Growing up isn’t a lot of fun. You have to stop hanging out with your friends every single day, get a job, and assure your parents that yes, you are going to birth them non-bastard grandchildren soon enough. You most likely will have to get a decent haircut because not only can you afford it but your workplace demands it. All those posters on your wall will have to come down, too, as they aren’t very seemly for a person of your age and means.
And the idea of tucking in a t-shirt into your jean shorts is starting to sound like a good idea.
The worst part, however, is the increased empathy of things beyond candy theft and lost toys. When a business closes, it now affects you because either you knew someone working there, someone that had to do the closing, or just the total dejected feeling of losing a job. It becomes very real that these people are in a severe low point in their lives and you are not, adding guilt into the mix of already negative emotions. Understanding, basically, blows.
And amidst one of the darkest days in recent memory for the video game industry, one that saw layoffs at PopCap Games, Funcom, and THQ and the closing of OG studio Sony Liverpool (formally known as Psygnosis, publishers of Lemmings and creators of the Wipeout franchise), Nintendo Power also closed its doors yesterday. After being published in-house at Nintendo since the summer of 1988, the responsibility shifted over to Future US in 2007, dragging along with it the Nintendo-centric branding while leaving behind the bias. Luckily, it’s being reported that the staff will find their way in other Future media, though it doesn’t seem that any other part of it is doing any better.
So while we aren’t necessarily losing anyone to the grips of unemployment and binge drinking at seven in the morning, we are losing an icon of video games. Ask anyone in the industry of their formative moments of childhood and they’re likely to list picking up Nintendo Power for the first time among their maiden voyages with Atari and Donkey Kong. I know I would.
I may not have remembered the first issue as it was released (I was born in 1987), but over the years, that inaugural cover has been burned into my mind. It seemed at every anniversary, someone managed to dig up the old broad and show everyone how far the art of magazine cover design has come. Absolutely nothing about it made sense (Mario’s blue hat and black hair, Wart’s Three Stooges-face, and the fact that our favorite Italian pseudo-plumber was harvesting carrots), but that kind of added to the charm. Now, whenever I see claymation or even mostly any kind of diorama, I immediately picture this magazine cover.
Most people nowadays will tell you they were pretty split on allegiances with Nintendo Power and Electronic Gaming Monthly, but I’m pretty sure that’s just a faulty memory coming into play. History tells us that Nintendo was the king for well over a decade until the PlayStation 2 came out and took over as the GameCube took a nosedive. But with such dominant consoles like the NES, SNES, and N64 and a kung fu death grip on the handheld market with the Game Boy, a 100% Nintendo-dedicated magazine also being the king in the realm of physical publications wasn’t so far-fetched. It probably also helps that it was true, especially given Nintendo Power had a one-year head start on EGM.
But it wasn’t important who was winning; it was the fact that there was a war to be won at all. Video games were such a young medium at the time (and, in fact, still are when compared to just about everything else, such as movies and music). While heavily debated, the very first video game could be argued to have come about in 50s or 60s, so to have multiple magazines being published on this singularly and niche focused past time was absolutely astounding.
Even while it was being published, it was kind of astounding. I subscribed for well over 10 years (and it only took me two to realize that the spines made a picture after their introduction in January of 1997) and for all 10, I loved it. I knew that in my area, new issues were delivered to homes around the middle of the second week of the month, so for that whole week, I would sit by my mailbox. For about seven minutes a day (our mailman was amazingly punctual given all the houses he had to visit), I would sit on the curb and wait. It didn’t matter if I was literally burning my butt in 110-degree Texas heat or freezing them to the pavement in 15-degree Texas psychosis—err, I mean cold, I would just sit there. And wait.
Because Nintendo Power was just that important to me. It wasn’t the words or the pictures or the infinite supply of cheat codes but rather that it simply existed. It seemed to always give me what I wanted: more video games. I never really bought many games but I rented a shit ton of them, especially for the SNES and N64. By skimming off of my lunch money and doing chores around the house, I managed to rent games with at least some regularity, but that wasn’t enough. I had to know more, not only of the games I had but of the ones to come, too.
And that led me down a path. Some call it a dark, depressing one, but I’d like to think of it as the only one for me: writing. I write about video games and it is all thanks to that Sunday morning when I picked up an interesting-looking magazine at the Waldenbooks. Play games was fun, sure, but the information that was hidden behind the cartridge was so much more intriguing to me. I wanted to know who made these games, how they were made, and everything in between. That July 1994 issue may have had none of that (it was actually little more than a bound tome of Nintendo ads), but it was a step in the right direction.
And it is a direction that I love. I’ve met so many interesting people (developers are so incredibly smart, successful or otherwise) and made so many amazing friends. I’ve gotten to travel all over the US and hopefully someday will see the shores of Gamescom and the Tokyo Game Show. Writing gets all of the thoughts blocking up my brain and puts them down on paper and provides an avenue for those that read and consume my thoughts to interact with me. It is a direction that is as natural and necessary to me as is breathing and one I was unlikely to find for myself without a little help.
I write. Sometimes about video games, sometimes not. But I write because of Nintendo Power, and it’s a damn shame to see it go. Fungi.