9 June 2004 Birth of a Museum Column 1

"COMPUTER GAMING WORLD, with the publication of this issue, has completed its first year of covering the computer gaming field. In this past year we have seen a tremendous growth in the hobby. Think back to what products were available to the computer gamer a year ago, then look at what is available today. There is quite a difference isn’t there? What is exciting is that next year should produce even greater advancement."

These were the words of CGW Editor and Founder Russell Sipe in September of 1982. As we know today, advancement in the field of computer gaming did not limit itself to the year 1983. The games of 2004 bear little resemblance to the early efforts of computer gaming’s infancy. However, one must be careful: advancement is not always synonymous with improvement. It has been said many, many times before, but gamers who have been around since the early 1980s have often grumbled about the industry’s tendency to exchange creativity, gameplay, and overall quality simply for presentation. One of computer gaming’s best-known series is a perfect example of this trend. Spanning nearly 20 years, Ultima showed us everything from the simple, although groundbreaking, early games to the meticulously crafted Ultima IV and V, ending with the visually stunning yet dreadful Ultima IX. Technological advancement, perhaps, but overall improvement? Not in the last case.

Maybe my above use of the word “industry” is telling, as just a paragraph (but years!) before, Russell Sipe described computer gaming as a “hobby”: there can be no denying that computer gaming has reached adulthood. As shown by the Ultima example, the pitfalls are many, and there is no guarantee that newer games are better than older ones.

Anything that ages produces a growing interest for its early days, and computer gaming is no different. Perhaps this interest is an attempt to remember the wonder of a by-gone time. For others, it’s a historical endeavour with the end-goal of preservation and documentation. In yet other cases, it’s an effort to learn from what has been previously done in order to generate a better product. For many of us, it’s a combination of the above. It is in this spirit that I present to you the Computer Gaming World Museum.

The Computer Gaming World Museum is an idea that was conceived sometime in the mid-1990s. Back then, owning only a handful of CGWs (from the 1980s and early 1990s), I was dismayed at not being able to consult old issues. Queries to Ziff-Davis regarding the availability of older content went unanswered. I was therefore determined that I should try and locate every old CGW issue, and perhaps find a way to make their contents available on-line (more on that later). Unfortunately, real-life (university, in particular) caught on pretty quickly and the CGW Museum was put on hold. The idea never died, however, and the Museum was finally opened on March 17th 2004.

Why CGW? While it can officially claim to be the first magazine devoted exclusively to computer games, perhaps more importantly, unofficially, CGW was the computer gaming voice of the 1980s. CGW staff may continue to deny it, but back then, buying decisions were often influenced by how a game was reviewed in CGW. More than simply an amalgamation of reviews, however, CGW was a forum for the development of computer gaming. As evidence, articles on game design routinely filled the magazine’s pages – in fact, the first issue contained a lengthy exposé on the future of computer wargaming by none other than Chris Crawford. Other contributions included playtesters’ views or designers’ notes from a wide range of games. And some of the first letters to the Editor were written by people like Roe Adams and Dan(i) Bunten. These were often critical of CGW; however, the stage was set for meaningful exchanges which undoubtedly influenced the growth of computer gaming. At times, what is truly revealing is how something stands the test of time. At other times, what is telling is not how we look upon it today, but rather what was said back then. What was said in CGW is worth presenting and preserving.

Whether you’re visiting the Museum out of nostalgia, dropping by for some historical research, looking to obtain guidance for the development of a game, or coming by for some entirely different reason, welcome. Enjoy the content, and please share your thoughts on what is good, what is not, and what you would like to see.

-- CGW Museum

State of the Museum

Only two months late, but finally, the first column is done! It has been way too long since the last update, but I’m happy to present three new excerpts and three new classic game ads at the same time. Also, as of today, the Museum now features a "Tales" section which will include interesting stories and anecdotes by past CGW staff. The first story is from former CGW writer David Wilson, brother of long-time editor Johnny Wilson.

The end-goal for the Museum would be to have the entire content of the first 100 CGW issues available on-line. There are a number of challenges associated with this, but I am currently working to see what can be done. Stay tuned.

Of course, I am also currently working hard to obtain the Museum’s three missing issues (2.2, 2.4, and 4.1). I have a few leads that will hopefully pan out. Can you help? If you have one, or more, of these issues, and you would like to donate/trade/sell it, please send an e-mail to the Museum.

Look for more regular updates in the future as things settle down. And look for a second column in… less than three months, hopefully!



Questions, comments or suggestions? Please send an e-mail to the Museum

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