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Computer Gaming World Issue 249 - March 2005
Russell Sipe (1981–1992)|
Johnny Wilson (1992–1999)
George Jones (1999–2001)
Jeff Green (2002–2006)
|First issue||November 1981|
Russell Sipe (1981-1993)|
In 1979 Russell Sipe left the Southern Baptist Convention ministry. A fan of computer games, he realized in spring 1981 there was no magazine dedicated to computer games. Although Sipe had no publishing experience, he formed Golden Empire Publications in June and found investors. He chose the name of Computer Gaming World (CGW) instead of alternatives such as Computer Games or Kilobaud Warrior because he hoped that the magazine would both review games and serve as a trade publication for the industry. The first issue appeared in November, at about the same as rivals Electronic Games and Softline. (Sipe's religious background led to "Psalm 9:1-2" appearing in each issue. His successor as editor, Johnny L. Wilson, was an evangelical Christian minister.)
The first issues of Computer Gaming World were published from Anaheim, California, and sold for $2.75 individually or $11 for a year's subscription of six issues. These early bi-monthly issues were typically 40-50 pages in length, written in a newsletter style, including submissions by game designers such as Joel Billings (SSI), Dan Bunten (Ozark Software), and Chris Crawford. As well, early covers were not always directly related to the magazine's contents, but rather featured work by artist Tim Finkas. In January/February 1986 CGW increased its publication cycle to nine times a year, and the editorial staff included popular writers such as Scorpia, Charles Ardai, and M. Evan Brooks.
CGW survived the video game crash of 1983, which badly hurt the market; by summer 1985 it was the only survivor of 18 color magazines covering computer games in 1983. In autumn 1987 CGW introduced a quarterly newsletter called Computer Game Forum (CGF), which was published during the off-months of CGW. The newsletter never became popular; only two issues were published before it was cancelled. Some of CGF's content became part of CGW, which became a monthly.
The magazine went through significant expansion starting in 1991, with growing page counts reaching 196 pages by its 100th issue, in November 1992. During that same year, Johnny Wilson (who started as a contributor in 1983), became editor-in-chief, although Sipe remained as Publisher. In 1993, Sipe sold the magazine to Ziff Davis—by then the magazine was so thick that a reader reported that the December issue's bulk slowed a thief who had stolen a shopping bag containing it—but continued on as Publisher until 1995. The magazine kept growing through the 1990s, with the December 1997 issue weighing in at 500 pages. In January 1999, Wilson left the magazine and George Jones became editor-in-chief, at a time when print magazines were struggling with the growing popularity of the Internet. Jones had been the editor-in-chief of CNET Gamecenter, and had before that been a staffer at Computer Gaming World between 1994 and 1996. He was replaced by Jeff Green in 2002.
On August 2, 2006, Ziff Davis and Microsoft jointly announced that Computer Gaming World would be replaced with Games for Windows: The Official Magazine. The final CGW-labeled issue was November 2006, for a total of 268 published editions.
Simultaneously with the release of the final CGW issue, Ziff Davis announced the availability of the CGW Archive. The Archive features complete copies of the first 100 issues of CGW, as well as the 2 CGF issues, for a total of 7438 pages covering 11 years of gaming. The Archive was created by Stephane Racle, of the Computer Gaming World Museum, and is available in PDF format. Every issue was processed through Optical Character Recognition, which enabled the creation of a 3+ million word master index. Although Ziff Davis has taken its CGW Archive site offline, the magazines can be downloaded from the Computer Gaming World Museum.
CGW featured reviews, previews, news, features, letters, strategy, and columns dealing with computer games. While console games are occasionally touched on, these are primarily the territory of CGW's sister magazine Electronic Gaming Monthly.
In 2006, two of the most popular features were "Greenspeak", a final-page column written by Editor-In-Chief Jeff Green, and "Tom vs. Bruce" a unique "duelling-diaries" piece in which writers Tom Chick and Bruce Geryk logged their gameplay experience as each tried to best the other at a given game. "Tom vs. Bruce" sometimes featured a guest appearance by Erik Wolpaw, formerly of Old Man Murray.
For many years, CGW never assigned scores to reviews, preferring to let readers rate their favorite games through a monthly poll. Scores were finally introduced in 1994. However, beginning in April 2006, Computer Gaming World stopped assigning quantifiable scores to its reviews. In May of the same year, CGW changed the name of its review section to Viewpoint, and began evaluating games on a more diverse combination of factors than a game's content. Elements considered include the communities' reaction to a game, developers' continued support through patches and whether a game's online component continues to grow.
The reviews were formerly based on a simple five-star structure, with five stars marking a truly outstanding game, and one star signalling virtual worthlessness. Three games, Postal² by Robert Coffey, Mistmare by Jeff Green, and Dungeon Lords by Denice Cook "...form an unholy trinity of the only games in CGW history to receive zero-star reviews."
Bruce F. Webster reviewed the first issue of Computer Gaming World in The Space Gamer No. 48. Webster commented that "I strongly recommend this magazine to computer gamers, and just one reason alone will (in my opinion) suffice: You can now start getting from just one publication the information that you've been having to dig out of three or four or five (or six...). Get it."
The New York Times repeatedly praised CGW, placing it as one of the premier computer game publications of its time. In 1997 the newspaper called it "the leading computer game magazine", In 1999 "the bible of computer game purists", and in 2005 "one of the top computer game magazines".
On August 2, 2006, Ziff Davis Media issued a press release detailing their plans to halt circulation of Computer Gaming World. As part of a joint-venture project with Microsoft, Ziff Davis launched a new magazine dubbed Games for Windows: The Official Magazine in Fall of 2006. The new magazine replaced CGW as part of Microsoft's Games for Windows initiative. In their press release, Ziff Davis indicated that much of Computer Gaming Worlds's core content and the entire staff will be transferred to the new magazine. Because of these announcements, Ziff Davis' actions appeared more on the order of a rebranding of CGW, rather than an actual cancellation.
CGW/GFW ended its 27-year run on April 8, 2008. At the GFW Radio Penny Arcade Expo reunion, Jeff Green claimed that the deal with Microsoft allowed CGW/GFW to continue operating, and that if it had not occurred Ziff Davis would have shut down CGW.
To ensure clear market leadership position, Ziff Davis will transfer Computer Gaming World's veteran editorial staff and mission to Games for Windows: The Official Magazine. The new magazine and web initiative will carry on the editorial, production and art staff of Computer Gaming World, incorporating CGW's best-of-class style and tone while broadening the outlet's reach, influence and editorial content to complement the coming renaissance in Windows gaming.
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