Game Players was a video game magazine that had its best years in the mid-1990s. Starting out as a seemingly-regular game mag (debuting in 1989 around the same time as Game Pro and Electronic Gaming Monthly), there was very little to separate it from the competition as far as video game magazines went, but in the mid-90s, it shifted into a more comedic, irreverent style with Chris Slate taking over as its Editor. Under Slate, the entire magazine started getting more deliberately wacky, with the game reviewers gaining personality (and faux-personality, with Bill Donohue as an evil dungeon-master and Mike Salmon as a sarcastic ladies-man).
The letters page started with several running gags, with Donohue and the fans building upon each others' jokes, creating new fictional characters and personas, speaking of a "Cleansing" (and later, "The Rinsing"), and promises of world domination and violent reprisals. It was just that kind of a mag — mostly nonsensical, and all in good fun (and vulgar taste). While Game Pro was far bigger, and EGM and Diehard Game Fan got all the "legit" industry cred, Game Players was a wild and wacky book with running gags, a letters page that was 80% joke-topics (leaving the rest for actual video games), and stands out even today.
As memorable as the magazine's humor was at the time, Game Players would change again after a few years. 1996 saw the magazine turning into Ultra Game Players, at which point they tried to drop most of the humor and changed a great deal of the staff. Their review system, originally based off of Graphics, Sound, Gameplay, Innovation & Replay Value, now exploded into a huge eighteen category scoring system. This did not go over well, so the humor was gradually worked back into the magazine. By 1998, the magazine had changed into yet another format under the name of Game Buyer. Four issues later, the magazine collapsed and was shut down.
Its editors and writers moved on elsewhere — Chris Slate has had the most success of the group; he would eventually become editor in chief of the now-discontinued Nintendo Power, and is now editor in chief of Mac Life. Bill Donohue, who worked with Slate at PSM, still writes Jaded Gamer columns (they debuted in the Ultra era), Frank O'Connor eventually wound up at Microsoff in charge of the Halo franchise, Chris Charla is running the new Xbox One Independant Developers divsion, Francesca Reyes is editor in chief of Official Xbox Magazine, and Mike Salmon is Director of Research and Planning at 2K Games.
This magazine contained the following tropes:
- All Women Are Prudes: Deconstructed: One reader letter addressed the controversy of how women are depicted in video games by arguing that there are just as many hunky guys in games, and that women should open their eyes and enjoy the beefcakes instead of complaining about the scantily clad women. (the letter was from a woman, mind you)
- Background Music: One of the screens on the demo disc played the stock music piece "Visit to Florida" by Jack Arel and Jean-Claude Petit.
- Bee Afraid: One of the subscriber newsletters featured a comic strip about deadly bees. But they're no ordinary bees, they're... LASERBEES.
- Bland-Name Product: Chicken Cookies ("Addictive snack cookies"), a parody of Chicken in a Biskit.
- Denser and Wackier: The format from roughly mid-93 to September 1996, and starting up again in mid-1997 after reader complaints that the magazine had gotten too serious.
- Fan Game: One regular section of the letters pages had readers send in their ideas for video games. They all tried to outdo each other in their zaniness.
- Fanservice: Played straight in many ads inside their magazines (an ad for Voltage Fighter Gowcaizer in one issue was almost beyond belief in this regard), but they weren't above parodying the hell out of it in one article where, in response to a complaint about this trope they took a picture of a woman in a skimpy outfit holding a BFG and did a faux-serious run down of how practical the outfit really was (with tongue firmly in cheek).
- Fanservice Cover: The final issue of Ultra Game Players (June 1998) featured a swimsuit-clad woman on the cover, as one of the features inside was a long-requested article about the hottest video game babes. Other fanservice-y covers include any cover with Lara Croft, and the May 1998 cover, which featured Turok and a bikini babe hanging off him whose face was modeled after Pamela Anderson.
- Haggis Is Horrible: A Running Gag when it came to Frank O'Connor.
- I Was Young and Needed the Money: Their response to a female fan's complaint about Chun-Li's Shower Scene in Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie.
- Monster Clown: Bobo.
- Moral Guardians: As the magazine was hitting its stride right in the middle of the controversy surrounding video game violence (which eventually prompted the forming of the ESRB), a lot of letters to the editor were about this topic.
- Mr. Fanservice: Reviewer Mike Salmon, especially with his 90s-style long hair and facial hair.
- The '90s: Their decade of operation. They're also a major signpost of that era, going crazy over the most bloody and violent games, writing articles about Anime just as the fandom was kicking off in a big way, and using that decade's lack of censorship to make tons of dick and fart jokes.
- Punishment Box: A Running Gag with Bill, who would stuff other staff members in it for his own sick kicks.
- Rule of Funny: Ruled on their letters page, which eventually focused more on joke-y letters about "Moogoo the Mangler" and "The Cleansing" of the impure and weak, than it did towards actual video game coverage.
- Eventually, though, they did notice this was getting out of hand and politely informed fans that yes, most of that crap was funny, but they really needed to cover games sooner or later. Soon after, most of the more absurd writing atrophied away.
- Running Gag: When PaRappa the Rapper was brand new, the magazine frequently made light of the fact that this was one instance where rap wouldn't cause a drive-by shooting. Some readers wrote in complaining of this logical fallacy.
- Cheese was brought up frequently for jokes. Bill Donohue demanded offerings of it in the letters columns... only to be horrified when people actually delivered. A few months and several dozen very, very smelly packages later, and he was begging them to stop. Apparently this continued for quite some time.
- Take That!: They were not above knocking crappy systems, and all but called-out various pieces of garbage for their lameness. Rise of the Robots was a big victim, as was the Virtual Boy console and the 32X add-on to the Sega Genesis. Nintendo got called out a great deal for their Vapor Ware that they were known for in the 1990s.
- Their lowest possible rating (below even "Shoot Me") was named after a Japanese PS launch game titled Cosmic Race. They had good reason.
- Gamer-X was also a thinly-veiled parody of Electronic Gaming Monthly's Sushi-X.
- They weren't above calling out their readers, either- though usually it was done tongue-in-cheek. They made fun of a reader for liking War Gods, for example.
- Tempting Fate: In one issue, they previewed the final Atari Jaguar game, "Fight for Life", and ended the preview by saying "Hope it's good!" When the game was eventually reviewed, it got a 30%.
- Third Eye: Gazuga, the ape.
- Turncoat: When Patrick Baggetta left UGP for Next Generation, the writers jokingly called him a traitor. They even made a cutout Patrick mask in the subscriber newsletter so now you, too, can look like a traitor!
- The Voiceless: Dead Horse, whose word bubble always has "......". It got really funny when the letters section added a feature where readers asked a serious question, and instead of a reply from the main writers, Dead Horse replied with "......".
- Writers Cannot Do Math: The Stunt Race FX review is a notable example. The game scored "7" and "8" in every category, yet ended up with a 90% score.