Reach out and touch the future...
A casual post on a social media channel can sometimes have very unexpected results. A comment left here and a big statement left there and suddenly you are thinking back to the time when it all happened and looking at everything again from a very different perspective.
Megatron's_Fury has had an interesting day in this regard after a short conversation with two people about an old games magazine and how it reported statements of fact and speculation over twenty years ago. This got our Decepticon loving old guard member sitting and thinking about a time when he felt lost and when for a time he genuinely thought he was done with it all.
It was a time of darkness, of sadness...
Every single person here reading these words has had THAT moment, in fact i'm pretty sure most of you would have probably had several instances in your videogaming life where your smile is that much wider, your eyes light up and it just feels like nothing is ever gonna be the same again. Today I want to tell you a story about one of mine...
After a few years of really getting into console games ( I was after all a Spectrum and Amiga kid for many years) I won't lie I was getting a bit bored or it all. Sure some of the games on systems like the Megadrive and Snes were amazing and hell I even owned the Mega-CD so I knew things were moving along but there was this point where it almost felt like the industry had no idea where it was going or what was gonna be the next big thing. New stuff had been tried and mostly had failed and by the time 1994 neared it's end I was utterly bored.
Around this time 3 things happened... My mate who ran an import gaming business showed me a Japanese Sega Saturn and a Sony Playstation mere weeks after each launch in that region, I went to a trade show in London and saw new 3DO games but first I came across this magazine in my local newsagents!!!
I'm not sure why but even in midst of the time it had not even remotely occurred to me that so much was going on, even after purchasing consoles like the Atari Jaguar and the Amiga CD-32, the Mega-CD and the 3DO stuff was actually very far from boring. Completely unknown to me a whole new wave of tech and ways of gaming had appeared and even with serious investment on my part the real picture of it all just totally passed me by for some strange reason.
The fact I was working nights at this time is a reason I grasp onto the notion that I’m honestly not that stupid, I was just tired a lot lol however it is very possible I was wrapped up in that moment of falling out of love with videogames, strange as that may seem I genuinely remember playing on my Amiga 500 more during these two years than anything else.
Banging on the old drum of ‘you already know this’ Games magazines have always been my number 1 love of absolutely everything to do with the industry, I realize this sounds completely insane but when you are younger your cash availability is at it’s lowest in general terms and games have always been quite expensive when you factor era, storage media and machine cost into things. An example of this would be that The Amiga 500 was a purchase of mine in 1990 and it set me back £499.99, I earned less than £20.00 a week doing a paper round and a Saturday job, I was 16. I had to work an entire summer holiday then borrow money from my mum just to get my foot through the door. A games mag was less than £2.00 and had sometimes over a hundred pages of wall to wall visual splendour, it wasn’t like getting a new game but it was certainly a close and massively satisfying alternative!
From the time of the Spectrum mags like ‘Crash’, ‘Your Sinclair’ and ‘Sinclair User’ to the glory days of when CVG embraced consoles like the NES and Master System I lived, loved and obsessed over everything they presented. Each month most of my cash would go just on the dozens of different publications I would eventually have collections of. Here’s something to note. In those days games magazines usually came out after a machine had been around in order to give them plenty to talk about or multi format magazines which were absolutely the bigger selling publications would occasionally feature a new machine but it would take ages for real coverage of the games to appear. I remember with real clarity that ‘ACE’ magazine which was very much the EDGE of it’s time was the go to mag for the hot gossip on new emerging formats.
So here’s the thing…
In 1993 and 1994 when consoles like the Amiga CD-32 were around many existing Amiga mags simply added it into their pages, yes it spawned 2 separate mags dedicated to it however much of the hype and fanfare felt like it was done via absorption rather than moments like the Official PS1 mag which hit before the machine ever came out in the UK. Now considering how Sega magazines were everywhere the Mega-CD coverage was also done this way, with only 1 dedicated magazine for that again everything felt very tagged on rather than shouted about. Atari stuff was always in their own magazines like ST Format or the multi format mags like Ace and CVG etc and because the Jaguar was so utterly crap it never even generated it’s own real publication even post launch, a proposed magazine that I have a preview issue of was scrapped after it bombed.
Games shops still very much had their flags behind the Megadrive and Super Nintendo even the Amiga which completely dominated much of the UK scene was being pushed further and further back and with hardware shortages for the CD-32 itself even a massively selling new console that hit the ground running simply died for no other reason that a warehouse of stock was sealed when Commodore couldn’t pay it’s bills. The 3DO was so expensive and so completely mis-understood by retail it sometimes appeared in major retail outlets in the wrong section, same for CD-I.
Hits you like an Ice Bucket Challenge...
Now I started off by talking about moments and this is where, I hope all this nonsense I just spouted will start to make sense. You see when I saw this magazine in late 1994 absolutely everything just fell into place. The future wasn’t some distant speck in the sky we were looking at through telescopes, it was already here and thanks to existing magazines doing things wrong or too late or a combination of several other factors like average to poor launch titles for the new machines I was swimming in it but not feeling wet.
The cover which of course is the first thing you notice blew my mind, I remember my mouth opening looking at it like a loon just experiencing a combination of awe and wonder. A new games mag?… A new Games Mag?… A NEW MOTHERF***ING GAMES MAG!!!!!! Oh my god, this is amazing! 130 pages, full colour, top grade glossy paper and it’s 95p, What witchcraft is this?
Now look at the bottom of the front cover, I’ll give you a second to see if it hits you in the face like it did me…
Did you spot it? You must have, surely cause it’s what immediately smacked me in the face, if not let me explain my moment, my absolutely perfect point in time where that kid who lives in me that I wont let play with my sealed games met my videogame wishes… There’s 8 console pictures on the bottom… And 4 of them are not even out yet!!! Nerdgasm! Seriously I’m pretty sure I winced in the shop with pure joy.
At the time of this magazines launch 4 machines on that cover were out and I owned all of them, the Snes, Megadrive, Amiga CD32 and of course the Jaguar. Instantly 95p is gonna get me news on stuff I own, this is win! I also get to read up about stuff on 4 consoles I have never seen, never played and in two cases barely even heard of, the NEC FX and the NEO GEO CD. The Nec console never came out officially in the UK so I never managed to really get to play that however if I turn my head to the left of my desk in my Gamesroom there’s my Japanese Neo Geo CD console… And she’s gorgeous!
Page turn after page turn as I flicked through with mouth still open, eyes glossed over and so much excitement I’m shaking leads me to hand over a pound coin and then get change and I’m out of the shop. The next thing I’m at home and I’m looking at this new console from Sony called the Playstation (sure edge and a few others had done some stuff on it but this magazine did it in a less structured preachy way and in a way a 20 year old wants to be entertained) Future publishing who were honestly once upon a time a complete bastion of everything that was fantastic about the games industry had done it again. I really struggle to think of another pure gaming magazine that launched and just hit that sweet spot right off the bat. As much as Edge was different and changed the industry it was always very stuck up it’s arse and has always divided opinion, very much a marmite magazine if ever there was one. The only real time this was bettered for me was when Mean Machines launched and the concept of love was explained to me in over 150 pages of pure genius! I love you Julain ‘Jazz’ Rignall, I always will.
From a 20 year olds perspective in late 1994 after a period of feeling like I’m just not getting it at all anymore I was instantly pulled back in. Features on the 32X made me forget how little there was out for the Mega-CD, I could trust Sega again, that Star Wars Arcade game looks amazing, less than a year later, Got one! I played my 3DO more, the Jaguar got turned on again and even my good old trusty 16bit consoles had new games purchased for them shortly after. One magazine switched me back on again, this one!
It has the words ‘Ultimate’ ‘Future’ and ‘Games’ in it’s title, whoever came up with this, put that picture on the cover then added the console pics was a design genius, I don’t care if anyone from this modern publishing world looks at this and doesn’t get it, chances are if you can’t see magic here then chances are the Xbox 360 dashboard is the pinnacle of your display tastes. For me games are not lifeless and functional they are living breathing worlds of colour and wonderment which is why I mostly detest (strong word but true) a huge amount of games news sites which all look the damn same and even many retro games websites which for some reason present old stuff in modern ways which for me utterly kills the entire vibe, aura and actual era. It may be popular, it may be the ‘way to go’ if you want some of that fame and fortune and internet money but it’s probably why I chose to walk my own path a few years back. I miss the old days, the old ways and the old games. I don’t wanna live in the cut and paste era anymore.
Take another look, see a different path...
Around these words are pictures of the magazine, several of the feature pages and some other stuff as well. I’m hoping this connects with some of you reading this, even if just one person sees this and can relate then the typing and pasting of the feature was 100% worth it. This is who I am, this is where I come from, a different time with a different set of rules with an extremely risqué attitude, sometimes bordering on madness and taking things a little bit too far.
While in reality I may have one foot on the edge of the ledge in my heart I’m off that rooftop flying through the air and it’s amazing, I’d love some of you to come join me, the views great!
1995 would of course arrive and by the end of it I would have that Playstation and Sega Saturn, I would also go on to collect this magazine for a while although not forever, with so many other publications out there my money could only ever stretch so far. I kept hold of this issue 1 for many reasons, some of which are contained in the text you just read and another reason because the same day I got this I went to a trade show in London with friends, all of whom over the years I no longer kept in contact with. It’s my ‘link to the past’ you might say to a completely different era where a younger me thought everything was expensive and boring.
With a change of thought process and 130 pages of wake up call it all made sense again. The 16Bit years were Golden, absolutely they were but the 32-bit through 64 time was truly something. Full of sales failures, full of false dawns but behind what many would convince you is a curtain of doom and gloom was a circus show of boundary pushing wonder.
Your admission price? Faith it would all work out and 95p…