[After 23 years and 267 issues, IDG's GamePro magazine and website officially went offline December 5. Kevin Gifford, who worked at GamePro in the early 2000s, reflects on the media franchise that hardcore gamers loved to hate, but seem oddly sorry for now that it's gone.]
Why does anyone care about the demise of GamePro? Didn't we, the internet echo-chamber collective, just spend the past decade dismissing the magazine and website as lazy, airheaded fluff? Isn't this the magazine that invented ProTips culled from the instruction booklet and slapped more day-glo '90s color on every page than Wired?
This is the magazine that thought the fake personas the edit staff wrote under were so wickedly cool that it released action figures of the most popular ones? I'm not trying to dance on the mag's grave -- it's always a sad thing when talented people in the game industry get laid off -- but isn't GamePro's closure a sign that game media is finally starting to gain some sorely-needed maturity and respect?
Maybe not. The sad, wistful response to last week's news that publisher IDG would fold the brand into PC World and concentrate instead on custom game-oriented content for vendors came as a surprise to many on the net -- and quite a shock to a lot of ex-GamePro staff.
It was a shock to me, at least. GamePro was my first non-retail job ever; I worked there for almost two years in 2002 to 2003 before jumping ship to 1UP, and my chief memory of the experience was that the closest thing to praise we ever received was akin to "Nice mag, but why don't you have any codes for Halo?"
And yet you have pages upon pages of fond nostalgia sprouting around all over the place. Maybe anything that lasts 23 years in this industry can't help but attract some fans. Maybe the vast print and online redesign engineered by former Ziff Davis editorial director John Davison attracted more attention than I thought.
But maybe there really was something about that GamePro formula, something that the Electronic Gaming Monthlys and the GameFans and even the Game Informers of the world couldn't duplicate.
GamePro may not have had hardcore passion, but somehow it's made a profound mark on the industry -- and on thirtysomethings nationwide, judging by how often you hear people sarcastically offering ProTips in daily conversation.
Some magazines, like Dave Halverson's GameFan or the mid-'80s Newsfield titles that still define UK game media today, were born out of the sheer enthusiasm of the editors that created it. GamePro is not one of those magazines. It was unabashedly corporate, founded by the ex-CFO of unlicensed NES game publisher Tengen, hoping to capitalize on the explosive popularity of the Nintendo Entertainment System.
Patrick Ferrell's four-person team printed half a million copies of the first 60-page issue with their own money in 1989, shopping it around at the Consumer Electronics Show in hopes of attracting advertising.
"That was sort of a fake magazine," recalled Wes Nihei, who joined the edit staff with issue 2 and stuck around until 2004. "It was made to bring around to CES, this group of entrepreneurs going around the booths and saying 'Hey, we're GamePro, we got a magazine,' even though it wasn't really true."