The gaming world lost an invaluable resource when it was announced that the January issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly would be the last for the venerable magazine.
When a magazine that proudly and rightfully proclaimed itself the "#1 Videogame Magazine" finds a way to die a quick death in this day and age, it speaks volumes to the future of print media, and the future isn't pretty.
The death of EGM was not something slow, and gestating like a debilitating disease, simply waiting to be put out of its misery. Most who follow the publication knew that publisher Ziff Davis was haemorrhaging money, but the way EGM was killed by a purchase by Hearst's UGO was like seeing a friend get smoked by a semi-truck leaving nothing but chunks and bits littered all over the road. There was no campaign to save the magazine, no auctioning of the rights to distribute, simply handing many talented writers and game journalists their walking papers, and an unceremonious dumping of a final issue.
The day that I found out EGM was done with was a particularly sad day for me. I've been a loyal reader of the magazine since the early ‘90s. I remember flipping through a 1993 issue to learn all the moves and fatalities for the arcade version of Mortal Kombat II. I recall seeing Donkey Kong Country's screenshots and thinking that the graphics couldn't possibly be real. I remember reading a review for a little game called Chrono Trigger, thinking "that looks neat", before purchasing what remains my favourite game of all time. I've twice held a subscription to the magazine and never regretted that decision.
Sure, once I got an internet connection, I rarely found news in the pages of EGM that I hadn't already found on a half dozen websites, including EGM's online equivalent, 1up.com. Since I've started working at GamingExcellence, it was even less needed as I wake up every morning to an inbox full of PR spam from various game companies, providing a big chunk of my gaming news among other sites, particularly the site upon which this column is published.
What I did find invaluable about reading EGM even after getting the position at GamingExcellence, was far more in depth analysis, sweet exclusive features, fantastic writing by likes of Dan Hsu, and Seanbaby's hilarious end-of-issue coverage of the dregs of gaming (There was never a swipe at Mary-Kate and Ashley GBA games Seanbaby wasn't willing to take).
Granted, these features are just easy to publish on the internet for all to see, but there was something magical about having a tangible source of information that was printed on a page for easy reading anywhere, be it on the bus, a psychology lecture, in the bathroom... I fear I may have said too much.
As a contributing editor to an online gaming publication and a student in his last year of a print journalism program, this news finds me at a crossroads along with the rest of journalism in general. I've been working myself for six long years of school in order to see my name get printed on a page and get paid for it at the same time. Considering that writing and gaming are two of my biggest passions, it's a goal that I'm not ready relinquish. However, when my favourite gaming magazine dies an unceremonious death, it makes me wonder if banking a future career in the printed word is really the way to go, especially in this shaky economy of ours.
What is the future of news coverage, particularly when it comes to something like gaming and technology?
Covering something like technology directly goes against the idea of publishing a printed magazine. After all, anyone with even a cursory interest in gaming and tech has access to the internet and likely a slew of bookmarks for all their information. I must admit, it doesn't look too rosy for the printed word.
Still, there are success stories that provide hope.
Wired magazine, while not really dealing much with gaming, remains a huge success with an enormous subscriber base of nerds and geeks alike. EGM's main competitor, GamePro, remains a strong magazine which likely just doubled its subscription base. Major daily newspapers such as Metro, The New York Times, and the Chicago Tribune are instituting gaming articles and sections, which also maintains the ability to update gamers on a daily basis. As our favourite pastime continues to grow in popularity, I can only imagine that the major newspapers will have no choice but to take notice and increase their coverage accordingly, hopefully putting gaming on a similar entertainment pedestal such as film and books.
For reasons mentioned above such as portability and the ability to hold a tangible printing in your hand, even if a few other magazines pack it in, I remain assured that there will always be space on the magazine racks for at least one or two gaming publications.
All these hopeful proclamations, however, won't put a new issue of EGM in my mailbox. So join me in mourning the loss of a staple in gaming journalism. EGM, we hardly knew you.