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Gaming's classiest magazine wants to put real money behind longform journalism

Questions like "Are games art?" are, in 2015, pretty boring. We've accepted that some games are probably art, some games probably aren't, and the question is probably irrelevant anyway. At least some of that is thanks to a concerted effort to give games the same markers of cultural legitimacy as movies, music, and literature. And one of the major markers — a well-produced magazine that wouldn't look out of place alongside The New Yorker and Wired on a coffee table — was Kill Screen.

Kill Screen was pitched on Kickstarter in 2009 as a magazine that would focus on the question of what it means to play games, or even gaming's answer to Rolling Stone. Its premiere issue included an interview with developer Peter Molyneux, along with work from veteran journalists Tom Bissell and Leigh Alexander. But the original campaign gave Kill Screen less than $6,000. In the five years since, the magazine has been published sporadically, seeing a total of nine issues alongside a more traditional gaming news website and an annual conference called Twofivesix. Today, the team is launching another Kickstarter, this one to revamp the magazine's design, fund reporting, and set a quarterly schedule.

Kill Screen

Kill Screen's $68,000 funding goal will pay for a year's worth of issues printed in on larger, higher-quality paper, with more photography and resources for reporting. This includes profiles on notable indie artists like Donut Country's Ben Esposito (seen at the top of this page) and Cibele developer Nina Freeman, whose picture graces the first cover. It could also fund more exploratory work. In 2013, for example, Kill Screen went on the hunt for Jason Rohrer's carefully hidden work A Game for Someone, designed not to be found for thousands of years — or perhaps ever. Unfortunately, they couldn't actually afford to send someone to the Nevada desert where it was buried. "We tried to find it via the phone and talking to the an Arizona prospector and Nevada bail bondsman, but that's not the same as actually strapping on boots to find the damn thing," founder Jamin Warren tells The Verge.

There's a proven market, even if it's not a huge one, for resource-intensive longform games writing. Journalist Cara Ellison crowdfunded a year of traveling around the world to produce extensive pieces on developers, which she's now collecting in a book called Embed With Games. Kickstarter isn't exactly a long-term business plan, and it's more likely to draw existing fans than people who aren't already immersed in the world Kill Screen is writing about. It's not as though other outlets ignore the medium, either — The New Yorker produces excellent games reporting and criticism, even if it's not a primary focus. And sites like Kotaku have produced genuine investigative reporting without extensive travel or photography. But Kill Screen's campaign is still putting real money toward a dedicated hub for longform writing, supported directly by its readers.