[EDITOR'S NOTE: We're _very_ proud to welcome Kevin Gifford of Magweasel and Video-Fenky fame as a GameSetWatch contributor - he'll be starting a new column focused on the history of video game magazines for GSW in the near future. In the meantime, he made a rather lush 'test' feature for us which focuses on the heady world of early '80s game magazines. Thanks again, Kevin!]
Everyone loves Computer Gaming World. Sure! Who doesn't? It's the oldest game magazine still in active publication anywhere, a title it wrested from Computer & Video Games when the print edition died in terrifying obscurity in 2004. (I heard somewhere that the articles inside are very nice as well, all spell checked and everything.)
Back in 1984, however, it was a much smaller, humbler magazine than the robust juggernaut that lightning-bolts its way to mailboxes monthly today. In fact, it was less a magazine and more an oversized newsletter, with scratchy black-and-white pages interspersed among the expensive glossy ones. (CGW from this era is particularly loopy because it used ITC Korinna, the typeface used for the questions in Jeopardy! and lots of other game shows, as its main text font. The effect is like reading a particularly dense edition of the Sears catalog.
It was a heady time to be running a hardcore PC game magazine (especially since there four separate, healthy platforms to cover), and peering at the advertisements of the time reveal an industry more than a bit different from the one we have today. Let's take a closer look at these ads, all borrowed from 1984 issues of CGW...
Most retro game fans know how exciting Electronic Arts' ads were in the early 1980s. They were all just like this one for Archon II -- few graphics, lots of text, and the authors of the game (the "software artists") front and center. It was part of EA's efforts to distinguish itself from the rabble of small-time game companies and push its products as not just games, but works of art, or at least artisanship.
The artists of Archon II are (left to right) Jon Freeman, Paul Reiche III and Anne Westfall. Jon Freeman wrote an on-and-off column around this time for CGW called "The Name of the Game" that basically served as a public place for him to mouth off at the game industry's villains -- dishonest publishers, programmers who rip off ideas from other games, and SF authors trying to write text adventures (apparently this was a major crisis at some point in time).
Reiche, who later attained cult-idol status for co-writing Star Control II and now heads up indie developer Toys for Bob, looks about thirteen years old in this photo.
Competition Karate was one of those games where you didn't control your fighter directly, but instead typed a key to have him execute the move you want in the next "turn" of gameplay. Sounds pretty Apple-ish to me. I honestly didn't know they gave out trophies in karate tournaments.
Now we get to the ads printed on the B&W pages. I know this ad looks like it's from an old Wonder Woman comic book, but it really is for a computer game. For a wargame, it's got some pretty frenetic ad copy: "Nothing could stop the Wehrmacht...or so Hitler thought. He was wrong!!! [...] For all you devoted true-blue wargamers who can't find an opponent, that's no longer a problem!!!" All right, already. We hear you.
Wikipedia tells us that the Brewster Buffalo (called the F2A-2 by the US Navy) was an all-metal carrier craft that debuted in 1939 with a full-metal monoplane design, wing flaps, retractable landing gear, an enclosed cockpit, four fixed machine guns and attachments for two 100-pound bombs.
The British bought about 200 of them and sent 'em off to the Far East in order to save their main fighters (the Spitfire and Hurricane) for the European theater. They were deployed in Burma and Singapore and soon became the butt of endless jokes by Japanese pilots, who shot them down in droves with their superior Zeroes. The Buffalo was withdrawn in the space of a couple months and never used again by England, America, Belgium, or any other Allied country...except for Finland, who loved the things and got so good at piloting them that 12 Finnish pilots became aces (i.e. shot down more than five enemy planes) in Buffaloes before the end of the war.
This ad just made me curious; that's all.
Two separate "We want your games ads", both presumably placed by traditional book/music agencies trying to get into the game business.
It was still possible in 1984, albeit barely, to program a game by yourself, make 100 copies, put them in Ziploc sandwich bags, place an ad in mags like CGW, and actually see profit out of it. As games got more complicated, though, agencies like these tried to play middleman for lazy coders who didn't like the marketing aspect of making games.
I'm really not sure what the advertisement on the right is asking for. This is an ad! You've got to keep your sentences simple!
Not Funny. The whole "it to the" section sort of ruins the joke. Plus, if you need to order the XXL size for a shirt like this, shouldn't you really be reconsidering your priorities?
Here's a trivia question, is that a boy or a girl wearing the shirt in the photograph?