Thoughts and feelings about video games in A Profound Waste of Time

by Grace Wang in August 2018
Art & designIllustrationTechnology

I love magazines that welcome the casual peruser into their fanaticism, laying bare an obscure project they finally feel ready to share with the world. First, you’re drawn in by the die-hard dedication, the detail and care with which everything is done, then, you just feel privileged to be invited into their club, until finally, you put down the magazine, delighted and surprised to feel this connection with an unlikely subject.

With Fortnite dances caricatured by every football star and six-year-old, video games are anything but obscure, yet the voice with which A Profound Waste of Time is written makes it feel wholly unprecedented. Founded with a clear purpose, to present an array of experiences from different people on the video games they love, APWOT encapsulates one fulcrum of independent publishing — true, personal voices that defy the mainstream simply by being themselves.

But founder Caspian Whistler is looking even further. As the magazine’s name suggests, video games still have a certain stigma that he hopes to dismantle: “If we want to show that games are more than just distractions we need to humanise them.” Read on for our conversation with Caspian…

The limited edition glow-in-the-dark cover

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You write in the editor’s letter that you’ve always been slightly uneasy about your love for video games. How has your personal relationship to them changed over the years?

I’ve always felt games were important but I was certainly quite conflicted about being passionate about them as a youngster, as I’d internalised the message that they weren’t good for me. A natural consequence of growing up is that you become more at ease with what you’re interested in.

Even as I went into art school I was surprised by how little games come up in discussion, especially on design courses. You’d have thought with all the excellent examples of typography, UX and UI that can be found in games that they’d be more of a prominent topic in graphic design courses. Despite being the biggest entertainment industry in the world, games still have a way to go to permeate the same cultural and academic spaces that film and music do.

That being said, things are improving all the time, and I’m certainly feeling more optimistic about the medium.

What sort of voice did you wanted to platform in APWOT, and how does that differ from mainstream coverage of video games?

When APWOT started as a zine, the old tagline used to be ‘Thoughts and Feelings about Videogames’, and while that’s gone now, it’s still the editorial backbone of the publication. If we’re going to create a physical publication about games rather than an online newsfeed, then that means we need a different kind of content too.

With APWOT it’s less about focusing on news and reviews, and more on the perspectives of people from different backgrounds about the games they love. If we want to show that games are more than just distractions we need to humanise them, and we do that by focusing on the voices of those who have been moved by them in some way, or are directly involved with their creation.

What’s your go-to game when you’ve had a stressful day?

Animal Crossing. It’s like a little zen garden you maintain every day.

The magazine was funded by an extremely successful crowdfunding campaign. What do you see as similarities between games and print that hit a nerve with readers?

I think it’s less the similarities and more the differences that draw people in. Games have increasingly become digital-only experiences, with many never releasing in a tangible, physical format. While that’s a good thing in some ways, it also means that many games can’t be preserved properly. Often when you turn off a console and the screen goes black, any trace of these games’ existence disappears too.

There’s something wonderful about seeing these digital worlds represented in a physical medium like print

So, there’s something wonderful about seeing these digital worlds represented in a physical medium like print. Being with a physical object is very different to experiencing something digitally, and we really tried to communicate that with the magazine’s build and print quality.

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What’s the first magazine you ever bought?

I think the first non-comic I can really remember buying for myself as a child was Nintendo Official Magazine. It’s fitting to think that the first mag I’d bought was a games publication, and that it was that curiosity in games that got me interested in print.

What made you laugh or cry during the making of this issue?

The very first article that was submitted to us was by Ashly Burch about the passing of her partner and how that informed her BAFTA nominated performance in the game ‘Life is Strange’.

I cried a lot when I read this piece, not only due to how beautifully written it was, but also because it was the moment the project felt real for me. Up until this point, it had been a zine I’d made mostly on my own, so quietly reading this article alone in my room, after the Kickstarter was over and everything had quietened down, was an emotional moment.

I cried a lot when I read this piece, not only due to how beautifully written it was, but also because it was the moment the project felt real for me

I remember that sudden feeling of responsibility, and how humbling it was getting writing that personal for the project. I’m very proud that APWOT seems to be a place where people feel comfortable opening up about their experiences. It’s exactly what I wanted for it since its inception.

What’s next for APWOT?

It’s hard to say, but the response to the magazine has been phenomenal, and since we sold out shortly after launching, we’re now doing a reprint. I really believe in the project, and I want to build up as big an audience as we can right now before moving on to an issue two!

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