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The Past: Magazines and the Second Screen Experience before it was cool.


At the Present Time...

    From 1988 until 2012, Nintendo Power was a companion, a guide, a way to gain an edge against your friends, a hype source, something to argue over and finally, another statistic in the downfall of print media. At the time of this posting, it has been about one year and two months since Nintendo Power closed its doors. The Official Nintendo Magazine exists, but it's a European magazine; leaving many nostal-gunkies in the United States with nothing more than fond memories, and the old NP issues they may or may not have saved. If you haven't read the final issue of Nintendo Power, let me give you something to summarize my emotions on the subject. The last issue of Nester & Max:

     Every time I read this, I invariably become inspired to pull out that old dusty box of knickknacks. As I unfurl the posters, thumb through old reviews/sneak peeks and fumble with my old VCR for an hour, intending to watch those old Nintendo VHS promotional videos, I can do more than just remember my childhood, I can feel it again. Now, I recognize these artifacts as more than just objects I have a fondness for. They were every bit as much of my gaming experience as the games themselves. These magazines were my "second screen" experience before we had second screens. These magazines sparked my imagination, my anticipation and my sense of belonging. Many remember the Letters To The Magazine section at the beginning of each issue; many people thought they were stupid in my isolated niche of friends. To me, these sections were validation that many others felt the way I did, and that it was okay for me to feel that too.

     Today, community conversation and participation happens at a much faster rate and is more accessible than ever. Blogs, podcasts and Twitter (to name a few) have changed the way we share and consume information in any interest we want to take part in. This is games every bit as much as news, sports, comedy, academia, cooking, comics, book clubs, you get the idea. This is so big that tele-communication business are interested in ways to advertise to you, monitor viewing habits, and make the TV experience a multimedia event; keep you coming back. That may sound somewhat cynical, but recognize that by involving yourself in a hobby more actively, you can fuel your own passion and have an opportunity to grow a community.

     The Rich Eisen Podcast did an interview about second screen integration into media with Dick Costolo, the CEO of Twitter, last November. It got me thinking about the way we experience things with media. Most of what they talk about concerns the current intentions of social media businesses and what the future implementation may look like. They begin by discussing the resilience of podcasts, and how Twitter was born out of a podcasting business. They soon turn to why Twitter has become so essential, so connective. They suggested it facilitates interest, gives you a platform to participate, to invest, and to own a part of it, in a sense. It doesn't stand alone by itself very well, because it is supposed to be a complimentary experience with something else. It also broadens the original experience. Through these types of social networks, you can get to know the people you listen to, follow, watch or read. You can get a sense of individuals, you can feel as though it is a personal experience despite never meeting a person.

... In the Past...

    I listen to all of this, and it floors me. What is being described, in a much simpler way, was exactly how I was using all of my old magazines when I played with my brother or my friends. Something like Nintendo Power was a common platform that me and my circle of friends could gather around and argue about. We would excitedly wait for each issue to come out so we could digest them as quickly as possible, talk the latest news with friends, and fill out all those contest questionnaires that you never won. By itself, the Nintendo Power was a curiosity; but within the context of my gaming community, it made everything bigger, more important and more contested. It made it dynamic. Reading the work of the editors, copying the codes from the Cheats Corner into my school notebook, developing a bias for and against individual reviewers. It made games feel bigger than me, but also that I owned a piece of it. It did for me then, what "second screens" are trying to do now.

    My earliest gaming memories involve me watching my older brother play NES games while I pointed things out in videogame magazines and poster-sized pack ins'. Before I could proficiently read, I'd just make stuff up, passing it off as "tips-and-tricks." It was my way of being included. Soon, I picked up the controller myself, made some friends, gamed at their houses, and years went by. This is where interest became obsession, and where a shared experience came to shape self identity. Nintendo Power, with all the craziness that came with it, contributed to my childhood in a formative way; I'd be less without it.

    Posters to cover your walls, mini serialized comics, a trading card or two, and those strange VHS specials. They all made the games seem more grand. Thinking back to those VHS tapes: the Nintendo marketing plan, the gaming "experts," game tips as promotion, borderline inappropriate seg-ways,  incredibly awkward acting... these were Nintendo Directs before the internet existed in a recognizable way. Nintendo of America actually mailed the VHS to your house with that months issue. Reflecting on this in 2014, it's astounding how much stays the same as so much changes.

    These promo videos are 90's gold! If you were a Nintendo Power member, you would receive one of these in the mail from time to time. Ridiculousness ensues. We become the privy conspirators in a dastardly corporate plot to undermine and steal vital information from Nintendo! Nothing is off the table, breaking thumbs, opulent bribes, torturous mother nagging, janitor trash talk, and getting a tatoo of Luigi on your left butt cheek. That's right.

 "Our journey starts this way, and from this way we go that way." Behold! The Nintendo 64! Remember the N64 kid freak-out? Check out the beginning of the hype train, which undoubtedly contributed to this poor young boys mental breakdown.

     ... in the Future.

     Concerning what is ahead of us? I imagine some things will change and some will stay the same (original, aren't I?). I think podcasts and blogs will be around for a while, as will a few dedicated magazines. Good, intelligent conversation will never go out of style. Neither with long form writing. They may shrink in size and influence, but these are the things that fuel lasting passions, continuing to smolder for years. This is also why after Nintendo Power ended, a group of people came together to carry the torch. This is Nintendo Force. Currently, they have seven issues published, and a second years print run in store. Keep that flame going guys, you give off more light than you think.

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About Thumb Scarone of us since 11:57 AM on 02.25.2014

Been gaming since the NES days. I remember computers, before the internet. My motivation to learn how to read was to play Final Fantasy. Games have, wonderfully, helped shape my life. I love games, history, writing and discussion. Pursuing that is the goal.

I've played games on Nintendo consoles for most of my life, but branched out into PC gaming and Playstation by the mid-90's. Current platforms: Wii U, 3DS, Steam. Typically playing: 5e D&D, tabletop games, and a backlog of retro games.

We live in interesting times. I can't wait to see where the industry goes next.