Many have heard the news of Nintendo Power’s impending demise with great sadness and recollection. Like most of you, I remember a time when a copy of Nintendo Power was like an Indiana Jones style treasure; inside the thin, glossy pages of that magazine were untold secrets and powers. Of course, Nintendo Power isn’t the only print news outlet to wither and die in recent years. Across the entire spectrum of journalism, print media are suffering, and of course, the big, bad Internet is to blame. But I think that while the end of print media is unfortunate, what the Internet has really destroyed is something few have considered: the rumor.
“How can this be?,” you ask, “if anything, the Internet is responsible for perpetuating rumors constantly!” Allow me to illustrate by example from our soon-to-be dearly departed friend, Nintendo Power. All of the nostalgia pouring out for this publication is not simply the result of seeing the past through rose-colored glasses. In the days prior to the Internet’s ubiquity, information on games was limited to a few sources, and most of those sources required cash or credit–someone had to pay for that issue of Nintendo Power. Some were fortunate to have parents who would pony up for a subscription, but this certainly wasn’t the case in my household. In essence, the availability of information was far more limited.
Life was like the telephone game–the few kids who might have fortunate enough to have copies of Nintendo Power could disseminate news like international information brokers. As a publication title, Nintendo Power served as a moniker for those who possessed it–you were powerful, not only in the games you played, but also among your less fortunate peers. Each little tid-bit a reader deigned to share would spread slowly as one kid told another and another. Receiving information in this way made each detail seem that much more precious. Since there wasn’t much to be gleaned in the first place, those in the know held great sway over the rest of us. Just like in basic economics, because knowledge was a limited resource, it had substantial value.
As such, the art of rumor-mongering, in which hushed whispers might hold the key to a fascinating new gaming secret, was at an all-time high in those days. There was no way to hop online and corroborate your friend’s assertion that some button combination would result in an awesome new move–the only thing to do was run home and try it. If it didn’t work, assume you did it incorrectly and try it again and again and again.
Some kids would even flaunt their ascendancy by bringing their copy of Nintendo Power to school, but this was a dangerous move. By displaying your possession of the magazine, you confirmed your right to elevated status, but it also might lead to others grabbing your prized possession and taking the precious secrets for themselves. All in all, this kind of limited access helped to create the nostalgia through which we are now mourning.
Few would argue that the Internet is wicked for its plenitude of free information, but it certainly has deprived us all of the delight of uncertainty. Now it seems that while rumors abound, it’s the same rumor on every site, and we can all discover precisely where the rumor originated, and whether or not it’s likely to be true. The joy of rumors, as they used to be, was in the shroud of mystery. Their origins were uncertain and their truth was tenuous. Perhaps, when we mourn the death of print publications like Nintendo Power, what we’re really longing for is a time when we knew less but hungered more.