PC Gamer Magazine

Ah, PC Gamer Magazine. Published by the US branch of the UK’s Imagine Publishing powerhouse, this was a massive publication back in the late Nineties and early Noughts, topping 500 pages for the Christmas issues! I was very lucky to have scored a contributing editor gig back in 1996 as a dorky 18-year-old high school senior. (They hadn’t realized how young I was, since I was interacting with the staff via phone, dropping my voice a few octaves to sound older.) Copy was originally submitted via floppy disk, but we eventually moved to e-mail, blasting off content through a 14.4kbps modem via local dialup.

My coworkers included the delightful T. Liam McDonald (my inroad into the mag), Todd Vaughn (now VP of development at Bethesda Softworks), and William Harms (comic writer extraordinaire and lead scribe at 2K Games). Our Editor-in-Chief was none other than Gary Whitta, who moved on to write Star Wars movies. (I remember him sharing an early script for The Book of Eli with me back in the late 90s, with my response along the lines of “I dunno about that ending, man.”)

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The first of two Duke Nukem Forever covers, from 1997. I wrote the second Duke cover feature in 1999.  The game shipped  12 years later, in 2011. It wasn’t very good.

I did pretty well at PCG because I was fast and on time, and I was willing to review whatever terrible games happened to be thrown at me – I wound up covering stuff that the rest of the staff refused to touch. A lot of people referred to me as the funniest writer on staff, but I find that when you’re given such terrible games to review, the gags write themselves.

Side note: I had given one particular stinker of a game, Extreme Paintbrawl, a 6% score, which I believe set a new low for the mag. It turned out that the main programmer of the game – who had completed it in a soul-crushing two weeks – had moved on to work at Irrational Games, and wound up shipping the legendary Bioshock, which is unquestionably one of the finest games ever made. So don’t judge people if they’ve made one or two stinkers, okay? Because I myself have contributed to some less-than-spectacular games in my time.

I wound up getting my own column in PC Gamer called The Killing Box, which covered first-person shooters – but I wound up going off on ridiculous tangents 95% of the time, including a very detailed plan for combining UFC with Pro Gaming, which I believe contained the only mention of Benny “The Jet” Urquidez in PC Gamer’s publication history.

My stint at this magazine also coincided with the internet bubble, which meant we had far too much money and could happily throw it at whatever nonsense we found interesting at the time – such as flipping me a hundred bucks to make insane Lego movies or write comic books about bowling against the devil himself. But we can get into that later.

I don’t know if you can find any classic PC Gamer content on the Internet anymore. The website used to have a complete reviews database of everything that ran in the mag, but it’s been gone for a while. And none of the retro-mag scanners have archived any issues — probably due to a lack of nostalgia compared to the console publications, and each issue being as thick as a phone book and a nightmare to scan. Bummer.

5 thoughts on “PC Gamer Magazine”

  1. It’s a real shame the Retromags people haven’t got very many of the old PCG mags yet; I remember all of the “eXtreme” reviews being absolute laugh riots. Still regret getting rid of my collection back in 2001.

      1. Hi Colin,

        I am from an online LEGO animation community at BricksInMotion.com and have an interest in the history of LEGO animation and keeping a record of all that I can find out. I have been a fan of Corporal Dan Revelations for a long time but only recently discovered the other animations you had on the PC Gamer website. Apart from just being great films, I believe they were all among the very first pieces of LEGO animation available online. Could I ask, do you recall the order in which they were made and the year each one was made in? Also, is there any other LEGO film you made that I am missing? I have three Corporal Dan films, Meteor Shower, Horse: A Tradegy, Joy Ride, and The Deadly Present (some of the names may be incorrect as they are taken from YouTube uploads by someone else).

        Thanks!

        1. Hi Sean! Here is what I can put together from my failing memory:

          1995: Lego Kombat. This consisted of one or two skits that I shot for my high school Video Production class. Super crude; I don’t think these are on the internet as they are really, really dumb, and run at about one frame per second. I have them somewhere at my parents’ house, though.

          1995: Lego Kombat II: More skits packaged between a silly intro/outro. Their running order was:

          Corporal Dan
          Joy Ride
          Meteor Shower
          The Deadly Present
          Horse: A Tragedy

          In 1998 I got an Iomega Buz video capture unit and used it to capture and edit THE ROAD KILLERS. Note that I had graduated high school and the guy who did the original Corporal Dan wasn’t around, so that’s my dad doing his voice.

          I transferred that along with some of my old Lego movies to RealVideo format and, on a whim, sent them to my fellow editors at PC Gamer (Todd Vaughn, who’s now at Bethesda, William Harms, now at 2K, and Gary Whitta, who wrote the latest Star Wars movie). They thought they were hysterical. Quintin Doroquez (now Valve) did the posters and the web guys uploaded them.

          Later in 1998 I conned PCG staffer William Harms into sending me $100 to spend on Legos and make a proper sequel to Corporal Dan. I shot Revelations in my college dorm room, and the rest is history.

  2. Colin,

    Thanks so much for this page about your time at PC Gamer. I got my first issue when I was 12, in 1997. I believe it was the May or June issue, with PC Gamer’s list of the best games ever to that date. The Complete Ultima VII was ranked very highly at the time of that issue, and now still is my favorite game ever, period. I think the biggest issue ever was the big white Christmas issue or an issue or two after that (with a mostly black cover?). Those were really the days: the demo disc; Coconut Monkey (including the CM mosaic-style poster); Corporal Dan; being there for the Half-Life revolution and having my mind blown; being there for each subsequent breakthrough after that for the next 10 years; always feeling like I was part of an awesome community each time I cracked open the new issue and read the editorials and the reviews. Your review of Extreme Paintbrawl remains my favorite game review ever; I seem to recall you saying somewhere in it that another player in the game was jumping around shooting paintballs out of his butt. The late ’90s and early 2000s were really the peak, I felt. Gigantic issues, that core staff (had no idea Gaz wrote Rogue One!)…eventually it seemed as if the issues barely cracked in the upper double-digits page-wise anymore, and like the number of ads exceeded the number of actual magazine pages, but that was a later time and that’s when I eventually felt the glory days were gone and gave it up. Unfortunately about four years ago I think I tossed out all my old issues, except possibly that very first one I ever got. There’s a possibility I may still have that first issue and/or a couple others laying around somewhere…possibly. If I ever find that I do still have any old hardcopy issues I’d be happy to follow up.

    I’m in my early 30s now and rarely play any PC games anymore (pretty much never), but I still look back very fondly on those days when, for about 10 years, I was a proud PC gamer, and I had a subscription to the best gaming magazine on the planet. You and the old staff made a big imprint on that part of my life growing up, and this really brought me down memory lane big time.

    Thanks again, and I wish you the best.

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