Sunday, May 31, 2009

Game Review Magazines

Last year for a research project, I did an analysis of the content of game review magazines. For the project the purpose was to provide a competitive analysis for our proposed project. My project was a family oriented game review magazine. There really aren't many. In fact, I could only find one online magazine.

The Big Players
For my analysis I chose what I considered the most popular game magazines in print. They were:
Game Informer
GamePro
Nintendo Power

By far, game informer had the most previews and reviews of all the magazines. Consequently it also had the most ads. Nintendo Power is the oldest of the three and was pretty exclusive to Nintendo brand games so naturally the list of reviews and previews were less.

For awhile I had a subscription to Game Informer and I got some free issues of Nintendo Power as a bonus for some pre-order. Personally I preferred NP because I really only had Nintendo systems so it made sense. When I signed up for a member's card at Gamestop they signed me up for a year's subscription. I thought, "Hey, why not. I'm sure this poor cashier has a quota to fill or something."

At first, it wasn't so bad. I must have gotten lucky on that first issue but as I looked at more games and read their reviews the angrier I got. Until I basically just stored the magazines to be used as fly swatters. (Which did come in handy as it turns out.)

When doing my analysis I already had my opinion about Game Informer as a clearly frat-boy style magazine. Just like all the others! GamePro I had expected to be maybe a little less so, but it had the same macho man talk and boob jokes as GI, if not as many. The fact that I could learn about new games coming out was just not enough to make me want to keep my subscription. Why would I read something I felt insulting?

The Online Reality
Most Game magazines also have their online counter-part or are solely based online. If you want to find some of the most hostile looking websites, try looking at a gamer's site. It's always grundgy with yellow and metal and yuck. Now I'm not asking for pink ponies and rainbows but a more pleasing aestetic. IGN and GameFAQ have some decent designs, but Gamasutra is my favorite. Mostly because it's not gamer-focused per se but developer focused.

What bugs me the most about online magazines is what annoys me most about the internet in general. It's a breeding ground for trolls and general idiocy. Communities around always felt hostile to me and I would be too intimidated to make any posts without being shot down. I know I would not really be taken all that seriously. There's just far too much immaturity.

It turns out that I'm not the only one bothered by these things. One bit of research I read on older gamers is their desire for mature conversation about their games.

Why Most Game Magazines SUCK
Why do people buy game magazines or go to these sites? To make plans for future purchases right? So the job of the magazine is to make the games seem appealing to their demographic. It also has the job of entertaining or informing the demographic about what's going on around the industry.

To me it feels like all game magazines only care about a narrow demographic: college frat boy and immature high school kid. So naturally the content is catered towards this. Why do the guys at gamestop think that a MOTHER would want this magazine for her 10 year old son? The images and humor and writing are not very age appropriate and very unfriendly towards the female demographic. In fact, GamePro and GI had special "sections" called Ask a Girl Gamer as if it was some kind of circus side-show.

However, I know they won't change anytime soon because these magazines have been in print for over a decade so they're doing all right. What I would ask for is some more diversity in their writing staff.

Conclusion
When I was a kid, it was so cool when a magazine came for me. (Like Highlights or American Girl). This was something meant for me. Now as a gamer, I want a magazine for me. There are a few online options like Women Gamers and Gamasutra, but I really don't have any options in print, except Nintendo Power.

Of the three major magazines, NP was the most gender neutral and generally children friendly. However, it was limited mostly to its own products. I have a Sony Playstation 2 and a PC.

In the end though, I actually get most of my product reviews off of Amazon.com where I can buy it once I read about it. :) Amazon is great at recommending me games that are coming out based on what I've bought before. Very handy and very friendly. The user reviews are super great and really help with purchasing decisions.

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