When I first started playing, gaming was a lot more insular than it is now. Today, it’s easy to go online either to play a round of Mario Kart 8 with some friends, or start firing away about the Legend of Zelda in the comments section under a news story on a website like IGN. In the late ’80s and all the way until the end of the ’90s, though, the Internet wasn’t at the tips of everyone’s fingertips like it is now. As someone growing up in that environment, I didn’t have the sense that Nintendo and its games were something that people the world over engaged with. Beyond playground talk and a couple of McDonald’s toys, Nintendo felt like this magical, wonderful thing that only a few people really knew about, and I was one of them.
Part of that can be blamed on just being a kid, but youthful ignorance aside, it was also because gaming, like the Internet, wasn’t everywhere the way that it currently is. Online gaming, apps, websites, t-shirts by the dozen in stores in the mall, merchandise in all shapes and sizes– that’s all a fairly recent phenomenon. For years, though, video games were more counterculture than mainstream. Entertainment for the rebellious, the forlorn, kids and young adults, and often a mixture of all three. Finding a Fox McCloud plushie in a toy aisle in the early ’90s just didn’t happen. To the majority of the people of the era, gaming was about the games themselves and little else. That certainly was my experience.
There was one thing, however, that gave a glimpse at the world of Nintendo fans beyond the confines of past-Robert’s microcosm of existence. That thing was Nintendo Power. My aunt had gotten me a subscription when I was around seven or eight years old (maybe younger than that), and it was mesmerizing. Page after page, every month, of news, previews, posters, comics, and more of all my favorite Nintendo characters. The magazine was an indispensable resource for anyone with a Nintendo console, as it didn’t just focus on Nintendo’s own in-house games, but also the oddball gems on its systems that went ignored in virtually every other publication of the era.
I had a subscription all the way until the magazine was shuttered in 2012. It was heartbreaking. By then, the world was a very different place, and I got my news about Nintendo from places like Joystiq and Nintendojo as much as I did Nintendo Power. Magazines, in the minds of a lot of people today, are a quaint relic of the age of print, when newspapers ruled the day and information wasn’t disseminated at rapid fire. Still, archaic or not, there was something about Nintendo Power that was special. It was this unique connection to Nintendo and its characters and games that seemed to perfectly understand its audience. Without it, that lone, tangible tether to Nintendo felt like it had been lost forever when Nintendo Power ended.
It was right about then that Lucas Thomas was struck with an idea. Thomas was part of the team that worked specifically on Nintendo games for the gaming news website IGN at the time, and was a lifelong devotee of the developer. He’d grown up reading Nintendo Power, too, and when it came to a close, he knew that it wouldn’t do to let things end with that December issue. So he looked at himself and thought, I make a living writing about Nintendo, I love Nintendo… so why don’t I pick up where Nintendo Power left off? Thomas put together a crew, and from the ashes of Nintendo Power came a new magazine called Nintendo Force.
At least, it was Nintendo Force, but fans today know it as NF Magazine (at the request of Nintendo, which Thomas graciously agreed to do). No matter the name, it’s come to represent the same things that Nintendo Power did; a dedicated resource for all things Nintendo, made by fans for fans. The publication has been designed with great effort expended to replicate the look and feel of Nintendo Power, with similar features and tone, but free of some of the editorial constraints that the original magazine had being under the direct purview of Nintendo itself. NF feels a little more candid than Nintendo Power ever did, as a result, and it’s a good thing.
At the same time, though, NF, as honest a magazine as it is, still is able to channel that same understanding of the minds of Nintendo fans that Nintendo Power was so good at. Whether it’s highlighting toys that the average Nintendo fan will find irresistible, or lamenting the sad news of a game not being localized here in the West, NF touches on all the different fancies that Nintendo players find important. Over the course of the three years that I’ve been reading NF, it’s never come across as a publication with any other agenda than to bring me and my fellow Nintendo fans the sort of good-faith, quality writing that multi-console magazines like Game Informer or EGM either can’t or won’t.
NF Magazine’s new Patreon page is live, as we pointed out the other day, so anyone who wants to get aboard and sign on for a subscription should head over and do so. As much as we love all of you readers who make your way to Nintendojo everyday, we also think it’s important to support efforts like NF which help to enrich the experience of the Nintendo-faithful in a different way. There are a lot of incredible writers working at NF, including people from this very website; as someone who’s looking in from the outside like those of you reading this, I don’t have a horse in this race beyond simply wanting to see a worthwhile project like NF succeed because it deserves to, and because you all deserve the best Nintendo coverage and musings that you can get your hands on.