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What I’ve Learned from a 3-month Subscription to Game Informer

I moved this past summer, and part of my desperate purge of belongings to create more space in my new, tiny apartment included a trip to Game Stop to sell some video games. Yes, it was a painful thing to do, but it made financial sense and it gave me the opportunity to take a hard look at the games I’d been hanging on to.

After being humbled by learning what my precious games were “worth” in the eyes of a large corporation, I walked away with almost $100, a Game Stop discount card, and my first issue of Game Informer magazine. The whole package for selling games and becoming a member includes a year’s subscription to the mag. In addition to the fact that I no longer read many magazines, this also marked the first time in a while that I would be getting a full array video game analysis and content, instead of just looking things up online as I wanted it.

(Sidebar: it occurred to me that the last video game magazine I read was Nintendo Power, back in the late 80s/early 90s. One of my childhood friends’ defining moment of the fifth grade was getting their letter to the editor published.)

So now I’m three months into my subscription, and I think this comprehensive look at the gaming world as a whole has taught me a few things:

  1. No matter how much people complain about the stagnation of first person shooter games, they seem to be all anyone wants to buy, write about, or read about. The gaming world seems to be no different than pretty much every other community out there, that claims to want more variety but likes to stick with what is comfortable. (Cracked has a pretty hilarious takedown of this from earlier this year)
  2. Despite the fact that women comprise a large portion of the gaming community, there aren’t a large number of female writers. This isn’t inherently a bad thing, and I guess I should be grateful that there isn’t a monthly column from a “hot gamer girl” who writes about women’s games. Because that would be really annoying and patronizing. It’s just frustrating to once again see a testosterone-filled look at the gaming world.
  3. The editors are of a mind that it’s more important for their publication to look cool than to be readable. There is a LOT of black, a lot of artwork, and more decorative fonts than you can shake a stick at. I understand that part of what people enjoy so much about gaming is becoming immersed in a visual style. But is that really necessary for a magazine?
  4. The level of disdain serious gamers have for the Wii is even higher than I’d realized. I got a Wii because I wanted one, because it’s fun, and because the games are quicker and simpler than the PS games I’d gotten bogged down in of late. While I understand there may not be as much to write about them, I’ve noticed that any and all game reviews for Wii games are shoved toward the back, where the shorter, less in depth analysis and reviews are placed.
  5. Still, the most surprising, and most positive, thing I’ve learned is just how much thought goes into each game. Games are in development now for so much longer than I’d realized. The amount of editing, revision, redesign, and reimagining that goes on from start to finish while working on a game is pretty staggering. And, in just three months I’ve read a lot about the issue of video games as art; after seeing some screenshots from new or upcoming games, it’s hard to argue that they’re not artistic.

I’m sure that when my free subscription runs out, I won’t renew the magazine. I think I’m at least one notch below their target audience on the intensity scale, and I still think I prefer to get my information as I need it, instead of reading a lot about games I’ll never play. But it has given me an interesting look deeper into the world and minds of serious gamers.


One reply on “What I’ve Learned from a 3-month Subscription to Game Informer”

I have had a subscription to Game Informer for three years now. They changed to this more “hard-core” format about a year ago (I think). I too am less than thrilled with their new direction. It used to be more fun to read, and they reviewed a wider range of games. These days it seems like anything that isn’t dark and bloody will get a cursory mention at best – if it even gets into the magazine.

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