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.”)
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.