I’ve been reading Kill Screen lately, which is a new American games magazine that’s currently working towards its fourth issue. I’ve already subscribed to the mag (which costs a pretty penny when you factor in shipping), but it’s important to note that ‘magazine’ isn’t really the correct word. It’s more like a periodical or multi-author novella.
Structurally, the first thing that sets Kill Screen apart is that there are no adverts in it. In fact, there’s very little in the way of pictures at all and what few are there are usually illustrations or brief photo-articles in their own right. This alone sets it apart from the increasingly flashy magazines that spatter across newsagent shelves – most magazines like pictures because they grab the attention of customers and are far cheaper than paying writers. Once a magazine has more pictures than words, it’s usually a bad sign.
Kill Screen does a few other things I like too, but it’s important to note that much of this is only possible because it doesn’t really care about the recent trends or news. Each issue has a central theme, which is decided far in advance and which all the writers discuss in their own way. There are no reviews and no news pieces – just a topic and the guiding tone, which can admittedly get pretty pretentious. New Games Journalism and its approximates are out in full force.
Kill Screen has a website too, by the way, but like me they don’t like to repeat content from the magazine on the site. I’ve been forced to do that occasionally (usually because of interfering deadlines or because we’ve had an article that I think needs repeating). Other than that, nearly all games content for Custom PC is either unique or rewritten.
Mainly though, what I like about Kill Screen is that it’s different. In the publishing industry there are still plenty of folk going over the same arguments that we’ve been having for years – what do we do when print dies and internet advertising finally bottoms out? At the moment the focus is on tablet devices and Social Media, because that’s all anyone ever talks about. Those things will doubtless be important, but as the primary form of publishing? I’m not convinced.