When naked bodies are finally ready to play, they come out of the screen as flesh and pixels entities. All we now have to do is invent new ways to hide those unchaste sights between third dimension, blur and pixelated sweat…
Having read this blog post on French magazine AMUSEMENT, which is where the above quote is taken from, I felt the need to investigate France’s fascinating videogame magazine world. Also, given America’s strict rules about showing female breasts and nipples, I really, really, really wanted to upset sensitive people with the above image from AMUSEMENT (click for an uncensored version). Considering every human suckles on them for several months, I find the extreme need to hide nipples perverse. While Halverson's PLAY magazine felt the need to block out the nipples in their Dante’s Inferno preview, walking the streets of France not a day goes by without me seeing the nipples of beautiful women, be it on the beaches, in advertising, mainstream magazines or mainstream television. Female nipples are everywhere.
Anyway, French magazines. A lot of these photos are low res. If you want them large enough to read the text, you’ll have to download THIS 70mb file. Also, scroll way down for photos from my adventure to a local French store.
I’ve not actually seen this in any French stores, but from what I gathered on various forums, I don’t think I’d like it. It’s a lifestyle magazine and it seems very pretentious, in a way that makes UK magazine EDGE seem as a humble as a tramp. And I have an intense dislike of EDGE because of its high-art pretensions.
While some of the articles in AMUSEMENT have the potential to be amazing (the Forever Gamer piece in issue 5 grabs my interest), they seem to have spent too much on photography and are trying too hard to be clever. The walls of text also put me off – I need a magazine’s design to reflect the inherent visual kinetics of games. Without a copy to look over or a full English translation I also can’t pass judgement, but Dieubussy from NTSC-uk really enjoys it, and has covered it on his blog.
(AMUSEMENT photos courtesy of Diebussy).
Several years ago French magazine GameFAN (no relation to Halverson’s GameFAN) created a one-shot Game Museum mag, focussing on retro. It was pretty damned awesome, covering a mixture of obvious hardware entries (SNES, Genny), and more obscure ones (Pippin Atmark).
Fun fact: their photography was outstanding – I have no idea how they sourced some of that stuff. So, when I was writing a Mega Drive feature for Retro Gamer, I scanned and used the Hideki Sato photo.
They also featured a Bibliography, which is unheard of in games magazines. Even when the original author tries to credit someone in the UK, unethical editors will often remove it. Heaven forbid we let anyone think the content we use wasn’t sourced by us. I’ve often tried to credit sources, had them removed, and landed in hot water as a result. The rest of the time my name isn’t even listed in a feature. How wonderful to find the French openly embracing the concept of thanks.
RETRO GAME 1
This one-shot then led to a trilogy of Retro Game magazines, which came out sporadically and then died.
Its design changed every issue, but I loved the fact they seem to just do whatever the hell they wanted, and I loved their usage of screenshots. In a lot of ways it was like a French, print version of HG101. Lots of screens, hobbyist in nature, but with its heart in the right place.
RETRO GAME 2
They also covered stuff which I’ve either never seen covered elsewhere, or only received a very small amount of coverage.
They divided the magazine between arcades, consoles and micro computers. They also featured quizzes, galleries of cover art, and decade old sales charts from Japan. It wasn’t perfect, but damn, it had a lot of charm.
RETRO GAME 3
The 3rd issue was stapled together, showing that they were cutting the budget. I didn’t see any subsequent issues, but this probably had the best design of the lot.
It featured a history of arcade shmups, even explaining the origin of the word in British magazine Zzap 64 (and complain all you like, it’s a helluva lot better than the Japanese genre acronym of STG, which sounds ridiculous – hey guys, I’ve just got the latest STG from Japan! Yup, you’ll be wanting some ointment and daily penicillin injections for that). Best of all in this 3rd issue, they have 28 pages dedicated to the PC-Engine/TG16/Turbo Duo series of consoles. TWENTY EIGHT PAGES.
It was sadly short-lived, because I think this mag had some potential. And Retro Gamer sorely needs a rival. I wish America would start a retro mag, and pump some serious budget into it.
UK mag writers are sorely underpaid, and frankly I’d get a perverse thrill seeing a superior power crush its rivals through sheer force of money. Or perhaps I’m just bitter having worked those journalistic frontlines and feel UK magazines need some serious mercy killing.
JOURNEY TO A FRENCH NEWS AGENT
I went undercover for this, dressed as a businessman, taking photos of magazine from a French store. Of course we were eventually rumbled, and so I only managed to photograph maybe a quarter of what’s available.
I know nothing about this anime magazine. There are several other mags, but I was ordered to leave the store before photographing them. Considering NewtypeUSA sadly closed down some time ago (which used to cost £10 imported into the UK!), and the only UK magazine covering anime and manga is the abysmal NEO magazine (who pay freelancers even less than the UK’s game mags, at £40 a page), I find it pleasantly surprising that the French market can support so many similar publications. Then again, they do love their comics, or bandes-designee.
A magazine dedicated solely to that online game? The UK has a World of Warcraft magazine I believe, but it’s subscription only. To see this as a mainstream store purchase, is kinda cool.
RPGS AND ONLY RPGS
The French have at least 2 magazines dedicated solely to RPG videogames. While a lot of such games get translated into French, considering that most RPGs are in Japanese and English, and as a genre require fluency in said languages, I find it mind-blowing that the French market supports not one, but two publications dedicated solely to the genre. They also cover imports from Japan and America which will probably never see a French release. The French study English at school, but this is still a pretty hardcore situation to have. Can you imagine an RPG magazine in America covering Japanese and Spanish imports? I’m not even sure if Japan, country of RPGs, has a publication dedicated to the genre. Do they? Do they have two?
ROLE PLAYING GAME
Nice design, overall game scores out of 20. Lots of import coverage.
Different to the first mag, by a different publisher I think, but again scoring games out of 20. Lots of import coverage.
A 3rd UNKNWON MAG
A long time ago I recall seeing a magazine dedicated to Table Top RPGs. I forget the name, and I didn’t see it on my recent trip so it might have closed, but I seem to recall it didn’t cover videogames, or only slightly, and it had heavy emphasis on those old table top RPGs, and stuff like Magic the Gathering. Or maybe I’m mixing it up with the above mags – but I’m sure there was a 3rd publication.
I didn’t see it on my recent trip, it may have closed down along with its Retro sister mags. But this had a serious love of Japanese games.
This is rather cool. It’s like the Reader’s Digest of videogame mags, over 260 pages, and thick with features. Not game reviews or interviews, but good old fashioned features. It does do previews and reviews, but the thing missing from American publications is really clever features. A look at people, companies, culture, retro, the gaming economy, gaming series, genres, cross-over between comics and games, and so on. Just check out the contents pages.
The only places satisfying this need for features in USA were The Gamer’s Quarter, which itself was modelled as a kind of Reader’s Digest, and currently The Escapist. Print mags, not so much. The UK meanwhile has EDGE and GamesTM.
I wanted to buy IG, but it was quite expensive, like 8 Euro. And considering my French isn’t very good, I didn’t want to buy something I wouldn’t make use of. The Retro mags which I own were incomprehensible, and they currently sit alongside my copies of Famitsu. Nice eye-candy, but little more.
I wish I could convey what this magazine feels like in my hands, because to flick through it promises a world of knowledge and imagery which is simply not available in such a concise and fun format in English. It's amazing (probably).
It was at this point that I was rumbled by the management, while in the middle of photographing Joypad, so I only got 2 pics and had to grab the other cover from their website. I tried to explain to her, in French, that I was a journalist from England writing an article on life in France, including a comparison of French magazines. But she was having none of it. As you can seen from the photo, I’m about 7ft 8in tall.
CAPTION: We’ve been f**king rumbled – time to leg it!
Joypad appears to have some kind of affiliation with EDGE, as noted by the title EDGE in their top left corner. Now, I’ve written a lot of articles on the significance of videogame culture, for publications like The Gamer’s Quarter and The Escapist, and EDGE without fail always gets things wrong (and their reviews, from games such as Gunstar Heroes to Valkyria Chronicles, are pathetic and again fail to get the point of what the games are trying to do). So anything trying to connect itself to EDGE makes me nervous.
Pleasantly though JOYPAD seems quite good inside, and I think it’s written by French people as opposed to translated from the English EDGE. The Deadspace 2 issue seemed to have a history article on past issues, which looked rather snazzy. Their Bayonetta review also did not give a perfect score – it got 18 out of 20, as opposed to UK EDGE’s 10/10. So if there is a connection, it doesn’t seem too strong.
Also, their blog is rather awesome, with this entry dedicated to indie games!
They also appear to have done a one-off Nintendo themed issue, containing a feature with some excellent photography on various high-profile Japanese developers which support Nintendo.
Overall I quite like the initial look of Joypad. A little sterile in terms of design, but some respectable features. Whether it avoids the pretensions which plague EDGE, I cannot say until it’s translated or I become fluent in French.
There are a few dozen other mags, mainly single format, a few official mags, plus a whole swathe of PC game mags which slowly blend into PC technical publications, and not forgetting cheats mags and the like. A lot like most countries.
But as I’ve shown, the French also have a lot of unique stuff, which I’ve never seen anywhere else.