Monday, July 6, 2020

GameFan Magazine - The Genesis of My Nerdism

Around November 1997, I became incredibly ill due to consuming some questionable nachos purchased at Taco Bell. Around this time Taco Bell was running a campaign along with Nintendo in which their Kid's Meal toys were related to Nintendo 64 Games. My desire to get my hands on the N64 controller shaped maze lead me to beg my father to take me to Taco Bell, which resulted in me getting food poisoning. This unfortunate event lead to me accompanying my Father to the pharmacy in order to pick up a prescription to deal with my food poisoning, this is where I spotted the November 1997 Issue of GameFan magazine. I asked my father if he would buy it for me, and although he wasn't really a fan of my interest in video games, he agreed in hopes that it would distract me from my nacho induced misery.

At the time I had an NES, and my eight year old self couldn't even fathom the amount of various different systems and games that existed. However as I flipped through my newly purchased GameFan magazine I was enthralled by the various screenshots of game franchises I had never even heard of at that point. Although I was aware of the PlayStation, I had never actually played the system or any of its games. The same went for the Nintendo 64, Sega Saturn, and various other consoles of the era.

I don't actually remember reading any of the articles, but then again at that age I was more interested in looking through the screenshots than actually reading any of the text. Recently I have actually got my hands on a few issues of GameFan for the sake of nostalgia, and realized that I didn't actually miss much by not reading the articles. Many of the articles on Gamefan were actually very poorly written, but were still somewhat enjoyable if only for the enthusiasm of the authors. It is clear that the GameFan staff loved their video games, with most game reviews ranking games in the mid/high 70% all the way up to 100%. Almost no games were ever poorly rated.

The real treat was the screenshots featured in this publications. Every article was filled to the brim with incredibly clear (for the time) screenshots giving readers an accurate look into what they could expect from each game. Despite the fact that I would probably never get the opportunity to play many of the games featured in GameFan (on account of my family being poor, and my Dad hating video games), I loved looking through the various reviews, ads, and screenshots. It felt as if though I was immersing myself within the worlds of the featured games without actually having the pleasure of playing the games.

GameFan also had a segment towards the end of every issues which was titled "Anime Fan". Although  it didn't really influence my love in Anime, it did actually introduce me into a rough understanding of what "anime" is. Before that I had not known that Japanese animation had a community of its own, or that Japanese animation even had a collective name by which it was referred as. Now as I look through older issues, it really is interesting looking through what anime were popular in the mid to late 90s, versus the kind of Anime that appears to be popular today.

This magazine played such as key role for me growing up, as it made me more aware of the vast diversity of games and consoles that existed. It made me aware that there was a world far beyond that of my NES, that unfortunately I was missing out on. I showed this magazine off to everyone of my friends that would listen, and in turn that influenced what games many of them would buy for their systems. It's unfortunate that the publication eventually came to and end, but I will always remember it fondly.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Who Remembers the World of Warcraft Trading Card Game?

Let me set the stage for ya'll.

It's 2007 and I just graduated high school in San Jose, California. I have been collecting Yu-Gi-Oh cards since the 7th grade, and Pokemon cards since the 4th. I am now entering college, and most of my fellow duelists have moved on to other cities to start their college education. With no one to duel, or battle on the table top, my decks soon begin to gather dust in some random corner of my bedroom. It appears that my trading card game days have come to an end. At the same time, my more tech savvy friends have been helping me build my very first gaming PC, it appears that my TCG days are over,  this is the end of an era.

or is it?

My goal at college was to graduate as soon as possible, this meant that I packed my day with as many classes as I could. As I had no car to drive to school, I often stayed on campus until about 10:00pm at which point my Dad would pick me up on his way to home from work. I was stuck on campus from 7:30am to 10:00pm most days of the week. This means that despite having a fancy new gaming PC, I didn't actually get to use it too often, except for on the weekend. Still though, I am a gamer, and I need to get my gaming fix..well, this is where the WoW TCG came into the picture.

Most of my friends were avid WoW players from day one, I had some experience in the Warcraft IP myself, however my experience was mostly from the Warcraft novels, and the original real time strategy games. Since we were all usually stuck on campus at the same time, and usually on the same days, we started to look into various ways to spend the time. It was around this time in late 2007 that we  stumbled upon the World of Warcraft trading card game. As we were all in some way familiar with the IP we decided to buy our own decks, and start playing the game. Honestly, it consumed us. Soon we were buying hundred of dollars of booster packs, multiple deck boxes, some of my friends were even attending local tournaments.We would pass the time by challenging each other to battles, some of them one on one, other Horde versus Alliance. Our weekends would often include group trips to the local gaming shops to purchase more cards to expand our decks.

Although we started playing in 2007, the game was actually released in late 2006 by Upper Deck Entertainment. The first set to be released was the "Heroes of Azeroth" set, soon after was the "Fires of Outland" set which actually has one of the more valuable loot cards. Eventually Upper Deck would lose the license for the Warcraft IP, and the game would be picked up by Cryptozoic, until the game was eventually discontinued due to Blizzard releasing "Hearthstone". Hearthstone is considered a spiritual successor of the original TCG, using a lot of the original TCG artwork, as well as similar game mechanics.

Despite the similarity between the TCG and Hearthstone, nothing can compare to opening up a brand new booster pack. That new card smell will forever stay with me as I remember the good times I spent playing with my friends. Honestly, I wish it would make a comeback, and considering the facebook groups dedicated to keeping the game alive, I don't think I'm the only one that wants this game to make a comeback.