Well, what am I telling you? The truth, I am sad for the departure of good Gus Rodríguez. The entire gamer and other community is affected. LEVEL UP made a stream in the early hours of last Saturday where there was a long talk about this topic. You can see it here.
The words are insufficient to cover the legacy that Gus left, but I want to focus on what, for me, is one of his greatest contributions, at least when it comes to video games.
Network Publicidad, an agency founded by Gus Rodríguez and Pepe Sierra, began working for Nintendo through Jorge Nogami, who opened a brand store opposite the World Trade Center, which at the time was known as El Hotel de México. The predecessor of Club Nintendo Magazine was a newsletter that was distributed in the store itself and was very successful among enthusiasts at the time. On the other hand, in the Condesa neighborhood, where I grew up, a store called “El mundo de Nintendo” was opened. It was the peak of the NES and the Game Boy was beginning to take off, so these were the 2 most important products that could be purchased at that location. I vaguely remember having one of those bulletins in my hands, in red and black ink. Since then, I began to familiarize myself with the idea of reading about my favorite hobby in Spanish, in a Spanish like mine, much closer.
First sketch of what would later become Club Nintendo
Near the end of 1991, I recall having seen several times on television a commercial announcing the new Club Nintendo Magazine, emphasizing that it was made in Mexico and, therefore, written entirely in Spanish. Gus Rodríguez wanted it to be called “Mariolandia”, but Teruhide Kikuchi, Nintendo’s representative in Mexico, did not quite like the idea. Kikuchi mentioned that the name should convey the idea of forming and belonging to a group with common interests. Gus asked if it could be something like a club, the Nintendo club. Hence the definitive name.
With a friend, I went to the newsstand on the corner of my house and bought the first copy. We were really excited and that day I formed a very special bond with that publication, I read it several times and it opened my eyes to the fact that there were many more people out there who shared my passion for video games. One of the greatest contributions of this magazine was that it formed a community that to date persists. I learned that, in the Del Valle neighborhood of Mexico City, a group of maniacs were just as excited as I was for Super Mario Bros. 3, The Legend of Zelda and Tetris, on the Game Boy. I found out about the existence of C. Itoh, Nintendo distributor in Mexico at the time. I even felt important when I spoke it and knew what I was talking about. Navigating those pages helped me not feel so alone with my hobby, in those days considered something negative that atrophied your brain and isolated you socially. Well, maybe those misconceptions are still valid, but at least you don’t feel abandoned against the detractors anymore, but supported by the legion of gamers that has formed around the world.
A familiar language
On the multiple occasions when Gus Rodríguez was asked about the origins of the magazine, he mentioned that the type of language they used was always one of their priorities. You had to address the reader of you, as a friend. The publisher of the first issue closes by saying that Club Nintendo is for you, and boy was it. They also promise us to strive to make the best video game magazine. This may be debatable, but what cannot be denied is that Club Nintendo was a pioneer when it comes to the video game press in Mexico. You can be a Nintendo fan or not, but objectively we must recognize the great value of this publication and the fact that it served as the basis for the emergence of many others that came to light in the following years. It was a magazine made by and for gamers.
Although the word “kill” appeared in bulletins, for example, in Club Nintendo Magazine it was strictly prohibited. Alternatives such as “defeat”, “overcome” or “win” were always used. The reader was hinted at personally; that is, in the singular, which helped to generate a much closer bond. From this first issue a type of language that gave identity to the magazine began to become evident, the love for the words of both Gus and Pepe became evident, especially through the names of certain sections. There were “Intensive” courses, the section in which the players asked for help for some title was “Mariados” and at some point the information “NESesaria” and “Super NESesaria” would appear about the titles of the corresponding consoles. Another detail that I always liked was that they adopted the habit of starting intensive courses with a word that began with the first letter of the game in question. We also had “The Crystal Ball” where they talked about what was to come for NES and “The Crystal Ball” for everything related to Game Boy, “What’s inside …?” which consisted of reviews of the titles of the moment and “The control of the professionals”, a segment that became the favorite of many, since it gave tips and recommendations for enjoying video games more or knowing them more deeply.
Axy and Spot
In addition to Gus and Pepe, who became banners of the magazine, from the beginning a pair of mysterious characters who called themselves “secret agents” participated: Axy and Spot. I do not know if their identity has ever been revealed, but their presence on the pages of Club Nintendo has always caused expectation and many hypotheses arose about them. There were those who said that they were the same Gus and Pepe, but that idea fell apart when a photograph with the 4 together appeared in the magazine. Maybe it was silly, but it was one of the many strategies publishers used to click with their audience. Axy and Spot were the ones in charge of the aforementioned section of “The control of the professionals” and they were sold as obsessive and extremely skilled players, capable of finishing any title and answering any questions that might come to the newsroom. I think they were Chucho Medina and Adrián Carbajal (better known as Carqui), but I have no way of verifying it.
Legendary photography with 4 legends
Many covers left a mark on me. Without a doubt, the one I remember most fondly is the first with Mario parachuting into the Angel of Independence in Mexico City. It had a very special symbolism, since it illustrated the consolidation of the world of video games in our country and opened the way for the formation of a large community.
Mario coming to Mexico to stay
One of the hooks to buying the magazine or at least taking time in front of it at the newsstand or at some Sanborns was to find the diamond on the cover. I knew of some people who had as a rule not to open the magazine until they had found it. What torture! I did look for it and I confess that many times I did not find it, but I remember that in each number they told you where the one on the previous cover was. Until that, they had mercy on us.
One of my most hackneyed numbers is 7 in year 3, where the Super Metroid guide is. I reviewed it so much that I memorized it and nothing else for the lols made me finish it like crazy. You know it’s one of my all-time favorite games, so I’m really glad it has such a strong connection to the magazine. Another of the most used is the year 3, number 10, with the fatalities of Mortal Kombat II for Super Nintendo. Among my darlings of the entire collection is the special S.O.S .: Organized Secrets Service that came out in July 1992. 74 pages full of tricks for NES, SNES and Game Boy games, the platforms of the moment. At the end bring a few pages for you to write down your own keys and tips, which I filled as the alienated I am. Later, another similar special came out that already included Nintendo 64 titles and was also very good, but the first one has a special charm for its simplicity and rudimentary workmanship.
Very valuable tool in those times … and in these.
In total, 277 monthly issues were published in the period from December 1991 to December 2014. We must also count the 4 special issues that came out in 2015 and the special editions of tricks that I already mentioned, as well as those dedicated to specific games, such as Street Fighter II and Zelda’s. Later in Mexico it was distributed only digitally, although in other countries printed versions continued to be produced. In July 2019, operations stopped. This was mentioned by Toño Rodríguez, Gus’s cousin, in a tweet.
We are talking about 23 uninterrupted years of monthly production. It is easy to say. My life was from 12 to 35 years old, from first year of high school to the adult godin life and already married. I grew up with Club Nintendo and she grew up with me. In its pages I learned about the existence of Shigeru Miyamoto, Gunpei Yokoi, Howard Lincoln, Hiroshi Yamauchi and other Nintendo banners. I learned that Easter Island exists and that there are strange heads that look towards the Pacific Ocean. I met Digipen, a Canadian school where you can learn to develop video games. I participated in a contest in which my name was mentioned in the magazine just because I knew the name of the piece of music heard at the beginning of an NES game called Gyruss. I laughed when I read that the final boss of Quest 64 is called Mammon, because they ended up writing: “of character, we don’t know.”
I read every issue pe a pa, even when it came to games that didn’t interest me as much, like Pokémon, for example. I loved reading the RESET section, where progress was made for the next issue. Sometimes the wait was very long and I got to wish that the publication was weekly instead of monthly, but having the new copy in my hands I understood that such work could not be done in such a short time, especially during the time of some special event like CES or E3. In the early years of Club Nintendo there was no Internet, so it was one of the only sources available, at least in Spanish. I remember that back in the 2000s, a section called Retroactive was included in which the history of the magazine was discussed and some anecdotes were shared of the adventures of that pair of restless advertisers who exchanged Intellivision games until they bought a NES in the Superama and that changed their lives and mine forever.
Defending the brand
Perhaps the only thing that I don’t like so much in hindsight is that, thanks to my fondness for the magazine, I turned all my attention to Nintendo consoles and missed other very good ones like the PlayStation 2 or the first Xbox. Club Nintendo was a product of Nintendo, so it had to promote its products. Most of the time the writers made an effort to be objective in their opinions, but there were others in which it was evident that they were giving a nudge to the one who was feeding them. I’m not saying that is bad, but it did sell me an idea that perhaps was not entirely true. Don’t get me wrong, I love Nintendo, but it’s a fact that there are other options that are also very worthwhile. I remember meeting Toño Rodríguez at a Super Mario Maker event and telling him that something had to be done to lift Nintendo up and help it out of the slump it had fallen into after the unfortunate Wii U exit and low sales, but He replied that he did not believe that the brand was wrong and that it had to be supported. By the way, despite its low numbers, I consider the Wii U to be an excellent console.
Club Nintendo not only forms the collective past, but my personal past. It was quite a pubert when I had the first edition in my hands. For me it is like a kind of newspaper that documents that glorious decade of the nineties and the beginning of the new millennium. I take any copy, especially from the early years, and inevitably go back to the corresponding moment in my life, the people I lived with, the dreams I had and, of course, the games I played. To write these lines I nailed my collection and I enjoyed it to the fullest. I have them all and for me they are an invaluable treasure.
Year 1 was the only one that had 13 numbers, since it was from December to December. The number 1 of year 2 appeared in January 1993.
Year 1, Number 4 has the only head cover of the entire series.
Year 3, number 10 was the last staple. From 11 onwards, the number of pages was bound and increased.
In the first bound copy (cover of Donkey Kong Country) the first change of logo of the magazine occurred.
Mario is the most recurring character on the covers, obviously.
With the copies of year 11, numbers 7 and 8, a new typeface for the name of the magazine was tried, but I suppose that it did not work and returned to the previous scheme, although it would change again a few months later.
In this link you can see all the covers.
Have you ever read Club Nintendo? Did you collect it? You know, I would love for you to share your experiences or some images in the forums or on our social networks. See you in the next #FridayRetro.
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