game is in accordance to our generation. Barring the obvious flaws, Play taught me how its cool to be a fan. Seriously, look at how awesome games are!
I want to end this on a constructive note, but I do have some words for Mr. Halverson. I've heard and read [from reliable sources] that had it not been for all of the ex-writing staff of Play being broke that you would have been sued for money owed for services rendered. Out of all of the negative events and topics your name seems to bring up in the various small journalism circles, I really hope this is just a rumor. If it isn't, well then I hope this is a practice you don't intend on bringing back to Gamefan. I wish the best for Dave Halverson and all of the ex-staff of Play Magazine … and subsequently all of the future staff of Gamefan.