I have written some posts on old gaming magazines a few years ago, among them the first issue of “Gamers” (yeah, rather on the nose name), but mainly made those posts summaries of the magazine contents.
This time around, instead of that, I want to sum up my own thoughts on the magazine issues (content, design etc.) in this and (hopefully many) upcoming posts. What better place to start than with the very first magazine that I bought and read in the past (at the young age of 10), right? I will provide a download link for each issue in the individual posts, so you can look at them for yourselves (thankfully a site has taken up the project of creating and providing access to digital copies of many old gaming/computer magazines, with the permission of the past creators).
My own physical copy in the case of this first issue has suffered significantly over the years (no big surprise, it has almost been 30 years), so I am glad that there is a much better version available in digital form now. But on to the issue itself. (Downloadable here)
What caught my attention to the issue back then was no doubt the cover image, which is essentially the box cover from the game Quackshot (without the black border, Sega logo etc., of course), here for comparison:
(Image Source: Mobygames page for the game)
At the time I was a massive Disney fan (like no doubt many kids at that age), so seeing the magazine on the shelf of the stationary & magazines shop pretty much instantly piqued my interest and it was “all downhill from there”. I’m not quite sure if I experienced other video game consoles in stores first (back in the days we still had those “try-out stations” where you could play specific games at a store and I definitely made use of those), but this magazine at the very least solidified my entrance into the world of video games, if not jump-started it.
Besides the main image there were some attention-seeking “headlines” written on the cover that obscure parts of the image, but they kept Donald and Pete (usually a Mickey Mouse bad guy from my experience, so that was an interesting crossover) clear.
Inside the Magazine
I am not sure what had the bigger influence layout-wise… the 90s or potentially that this was not using desktop publishing yet (another magazine that I was reading only started doing that around a year later), but just looking at the first few pages makes the magazine rather distinct from what I would expect nowadays. Being a “first issue”, some things were probably also experimental, to see what works and what does not. The news pages for example use several different fonts, so each news text looks different. In my opinion that did not really work well, the articles were spaced out enough to appear separate even without the text difference, using the same look for each news bit would have given the page a more even, less chaotic feel. Some of the reviews also have some unfortunate layouts, splitting off the text into too many small parts. In places it looks as if the time to get a more optimal placement of text and screenshots with their subtitles was too short. Though to be fair, according to the imprint, the articles were all done by 1 person (even though curiously the introduction to the review segment mentions a “fixed team” of reviewers… the reviews themselves are not signed, so there is no information to be drawn from that), which seems like a big enough feat on its own (obviously I don’t have any inside knowledge on how they did their work at the time), so I don’t want to sound too harsh. On a positive note, the text stays readable throughout the issue, there are no weird background colors or patterns that hinder that. We will get to some clunkers in that department later in this series.
Another (in my opinion not so great) idea that the magazine had was articles from “reality” (as the editorial mentions), which in this issue was one that covers literature and a calendar on the Ferrari Testarossa (to accompany the Outrun review). From what I remember I pretty much just skipped these parts, as well as the “Nice to have” page that in this issue had short blurbs about stuff like the Apple Macintosh Classic II or a Gilera RC motorcycle that definitely cost a pretty penny more than any of the consoles for the games in the mag. I suppose older readers could take some interest in these parts. The half-page about current movies and the upcoming Super-Bowl made more sense to me.
The rating system of this magazine was inspired by German school grades (1 being the best mark, 6 the worst, + and – adding some distinction to the mark). In general, I liked this grading and I think it works well enough, there is enough nuance in it. Later on, they changed the system / added to it, but here the summary box only had short notes on positives and negatives of the game and the final score.
Screenshots in the issue are about as expected, ones from stationary home console games are fine, a few of the handheld system shots are not great, but I have certainly seen worse in other magazines/issues.