Part 4: These days...

tsr: All right, to wrap up, what do you think of the video game magazine scene of today as opposed to the start of the NES in 1988 when mags were beginning to sprout up again?
Could this be the game that changed Chris Bieniek's life?
Anticipation from Rare Ltd.
CB: It was a lot healthier back then. There were fewer magazines, it was easier to keep track of everything. There were more professional people working on the magazines. I don't like any of the current magazines, including my own. I think we could do a lot better than what we're doing, but I'm constantly working to get to that point where I think that it's the best magazine we can put on the shelf. I mean, it's hard to document things like codes, but we specialize in that. It's not like we always get the codes first, although we usually do, but we're good at documenting the codes. When you read it, you know the code's gonna work...
tsr: GamePro was infamous for that.
CB: Yeah, how many times have you put in a code from a magazine and it didn't work? That's something we've been able to focus on, and that's a relatively straightforward thing to do as opposed to a magazine like EGM trying to do reviews and news and industry information and previews and codes...There's not enough good people out there to support all these magazines.

tsr: Do you think any mag these days are up to the ideal that VG&CE put up?
CB: Well, I wasn't happy with everything in VG&CE, even in its peak, but it wasn't really in my power to do anything about it, and like I said, I was just trying to do a good job in the parts I was responsible for.
tsr: What didn't you like about it?
CB: Well, here's one example: When VG&CE would do a strategy guide, they would hire a guy to do a painting, you know, that illustrated the game. And there would be a big 2-page piece of art introducing the strategy guide with a paragraph of text, and I hated that.
tsr: I remember that. For Spelunker, and Adventure Island...
CB: Yep. They were weird with artwork. And the other reason I didn't like it was because it'd be a painting of some bizarre, freaky-looking guy who had nothing to do with the game. When I came on board, I tried sending videotapes of the game to those artists. I was like "Here, at least look at the game so you know what the characters look like". But I wasn't running the show really then, so it wasn't my decision to make.

OVERHEAD KICK!!!!! The announcer is just as enthusiastic
Captain Tsubasa II from Tecmo
tsr: You still play your NES?
CB: Yeah! I just beat Tecmo Cup Soccer this year.
tsr: What happens at the end of that, anyway?
CB: Like, it's crazy! That game goes on forever! (laughs) You win the tournament and you think the game is over, but then this guy comes out and says "I want you to join the All-Star Team", and then you go on this whole other tournament where there's opponents with special powers. They have, like, disappearing players...
tsr: The end's just, like, a celebration or whatever?
CB: Yeah, it's a celebration. You get to meet your dad, if I remember correctly. It was just a couple of months ago, I finally finished it. I got sick and I stayed home from work, and I said "I'm finally gonna beat this fucking game today!" (laughs)
tsr: So you still like the NES.
CB: I love NES. And I got an all right collection.
tsr: What's the thing you're most proud of in your collection?
CB: War on Wheels. (laughs) A buddy of mine who worked at Jaleco was leaving the company and he said "OK, what do you want?" and I said "Get me a copy of War on Wheels!" So he burned the chips, like, that day, and he popped them onto an EPROM board and sent it to me. I have the Panesian games, which I bought at a video game store. I have a NWC cartridge...that's the really fun stuff. It's kind of easy to build a video game collection by working at a magazine, but I considered myself kind of the caretaker of that stuff, because otherwise it would have been tossed.

When the 3DO came out, there was a promotion where if you turned in 10 16-bit games you got a hundred dollars off the 3DO, and my boss told everyone at VideoGames "Go ahead, just turn in all those Super NES games to Toys R Us and get yourselves some 3DOs". This was the magazine's game library; it was ridiculous! I had to stop that. Also, when I started in '92 I found out that the VG&CE art director was throwing out all of the artwork and photos that stayed in her files for more than a year. I couldn't believe that nobody wanted to hang on to that stuff. So I'm just happy that I was able to preserve some of that history.
tsr: So what is your message to the NES collectors of today?
CB: Um...(laughs) I dunno. Keep playing the games, respect the games...Have fun.

  • I could not have stated it better myself. Well, actually, I might have, but Chris had some Tips & Tricks underlings waiting on him to get some lunch. Anyway, thanks for the interview, Chris, and let's continue to fight on for NES unity in the future!

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