Video game journalism has been in existence for about the same amount of time as the video game industry itself. With the current culture war, it’s easy to forget that video game journalism has never been averse to controversy. A notorious example of this can be found by looking at the history of one of the most revered video game magazines of the past: Diehard GameFan.
What Is (Was) Diehard GameFan?
Diehard GameFan was a magazine that launched in September 1992 and continued publishing new issues through the 90’s, later shortening its name to GameFan. Most hardcore gamers from back in the day most likely remember this magazine, as it quickly exploded on the market, featuring long, rambling previews of the popular video games of its time, and also heavily covered the Japanese game market. It is most renowned for its abundance of high-quality screenshots of games, as well as it’s unabashed and flamboyant fanboyism of gaming in general.
Of more than equal note are the sordid tales of debauchery and complete unprofessionalism that occurred behind the scenes of this once-popular gaming publication. Since its demise, many of the former employees have publicly conversed about the goings-on at the workplace. A good summary of of the working history of the magazine can be found at this site, which explains the history and contains links to a message board discussion between many of the former employees.
Behind The Scenes
The site that is linked above gives a good description of many of the incidents that took place over the years. The magazine was started by the notorious Dave Halverson, a used car dealer who seemed to fit the bill perfectly, and ran the magazine with the same amount of integrity and professionalism that is typically to be found at a used car lot.
Although many of the former staff fondly view their days at GameFan, most of them were treated like slave labor and were paid accordingly (when they were paid at all). Bills were often paid late, and the editors were quite adept at spinning any situation into looking like they were all just victims of bad luck rather than incompetent leadership.
Likewise, most of the staffers were your typical diehard gamers from back in the day; geeky, socially awkward guys looking for the right path in life and doing something they love more for the experience than for the money, with little regard for future (or even present) planning in life.
Early in its history, and throughout it’s relatively short life, GameFan courted controversy with its fawning reviews of games, many of which would receive less than stellar reviews from most other competing media outlets.
One notable example is GameFan’s review of the Atari Jaguar pack-in game Cybermorph, which was allegedly written by Dave Halverson in the middle of an acid trip. Pinning the blame on Halverson for the magazine’s hagiographic reviews may seem a bit unfair at first, as the magazine used a multiple review format for its game reviews (similar to magazines like EGM), but allegedly all of the reviews were written by him under the guise of the fictional avatars commonly used for most of the magazine’s staff. This was actually common practice across the board at the magazine, and accounts for many of the bizarre and highly-questionable reviews that were found in it over the years.
Another controversy that reared its ugly head was an incident involving some “filler text” containing racial slurs and insults against Japanese people that was accidentally published in an otherwise innocent sports game review. The magazine staff had to spend quite some time cleaning up the mess, including publishing an apology in a press release, as well as another more detailed one in the following issue.
Many other of the magazine’s controversies occurred behind the scenes, including a known case of a staffer being responsible for the circulation of pirated copies of a review copy of a game, many instances of drug-fueled parties, and eccentric staff members (one of whom supposedly had mafia connections). These tales have all added to the magazine’s notoriety over the years.
Although the magazine had a relatively short lifespan, at least in comparison to some of its contemporaries, the magazine had a wide and far-reaching influence on gaming and game journalism. Dave Halverson would go on to start several other gaming publications over the years, most of which have failed, with much less fanfare. Likewise, most of the former staff of GameFan continued in the gaming industry, with many actually moving to publishing or design roles for game publishers.
More specifically for gaming journalism, we can see that not much has changed. Corruption and unprofessional behavior still seem to be the order of the day, and the previous crop of slackers that dominated gaming journalism back in the day have been replaced by a new breed of millennial SJWs, who have carried the torch of corruption and cronyism into the present day.
Where can gaming journalism go? It’s hard to tell at this point, but it is obvious that by looking at the past, the mistakes made then have still not been learned. Gamers should continue to keep a watchful eye on the media, and learn not to tolerate the idiocy and corruption that continue to plague it through the present day.
Read More: The Sad Collapse Of A Gaming Giant