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Contrary to some gloom-mongers, video game magazines haven't gone the way of the dodo, just yet. Newsagent shelves might be a little thin these days compared to the 1980s and '90s - you'll still find PC Gamer and Edge, maybe Retro Gamer and Wireframe, depending on your luck - but look beyond brick-and-mortar stores and there's plenty going on. I previously profiled three magazines using online means to get paper and staples - and art and words, of course - to a dedicated following: Sega Mania, Switch Player and [lock-on]. All are fantastic endeavors, well worth your time and money - but none are quite as, well, beautiful as A Profound Waste Of Time.
"I believe that if you're going to make a physical magazine in this day and age, you have to justify it as best as you can in every aspect of production," says APWOT's creative director and editor in chief, Caspian Whistler. He's one of a core team of two behind APWOT, the other being Darren Wall, founder and EIC of the gaming book publishers Read-Only Memory. "I wanted to make something that justified being in ink and paper in this day and age of the internet," Whistler continues. "It's why APWOT uses multiple paper stocks, and has only original illustrations instead of screenshots. I'm trying to create something that can only really exist in a physical format."
Certainly, A Profound Waste Of Time looks wildly different to most people's idea of what a games magazine should be - but then, it claims on its cover to be "inspired by" video games, not absolutely defined by them. Issue two of the magazine - more journal, I guess, as it's thick of spine and impressively heavy of stock - is available with a mirrored cover that catches the light so magnificently, shaping rainbows over its bespoke illustration showcasing a number of the games of Keita Takahashi (who's interviewed across several of its pages, talking about Katamari Damacy, Wattam and more). It's the kind of incredibly special 'special edition' that most publishers would simply never opt for - not because of lack of ambition, but purely because of budget. But when you've a cover price of £35, which this edition of APWOT does, you can stretch to something rather more magical than most.
Unlike most games mags, though, APWOT isn't meant to be disposed of at the end of the month, replaced by the next issue, each release only as relevant as the topical coverage on its pages. So while the special-edition price seems a lot - the standard version of issue two is a more wallet-friendly £20 - this is meant for your bookshelf, not the recycling bin.
Says Whistler: "We don't want to make things that people throw away, so every contributor for APWOT pours a huge amount of love and attention into their art and writing. I try as best I can to shepherd the articles in the mag to be as 'timeless' as possible, as I hope that people will still be able to read and enjoy it in 10 years time and not feel that any of the content in it was so time sensitive as to not be relevant anymore. It'd be wonderful if people still referred to APWOT long after it goes out of print."
A Profound Waste Of Time wasn't initially envisioned as what it ultimately became: a sizeable tome retailing for around four times the games mag norm (issue one was also sold for £20). "It initially started as a self-made publication as a student zine when I was studying graphic design at uni, back in 2014," Whistler explains. "I found that games were often dismissed as being aggressive, violent time wasters, so I wanted to create something bright, hopeful and positive, that celebrated games as a medium in the best possible light."
"When we hit double the funding goal for the debut Kickstarter campaign it really legitimised the mag, and meant we could hire more writers and artists," Whistler continues. "I just wanted to make the best publication possible, but with that aim it took a lot longer to make, and the mag evolved into something much heftier."
That spark of inspiration, that positivity and ambition for showing that games are more than mere playthings, has carried through, however. "The thing I keep coming back to is that games are not just entertainment, but can be deeply affecting and resonant experiences for who we are as people," Whistler adds. "I wanted to create a mag that reflected that in both the writing, the build quality and the art."
Flicking through APWOT - each issue of which (so far) takes a full year to piece together - the very real love for the medium of games, of interactive experiences covering all genres and imaginations, comes through loud and clear. Its written-word contributors include feted indie games-makers like Joakim Sandberg (Iconoclasts), Kris Piotrowski (Grindstone, Super Time Force) and Chella Ramanan (Before I Forget) - all contributions are hand-picked, and authors and illustrators alike generally approached by Whistler rather than the other way around. And it's not just indie, artsy titles and their creators that Whistler is interested in profiling: "I think that any game can be covered in APWOT as long as a writer has an interesting enough take on it regardless of how 'high-art' or 'low-art' the game is considered. So no, nothing is off the table if the approach is right."
And as Whistler says, none of this would have been possible without the positive reception the APWOT project received on Kickstarter - and, of course, the money it raised there. Issue one raised £39,000 in 2019, and issue two over £62,000. At the time of writing, Whistler is running a third crowdfunding campaign to produce reprints of issues one and two - and with eight days left to run, it's raised over £118,000. Suffice to say, this is a magazine, a product, a keepsake, something beautiful that people want to own, and to cherish.
"I just want to make something I can be proud of," Whistler says. "APWOT is very much a labour of love for me. While it is a passion project, I would really like to one day reach a big enough audience where we could take it to the next level. Ultimately though, I don't want to compromise on the vision of the publication if I can help it.
"And for me, the magazine is already a success. It's something that has defined almost the entirety of my adult life. I've been able to work with my heroes, meet so many wonderful people and create something that I'll be proud of forever. One day I hope to make this my actual job, but in the meantime I'm satisfied by the process of making this and by the reaction it's received. I'm very grateful for the opportunity."
Find A Profound Waste Of Time online at the publication's official website.
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