A Warped Mindset

Neatorama is proud to bring you a guest post from Ernie Smith, the editor of Tedium, a twice-weekly newsletter that hunts for the end of the long tail. In another life, he ran ShortFormBlog.

How the Nintendo Times, a Nintendo fan site, is covering the release of the NES in real time—three decades after its original release.

What if we reported on the past like it was happening in the present day—not reflecting on it nostalgically like I do at Tedium, but literally trying to cover the past as if you had no knowledge of the future?

It sounds like an odd thought exercise, but in reality, it’s a whole lot of fun, based on the website Nintendo Times. Since 2015, the writer and blogger Craig Majaski, who cut his teeth at the long-running gaming site Gaming Age, has been editing and putting together a site in which 30-year-old discussions and interviews about the early days of the Nintendo Entertainment System are published as if they’re happening in real time.

For example, this post about a Nintendo press announcement at the Consumer Electronics Show has a publish date of January 11, 1987—as well as forward-thinking statements like “Nintendo is going to continue its aggressive marketing campaign for 1987.”

So how does one come up with an approach like this? Majaski cites an interest in preservation, one shared with other folks like historians Steve Lin and Frank Cifaldi, the two principals of the Video Game History Foundation who he cites as being very helpful to his cause.

“I had this idea back in 2013, and as I began researching the early days of the NES, it quickly became apparent that there weren’t many sites out there dedicated to preserving press releases, documents, newspaper articles, magazine clips, and other media from that time period,” Majaski explained in an email interview. “I thought, instead of just creating a repository for all of the classic NES information, it would be fun (and easier on me) to roll out the information in real time, just like it would have been released 30 years ago.”

And that’s what he does, piece by piece. The challenge is something of a puzzle looking for old articles and sources, organizing them by date and year, and scheduling them to run months or even years ahead of time.

But the result allows him to surface early takes on the NES, like those by former Electronic Gaming Monthly editor-in-chief Ed Semrad, whose early Milwaukee Journal articles about the NES suggested not everyone was impressed by the console at first. (Side note: If anyone knows Ed, I’d love to ask him about those articles.)

As Majaski notes, it wasn’t always apparent how innovative the system truly was.

“It’s fun to deep dive into how games were perceived and talked about back then and even I laugh at some of the things that were considered notable back then, such as being able to pause your game being called a feature,” he recalls. “We take that for granted these days.”

While the site largely includes modern-day content on its front page (which he characterizes as a requirement for making the site financially sustainable and ensuring press access), Majaski admits that the site, which is named both for its past-and-future editorial presence, came about largely as a centerpiece for the Warp Zone feature.

And he’s just getting started. Nintendo coverage was relatively slow during the first couple of years of the NES’ existence, meaning that it’s going to start picking up in the next year or two as many of the system’s releases hit their 30th anniversaries.

“Luckily many articles are ready to go, but the challenge definitely comes in reviewing all of the various games,” he notes.

In case you’re looking for an editorial challenge, give Craig a nudge. He’s looking for reviewers who can critique games as if they were playing them for the first time when Guns ’N’ Roses ruled MTV.


A version of this post by Ernie Smith originally appeared in the Tedium newsletter, which tries in vain to make dull topics slightly more interesting. You can follow along on Twitter or Facebook.


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