|Requiem for a 'Zine|
TomChick - News - 03/20/07 - Link
Computer Games Magazine existed somewhere between the typical product of a magazine publisher and a fan-made Ďzine lovingly made in someoneís home office. Over its years, it grasped at board games, console games, a separate magazine for MMO coverage, and even an ill-fated mandate to partner with some dudes doing glib coverage of movies, music, and TV. But despite varying focuses on subject matter, it had a certain voice. For the last several years, Iíve had the honor of contributing to that voice.
It wasnít a very magazine-ly magazine. The layout was mostly, well, functional. Sometimes someone would pull off something impressive. I really liked what they did with the cover story for Universe at War, for instance. The MMO spin-off, Massive, made a sporting and often successful attempt at being splashy. And whenever Sparky cut loose, whether it was ComicCon coverage or helping the folks at Schadenfreude Interactive, the results were always memorable.
But for the most part, it wasnít an eye-catching magazine. I recall someone comparing the look to The Economist. It was meant as a disparaging comment about the ďwall of textĒ effect, but I actually considered it a compliment. At least it would have been in an industry where writers arenít writers so much as people who play a lot of games and provide meager content around which screenshots are arranged. But then again, Iím the guy who turned off the emoticon gifs in the forum, so what do I know?
But for better or worse, and unlike any other publication Iíve worked for, the emphasis was on the words. And as its latest editor-in-chief, Steve Bauman trusted his writers, almost to a fault. As such, it was the only publication where I felt free to say whatever I wanted. I was writing for myself, to guys who were just like me. Iím okay with adjusting for a particular audience, but itís liberating being able to write in an unmodulated voice, as if I were talking to friends who knew me because they were like me.
Thatís how I felt about the readers of Computer Games Magazine. We were a gathering of gamers for whom ďstrategyĒ wasnít a dirty word, or a throwaway letter in the acronym "RTS". Even if we disagreed, or even if I was saying something off the wall or unpopular, we understood each other. Whether I was trying to be serious and bordering (if not outright annexing) pretentious, or whether I was cutting up and pulling legs, there was a sense of rapport with whoever was on the other end. You guys were me. Steve knew that and let it work itself out, even when it might not have worked. Lord knows, I look back and cringe at some of the columns I wrote.
The voice of the magazine was a collective one, built from some people who I will always remember fondly. Itís been a long time since Iíve been in a college lecture, so most of the time, I had no idea what the hell Kurt Jenkins and Henry Squire Ė or was it the other way around? Ė were talking about. But I loved the fact that they had a place to talk about it.
Dave Long isnít just a Nintendo fanboi, but heís also an astute observer of driving games and RTSs. I'm glad to see his name at Games for Windows. I was honored that I was able to use my time helping with the console section to get folks like Matthew Gallant, Mike Cathcart, and Kitsune into the magazine. Justin Fletcher, Erica van Ostrand, and Alex Handy were doing a great job of establishing themselves at Computer Games Magazine. And as far as I can tell, Handy hadnít yet slipped up and done something stupid while drunk.
Doug Erickson has the sort of bite, insight, and commitment more RPG reviewers need. Iím sick of reading reviews from people who played three hours of some thirty-hour odyssey and then submitted a handful of Captain Obvious boilerplate observations.
Troy Q. Goodfellow is one of my favorite geeks. He has the name of a hobbit, he looks like a growed up Harry Potter, and he sounds like a pre-jaded version of Bruce Geryk. Iíll take his second opinion on some dilettanteís review any day of the week.
I know for a fact youíll be seeing Cindy Yansí name soon enough, but for the love of Pete, I hope you editors donít let Lara Criggerís name go by the wayside. She wasnít just a girl -- she was a smart girl who did a lot of legwork and put a lot of insight into the kind of feature stories most people just spit out as thinkpieces. You want to help shape gaming into something beyond its current state as a repository of boyís locker room juvenilia? Then include the voices of women like Crigger and van Ostrand.
Kelly Wand is, without exception, my favorite writer in the business. Why he isnít given free rein to write at other publications is a mystery to me, and itís compelling evidence that the gaming press is full of dumb kids who donít care about words writing for other dumb kids who donít care about words. Grow the fuck up, industry, and seek out people like Wand. Heís a weird reclusive dude, but I will happily pass along his contact information to anyone whoís interested in hiring him. Seriously. You know how to reach me.
Finally, Bauman wasnít just a good editor, he was a good writer who drew from a broad spectrum of interests beyond the usual cultural suspects. The gaming industry will be poorer without his voice. Iíd hate for this to sound like a eulogy to Steve Bauman, but in a way CGM was Bauman, and now CGM is dead. Fortunately, Bauman wasnít just CGM. I have no doubt heíll find a job, and Iím pretty sure heís got the clout to find a job he loves. My own selfish hope is that itís something that allows me to continue working with him. Until then, I hope he keeps up with his blog.
Iíll have some announcements to make here shortly, but for the time being, Iím still a little shell-shocked and a lot sad. Computer Games Magazine nee Computer Games Strategy Plus nee Strategy Plus, hereís to you. You had a great run. You died too young. You will be missed.