Guest Author - Lisa Shea
One of the oldest gaming magazines, Computer Gaming World, has changed its name. It is now Games for Windows - The Official Magazine. What is this magazine like?
First, the basics. The first issue, December 2006, has 136 pages including the covers. Of those, 48 pages are ads. So that's 35% of the magazine that is ads. You get 8 pages of ads before you get to the first page of content, i.e. the table of contents.
The editor is Jeff Green, who has been in that spot for five years. The other main staff are all males. Reviews are done with an X/10 rating system.
The writing style is in general robust and mature. A review of Overlord done by Daren Gladstone begins, "Take a scruples test sometime and you just might find that menacing despots aren't actually evil - just misunderstood. Exhibit A: the titular overlord from Codemasters' twisted action game."
Here's another review, this one of Caesar IV. "City-building simulators always sesem doomed to the ubiquitous "it ain't SimCity" criticism ... and in most cases, it's a sadly valid argument." Again, written towards an intelligent, adult audience.
There are of course many game reviews, but also interviews with developers, links to fun free games to download, and hardware reviews as well.
The big change here is that the magazine is now branded by Microsoft, just like there is an official XBox magazine and an official PlayStation magazine. The writers claim (in this issue) that they are not "overseen" at all by Microsoft. Their articles are not reviewed by Microsoft and they will not give preference to games put out by Microsoft.
This is always an iffy thing for me. If I read a review of a game in an official PlayStation magazine, I don't count that quite as unbiased as one I read in a completely separate magazine. This is even more so for a Windows situation.
Here's the thing. With the PlayStation line, there are many gamemakers who Sony would support completely, even if Sony were "making its own games". Many people explicitly buy a PS2 just to play the Final Fantasy series, for example. The console couldn't do nearly as well if those games did not exist. The console can't "do" anything else (besides perhaps play DVDs).
The Windows computer is completely different. People can easily do tons of things with their PC without games at all. Games are just one aspect of what a computer is there for. Microsoft *makes* games for their computer. It's already been proven that in the past Microsoft would explicitly do things in their code so that their software ran well and other peoples' software ran poorly.
So where the PS line has a vested interest in great games coming out for it, since that is why people buy the console in the first place, Microsoft doesn't have a vested interest in helping non-Microsoft game companies do well.
I agree completely that *something* needs to be done about PC gaming's reputation. In the old days, even though we had Atari and Nintendo systems, we always played games on our PC too. The PC had amazing graphics and in depth stories. Nowadays you're lucky if a few old PC games are shunted into the corner of your gaming store. We play Elder Scrolls Oblivion on our widescreen high def TV and it's a solid RPG. You get used to using the buttons to access options rather than a keyboard.
And, to be honest, I can be comfy lounging on the futon, with pillows and blanket, with my boyfriend at my side, playing on a widescreen with full stereo sound - or I can be in my office, in a comfy but not loungy chair, playing on a smaller screen. Gaming is just so much more fun in the living room.
So that all being said, I understand where Microsoft is trying to save gaming on the computer. I am all for doing a better job of 'branding' computer games in stores, so they have a consistent look and feel like the other systems. I am definitely all for them fixing the many "won't run on my system" issues that people have. But I'm not sure that all of this ties into this one particular magazine changing its name and (apparently) being bought / owned by Microsoft. I'm not sure why that had to be a part of this effort, and to me it does taint a bit the way I now look at this magazine.
Still, the magazine does have well written reviews, so it's well worth taking a look at, to see how things go.