Digging up my past: magazines as artefacts

Last weekend, I went home for Easter. Most of the discoveries I made during that time were edible in nature, but some related to my own personal history. Despite expecting the long weekend to be a break from archaeology, it actually resulted in me confronting an unconventional form of fieldwork.


My old bedroom is an archaeological site. If at first you don’t agree with me, then consider that the room represents an undisturbed stratigraphical sequence of material culture from my pre-teen years to intervals of activity created by sporadic visits home during my undergraduate study. The myriad assemblages of artefacts relating to my past can be found in all four corners of the room, plus they generally conform to the theory of stratigraphy with more recent deposits appearing above older ones. Basically, it’s a hot mess-but still worthy of excavation.


A case study from the archaeology of the ‘hot mess’


As of yet, I’ve only completed a precursory of evaluation of the ‘hot mess’ (hereafter referred to as ‘HM’). I’ve dug a test pit of sorts to evaluate the nature of the stratigraphy in a specific area: my bookcase. Whilst the upper-most layers contained more sophisticated volumes of Penguin Classics, the middle shelves were devoted to long forgotten Darren Shan and Jacqueline Wilson volumes, plus the entire set of the Harry Potter series which is particularly characteristic of teenage bedroom sites pertaining to millenials. Once the bottom shelf is reached, artefacts of a whole different nature are encountered. This included volumes of the now defunct Nintendo Official Magazine.


A 2015 copy of Glamour magazine with Taylor Swift on the cover is considered intrusive, thus the context has been disturbed relatively recently.



Fig.1: Issue 162 of Nintendo Official Magazine


Nintendo Official Magazine– a mnemonic for nostalgia and regret


The copies of Nintendo Official Magazine were complete and thus completely diagnostic. They are readily recognisable from the large Nintendo logo on the front cover. The magazine developed through several different typologies, launching as Nintendo Magazine System in October 1992 (just a few months after I was born). It then went on to become Nintendo Magazine before developing into Nintendo Official Magazine.


Issue 162 was the last, published in Feburary 2006, which provides a good terminus post quem for the bottom shelf of the bookcase in the HM site (see fig. 1). After that the magazine morphed into Official Nintendo Magazine, which ceased to be produced after 2014.


Now you know a little about the magazine, but what does it mean to me? The discovery of old copies of NOM reminded me of the pre-pubescent girl who wanted to design video games but forced herself to forget about them for roughly a decade. Certainly, Nintendo Official Magazine was not aimed at 13-year-old girls. Its entire editorial team was male and a cursory glance over the content of any issue soon results in finding a few sleazy jokes and screenshots that weren’t exactly age-appropriate for me at the time. I begged my parents to buy me NOM because I loved poring over the pages of game art and dissecting reviews of games I would never be able to afford to buy. However, the tone of the magazines and a sense that the gaming world was for adolescent boys led me to believe I wasn’t welcome and that my peers and family would find my continued interest distasteful at best. The magazines are artefacts of my past and naturally their written content acts as a mnemonic aid for Gamecube era nostalgia. Yet they also inspire feelings of regret: what if I had continued to doodle game designs and experiment with game design software from a young age? What if I hadn’t been put off by gender stereotypes and the limitations of the NOM publication itself?


The teenage bedroom-external memory device or museum?


Though this blog page has been somewhat tongue-in-cheek, in all seriousness I do consider that even a contemporary bedroom can be considered an archaeological site. The incidental preservation of teenage bedrooms such as my own in the family home allows for the creation of very personal archaeological sites which can function as a form of external memory, reminding us of previous interests and important moments in our young lives. They can also be considered as minute museums housing particular collections of objects perhaps even co-curated by parents due to their sentimental value.


Whether archaeological site, mnemonic device or museum,  preserved teenage bedrooms can inform us about our own past, which demonstrates that even when dealing with artefacts we personally had a relationship with we can still forget and re-interpret their role in our lives. Digging up Nintendo Official Magazine proved to me I was still interested in gaming until I was at least 13, and reminded me that I still am now.


In case you hadn’t guessed, that’s something I’ve decided to take another look at-with the help of archaeological theory, of course.

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