Internet Killed The Magazine Star?
The internet is the biggest development of our era, the age of communication, but we are still at a point where we can remember internet in the early days of dial-up, and even the days before it. While the evolution of internet gaming is an unquestionable improvement, what about the other aspects of the game industry that the internet has changed?
When I was young, with the early Nintendo consoles, a Sega Master System and Megadrive etc, the first I heard of a new game, was either when a friend had bought it and told me about it, or when I saw it on the shelf in a store myself. I would entirely judge the game by its cover, the picture on the box would have initially had to have won my attention, then the back would have to reinforce my desire to invest with some gameplay shots. One way or the other, it wouldn’t be until I took the game home that I would be able to ascertain its quality.
As I grew older I would spend pocket money on game magazines, as they increased in popularity enough that the local store would actually stock them. These magazines often came with attached demos of new and upcoming games, or cheat codes for the games you already had for an added incentive. They would sometimes report on games in advance of their release, but never very far in advance. It was a period when the only way to discover the secrets in a game, was to read game magazines. In addition they were one of the only places walkthroughs for the tougher games could be found, and so a much more quantifiable amount of the magazines would report on games that were already released.
Now we have the internet. The moment the name of a game leaves the lips of the producer or designer we know about it. We can follow the progress as the official game name is released, when the first concept pictures are released, then the first gameplay pictures, and so on. We are watching gameplay videos and reviews for games before they are even on the shelves. As such we always know exactly what to expect, and when to expect it. We rarely have to worry about whether or not we are going to like a game because the likelihood is that before we ordered it to be delivered to our door on release day we already knew everything there was to know about it. As a by-product of this new mass media network however, the game companies can control what you read, censoring views that paint them in a bad light regardless of the honesty of an article, and paying the names we trust to give them good reviews. By contrast these days we are rarely pleasantly surprised by a video game, it was either as good as we were expecting, or it was a let down. It numbs the elation a player can feel. Though magazines are still on shelves, and in a larger number than ever, there is a far smaller demand for them with so much more information so readily available on the internet.
Is this an improvement?
The feeling of instant excitement when you see a new game in a series you love, like Zelda, on the shelf right in front of you, and you can take it straight home! Having to judge games by their case or by what your friends had told you about them to decide on whether or not you are going to enjoy it. The spontaneous positive emotion you almost drown in when you unwrap a present and it is a new game that you didn’t even know existed!
Or the long building hype that we have today, watching a game develop over sometimes more than 5 years (Diablo 3), watching for release dates that get constantly taken from rumour and altered by both truth and game producer alike. The impatience you feel when the next Mass Effect is announced, and how you religiously look for every new news announcement or trailer as your anxiety for the release of a game slowly builds and builds. Telling your parents/partner how there is definitely going to be a game out on your birthday that they can buy for you.