Isn’t that just the most boring title for any video game magazine? Imagine looking at an issue on the shelf at the supermarket, “Game Buyer? Hey, I buy games! This must be the magazine for me.”
With such a boring moniker, it’s hard to imagine this was the rebirth of the far less boring Ultra Game Players magazine. UGP ended after reaching over a hundred issues, finding a sometimes frustratingly random, but also often funny, entertaining, or just strange. Unlike the storied legacy of UGP, Game Buyer lasted four games total. I own all four of them.
It was like UGP did a hard reset. Even though much of the staff of UGP remained to work on Game Buyer, this new magazine seemed to take a more serious tone. They straight cut any humor, and doing away with fluff like reader mail or writer bios where the artists might go trying to stick in their ridiculous jokes. What remained was a magazine which essentially offered only previews, and reviews.
Some of the things they did back then were pretty innovative on the review side of things. They included the MSRP in each games review, and included reviews of each system version of a game. Not bad considering they hacked the price of Game Buyer from the then VG magazine standard of $4.99 down to $2.99 after only two issues.
The showy facade of rebranding faded after that price drop. Soon the reader mail section was back, and with it many of the writers strange habits. Unfortunately is was way too late for that.
It’s clear in retrospect that a magazine that needed to rename itself, slash it’s price was nearing its final breath. It’s unfortunate that before this magazine scattered to the winds, the time would have been better used to churn out a couple more issues of UGP rather than a handful of inconsequential issues of some thing called Game Buyer.
I imagine that if Game Buyer had found a way to survive, it would have easily just turned back into UGP (which was itself a rebranding of Game Player).
I learned about so much of the history of EGM through so many of their magazines circa 1997-2001.
The things I took away from Electronic Gaming Monthly magazine are numerous, and I could expound on them the way I do because I practically learned to write by reading issues of EGM. I didn’t know that when I was reading issues over and over when I didn’t have video games to play. EGM had a style of writing that invigorated me in a mysterious way that issues of GamePro from that same era just as mysteriously upset me.
What I want to focus on today is the history that EGM imparted on me, a fleeting idea in the constantly and quickly evolving world of video games.
Check the twitter, I like to consider myself a video game historian. That is because I am. I know books full of inane video game minutia. I know it is books full because I have read books full of that information. Some I read more than a couple times (shout out to Chris Kohler’s book, Power-Up, my copy is so ragged now). Now we are falling into, “could write a whole new article about this portion” territory, so I will keep it brief. Before the internet was ubiquitous (especially for poor people such as my childhood self), it was pretty tough to learn much of anything about games beyond whatever information video game magazines deemed important enough to dole out to you that month.
Of all the video game magazines I read, EGM was far and away the best at imparting the wisdom and history of gaming into solid and interesting articles. These articles could be simple and straightforward like a timeline of arcades, or completely inane like trying to decipher Toad’s gender. Just the same, short features and editorials could discuss heady topics of the day such as violence and sequel-itis (yes, gamers were talking about this stuff back then too.) to more gameplay-centric ideas like health meters and graphics.
All these types of articles were infused with all the history that the writers knew, and it showed in their writing. This probably solidified my passion for video game history. Electronic Gaming Monthly has many things to do with why I am here and why this is what I write about.