Kill Screen Magazine: What Does It Mean To Play Games?

Today’s video games tap into who we are as people, and into the existing systems of our world. Kill Screen Magazine strives to explore these ideas of human behavior, aiming to reach a more mature demographic.

“Everyone’s a gamer– you’ve just got to find the right game.”

Jamin Brophy-Warren, Editor of Kill Screen Magazine

Games are no longer bound to dorm rooms and they aren’t just for our middle school aged little brothers anymore. Today’s “video” games, packed with state-of-the-art motion graphics and advanced artificial intelligence tap into who we are as people, and into the existing systems of our world. Part of playing games is making mistakes, trying different techniques and testing human behaviors. And a new publication, Kill Screen Magazine, strives to explore these ideas of human behavior aiming to reach the market of 25-34 year old wealthy, urban, culturally elite males.

The idea for Kill Screen was born while Jamin Brophy-Warren was hanging out with pal and fellow Pitchfork writer Chris Dahlen in March 2009 at the  Gamers Developing Conference in San Francisco. The two began commiserating over the lack of a Tom Wolfe or Chuck Klosterman of video game writing. “Sure there were tons of bloggers dedicated to the subject,” Jamin says, “But there wasn’t anything high-end and intellectual publication on gaming. So we said, let’s do this.”

Prior to launching Kill Screen, 27-year-old Jamin Brophy-Warren graduated from Harvard University in ’04 with a focus on cultural theory and then spent four years as a reporter at the Wall Street Journal carving out a niche focused on Nintendo wii and the gaming world. He first started playing games on a set called Coleco Vision when he was six years old. Jamin spent much of his youth listening to punk music and playing video games with his father. “My dad called it ‘Playstation Parenting’,” Jamin recalls with a smile. Now his favorite new video games is Heavy Rain.

The publication’s mission is to explore the question, “What does it mean to play games?”

“The question is deliberately open ended and context specific, says Jamin, but he says, “Games are people to me. They represent who we are and how we think about the world. In fact, I’m most myself when I play games.”

If Jamin has his way, Kill Screen will be to video gaming what early Rolling Stone was to rock n’ roll or what Wired was to tech. What separates Kill Screen from most magazines on the newstands is its glossy Monocle like feel, it’s small i-Pad size, its impressive roster of (mostly unpaid) writers and best of all, its drop dead gorgeous design.

For Issue 0, Kill Screen’s writers included Gamasutra’s Leigh Alexander, author Tom Bissell, Colbert Report writer Rob Dubbin, Onion writer Zack Handlen, law student L.B. Jeffries, Paste writer Jason Killingsworth, Crispy Gamer editor Ryan Kuo, and LA Times writer Matthew Shaer. Philadelphia based art director Anthony Smyrski is the creative mind behind the magazine’s breathtaking look.

In Fall 2009, Kill Screen received most of its seed money from the fund-raising website, Kickstarter.com. “It was cool,” says Jamin, “Because we were able to figure out if our idea was good or not, who are audience would be (particularly those who put their money where there mouth is).” On Kickstarter.com, Kill Screen received almost $6,000 from 160 backers and have since backed 5 other Kickstarter projects.

So what’s in a name? Kill Screens are found at the end of many classic arcade games and if you are a serious gamer, you may recall the infamous kill screen which appears at the 256th level of the game, Pac-Man. When a player reaches this level, the screen dissolves into a pattern of random symbols and letters due to an internal 8-bit related programming error.

pacman_split_screen_level_256

UK based technology and music journalist, Duncan Geere says,

“I loved the first issue of Kill Screen. While it was expensive and a bit slow to ship from the States, I love the idea, the concept and execution.”

While each issue sells for $20 in the US and $35 internationally, in the age of the iPad, Kill Screen is a novel and elegant twist on modern publishing.

“The magazine is something you want to hold. It’s the sort of thing you’d want to pass on to your children. We want it to be an heirloom,” Jamin says.

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