Monday, 30 August 2010

Games writer, aged 13

This is the first ever piece of videogaming writing that I had published, a letter in the first issue of N64 Magazine, Future's much-loved independent Nintendo magazine, back in March 1997. I was 13 at the time, so the cringe-factor is at least balanced out by my age (or so I'd like to think). N64 Magazine was perhaps the most influential model of games journalism on a personal level, the entire magazine a shining example of informative yet witty writing, honesty, great design and the difficult trick of being made to feel part of a special community with both the writers and the other readers. Tragically I threw my entire collection out a few years ago - bar this first issue and issue 5, in which I also got my name in print -and have spent the last months keeping an eye on eBay to once again complete the set of 60 issues. Once I've done so I'll probably read them all again in order, as sad as that might sound, as well as putting pen to paper and discussing what made N64 Magazine so special. But that's for another time, and another blog post. Having just turned 27, and about to start living away from my parents, it feels like an appropriate time to return to where my obsession with videogames - and, in a way, writing about videogames - began.

N64 Magazine Editor replied:

And, moreover, you just plug in the cart and switch on the N64 and it works. No fiddling with control panels and AUTOEXEC.BAT files. No polishing of CDs with your grubby sleeve. No screens full of incomprehensible error messages. No having to restart the entire machine in a slightly different graphics mode. It's bliss.

Every letter printed was supposed to receive a prized N64 Magazine badge, but mine never arrived.

And this is the game - of all the wonderful games that the N64 played host to - that I had to talk about. Hexen 64:

I've followed the progress of the N64 since the days of Project Reality, and over the years I've learnt to appreciate what is, as you so rightly say, "the pinnacle of mankind's gaming achievements in the late 20th century". It's just so radically different to any other console available, it really is kind of scary.
Take a game like Hexen 64. On the Saturn it runs quite smoothly, with graphics similar to the PC original. Now look at the same game on the N64. The graphics have improved - there's no pixellation, for instance - it runs smoother than the PC version, and such is the superior power of the machine, it even manages to create a four-player split-screen death match, with all the above features still intact.
It's when you make comparisons like this that you really recognise the way this one machine will change the world of video games forever. And don't worry - it will.
Zoheir Beig, South Harrow

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