Today, we can obtain all sorts of information on video games through the internet. Want to know about an upcoming game? Sites like IGN, Giant Bomb and Kotaku will have all sorts of features and reviews. Blog posts are full of fun information from players experiences to artwork and even recommended lists. Metacritic compiles reviews scores to give you an idea of what a game is like. YouTube can give you a video preview, speedruns and tips on all sorts of old and new games. Even strategy guides are available online from the likes of GameFAQs.
In the late 90s and early 00s, when I was really getting into video games, my access to the internet was limited. We had Dialup (remember that), which was expensive and if someone rang the landline, you lost connection. When I did get access to the internet, I used it to quickly download and print out GameFAQs guides. I still have my Final Fantasy IX guide somewhere. As a result, my gaming information had to come from somewhere else. As I mentioned in my Rental Memories post, due to the lack of information available to me, I made some wrong assumptions. This was also the case with Star Wing (Star Fox outside of Europe) on the SNES. I had seen it on GamesMaster (an old English TV show). They had two players competing against each other and through their editing, had convinced me the game was two-player. I was adamant for years I could play it with a friend and that I just hadn’t found the correct menu yet.
In Ireland, we didn’t have Nintendo Power. I don’t really recall many gaming magazines from the SNES or Mega Drive era. I think my fiend had a copy of GamesMaster (it was also a magazine as well as a TV show) which had cheat codes for Bubsy. It wasn’t until the PlayStation and Nintendo 64 that I started to really become interested in video games. I remember picking up the odd video game magazine to help me through certain games. These magazines would have previews, reviews, reader’s comments and guides. This was how I discovered Final Fantasy VII. It also helped me to discover other games. I remember one magazine having a two-page special on Resident Evil 2. It looked gruesome. It was what finally encouraged me to try the game for myself. There was also a review on Grandia which had me excited. The images looked so colourful and the reviewer was full of praise for its battle system. These magazines also told me what to avoid, such as Men In Black: The Game (I’d recommend checking out Sean Seanson’s video as to why). The game looked great in the pictures but the reviewer made clear that it wasn’t fun, awkward to control and was too dark in places. It’s a pity I didn’t have this before I picked up Mario’s Time Machine.
Perhaps the game I followed the most during the late 90s was Final Fantasy VIII. I would skim through magazines to see if they had any information on it before buying them. It didn’t matter how much info they had, just as long as they had something. I remember buying a magazine because they had a short paragraph with a picture of the Garden Festival stage. One magazine even came with a video tape that showed some of the games from that year’s E3. It had Final Fantasy VIII on it and I watched it constantly. When it finally released, I bought several magazines that had guides for it as I wanted to find out as much as possible about the world. I even bought a magazine that came with a memory card that was loaded with cheat save files (including a save for Final Fantasy VIII).
I didn’t really subscribe to a particular magazine until the PlayStation 2. Instead, I would buy magazines depending on what the cover game was, if there was a game I was interested in or if it had cheats I needed. During the PlayStation 2 era, I started to regularly purchase PlayStation World. It had been around since the original PlayStation but now was when I started to pick it up every month. It came with a demo disc that let you play certain games and had videos for others. They even gave away a free copy of Dragon’s Lair at one stage. It would keep me up to date with all the latest new releases and my PlayStation 2 collection grew as a result of it. I still have them in storage somewhere. I never really collected any other magazines during this time so my knowledge of Xbox, GameCube and Dreamcast was lacking and, as a result, I did miss out on some great games.
As the internet started to become more accessible, I stopped buying gaming magazines. If ever I needed information, I would just look it up. I don’t ever recall buying a magazine for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 or Wii. I suppose this is what happened with a lot of people. PlayStation World finished in 2009 and a few other magazines went the same way. Retro Gamer Magazine is pushing against this trend. It is still going, filling retro gamers with all sorts of great information. I do have a few copies but I’ve never regularly picked it up.
I still like to look over my old gaming magazines. Sure, the internet has almost everything but I don’t think anything really compares to the glossy pages, filled with unique artwork. They also provided a cheaper alternative to the official strategy guides at the time and their demos helped me to try out games before I bought them in the days before digital downloads. In a way, I do miss them every now and again.