There are two websites in the world providing original scans of Japanese gaming magazines. Retromags, which offers a small collection of Japanese mags scanned mostly by me. And RetroCDN, which hosts low-resolution scans provided by a native Japanese scanner.
It's no mystery why these scans are coming from people living in Japan (well, the two of us, anyway.) We have the easiest, cheapest access to the mags.
But what's interesting is that all of these scans are being hosted by websites based outside of Japan. For me, well sure - I'm an American, even if I've been an expat for 9 years. But the other scanner is Japanese. Why not host them at a Japanese site?
Well, because there is no such site. There simply aren't any magazine preservation sites in Japan. The entire thing is seen as not only illegal, but unethical by the majority of Japanese (whereas I think it's safe to say that we here at RM may acknowledge the technical illegality of providing magazine scans, but have a far more lenient view on the ethical implications, so long as the mags being offered are old enough to meet our cut-off dates).
I recently was reading a thread on 2ch, a textboard that is probably Japan's largest and most influential online community (which ironically and fittingly, was founded by a Japanese while attending university in America). In it, users were discussing websites that offered high resolution scans of gaming mags. All sites referenced were foreign, and none were offering complete scans of entire magazines, just select pages. Also, to be fair, these were relatively new mags being discussed, not old stuff like we offer here.
The following is my translation of select comments.
As you can see, there were a couple of people OK with the idea, but most seemed appalled.
Btw, lest anyone think that the Japanese are as puritanically ethical regarding copyright as these posts might make it seem, I'd like to point out that in the years following the mass acceptance of CDR burners, countless shops in Japan opened up "CD rental" sections, allowing you to rent music CDs. And there, either right next to the CDs themselves, or else right by the check-out counter, spindles of blank CD-Rs were also being sold. But I'm sure the two had nothing to do with each other.
Eagle-eyed regulars around here may have noticed something different about Retromags over the past couple of days. For the first time since February 21, 2016, I haven't uploaded anything to the gallery.
In 524 days, I uploaded exactly 7000 pics - that's an average of 13.25 pics per day. And now I've stopped.
Why? I've already commented about how I have a personal desire/mission to fill all the missing holes in the cover gallery. And I've still got thousands of pics sitting in folders waiting to be uploaded, so it isn't that I've run out of covers to upload. So what changed?
The stupidest of things, really. A little number buried in a faraway section of the site most people never even visit - a number that tracked how many images I've uploaded. It isn't a number anyone else was looking at - I'm positive I was the only person keeping track of it. And yet, as it turns out, that number was the only thing keeping me going. Thanks to a bug introduced in the latest site upgrade, that number no longer works, and no matter how many images one uploads, that number will never increase. And surprisingly, I've found that I no longer have any desire to upload anything, at least not until it gets fixed.
As I said, it's a stupid reason. If I was truly motivated by a desire to fill in all those ugly gray "photo coming soon" boxes in the database, then why quit over such a small thing? That would be stupid.
Except maybe it's stupider than even I realized. Maybe I was fooling myself into thinking I had an active interest in improving the site, and the real reason I was uploading images was just to watch that little number get bigger. Not only would my reason for stopping be stupid, but my reason for contributing to the site in the first place would be indefensibly stupid. Just one big cyclical pattern of stupid. Could it be? Could I be...that stupid?
Hmmm. I hope not. Until the stat tracker gets fixed, I guess I've got some time to think about it.
Someone wiser than me once said, "never blog when you're drunk." But this isn't a blog, so I'm exempt from that advice thank god.
I just wanted to put this out there now, while I'm too impaired to be concerned with how insecure and needy it makes me look.
Scanning a magazine is hard work. Because it isn't just scanning, it it? First you've got to de-bind the mag. Then comes scanning. And after that, the most time intensive process of them all - editing. Depending on the length of the mag, you're looking at a total of 3-6 hours of work, most likely. And did I mention that the mag is destroyed and ultimately trashed in the process? The magazine scanner gains absolutely nothing from the process of scanning - they only lose. It's nothing but sacrifice - both of invaluable time and of the magazine itself, which is lost in the process of making a scan available to the rest of the Internet, free of charge.
Why then do we do it? Good lord, if only we had a nickel for every time we asked that of ourselves...
The truth is, there is NO GOOD GOD DAMNED REASON.
The reason we scan is because it makes us feel good that someone out there appreciates our efforts. If I uploaded a meticulously scanned and edited mag and no one downloaded it, you can be sure that I'd think twice before ever doing that again. The more downloads our mags receive, the more we feel vindicated for having wasting hours upon hours of our time and destroyed part of our collection.
But downloads aren't enough. A download without comment is just an anonymous leech. There's no telling if that person appreciated the mag - they certainly didn't appreciate it enough to say so. I don't expect or even hope for an actual written comment from everyone who downloads a mag I've scanned, but there is a conveniently placed "like this" button that only takes a second to click. There is simply no excuse to NOT click that button when you download a mag, unless either you are unhappy with the scan's quality, or else you're an ungrateful leeching asshole. Seriously, it's just a button. CLICK IT. Jesus christ...I "like" releases that I don't even download, just because I'm grateful to whoever scanned the mag for putting in the effort.
It seems like a small thing, but it isn't. Maybe not everyone is as needy as me. But I doubt it. We've had scanners go so far as to thank themselves in their new release posts, simply because if they didn't, no one else would. That just isn't right.
If you're frequenting this website, chances are you like downloading scans of old gaming mags. If you'd like to KEEP doing so, the next time you download a mag, do yourself a favor:
There, was that so hard?
You may have noticed that I upload a lot of pictures to the gallery. There's a simple reason for this: I hate being lied to.
An optimist would tell you that "photo coming soon" sounds better than "no one has been arsed to upload a photo and aren't bloody well likely to, either," but optimism has always been a four letter word in my book (as it happens, my book had been tragically shipped to the printers before it could undergo a spel chek.) So when I visited Retromags for the first time a few years ago, all I saw was a database full of false promises, and it offended me at some sort of primal, instinctual level that can't be put into words. Why even HAVE a database entry for issue 37 of Bleep Bloop Gaming Monthly if there wasn't at least a cover pic to look at, I wondered? And, naturally, my subsequent thought was, "ah, feck it, here's the download section. Let's leech this mother dry."
But once I'd literally taken all I could take from the download section, I realized I'd also had all I could take from that damnable database and its mocking, cacophonous cries of "photo coming soon!" screaming at me from nearly every page. And I've been on a mission to silence them ever since.
It's an impossible mission. I don't personally own every magazine in existence, and many many many mags have never had a cover scan appear elsewhere on the interwebs, let alone at a size large enough to bother with. So I'll never be able fill all the holes. But I'm doing my best. I've got hundreds...thousands? of pics sitting in folders on my desktop waiting to be uploaded this very second. Almost no one out there will notice or care. Some will wish I would stop (I still remember a complaint that was made once about all my gallery uploads cluttering up the activity feed so they couldn't see the "important" stuff.)
We're never going to have more magazine downloads than everybody else. That'll be left to sites that scan more than us like Kiwi's site, or (especially) sites that don't care where they get their scans from and will allow anything to be uploaded, like archive.org.
But what I hope we can be, is the definitive online resource for decent quality cover pics of gaming mags as well as game-related comics and books. And god help me if I ever run out of those things and get really serious about filling out or advertisement section as well. In some regards we're already a definitive resource, while in others we've got a ways to go. I'll never be finished; as I've said, that mission is an impossible one. But if I can just get those damned grey boxes to be the exception and not the norm, I'll be able to rest easier, at least. This message will self-destruct in five seconds.
This isn't a blog. There may never be a second entry, and I have no expectations that it will be seen, nor will I be making any effort to write anything of interest to anyone else.
What it is is a shout into the darkness by someone who has found that the most scintillating conversation at hand is sadly their own voice echoing back at them in an empty room. And before anyone pities me, I assure you that my personal life is fine and is not what is being discussed.
But Retromags dead. Or a ghost town at any rate, where the residents have all closed up shop, drawn the curtains and bolted their doors and windows against the roving bands of newbs and leechers who roll through on a regular basis, never stopping longer than it takes to download a batch of Nintendo Powers and GamePros and hightail it out of town. I used to be able to check the forums multiple times per day and find new posts each time. But for months now, the forum is more or less silent for days if not a week or more at a time, and whenever a random post does pop up, it usually just sits there unanswered. (I reserve the right to pay no heed to the recent spattering of forum posts and continue to wallow in miserable negativity and pessimism.)
So rather than talk to no one, here I am, talking to myself. I'm here every single day regardless, adding content to the site. If you'll pardon me while I pat myself on the back with both hands (and through an amazing feat of flexibility, my left foot as well), I'm the only person adding content to the site on a regular, let alone daily basis. Of course, most of it is the kind of thing that goes unnoticed. Adding magazines or issues to the database gets noticed by literally no one, and of the 6600 cover pics/ game ads I've uploaded (in a couple of months I expect to have uploaded more than half of the entire website's total gallery pics), I've only seen a handful of comments or likes (less than 10, surely) to indicate that anyone has noticed them at all. Which is fine, that isn't why I do it. I do it for the good of the website. But when the forums go dead for as long as they have, I sometimes wonder what the point is, if no one is even perusing the website beyond accessing the download section and leeching away in silence.
So again, here I am, talking to myself. Hello, me. How are you? Nevermind, I already know. Perhaps I'll talk to myself again sometime about something other than talking to myself. I'll never tell. Better to keep myself in suspense.