Long ago, in the early 1990s, it wasn’t always easy to find people who shared your passions. There were no Facebook groups or trending topics. Primordial online chat rooms were only readily accessible to smart people with better technology than my family’s old Macintosh. I was somehow the only person in my elementary school class who played videogames – or maybe there were more gamers, and we all just kept quiet, because let’s put it this way: Talking about Super Mario wasn’t the best way to not get made fun of. So for me, GamePro was an oasis of sanity; proof that there were other people, smart people, adult people who dug videogames as much as I did.
GamePro wasn’t the first gaming magazine, and it certainly wasn’t the only one – in those glory days, the local area supermarket was positively stuffed with gamer mags – but the magazine had such a remarkably fun tone that put its more industrial brethren to shame. None of the editors had names; instead, they all used avatars, like Scary Larry or Boba Fatt or Dan Elektro. (I later learned that there was a practical reason for the avatars: GamePro’s didn’t have too many writers, and they wanted to create the appearance of a larger staff. Coincidentally, this is the same reason I occasionally write pieces using the pseudonym Keith Staskiewicz.) The GamePro reviews were savvy. The reporting got you incredibly excited for upcoming games. Each issue was so packed with character and detail, it felt a little bit like being inside a clubhouse.
GamePro was always going to be hit hard by the rise of the Internet. Its demographic was full of young early adopters – exactly the kind of people who would stop reading magazines and start reading websites (or heck, start their own websites) before anyone else. A confluence of issues – the rise of websites like IGN, the general poor state of the print industry – recently forced the print GamePro to shift to a quarterly schedule. In fact, the first quarterly issue just hit earlier this month. I picked it up almost by accident, and read it cover-to-cover. It was a great read. (Full Disclosure: An old college acquaintance actually worked on that issue, though I only realized that when I saw the masthead.)
Alas, it was also the beginning and the end of a new GamePro era: As reported by Industry Gamers, the print edition of GamePro has ceased to exist due to low advertising revenue. According to a message on GamePro’s website, GamePro.com will be absorbed into PCWorld.com. The name will live on in international print editions, but after 22 years, the U.S. version of GamePro is functionally dead.
We’re about a quarter-century into the era of videogames, and it’s still unclear exactly how journalists should write about videogames. Heck, it’s unclear if the videogame industry even needs journalism: No other medium has been so inextricably tied into the rise of social networking. (For that matter, no other media industry is so shrouded in secrecy.) When you look at things like Call of Duty Elite, it’s entirely plausible to imagine a future where consumers talk directly to game designers, in a conversation mediated very carefully by developers.
Still, for anyone who believes that the videogame industry deserves vibrant, insightful press coverage, the death of GamePro is a real blow. I think I speak for all of us when I say:
R.I.P, GamePro: 1989-2011.
Follow Darren on Twitter: @EWDarrenFranich