News, Video games, Where I Read

My Electronic Gaming Monthly Retrospective

So, for the moment I’ve run out of EGM issues to recap – at least moving towards the present day. There are still some gaps in the backlog that need to be filled, and do intend to fill those once I get the issues. In the meantime though, I’m going to take a moment to look back at the history of EGM, and a look at my recaps.

The growth of EGM, to be frank, very much reflects on the development of the gaming industry after the crash. EGM was, originally, basically a bit more of a computer game magazine than a video game magazine. At the time, that was the safest way to go – when the game industry tanked after Magnavox, Atari, Intellivision and others self destructed spectacularly, that’s where gaming went – which is also where the next generation of American game developers also were bred.

When Sega and Nintendo (primarily Nintendo) came in with a 100 GP diamond and resurrected the game industry, EGM very rapidly shifted their coverage to reflect the growing popularity of console gaming again. I cannot under-estimate the significance of this. When I went through the Retromags archive and started my Where I Read series for Electronic Gaming Monthly, I did look for an earlier magazine that covered console games, over personal computer games. I couldn’t find one aside from Nintendo’s house magazines. To my knowledge, Electronic Gaming Monthly was the first magazine to re-tool itself to focus on covering the rapidly growing Video Game Industry. GamePro and Die Hard Game Fan both came later. Consequently, EGM found itself in the position to set the tone for video game journalism in the United States – a position they did an excellent job of doing. While GamePro chose to take a more “entertainment” based focus for their coverage, they were in the minority. Other video game magazines emulated the tone that Steve Harris and Sendai Publications took with EGM, in terms of more serious criticism. This doesn’t mean that they were all working at the same standards as EGM – Die Hard Game Fan, for example, borrowed GamePro’s entertainment tone for certain parts of their magazine like giving their reviewers elaborate personae.

It helped that EGM wasn’t smacked down heavily for being critical. While Capcom pulled their advertising from EGM over review scores for some of the later iterations of Street Fighter that they unfairly considered to be too low, platform holders – particularly Nintendo, never leveraged their position to get higher review scores for games on their system, or lower scores for games on their competitors.

Additionally, EGM, in my opinion helped lay the ground work for some aspects of the modern and retro-gaming scenes. EGM had one of the most extensive import preview columns I’ve seen thus far in magazines from the period. Additionally, EGM gave a lot of coverage to systems outside of the Big Two – particularly the TurboGrafx family of systems, as well as the Atari Lynx and Jaguar, the 3DO, the CD-I, and Keith Apicary’s beloved Neo-Geo. Thanks to the coverage of those systems, among other factors, they got enough of a fan-base to support a broad number of modern collectors.

As I conclude my forward progress in my EGM recaps (for now – again, if later issues become available later, I will continue), I’m pleased to say the initial reason I started this series has become moot. I started recapping issues of EGM after the magazine’s death, in an attempt to tell some of its storied history. However as I write this, I am pleased to say that EGM, like Gordon, is alive! So, if you aren’t already subscribed to EGM, and you liked my recaps, please go and to subscribe to them. Steve Harris is back in charge, and some of the old EGM staff is involved as well (including Dan “Shoe” Hsu).

For what will replace EGM for my Monday recaps – in the future I’m planning on doing recaps of Die Hard Game Fan. Long time readers will remember that EGM took several pot shots at Game Fan in their letters pages and their editorial pages, and I’m interested in seeing Game Fan’s side of the affair. However, I’m debating on having that wait until after San Diego Comic Con, as I’d like to build a substantial buffer before the convention, so I can focus on covering the con, and then on recharging (and heavily focus on job hunting) once I get back.