The Howard & Nester comic strip
HP: I'm not sure if it was Gail or I, so I'll say it was Gail and give her credit for it. It's probably not something in hindsight I would have thought of doing. But it was fun. I remember sitting in a room with Gail and talking about the different ways we were going to provide information to kids to stop them calling the 800 number all the time. You could challenge them with the super-high challenge, or you could provide them tips and tricks and basic stuff, but we didn't want to have 20 pages of tips and tricks. We wanted to have a different feel or flavor to it, to break it up.
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I was also noticing that a lot of kids -- even moreso today -- are really headstrong and want to do everything themselves. "I knew that. I didn't need any help." That's where the Nester character came from. It's a great foil, someone saying, "I don't need this information, I'll just go and do it."
And then we'd show Nester doing the typical wrong thing that the kids would do, and then give a little story vignette to set that straight in a way that the kids could go, "Oh, cool!" and drop the magazine and go running back to the game because they'd just figured something out. But they didn't actually have to read the tip.
GT: For some reason, when [Howard] met his wife, he said that she liked him in a bow tie, so in 1985, he started wearing a bow tie when we would do PR events. That became the funny character, and then Nester was creating a character out of the name "NES."
HP: Back in that time period -- in the late '70s and early '80s -- it was polyester suits and fat, wide ties. I didn't like them. Everybody tried to be hip with cool clothes, but I worked for several years in the restaurant business and loved servicing people and making people have a great time.
For whatever reason, it would bug me that I had this pendulous piece of cloth hanging around my neck. It was kind of goofy. I guess if you don't think about it, it seems normal, but if you think about it, it's a weird thing that guys go around with a noose of cloth around their neck.
Anyway, a bow tie is nice, tight, close to the neck, and gives you that dress-up look that you need for business. So I wore a bow tie at my wedding, and I wore them for a number of years.
GT: It was just silly, the whole idea -- trying to make something that had a little bit more entertainment value besides wall-to-wall game information. That was probably the silliest thing we ever did.
Getting the Games
GT: Game manufacturing was slower then, and of course, when you ship across the water, that's a month. I don't know if you'd call it an advantage, but we had the advantage where when people signed the license agreement and turned in their code for bug checks at NoA, we had pre-negotiated that they knew that Nintendo Power would have access to the code. So we got access to the games internally.
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HP: I don't know how it is these days, but certainly back then with print, there was this hard and fast, "It has to be done by this date, because that's when thousands of pounds of paper roll into the printing press." That sort of thing.
There were really hard and fast deadlines that we had to meet. So we would pass that information on to whichever source was providing a game, whether it was Miyamoto at Nintendo in Japan or whether it was one of the licensees. They knew when our handoff was.
GT: When someone would call and say, "We have a game coming out!" they'd try and persuade us that the game would be good.
We did have to work closely with them to ensure that we had enough backup material to make the art more interesting, and if there was going to be any kind of promotion or a cover. When we did a poster of the first Batman, Michael Keaton -- or I'd imagine his agent -- thought his face looked too fat, and we had to airbrush his jowls.
HP: All that said, we could turn around pretty quick on a great game. It didn't take a whole lot of time. If you can imagine now, if someone gives you an NES game, you can tell them four hours from now if it was a good game or not. It's not like it takes two weeks to see if a game...or at least, if you can see the forest for the trees, you can look at another tree and tell how tall it is, relative to the forest.