When you get your first video game at age 4, start writing game reviews at 14, and host a nationally syndicated radio show at age 16, what do you do for your 18th birthday?
If you’re Glenn Rubenstein, you help launch a new magazine. Scheduled to hit newsstands in December, Blaster is aimed at what it calls ”screenagers” — people like that kid down the street who can install a sound card without breaking a sweat, who already has his own home page, and who has whomped video games you’ve never even heard of.
Rubenstein is the most prominent of a group of adolescent game reviewers who are a visible and credible link to the vast army of underage, primarily male joystick jockeys. That power makes the $6 billion-a-year game industry pay court. ”Most companies talk to me with either enthusiasm or fear, depending on what I said about their last product,” Rubenstein said at his parents’ house in Petaluma, Calif.
Just how important is his opinion? Well, game companies have been flying him to press junkets since he was 15. And he says he’s tight with Sega president Tom Kalinske and Nintendo chairman Howard Lincoln (even if the latter is ”a bit weirded out because I mentioned that he gave me a beer in an L.A. Times article”). All of this does, of course, raise the issue of journalistic ethics, a new concern for the newly of-age Rubenstein. Time was, he rarely reviewed games he didn’t like — for reasons of space, he says, but also, perhaps, because he didn’t want to burn industry bridges. When both Sega’s ad agency and Spectrum HoloByte briefly hired him as a consultant last summer, he didn’t write about their games for the duration. But he’ll soon run a review of one video game touted as the next big thing — and he hated it. ”It’s the worst game I’ve ever played,” he says, yet he’s also relishing making a stand. ”In a sense I’m looking forward to it, just as a new life experience.” Welcome to the grown-up world, kid.