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"Goodbye, Jean-Luc, I'm gonna miss you. You had such potential. But then again, all good things must come to an end."
- Q, Star Trek: TNG

Gamestar -- A Gaming Magazine for Adults?

by Ken Newquist / July 3, 2004
  • Gamestar
  • MSRP: $6.99
  • IDG Communications

I've been reading a fair number of gaming magazines recently, foremost among them being Electronic Gaming Monthly, in a quest to find new games to review. As I've paged through them, one thing's become obvious: these magazines weren't written for me. They're aimed at people who live to game ...rather than gamers who have lives. My guess is that they're shooting for the 13-22 crowd, with some splashover on the lower and upper ranges.

As a 30-something geek with a day job, a wife and a kid, reading EGM feels a little like being Heinlein's Valentine Michael Smith -- yeah, I understand the language, but I can't quite grok the jargon. It's a gamerboyz' paradise, filled with hundreds of game reviews, and while I enjoy reading it, it's a lot more than I need or really want.

I'm not alone of course -- there are a hell of a lot of geeks who've moved out of their parents' houses and have lives beyond their Xboxes and PlayStations (although they may still occasionally use milk crates for furniture, or at least for filing cabinets.) The folks behind Gamestar know this and have launched a magazine aimed at Generation X (though I'm willing to bet they sell it to advertisers as targeting males from 24-36).

In its first issue, the magazine lays down the ground rules, acknowledging that time is precious for post-college gamers and promising to help gamers piece the shambling mound that is the modern gaming scene, as well as venturing into electronics, movies, and music. The differences between Gamestar and conventional gaming magazines are subtle at first glance. The cover story is about Half-Life 2, which just about every gaming magazine worth its salt is writing about now. But look closer and you'll see an "Digital Lust" teaser accompanied by an attractive, armband iPod-wearing woman as well as a home theatre teaser depicting a scene from Master & Commander (a movie I doubt many 13 year olds were clamoring to see, but then again, if I were 13, I'd certainly have wanted to see it...)

Delving inside, you'll find plenty of content that backs up the magazine's goals. First, there are an ample number of previews and reviews (more than 100, or so the cover says), all of them written from a refreshingly mature perspective. No, they're not loaded with curse words, but they do carry the perspective of writers who remember playing Donkey Kong on Colecovision and Combat! on the ol'Atarti 2600. Not that they necessarily reference those relics, but there is a sense of depth through experience.

So how well does Gamestar live up to its promises? Fairly well. First off, the magazine has feature stories, which is something you rarely see in Electronic Gaming Monthly, which is all about previews, reviews and interviews. And for the most part, they're useful stories as well. The wireless networking write-up is excellent, and just the sort of time saving story thing that geek dads need. I saw only one minor flaw -- the story mentioned Xbox and generic wireless bridges, but didn't mention if the generic bridge could accommodate both the Xbox and PS2 simultaneously.

The home theatre story could have been another two pages long, with more write-ups on individual components, but it does provide a decent overview of the audio and video scene, and cuts down on the some of the annoying grunt work that accompanies electronics shopping. I particularly liked the "Perpetual Newbie" feature, in which a reviewer tries adventuring as a fledgling character in three massively multiplayer games: Final Fantasy XI (for PS2), City of Heroes and World of Warcraft. It's oriented toward introducing players to the early adventures in each game, comparing and contrasting quests and combat.

The movies and music section was malnourished. The movies and DVDs covered -- Master & Commander and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 6 -- were things I already knew about. The music section had nothing I was interested in -- I paged past the interview with rapper Method Man (rap is not my thing) and skimmed over the mentions of The Matches, The Secret Machines and The Streets. I've never heard of any of them, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but the reviews didn't inspire me to check out any of the albums.

The magazine attempts a weak Maxim effect with an attractive -- but not gorgeous -- woman posing with various electronics. There's also a bit of female eye candy accompanying the home theatre feature, but frankly it all comes off as a weak attempt to emulate a far cooler magazine. They need to either ramp up their efforts or ditch them entirely.

Final Analysis

Gamestar focus on mature gamers is a welcome one, and its worth checking out regardless of its shortcomings.