- Ludic Cartography. Mapping Gamespaces
- Past Projects
- Preserving Virtual Worlds
- Research and Publication
Recent economic doldrums are affecting numerous sectors of the publishing industry. Many large newspapers are folding, and print media in general appears on the ropes. The closing of Electronic Gaming Monthly the other week is probably the most prominent, but certainly not the first, video game publication to succumb to financial malaise. Publishing is always a fickle business, especially in the current moment, and instead of focusing on modern problems, I'm going to steer back to the past. The collection here, aside from the thousands of games, is also graced with computer and game magazines stretching back to the early days of the PC.
One of the most significant, mainly for its length of publication (25 years), was Computer Gaming World. Founded by Russell Sipe in 1981, the magazine initally resembled an extended newsletter and featured rather irreverant art by Tim Finkas and others (wikipedia). These actually lead to my taking pictures of the various CGW issues I encountered, and allowed me to trace a mild evolution of publication's face. As mildy expected, the desire to promote the interior content overcame the exterior's simple sensibilities resulting in a more cluttered presentation as time went on.
The three issues above demonstrate the general philosophy of the early covers, straight forward and quirky, more reminiscent of potential game pop art than magazine cover. Learing ghosts, a surprisingly detailed Defender pilot, and a swordstick? showcase the inventiveness of the early illustrations. The swordstick is the classiest possible way to control an Atari in my opinion.
The last few show the slide into a modern magazine design and I find they carry a significantly lessened impact. In the early 90s Ziff-Davis Publishing acquired CGW, eventually ending the magazine's run a in the mid-oughts. A more thorough discussion of that history can be found at the wiki article linked above, and at the Computer Gaming World Museum. The museum contains full scans of the first hundred issues, all of which are OCRed and full searchable. It's a fantastic place to gain insight from many people intimately associated with the business and creation of early games.
Next up is the current behemoth of gaming magazine's Game Informer. It currently boasts a circulation of around 3 million thanks to its ownership by Gamestop and probably its writing. Game Informer began as a circular/promotional material for Funcoland in 1991, and since then has grown astoundingly. The covers below are some I found from the magazine's first year as a printed periodical (as opposed to a newsletter, english description mildy fails me here). Anyway, the early covers are exceedingly simple affairs, the design is a bit uninspired and I really cannot deduce the purpose of the dinosaur and Indiana Jones (SF Fedora) font but I adore its cute, pygmy appendages.
In case you were wondering what the TTI is, the link is right here. It refers to the NEC/TTI TurboDuo console, which I had never heard of previous to research for this post (there is historical value in everything). Aside from the sterile title font, other early covers of GI featured odd choices for front cover promotion. This is still long the magazine gained prominence, and exclusive previews.
Although he is one cool cat, having a snack food mascot replacing Rudolph and riding a motorcycle marks an odd choice for the holiday 1992 issue. I do not know if the Bubsy cover is much better, but at least the game was not directly tied to cheese-flavored corn. Another mild gem from one of these issues (I forgot to record which), is a picture of Will Wright and Shigeru Miyamoto playing SimCity on a SNES. Wright's glasses are fantastic.
By the middle of 1993 GI apparently decided to hire a graphic designer and gave the covers a bit more spice. This was definitely a good decision since this lettering is what I remember from my childhood (Funcoland was so much fun).
Closing out this post are three early covers of Game Player's magazine. Published form 1988 to 1998, Game Player's is otherwise not incredibly noteable so enjoy the nice (or laughable I guess) handdrawn cover art of Zelda II, and Double Dragon 2.