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Another look back

December 21st, 2006 by Troy Goodfellow · 7 Comments · CGM

I’ve already shown my love and appreciation for Computer Gaming World’s archive of old issues. They even have an index now, so you can keep track of who said what where.

In a fit of Ebay inspired silliness, I went and furthered my obsession with the past by buying 70 back issues of Computer Games aka Computer Games Strategy Plus spanning the period from July 1992 to July 2000. So, not every issue in this range, but a great selection of them, many from the pre-Bauman era and some of the Atkin-interim.

A few things occur to me as I read these old magazines.

The magazines seemed a lot thicker, for one thing. There are a few huge pre-holiday issues, packed with pages. And almost all ads. Ads were everywhere. Remember when Chips and Bits (an affiliated company) would take up four or five pages? And porn. Lots of ads for porn. Strip poker games. Hentai games (recommended for no one younger than 13!), pages of Playboy or Penthouse game listings…

Steve Wartofsky, editor from 1993 to 1997 before he moved on to producing games, would almost always thank a reader for writing in. I’m not sure if he was the first to say that PC Games were doomed, but there is a reply to a letter in a 1994 issue that notes that ease of use of the Sega Genesis and upcoming Playstation could make computers a second tier platform. Even though he (and all real gamers, he implied) liked tweaking games and machines.

The early nineties also had a regular feature about games on the World Wide Web. (Does anyone even use that term anymore?) One of these introduced readers to a British game site called Games Domain – this would become my website of first resort for a very long time.

Just like Ye Olde CGW, wargames are everywhere. 2000 word reviews. Pages of screenshots. Discussions of the historical moment, and not just the game itself.

As a reminder that old games needed patches, too, early issues included a list of “updates”. These were bug fixes. Patches. Some of them pretty critical.

And the writing has gotten a lot better. I don’t mean to single out CGM(S+) here. Go back and read the CGW archive. A lot of reviews and previews were stuck in the “describe the game” mode instead of “describe the experience”. Considering how many pages were given over to hints, “tips and tricks” and walkthroughs, this mindset isn’t too surprising. Even though some of the writers are still around – Tom Chick’s advice for Age of Rifles brings to light his dark life before RTS games consumed him – the craft of writing about games has moved on as the medium has aged.

Anyway, there is a lot of fun stuff in this pile, so my Christmas reading schedule is full.


7 Comments so far ↓

  • Darius K.

    I was racking my brain trying to remember Games Domain the other day. I loved that website!

  • steve

    I think I started in the 40s or 50s… er, issue numbers, not 1940s or 50s. Some time around the Terra Nova issue, I think.

  • Troy

    It was, in fact, the February 1995 issue where you make your debut as Associate Editor – the one before the Terra Nova cover. In that same issue you reviewed a lot of games that I have never heard of.

    Like Zephyr. And Creature Shock.

  • steve

    Wasn’t there an ugly helicopter on that cover, like pretty much the ugliest helicopter ever? Some I-Magic game. Apache or something.

    Zephyr! Creature Shock! Oh, the memories… er, huh? I think I vaguely remember Zephyr being some sort of tank shooter thing. As for Creature Shock, I have no memory of that game whatsoever.

    I’d been writing for the magazine for a few years. I’m not sure what my first piece was. I remember doing a two-part (!) review of Betrayal at Krondor.

  • Troy

    Yep. I-Magic Apache Gunship.

    How could you forget Creature Shock?!

    “As it stands, Creature Shock is probably the best of the canned background shoot em ups that I’ve played … but that’s like saying the first Police Academy was the best of the series.”

    Ah. Police Academy humor. Does it ever get old?

  • Tom Chick

    Age of Rifles, Age of Rifles, hmm… That sounds vaguely familiar. Is that an expansion for one of the Age of Empires games? Ahh, good ol’ Norm Koger and the hours of my life he squandered in the 80s and 90s…

    That’s a cool find, Troy. For the last couple of years I’ve been keeping my gaming magazines, but I wish I’d started doing it earlier.

    I’m not sure exactly when I start writing for Strategy Plus, but it was after meeting Wartofsky at E3 — maybe even the first E3 — in front of a demo for a helicopter sim. Maybe one of the Longbow games. Jeeze, that was a lifetime ago.

  • Bruce

    You want old gaming magazines? I have a ton of them. You can have them free of charge.