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The 15 (or so) best UK gaming magazines of all time

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The 15 (or so) best UK gaming magazines of all time

Yon the 21st century, video game news is available in endless streams, 24 hours a day. But if you grew up in the 1980s and 1990s, you turned to magazines for gaming news, reviews, and gossip. For 30 years, the UK gaming magazine industry was a thriving sector, providing gamers not only with information about games in all formats, but also a sense of community. They were part newspaper, part fanzine, and their writers were the YouTube streamers of their day.

I’ve been lucky enough to write for dozens of them, but before that I was an avid reader and spent all my money on these brilliant celebrations of gaming culture. Here are possibly the 15 (more or less) best…

15. Maximum (1995-1996)

How can a magazine that survived barely a year be among the top 15 video game magazines of all time? It’s because I wrote the list and this is one of my absolute favorites. A grueling labor of love for founders Rich Leadbetter and art editor Gary Harrod (both Mean Machines graduates), Maximum was the size of an Argos catalog and packed with detailed, rigorous articles on the key games of the era, accompanied by beautiful screenshots. Sales fell as the games went mainstream, but no one wrote better about Virtua Fighter 2, Ridge Racer, or Tekken than these guys.

14. Retro Player (2004-)

Take that from the Internet… Retro Gamer. Photograph: Keith Stuart/Darran Jones/The Guardian

After 20 years, with highly knowledgeable editor Darran Jones at the helm, Retro Gamer is a loving tribute to the history and culture of video games, filling its colorful pages with fascinating and insightful articles about classic games and developers. Now almost alone on newsstand shelves, it’s a reminder of what great magazines used to be before the Internet came along and ruined everything.

13. Game Master (1993-2018)

Originally launched as a tie-in with the famous Channel 4 gaming show, GamesMaster came into its own through snappy writing, raw enthusiasm and page layouts that seemed almost kinetic with their countless boxes and sequences of screenshots. Aimed squarely at teenagers, it was like learning about games from your scruffy but much-loved older brother.

12. Sega Saturn Magazine (1995-1998)

God, this was a difficult decision. There were some excellent unofficial Sega magazines, including Sega Power, Sega Pro and later the incredible DC-UK (for full disclosure, I was editor), but the official Saturn magazine was a treasured organ for Sega fans in an era dominated by PlayStation. With a so-so demo disc and some of the best writers in the business at the time (Richard Leadbetter, Lee Nutter, Gary Cutlack), it put up a valiant fight for Sega’s 32-bit machine.

11. Advanced Computer Entertainment (1987-1992)

One of Future Publishing’s first multi-format gaming magazines, ACE, as it was better known, took a highly technical approach to reviewing, rating games out of 1,000 (!), and providing a “predicted interest curve” graph that sought to predict how long it would take the players to play. keep yourself entertained. Sold to Emap in 1989, later issues came with demo cassettes and then cover discs, adding interactivity to its futuristic remit.

10. Your Sinclair (1984-1993)/Commodore User (1983-1998)

I struggled for years trying to decide which of these to put, and then I cheated and included them both. Operating somewhere between Viz and Have I Got News for You in tone, Your Sinclair was one of the best examples of chaotic games journalism in the UK, built on inside jokes, reader jokes and fearless critiques. Commodore User was one of Emap’s longest-running publications, starting out as a fairly serious and technical guide to computing before morphing into a large Commodore 64 and then an Amiga gaming magazine.

9. GamesTM (2002-2018)

Industry insider… GamesTM. Photograph: Keith Stuart/The Guardian

A relative latecomer to the games magazine market, GamesTM was launched by the now-defunct Highbury Publishing as an alternative to the teen-focused titles of the time. With high production values ​​and beautiful, clean page layouts, it was a lovely magazine to read and the writing was uniformly excellent. Its close coverage of the industry veered into Edge territory, but with a lighter tone. A friend recently bought me a nearly complete collection, and it’s been a wonderful lens through which to rediscover the early 2000s gaming scene.

8. Amiga Power (1991-1996)

Perhaps the most anarchic and chaotic gaming magazine ever created, Amiga Power contradicted the stately, no-nonsense image of Commodore’s 16-bit computer with its eccentric vocabulary, surreal reviews, and furious industry disputes (don’t mention Team17). In the end, with the machine dying, the magazine carried on independently, surviving on jokes and completely irrelevant articles (including a four-page article on Michael Caine films). I went to my first job interview for a magazine here and while I was doing a surrogate test, Cam Winstanley and Steve Farragher threw paper balls at my head to test my concentration. Truly the Smash Hits of gaming.

7. Arcade (1998-2000)

Arcade, which arrived amid the revival of sleek, irreverent pop culture magazines (Neon, Uncut, Loaded in their original form), was a multi-format magazine of the 1990s, with charisma, attitude and an emphasis on style characteristics of life, since Jimmy White plays video games and listens to voice messages on the streets of New York. It was a brave and beautifully designed experiment, and its spirit would return very briefly in Future’s high-end PlayStation 2 magazine, PSNext, edited by Arcade alum Sam Richards. Unfortunately, that would only last a year. The lifestyle magazines were already over.

6. PC Zone (1993-2010)/PC Gamer (1993-)

There is perhaps no greater rivalry in UK gaming magazines than Gamer v Zone. Both were ardent advocates of PC gaming at a time when consoles were on the rise, and both had brilliant writers like my old flatmate Kieron Gillen (now a famous comics writer) and the ever-inventive satirist Charlie Brooker (still an ever-inventive satirist, but these days on television). Excellent industry access meant in-depth interviews and preview features, and they both took the review very seriously. Their desperate attempts to outdo each other were a highlight of sports journalism for a decade.

5. Bad Machines (1990-1992)

Originally a section in C&VG dedicated to consoles, former Zzap!64 writer Julian Rignall pushed to put his passion and knowledge of the upcoming Sega and Nintendo machines into a separate post. The result was Mean Machines, an exciting and irreverent publication, which made brilliant use of boxes and extended subheadings to highlight the games on the page. Joining Rignall were writers Richard Leadbetter and Radion Automatic, a team who brought a comedic edge to their coverage, while developing a strong sense of community with readers. A hugely influential publication that introduced thousands of people to the era of 16-bit consoles.

4. Super work (1992-1996)

Released by Matt Bielby a few months after Total! Nintendo’s more tween-friendly Super Play was aimed at hardcore fans, especially those interested in the thriving import gaming scene. By providing detailed information on the latest NES and SNES releases using Japanese correspondents to get exclusive news and game reviews before anyone else, it became perhaps the largest single-format unofficial magazine of its time. Heavily influenced by Japan’s Famistu, it also featured manga-inspired art by talented designer Wil Overton, resulting in some of the most beautiful gaming magazine covers ever created.

3. C&VG (1981-2004)

One of the first dedicated gaming magazines, C&VG set the tone for the entire industry with its editorial mix of news, trailers, reviews and advice, as well as its coverage of the nascent arcade scene. Early issues featured few screenshots due to lack of proper technology; instead, there were abundant illustrations and lists of programs for readers to write on their own computers. Throughout its 23-year history, C&VG provided carefully curated scholarship on gaming in all its forms, and when it closed as a print publication (it would continue as a website until 2015), it was truly the end of an era.

2. Zzap!64 (1985-1992)/Crash (1984-1992)

Emotionally, I found it impossible to separate these titans from the 8-bit computer era. Both were released by the much-missed Newsfield Publications and each cover is beautifully illustrated by the company’s co-founder, the late Oliver Frey. They combined brilliant critical writing with appropriate in-depth articles and a real sense of community. These magazines really taught readers how games were made, attracting a generation of avid readers to the industry. The first autograph I asked for was Julian Rignall’s during his time at Zzap! – He was at the Newsfield booth at the Commodore show in Olympia and I was so starstruck he could barely speak.

1. Edge (1993-)

A greater sense of your own importance…Edge. Photograph: Keith Stuart/The Guardian

At times wry and pretentious, always with a heightened sense of his own importance, Edge will be a controversial choice (Kieron Gillen has already he threatened me with war), but so be it. Launched by Steve Jarrett as a video game equivalent of high-end photography magazines, Edge was (and remains) an earnest, lavishly designed blend of critical essays, industry-leading news, and hard-nosed reviews, beloved by both “prosumers” and “prosumers” alike. as by the developers. . I worked there in the ’90s with the brilliant editor Jason Brookes, but perhaps it was the early ’00s when the magazine really reached its zenith, holding the games business accountable, sharpening its writing style, and reveling so much in obscure indie studios. as with the gigantic triple A. editors. For many years, it was Edge that was first to get the technical specifications and images of new consoles, and it was an Edge cover that every game studio wanted. An absolute institution.

Honorable mentions: Obviously, it was impossible to include all the memorable posts in a list of 15 (or so), so here’s a nod to some greats I had to leave out: Amstrad Action, ST Action, Sinclair User (some of the best designs cover of the time). , The One, the lovely NGC and N64 magazines, and the really good official PlayStation and Xbox magazines. What have I overlooked? Let us know in the comments.

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