GamePro Magazine – The Atari’s Lynx
For this analysis, I chose to focus on an advertisement within a GamePro magazine. GamePro was first established in 1988 by Patrick Ferrell and others, but they were not able to find a publisher until 1989. The magazine, produced monthly, primarily focused on reviewing both video games and video game consoles. GamePro’s magazine ran for 22 years, with its final issue being published in October 2011. The magazine issue that I am focusing on is its July 1990 edition, specifically its advertisement of the Atari Lynx, linked above. The Atari Lynx was Atari’s one and only handheld gaming system, and was also the first ever handheld gaming system with a color LCD screen. The Lynx was released in 1989, the same year as the Nintendo GameBoy, a legendary handheld video game system. Unfortunately, the Lynx did not fare well due to the GameBoy’s massive commercial success, and was only available in retail for 6 years.
The Lynx advertisement employs a combination of text and imagery in a casual yet engaging manner, aimed directly at its target audience: the gaming community, predominantly comprised of children and teenagers. The headline of the Lynx advertisement boldly declares, “Warning: The Following May Cause Chills, Dizziness And Shortness Of Breath.” This captivating title immediately captures the attention of the readers of this particular GamePro magazine edition. By commencing with a “warning,” the creators of this advertisement adopt an assertive tone to pique the interest of the audience. The Lynx was intentionally designed for a younger demographic, and this style of advertisement proves particularly effective in reaching out to this age group. Handheld video game consoles were an emerging concept in the late 1980s and early 1990s, making them especially intriguing to teenagers. The notion that a gaming console could induce “chills, dizziness, and shortness of breath” would undoubtedly allure those eager to immerse themselves in the latest personal computing experience. From the perspective of the representation aspect of the Circuit of Culture, this title effectively represents the excitement and anticipation surrounding these new gaming consoles and how marketers capitalized on this anticipation. Handheld consoles were a new concept, and marketers sought to portray them as innovative, setting them apart from traditional video game consoles that were in existence at the time. Regarding the identity circuit, this headline illustrates how prospective Lynx consumers would desire to identify with a console that promises such an intense gaming experience. It allows these consumers to establish a sense of identity within a new gaming community and culture, while still maintaining ties to the original gaming culture fostered by the first video game consoles. Nevertheless, this advertisement extends beyond its attention-grabbing title. It proceeds to name a range of games available on the Lynx, including titles like California Games, Electrocop, Klax, and more. Each game is accompanied by a screenshot showcasing its gameplay and a brief description of its premise. Concerning the representation circuit, the marketers adeptly convey how the Lynx can cater to diverse audiences within the gaming community. In terms of the identity circuit, these games enable consumers to forge an identity with the Lynx. For instance, a teenager from California using the device would feel a stronger connection while playing a game that replicates their home state. Additionally, games like Electrocop allow gamers to assume new identities, as they take on roles such as rescuing the US President’s daughter from a kidnapping. Video games, in general, offer players the opportunity to adopt new identities, and the advertisers effectively convey this to their audience. Towards the end of the advertisement, it says, “The Lynx portable game system is every bit as good as home systems… [it] has great color and sharpness like a new TV… you will be able to link up to eight Lynxes so everyone can play together…” These closing statements serve as marketing tools, exemplifying how the Lynx distinguishes itself from competitors. This is another instance of the advertisers utilizing the representation aspect of the Circuit of Culture. They depict the Lynx as a novel concept, one that fosters connectivity and brings people together. By emphasizing the ability for up to eight players to play simultaneously, the marketers portray the Lynx as a handheld console that not only provides a solitary gaming experience but also facilitates the formation of new gaming communities. This further ties into the identity circuit, as owning a Lynx enables gamers to identify with this new community. Marketers strategically aim to evoke a sense of community, a powerful appeal when marketing to a younger audience. In schools where fellow students are enjoying their Lynx consoles, those without one may experience a sense of exclusion from this community, prompting them to buy the Lynx as a means of inclusion.
In conclusion, this advertisement effectively markets the Lynx to its target demographic of children and teenagers within the gaming community. Through its sensational tone, use of gameplay imagery, and ability to evoke a sense of community with the device, the layout and tone directly resonate with this audience. In terms of personal devices, the advertisement positions the Lynx as the latest cutting-edge technology, especially with its color LCD screen and high-quality graphics, both of which were groundbreaking for its time. The most significant value touched upon in this Lynx advertisement is the social aspect of gaming, through its multiplayer feature and the freedom to play games anywhere, no longer confined to home-based game consoles. While not a personal computer itself, the Lynx introduced several new features and advancements that were influential in the development of portable technology and personal computing.
“GamePro.” Retromags Community, 5 July 2019, http://www.retromags.com/publications/united-states/gamepro/.
Kromin, Igor. “Atari Lynx.” Atari Gamer, 4 June 2023, atarigamer.com/pages/atari-lynx.
Beren, David. “The Atari Lynx: History, Launch, and Failure.” History, 4 Aug. 2023, history-computer.com/the-atari-lynx-history-launch-and-failure/.
Link to Advertisement: https://archive.org/details/game-pro-july-1990/page/n41/mode/2up