Old Game Magazines' "Letters to the Editor" Give Us a Glimpse Back at Ancient Gaming Discourse

Old Game Magazines' "Letters to the Editor" Give Us a Glimpse Back at Ancient Gaming Discourse

From "Say your prayers, Nintendo!" to "The Saturn will pull through! You'll see!"

Last week, I posted a 20/20 profile of 1988 Nintendo to highlight how little the games industry has changed. Sure, modern game consoles can do everything short of perform open-heart surgery (though admittedly I haven't tired issuing the command to our Kinect yet), but deep down we're all still children fighting over Sega and Nintendo.

Sega obviously no longer manufactures hardware, but you know what I mean. The fan wars that rage in game sites' comment sections, on message boards, and throughout subreddits – they're existed since video games went commercial.

The only thing that's different about today's game-related discourse is anyone can say what they think if they take a few minutes to name themselves "VegetaWeedLord69" in a forum's sign-up field. Back when game magazines were still king, most people put a pen to a sheet of paper, fished out an envelope from their parents' stationery drawer, procured a stamp (usually the hardest part), and mailed the letter off in hopes of seeing their opinion in print.

Alas, none of my letters about Chrono Trigger being "the best everrrrrr" ever got published in Game Players. The scant real estate for the Letters Section was usually reserved for rants about this-system versus that-system. Like I said, little has changed.

If you need convincing, check out the Twitter Account for "PunishedHag." She posted snippets of letters, fan art, and ads from '90s game magazines all weekend, and she's still going. I picked out some of my favorites for you to pore over. I'd say nostalgia made me do it, but I don't necessarily want snail mail to make a comeback. For all the hassles the Internet Age offers, the "instant communication" aspect of our modern society is mighty addictive.


If you're an old person, then you know that Nintendo has been "doomed" for decades. It all started when Sonic erupted from the Sega Genesis with his "Way Past Cool!" attitude that made Mario look a little creaky in the joints. The SNES gained back a lot of goodwill with its excellent library, but some of that cheer started to falter with the N64 ("Ultra 64") reveal. As this letter from a 1995 issue of EGM demonstrates, people weren't happy about the system's cartridge-based format and seeming lack of games, to say nothing about the fact Nintendo kept much about the system under wraps for years. Nintendo? Secrecy? Now that's new!

Also: "Is Nintendo going back and making the N64 a CD-based system?" = Ha ha. Counting the 3DO amongst Nintendo's competition = Double ha ha.

One reader from another '95 issue of EGM writes in to complain about how modern games just don't stack up to classics on the NES and Game Boy. To his credit, most of the retro games he mentions do hold up a lot better than the trash that wound up on the Sega CD and 3DO. It's almost as if a developer's vision and talent matter more than the technology available to them.

"Guys, if you don't like a game, just don't play it!" Whew, glad we all learned that lesson back in the '90s.

Back in my day we couldn't just rely on LyricsFreak to give us poor transcriptions of song lyrics, no sir. Granted, some CDs had booklets with lyrics printed in them, but your chances were less than 50/50. Some booklets only gave you the lyrics to a few songs. What was up with that.

It makes me uneasy to consider, but let's be honest: The person who wrote this probably still had baby-fat on their cheeks at the time.

But if a VHS was in the "JAPANIMATION" section, you knew you were getting a really cool "an-em-ay" and not any of that babyish Disney stuff.

I'm not sure about the carbon dating on this gallery of fan art, but I guess the Earthworm Jim / Batman Forever mash-up gives us a strong clue. Congratulations to this month's winner, who apparently grew up in the same neighborhood as myself (and Geddy Lee).

On a previous episode of Axe of the Blood God, Kat and I talked about Final Fantasy VI elitists, i.e. people who were cheesed off that an "inferior" game like Final Fantasy VII introduced the world to JRPGs (i.e. people like myself). Also, Symphony of the Night is "anything but stunning?" Son, what kind of candy cartoon crack are you smoking?

If you want to delve deeper into the game magazine time capsule, visit PunishedHag's Twitter account. She's posting a whole lot of ads from '90s game magazines, too. The 3DO ads reek of desperation, so bring a clothespin.

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Nadia Oxford

Staff Writer

Nadia has been writing about games for so long, only the wind and the rain (or the digital facsimiles thereof) remember her true name. She's written for Nerve, About.com, Gamepro, IGN, 1UP, PlayStation Official Magazine, and other sites and magazines that sling words about video games. She co-hosts the Axe of the Blood God podcast, where she mostly screams about Dragon Quest.

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