December 1993: What is this Star Wars you speak of?
I've never been a big fan of Holiday Buyer's Guide. These days it feels like every magazine and website tries to outdo the competition with unbearably dull lists of good games and hardware you should look out for. They treat their readers like morons, assuming that everybody has the attention span of a gnat. Instead of shooting for creativity, each and every holiday guide is the same, and none of them are worth looking at.
For years I've held this unpopular opinion. I've been too afraid to say it out loud, since any time you say anything bad about Christmas Bill O'Reilly sends out his secret police to put you in your place. But recently I came across a 16 year old buyer's guide that was both entertaining and educational. It's a small guide published in the December 1993 edition of Game Players magazine. It's the TechTalk's Hot Ten, a list of the hardware that they are "hoping to get for the holidays."
As I scanned this article I was struck by one thing - very little about this Hot Ten list made any sense. Outside of the suggestion of batteries (seriously, batteries?), I found myself confused by everything I saw on this list. It was as if the good people at the North Carolina-based Game Players decided to just list random crap and hope that nobody noticed. But I did notice ... 16 years later. So, in order to celebrate the upcoming holiday season I've decided to pick apart each and every one of Game Players' gift suggestions. It's a little something I like to call Game Players' Worst Holiday List Ever!
#10 - You Don't Speak For George Lucas!
"A Surround Sound Digital Home Theater: Watch that laserdisc boxed set of Star Wars the way it was meant to be seen. A few grand and it's yours."
Context is important here, so make sure and remember that this was written back in 1993. The picture that accompanies this quote is of a big screen 4x3 standard definition TV and five tiny
Now THIS is the way Star Wars was meant to be seen!
speakers. It was, as they explained in the description, the top of the line audio/video experience, one that cost thousands and thousands of dollars.
But here's the thing, I don't care what year this was written in, a 50 inch standard definition TV with five tiny speakers is NOT the way Star Wars was meant to be seen. When George Lucas was working on his 1977 cultural phenomenon, I don't believe that he was picturing your living room as the ideal location for a movie premiere. No, he was envisioning a giant theater screen. That puny little TV and surround sound set-up isn't the way Star Wars was meant to be seen, it was the way that the Star Wars Holiday Special was meant to be seen. So save your thousands and thousands of dollars, because in a few years you'll thank me when you invest that money into DVDs, Blu-rays and HDTVs.
#9 - It Also Plays Master System Games!
"Game Gear: Portable color for under $100. Need we say more?"
Actually yes, you do need to say more. You need to explain that this product you're recommending is on its last legs. Sure the system is under $100, but that's because it was unable to secure enough
You might need to say more about this model!
market share to warrant a higher price. Worse yet, by the end of 1993 third party companies had abandoned ship and even Sega was starting to slow down the amount of games they published for the portable. It's all downhill from here, that's something Game Players could have reminded their audience.
It's also worth pointing out that $100 in 1993 is equal to $150 in today's dollar, so this recommendation isn't even a good deal. These days you can pick up the Nintendo DSi for roughly the price of this discount-priced Game Gear. By 1993 neither Sega nor its third parties were able to develop any must-own titles that took the world by storm, what made this magazine think that 1994 was going to be different? Gamers were better off just waiting for the various Pocket and Color Game Boy products, at least you can name a few must-own games for the Game Boy.
#8 - A Good Stocking Stuffer!
"Millennium Rechargeable: Perfect for handhelds and all kinds of gadgets. Retail price varies."
Game Players didn't know this at the time, but it was about to get a lot worse before it got better. In 1993 the only thing you needed batteries for was the Game Boy and Game Gear, it's not like gamers
This collection of batteries will power the Nomad for around six hours!
were investing their time in wireless controls. However, not long after publishing this issue Sega unleashed their Nomad, a handheld device that ate up six AA batteries in less than an hour. From there we started to see wireless controls, wireless nunchuks, wireless guitars and much, much more. While wired controls still exist (thanks to Microsoft), the push is clearly towards wireless accessories.
But there's good news. These days you can't find a handheld game system that uses traditional AA batteries. The Sony PlayStation 3 also doesn't use this type of battery, instead opting for an internal Lithium battery. And both Nintendo and Microsoft offer charging kits to alleviate the need for Millennium Rechargeable. While that's definitely a start, there's no doubt that this holiday suggestion is still cogent 16 years later.
#7 - Mail Order Madness!
"Pro-Action Replay: Find your codes in any SNES, Genesis or Sega CD game. Sorry, but it kicks Game Genie's butt! Call [Phone Number Redacted] for ordering information; available only by mail."
Holy crap, the Pro-Action Replay was so good that they didn't even sell it in stores. And it kicks the butt of the Game Genie? This sounds like the greatest thing ever. Well, don't get too
How is it possible that Konami has ignored the Rocket Knight Adventures for all these years?
excited, because I'm not about to get in the middle of a fight between the Game Genie and the Pro-Action Replay. Those people can fight it out over there in the corner while nobody pays attention to them. After all, you're a loser no matter which side you choose.
Instead of spending even one second debating which cheat device is king, I would like to take a few moments to offer a few interesting facts about this December 1993 issue of Game Players magazine. Did you know that the best reviewed game that month Rocket Knight Adventures? It scored a 9 (out of 10). Something called Magic Boy came in second, with a score of 8. The lowest score was Cliffhanger for the Super NES, they gave it a 4. Out of the 17 reviews found in the magazine, nine are for games based on licensed movies and toys. And best of all, Game Players reports that Super Mario 5 is set for a summer 1994 release and Zelda V (yes, V) will allow you to play "between four and ten characters". And did I mention that each character gets their own ending? No wonder Zelda V is regarded as such a classic. And did I mention that Zelda III came out in 1992? I'm not sure why that's important.
#6 - The Activator STILL Sucks
"Sega's Activator: If Santa's bringing it -- I'm taking it! It's the next level of game control, and retails for $20."
If the Sega Activator was the "next level of gaming control," then According to Jim was the funniest show on TV. And if that's the case, then clearly Gigli was the second greatest movie of
My goal is to just use this picture in every article I write from now on!
all time, right behind the amazing Battlefield Earth. I also don't know why everybody was so excited about The Beatles: Rock Band when Guitar Hero: Aerosmith was clearly the greatest music game on the market. Also, did I mention that there's nothing better than smoking meth while driving a school bus in the 130 degree weather? Seriously, the Activator MUST be the greatest product ever.
Of course, the truth is that the Activator is rubbish. And the sad thing is, Game Players knew it. They took part in the very same Consumer Electronic Show demonstration that I saw in Las Vegas, there are pictures of them using it. Nobody that has actually spent any time with the Activator truly believes that it's the "next level of game control." Maybe it's the next level in huge Frisbees, but it's definitely nowhere near the next level of gaming. In fact, I would say it's several levels back. While the NES control didn't have any fancy lasers, at least it did was it was supposed to. Nothing about the Activator worked like it should, which makes me seriously question the veracity of Game Players' claims. If this is what the editors thought the future of gaming looked like, then they must have had an extremely bleak outlook on the future.