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Magazine Nostalgia: An Interview With Guy Écrivain:

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Guy Ecrivain, the former editor and chief of Press Start Gaming Monthly. PSGM notable for breaking some of the biggest gaming stories in the 90’s was a forerunner on how the industry was to be covered. In my interview with Guy we talked about video game coverage of old, its present state, and possible future.

PH: Pleasure to meet you Mr. Ecrivain, I have to say I was a huge fan of your magazine during its heyday. PSGM was truly something special and dare I say the definitive word on the industry.

GE: (Chuckles) Thank you it’s always refreshing to hear from a fan and please call me Guy!

PH: So Guy as a veteran of the industry, tell us about how covering games has changed as opposed to say 10 to 15 years ago?

GE: Well to be honest I’m no longer in the industry per se. You see when many of the magazines went belly up in the early 2000’s a lot of us writers left the field completely.

PH: Sorry to hear that, surely some of the writers from PSGM found a home on one of the many up and coming websites at the time?

GE: Not a single one.

PH: Care to elaborate as to why this was?

GE: Well I guess this explanation leads back to your initial question about industry coverage. You see at our magazine (pauses), we strove for honest traditional journalism. What we were doing at PSGM was no different than anyone else in the publishing world, except we were talking about games. We had nearly a month to come up with stories and that led to some really creative decisions. Exposés, interviews, retrospect’s, I was truly proud of the product we published every month. You see we scoffed at the websites, as they were only interested in click bait articles. I never thought that would catch on truth be told. We believed that gamers as a whole deserved not to be talked down to or mislead, but enriched about their hobby. Crazy notion I suppose.

PH: Quite telling, so the industry was undercut by sensationalism and a rush for ad revenue?

GE: Yes the websites weren’t interested in our style, they saw it to be archaic, and out of touch with what the kids wanted. More so they were manned by individuals who had no background in journalism or creative writing to begin with. This in my opinion explains the recent push for video coverage over written articles.

PH: So you have a problem with video coverage then?

GE: Not necessarily, after all berating video coverage of video games sounds quite circular when you think about it. Rather I always felt it took a bit more talent to convey ideals and hold attention in the printed word, than just blabbing in front of a webcam. I believe there’s a healthy balance to be found in both mediums though.

PH: Shots fired!

GE: Excuse me what does that mea-

PH: Erm never mind… Anyway… In regards to the gamer today, a lot of people seem to be polarized towards a brand. In the community they refer to it as fanboyism and many say it’s ruining both gaming and subsequent coverage. What are your thoughts on this?

GE: It surprises me that people see this pandemic as something new. As far as I’m concerned they’ve been around since gaming’s inception.

PH: Yes the community has have always had its naysayers but one could argue that today’s batch is a more potent dissenter. Would you agree?

GE: I disagree. These vitriolic nonsensical rants are nothing new to me. Look I ran a magazine, we had opinions and naturally you’re always going to find people who disagree in an unhealthy way.

PH: So you’re saying while the game has changed the players remain the same?

GE: If that’s how you want to phrase it, then yes (The MacGruber reference was lost on Guy). We used to get tons of letters calling us all sorts of names. I was probably asked about 500 times to either jump off a bridge or play in traffic, sometimes both. It’s something you live with though, you develop thick skin.

PH: Any specific stories come to mind?

GE: I can recall the worst letters came from the fans of the Cool Spot games.

PH: Cool Spot?

GE: Yes he was 7up’s mascot in the 90’s and being a mascot naturally he needed a game. I know nostalgia is big with people your age; you like to look back on retro games and like them in an ironic way. But listen those games were abomination back then and they’re even worse now! I have no regrets on anything we said or published about that joke of a series. If any of those little son of a- *ahem* (at this point Guy wipes a bit of sweat from his brow and adjusts his collar). I’m sorry about that, it’s just you know.

PH: It seems some wounds can never be healed?

GE: I’ll be transparent with you; can this be off the record?

PH: Of course, you have my word.

GE: We published a pretty scathing review of Cool Spot: Spot Goes To Hollywood. It was truly a horrible game. Yet one disgruntled reader had to push things too far. We were accused of being Coca-Cola supporters since 7up is a Pepsi brand. Eventually this gentleman used the yellow pages to find out where many of our staff lived. He would leave Pepsi products in their mailboxes with threatening notes attached. Actually it’s still jarring to talk about and I can’t look at soda without getting a bit dizzy. I have a restraining order, it’s actually mutual, can we change the subject?

PH: Of course we can, sorry to drum up past demons. Ummm okay, so while PSGM received its share of detractors, its viewership was none the wiser?

GE: Yes and no. It’s true we never gave the trolls a stage to spew their filth. It was our magazine after all, why allow it to be filled with such hate, it’s not what our readers what have wanted. To me it was clear to see the distinction between anger and honest criticism. Criticism we always welcomed, that’s what our editorial section was for. If we were wrong on an issue, or if readers wanted to sound off in a constructive way they could have at it.

PH: Perhaps many of today’s websites are apathetic towards their community then?

GE: Oh they know what they’re doing; it’s a cycle of sorts. They make mountains out of mole hills is what they do. They are always trying to incite an “A” vs “B” flame war. Once the dust settles, they go ahead and blame the public for being so heartless and uncaring! Of course they themselves aren’t accountable for creating the poisonous environment in the first place. It’s quite humorous when you think about it.

PH: I find it a little hard to believe that gaming magazines didn’t partake in any dubious practices themselves.

GE: Sure nobody is perfect, but few if any publications based their livelihood on such methods! We had different more tangible ways of attracting readers. Providing demo disks, posters, coupons, cheats, all that sort of stuff. Or at the end of the day interesting articles about the games you knew and loved always seemed to worked. Yellow journalism and cannibalistic stories were practices we avoided at all costs. We didn’t want to get anyone angry, what’s the point in that?

PH: So perhaps anger is a selling point these days?

GE: Unfortunately I would have to agree.

PH: Well then Guy do you ever see a return to the coverage that we all enjoyed via gaming magazines?

GE: Make no mistake there’s some good sites, personalities, bloggers all that jazz and they’re still fighting the good fight. Creating honest stories about the past time we all cherish. I think modern gamers need to simply ignore the types of articles that are merely meant to be divisive. Easier said than done right?

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