Bright, colorful, choked with ads, and filled with articles dated before they even left the publisher’s warehouse, retro video game magazines are delightful little static moments in video game history preserved on paper. The Video Game History Foundation’s vintage magazine subscription service wants to deliver these ancient nostalgia bombs to your doorstep as long as you keep payin’.
Back in the day, before part of my job became scanning the internet for every little scrap of video game news I could find, I loved video game magazines. You could find copies of Electronic Gaming Monthly, Nintendo Power, PSM, GamePro, GameFan, and more on my coffee tables, next to my bed, and sometimes plastered to my bathroom floor after forgetting they were there during a particularly vigorous shower. In my early teens I developed a habit of yanking the ads out of the magazines and pinning them like wallpaper to my bedroom wall, much to the chagrin of my parents and our landlord.
Nowadays I don’t need to buy video game magazines for up-to-date news and reviews, but I long for the days when I did. When I found out the Video Game History Foundation was selling a monthly “blind bag” subscription service for gaming magazines published from the early ‘80s through 2010, I jumped at the chance.
As part of its mission to “bring video game history back to life,” the Video Game History Foundation is working toward collecting a complete collection of every video game magazine ever published. In the course of that endeavor, the organization has ended up with a whole lot of duplicates. Rather than storing all of those extras in a vast warehouse à la Raiders of the Lost Ark, the organization pops the extras into protective mylar bags, packages them with a certificate of authenticity, and sends them out to folks who subscribe to the service for $15 a month.
These aren’t bookstore leftovers with their front covers torn off or dogeared copies rescued from garbage dumps. The magazines on offer are well-preserved and well-protected. If you want to screw them up, you’ll have to do it yourself.
Being the brave video game historian that I am, I opted for a single issue before committing to the monthly fee. In retrospect, paying $20 for a one-time delivery instead of $15 for a monthly service I can cancel any time was a waste of five bucks, but I felt very smart while ordering. A few weeks later, I received a pristine, very thick copy of Top Secret Passwords: Nintendo Player’s Guide.
While it does not feature any ads, being more a guide than a normal periodical, the volume is in excellent condition. I can almost still smell the ink inside as I flip through alphabetical pages of tips for games from Adventures of Lolo II to Vice: Project Doom. I was hoping for something a bit broader in scope, but that’s the luck of the draw. Check out what video game personality and father-to-be Greg Miller pulled on his first delivery.
Overall, I am incredibly pleased. Not only do I now possess top secret passwords to many Nintendo games, all proceeds from magazine sales and subscriptions go toward the expanding of the Video Game History Foundation’s library, with the aim of eventually turning it into an open resource available to the public. As for me, sorry kids, my personal library shall remain private for the foreseeable future. You don’t want to go in my bathroom anyway.