Abdel Bounane's Digital Amusement

Amusement is the first high-class lifestyle magazine dedicated to video games, digital entertainment and interactive culture—an expansive approach that has completely redefined traditional gamer magazines. Amusement puts top journalists from around the world in dialogue with equally impressive and international artists for a new angle on digital entertainment. The outstanding content is complemented by the publication’s sophisticated aesthetic, thanks to contributions from world-renowned graphic designers, illustrators and photographers. JC Report recently caught up with Amusement‘s founder and editor-in-chief, Abdel Bounane, in Paris to talk about his background, what led him to create the magazine and his strategic plans for the future.

JC Report: How did you come up with the idea for Amusement?

Abdel Bounane: Playing video games has become a mass pleasure, but classic video and technology magazines tend to address solely teenagers. Their tone, artistic direction and editorial line hasn’t really changed since the ’80s when video games were just a pastime for kids. Today, however, the average age of video game players is 30, and these people have no magazines that talk to them in an adequate tone and which take video games seriously enough. Our idea was to come up with a magazine for the gamers that we all are. Today everybody has internalized the codes of video games—be it the hardcore gamer, the little girl who loves Wii, the thirtysomething who plays Guitar Hero or the business man who plays games on his iPhone. And 90% of today’s kids play video games. In 10-15 years time they will all be adults.

JCR: What sets Amusement apart from other magazines?

AB: We bring together a lot of different press elements, so it’s more of an agglomeration than a differentiation of other magazines. We mix the typical aspects of a men’s magazine, a classic video game magazine and a lifestyle magazine with advertorials—we talk about typical masculine pleasures like video games, gadgets, women and interactive culture.

Up to now video games had always been treated as products, and articles were either previews, reviews or news. We want to show that apart from them being a product they have an aesthetic code, a cultural history with connections to contemporary culture in art and design. No one has ever done that before, but I guess video games were just an excuse for us to talk about digital pleasure in general.

JCR: Who are your readers?

AB: 15 to 35-year-olds who have always lived with video games and who consider them a normal pastime, just like watching a DVD, reading a book or watching TV. Apart from these, of course, we also address passionate gamers. There are 20 million gamers in France, but we don’t want to appeal to all of them. We are interested in the most urban, cultivated and upper socio-professional categories. Amusement for people who are capable of going beyond the video game as a product and who consider interaction as a culture.

JCR: Why is it in French?

AB: At the moment most of our advertising clients are French, they would not have understood us being English from the start. From 2009 it will be either in French and English or fully in English.

JCR: It looks like there are hardly any advertisements.

AB: Yes, but actually there are about 30 pages of ads. Instead of integrating poor video game visuals and weakening the magazine’s artistic level, we produce ads for the brands. It’s something that is often done in fashion magazines, but not in video game or technology magazines.

JCR: What is your background?

AB: I have always written about video games, but in different contexts. In 2000, I co-founded the site hardcore-gamers.com. We were the third professional video game site and were bought by an LVMH subsidiary in 2000, then I finished my law studies. After that I wrote about video games for various lifestyle magazines (Technikart, Blast, Max, etc) and simultaneously worked as a consultant for Playstation France. I founded a kind of online gallery (ARTCADE) that reunited various contemporary artists, photographers and illustrators. I also chronicled video games, new media and digital culture on France Culture, the national public radio of France. I have always tried to talk about video games in an eccentric, passionate, cultural and creative way, never as a product, but about the art around the game.

JCR: How are you organised?

AB: We are very unorganized. We don’t have editorial meetings or a main office. Amusement is produced in airport halls, in bars, anywhere really, we work on it all the time and everywhere. Amusement has about 70 contributors from all over the world. A fourth of our journalists are specialized in video games, another fourth work in fashion, design or art press, another quarter has nothing to do with video games, but sporadically works for lifestyle magazines and the last quarter are professional contributors (professors in new media, psychologists or other academics). We try to get as many people involved as possible to show that video games are a very transversal pastime. By only offering very technical journalists to express their thoughts, you lose the richness a video game has to offer.

JCR: You created an independent publishing house. Do you want to remain independent?

AB: Of course we are meeting up with other companies, but it is not a number one priority right now. If we were bought for a few million, why not? As long as we can stay independent, we will stay independent. But that is all a question of opportunities.

This interview was conducted by Nora Baldenweg

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