There are people who have been shouting loud and long from the rooftops, of late, that print media, especially as it pertains to videogames, is dead in America. These people believe that the internet has invalidated anything so slow and behind the times as print media. These people point to USA Today's decline, amongst others, as evidence that print will never be relevant again.
These people are fucking morons.
The problem with print, especially in the US, has been twofold, particularly in the case of gaming, but also in general. The first part is that print outlets have a nasty habit of giving away their content for free online. Why would I ever buy a copy of a newspaper that puts its content on its website simultaneous with sending the paper to newsstands? I wouldn't. It's dumb, and requires more work than just getting it for free. But all while lamenting USA Today's downward spiral, people are ignoring that the Wall Street Journal is doing fine for itself. Why? Because in order to access most online content, you have to subscribe.
The second problem with print, particularly magazines, in this case, is that they have been trying to do the same thing they've always done in many cases, which is to provide content that can now be gotten online much faster. Reviews are the biggest example of this. If I want to read a review of something, I'll go online. It'll be there day and date with the product I want the review of.
And that brings me to the focus of this little post. EGM recently relaunched and Gamepro recently... hm, how do I say this? Gamepro recently... well, grew up, for lack of a better term. Gone are the Johnny Ballgames, and in is the Johnny Davison. And Davison has dragged Gamepro kicking and screaming into the modern age.
Diehard Gamefan has recently resurfaced as well (well, minus the "Diehard" part, anyways), but I can't bring myself to check it out. I've never been a fan of Dave Halverson's magazines, and while I like that he's putting an obscure, download-only game on the cover of his first issue (Blade Kitten), his brand of games journalism never appealed to me. In fact, the Happy Videogame Nerd pretty well hit the nail on the head when he called Halverson's last venture, Play Magazine, "the fucking Pitchfork Media of gaming." Halverson's stuff is just a little too-cool-for-school for me, and I can't handle that. At least he can save money on a website by just telling everyone to go to ActionButton.net.
Of course, Game Informer is still around and will presumably be around forever, but I think we all know the reason for that is because their subscriptions are tied to a discount card for the nation's largest videogame retailer. No secret that it isn't the quality writing that puts those numbers up, but forget about Game Informer. It sucks, it's always sucked, and it more than likely will always suck. The only thing it's good for is it's exclusive previews that it only gets because, once again, the mag is tied to the biggest game retailer there is. It's basically a catalogue, and if we're being honest, publishers give those exclusives to get them in the hands of people they know are people who frequent a large game retailer.
So... What are EGM and Gamepro doing to bring back print? The answer's surprisingly simple. They're providing content that people care about, and they're not running to post it on their website as soon as they do. They're providing a platform to some of the best games writers around (Leigh Alexander, Dan Hsu, etc.), and they're not stuffing the mags with reviews of products I could've read reviews of three weeks ago.
In fact, in the latest issue of each magazine (Street Fighter cover EGM, Force Unleashed II cover Gamepro), surprisingly little space is given to reviews. In Gamepro, 12 pages out of 92 covering five games is dedicated to reviews, and they are all reasonably high profile titles. EGM, on the other hand, dedicates 11 of 99 pages covering 7 games, most being big titles, but giving half a page each to the quirky Cave Story for WiiWare and Infinite Space for DS.
This is a far cry from the 250+ page EGMs of the mid-ninties that touted "OVER 50 GAMES REVIEWED!" Those were important then, but with the internet, they're meaningless. What's important now is what's been important in magazines covering other lifestyles for some time now; articles on the culture and people who move the industry. The new EGM features a massive, GQ-style interview with David Jaffe by Brady Fiechter. It's eight pages long, and it's really just a transcript of two dudes talking in a cafe. It's also really informative, whether you like Jaffe or not (I do, if you're curious, but I know many who find him abrasive).
The new Gamepro features a great story by Nadia Oxford about the history of Gamestop that includes comments from their executives and details their rise to the top of the game retailing industry. These are things that can't just be found at the click of a mouse. They're written by respected journalists, and they are of interest to people who take games seriously.
In fact, even the previews in these publications have taken on a largely different tone than that of their earlier counterparts. The bulk of previews in these new magazines focus on the creators of the games, producers and directors, and discuss their vision and ideas. Almost like a real art form! How about that?
Overall, it's the same thing I was talking about the last time I posted. Games are growing up, and now the enthusiast press is treating them like the enthusiast press for film and music treats its subject matter. Like art. Like an art form with a culture and a history, which is exactly what it is.