Presse Start, or the golden age of video game magazines in France

The book “Presse Start” looks back on 40 years of video game magazines in France, guaranteed nostalgia effect – Omake Books

“Due to moving (and potential divorce), I am obliged to get rid of my heartbreaking magazine collection. Consoles +. ” Also works with Tilt, Generation 4, Player One, Joystick, Joypad… You have already seen this kind of advertisement on social networks, and you hesitated to answer that it is good, you take them all. Even though you already have these magazines, in a box, in the attic, at your parents’ house. You know they are there, these vestiges of a time when video games were not only played on console, but were also read on paper. The book Press Start (joli), edited by Omaké Books and written by Boris Krywicki and Yves Breem, comes out Friday and looks back on 40 years of video game magazines in France.

“Magazines were the embodiment of video games in the 1980s and 1990s”

“The Internet did not exist and information passed through paper,” says Boris Krywicki. The players informed themselves, dreamed and lived a little by proxy thanks to these magazines. Even if we were not equipped, we had the tests, the very colorful layouts, very generous in illustrations. Sometimes with half a page of text for three to four pages of screenshots. The magazines really embodied the video game in the 1980s and especially the 1990s. ”But it was not a French specificity, the video game press played the same role in the United Kingdom, the United States and of course in Japan. “Even if Japanese magazines are more traditionally in a celebration of the industry, adds the researcher at the University of Liège, where French titles like to look for the little beast, like PC duck or Gamekult. “

A freedom of tone, bordering on irreverence

Maybe heir to a certain spirit screaming metal, the French video game press enjoyed a freedom of tone, bordering on irreverence, and gave the reader the impression of being part of the gang. “ Weekly software, for example, became known as the Charlie hebdo micro-computing, with titles like “Commodore took us for idiots” and trials to the key, explains Boris Krywicki. The magazine only lasted four years, from 1983 to 1987. ”The magazines of the 1980s were not entirely devoted to video games, but also to computers and their variety of practices. “The pioneer Tilt is interested in a lot of subjects, and has writers older than the next generation, who enjoy video games but come from other backgrounds, are doctors, teachers… ”

Passionate journalists… 16 years old!

With the arrival of consoles in lounges, the French video game press is experiencing its golden age. Like the young age of journalists? “The teams are getting younger, are less professional,” comments the author of Press Start. Some are still starting as adolescents, at 16 years old. They are enthusiasts above all. It is also the golden age of tests and sacred marks. “Ratings are still an issue today, and a great average on the Metacritic aggregator can unlock financial bonuses for development teams. But it is true that at the time, almost all magazines adopted the percentage mark. With, in my opinion, a value less analytical than celebratory. The note was only there to be exploded, to put stars in the eyes, until the famous 150% of Donkey Kong Country in Consoles +. “

Male editorial staff, sexist humor

The book Press Start do not forget either that behind the spirit of the gang of friends of these magazines, hiding almost 100% male editors, with all the excesses that this could imply. “There was a real concern for the presentation of women, whether in teams or in games, as well as sexist, even toxic humor, recalls Boris Krywicki. We could not ignore it. You had to see the treatment of Lara croft and its “attributes” or the reports of E3 and their boxes on the hostesses, with photo galleries and misplaced captions. “

While editorial staff have become feminized, certain problematic behaviors persist. “In general, the legitimacy of journalists is questioned by readers, we question the rating, we say that we would have done better. But when the journalist is a woman, who is younger, it is even worse. There is a suspicion of incompetence, smear campaigns, even harassment. Again in 2020.

The end of an era

While, for example, the historical titles of the cinema press (The notebooks, Positive, Mad Movies, First…) still exist, the Tilt, Consoles +, Player One and other Joypad have all disappeared. “There was a very large concentration of the video game press in the 2000s around the same publisher, Future France, which later became Yellow Media and then MER7., Explains the author. They buy out a lot of magazines, and to optimize costs, editors write for several titles, which lose in singularity and become interchangeable. “The readers leave, on the Internet, and the publisher disappears, not without leaving, specifies Boris Krywicki, a great freedom to the journalists at the end. ” The last Joypad, for example, are of great quality, but it was too late. “

The start of another

Today, Boris Krywicki does not see the medium, Web or paper, as a significant characteristic to determine the evolutions of the medium: “The paper press is experiencing a distribution crisis, with the setbacks of Presstalis, but the online press is experiencing the collapse of advertising revenues. Both therefore need to find solutions, such as premium subscription to Gamekult or crowdfunding. If the economic future is in question, in terms of quality, there is a real wealth and different proposals. With on the one hand the general public approach, consumers, a or a Video Games Magazine, on the other, a more original approach, taking a distance, at PC duck or JV Le Mag. “It is no longer a question of necessarily following the news, but of focusing on people, on what is peripheral to games, with reports, surveys … And therefore not only playing video games, but also living the video game.

To add to Press Start, do not hesitate to take a look at Abandonware Magazines.

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