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Old 04-07-2010, 08:44 PM   #1 (permalink)
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'Game Mag Weaseling': Playboy's 30-Year-Old Game Mag

Stuff Gamer tried combining video games with pictures of sexy girls in 2003. It lasted one issue. Gamestar, the US one, tried combining video games with pictures of sexy girls in 2004. That lasted three issues. incite tried combining video games with pictures of sexy girls in 2000. It went for six issues.

Even Playboy, historically the most well-known brand name for pictures of sexy girls, tried combining them with video games once. The result, Playboy Guide: Electronic Entertainment, is smart, funny, easy on the eyes (that's Cathy St. George, Miss August 1982, up there), and incredibly professional from start to finish. And not even they could keep the thing going longer than four issues. I think I'm seeing a pattern here.

Putting it that way is admittedly a little unfair. The all-ages Electronic Entertainment is mainly an outlet for the legions of video and stereo equipment manufacturers advertising in Playboy during the late '70s and early '80s, trying to appeal to that "mature, successful gentlemen" demographic that the mag aimed for with its content. It wasn't really meant to be an ongoing title, in other words, and after publishing its four issues (one in 1980, one in 1981 and two in 1982), Electronic Entertanment closed up shop and went back to being a department in the main Playboy mag.

Most of the edit space in these magazines is devoted to video components -- $900 VCRs, $1400 camcorders, $30 blank VHS casettes to use with 'em. There's a decent chunk of game and computer coverage in each issue, though, from PC buyer's guides to rundowns of portable games. Issue 4 even has a full-on strategy guide for Donkey Kong, the ColecoVision version, no doubt inspired by high-rolling blackjack star Ken Uston and his success writing a paperback Pac-Man pattern guide in 1981.

It's funny to read Electronic Entertainment for its insights on what being a movie or music nerd was like in the early '80s -- even back then, people were writing columns about how much they prefer watching films on their big-screen TVs over going to the theater.

But what strikes me most is the visual design. I guess I should've expected it from a publishing house so driven by photography, but the look of these mags is really fantastic. Every feature's got a unique look, all the photos jump out of the page, and even the poses all the guys and girls make as they're photographed enjoying their Intellivisions don't seem as cheesy and aggressively '80s as they should be.

You could say that Playboy was one of the first publishers to try making a game mag that deliberately aimed for a mature audience. In my mind, it does a nice job -- though maybe that's just because reading a pre-Maxim "men's magazine" is, in the year 2010, a rare novelty.

GameSetWatch - COLUMN: 'Game Mag Weaseling': Playboy's 30-Year-Old Game Mag
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