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The Best Years: Remembering Computer Gaming World/Games for Windows

The prediction that print gaming magazines are going extinct was further cemented with the announcement that Games for Windows: The Official Magazine ceased publication. The number of magazines that have left stores over the past decade is staggering, but the magazine formally known as Computer Gaming World is different: it was one of the best in the business. It was also one of the oldest at 27 years. Jeff Green, editor-in-chief, wrote on his blog that “[the magazine] was always known for its integrity, for its intelligence, for neither talking down to the readers nor to the hobby itself.”

The high quality of the publication could be seen in the reviews. By breaking away from the tired checklist of intro – story – gameplay – graphics – sound – conclusion that most reviewers (including myself) adhere to, Games for Windows wrote consistently entertaining reviews for everything from AAA blockbusters to obscure adventure games. One unforgettable decision by the magazine, back when it was known as Computer Gaming World, was the removal of all scores. This move frustrated readers and soon scores were brought back, but the experiment was a brave one. Most reviewers, including the venerable Roger Ebert, hate assigning scores. The actual review should be what convinces the reader and not a quick score with some pros and cons.“I stopped playing most PC games once my laptop became horrendously outdated, but I still kept my subscription.” The fact that Computer Gaming World, which is what it will always be remembered as, even tried this was incredible. This wasn’t some backwater gaming blog written by junior high kids. CGW was the second most popular computer game magazine in the United States. Do a search on Google and there are editorials bemoaning the traditional scoring system, but nothing is ever done about. This magazine went for it even though it didn’t stick. From one (amateur) game journalist to another (professional), I salute them.

One of their features was a brief look back at what the issues covered that month 5, 10 and 15 years ago. As the years went by, I remembered past issues and the games that went along with them. Due to this feature, I realized that I was no longer a young teen obsessed with computer games because I wasn’t old enough to drive. I stopped playing most PC games once my laptop became horrendously outdated, but I still kept my subscription. The product was just that good, even though it eventually ceased teasing Canadian letter writers with stereotype after stereotype.“Will PC games continually be degraded…?”
Of course, Computer Gaming World wasn’t perfect. Nothing is. It often had enormous previews that hyped up what turned out to be average games. Still, its inventive articles often broke away from other publications. In its final issue there was a great story that looked at the way video game packaging has changed over the years. This showed not only how much computer gaming had grown, but also the how game journalism has grown. Gone were the days of elaborate packaging, random trinkets and manuals that were required to advance the story. Also gone, at least in the pages of this magazine, was the dumbing down of game coverage and poorly written reviews.

The news isn’t entirely bad, but to quote Jeff Green’s blog once more: “This sucks. I’m not going to pretend to be in a good mood.” The editorial staff will write exclusively for 1Up, while the art team is now gone. The demise of the closest thing to an official PC gaming magazine raises questions of the longevity of computer gaming. This subject has been brought up so often and for so long that it’s almost become a running gag, but the loss of Games for Windows might be a harsh blow. Will PC games continually be degraded with shoddy ports and low-budget games that can’t compete with the consoles? Instead, the loss of the magazine could signify a trend plaguing other forms of print news. Many publications have found themselves scaling back to make way for affordable availability on the Internet. In that respect, as disappointing as the extinction of the print Games for Windows is, it could simply have gotten an early start on the inevitable.

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2003. Get in touch on Twitter @akarge.

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