Better Accelerate Than Never?

By Kieron Gillen on September 6th, 2007 at 8:37 am.

Seeing this lying on the desk in the PC Gamer office was something of a surprise. They’ve only gone and brought back oddball games-and-girls US magazine PC Accelerator! Who’d have thunk it.

Photoshop is like Bloom lighting, but for girls.

Well, not back-back. One issue back, presumably to either test the waters for some manner of relaunch or to because there was a load of interesting ad stuff outside of PC Gamer, or some other reason. Who cares? All that matters is that one of the most casually sexist videogame magazines the world has ever seen is back for another crack.

I’m quite glad to see it.

Now, I’m an Ex-Guardian-contributing left-of-Kropotkin writer who thinks castration for maleness may be a good idea. This stance may be somewhat unexpected.

But I liked PCXL. I liked the fact they, of all the American magazines of the time, actually had an idea. It wasn’t necessarily the best idea in the world, but they executed it with vigour. Tellingly they were executing it a hell of a lot better than any British magazine which was trying the girls + games = sales angle in the same late-90s period – and there was a load of them. I once offended a friend by throwing my copy of the mag they were working on across the room rather than touch the cover as a pure visceral reaction to its sheer fucking horribleness.

I was young.

The difference between Accelerator and most mags which plastered girls over their pages was that it actually integrated this standard men’s magazine material into it. It wasn’t a thin sticky layer placed over a completely standard games-mag, but conceptually part of it. Maxim… but about games. They tried. In fact, the new PCXL follows through even further, with a complete lack of reviews, just features on the game, each taking it from an defined angle at why you may be interested in. There’s been very, very few games magazines who’ve abandoned reviews entirely (The only mag I can think of which does it is Windows Vista in the UK, which is quietly doing some of the more experimental games writing around at the moment, randomly).

Secondly, that it had an angle at all made it worthy of note. Most games magazines are solely divided by format, and – fundamentally – the approach is just about the same (+/- a standard deviation). Take my Alma Mater PC Gamer and its long time rival PC Zone. While historically they may have been further apart, for the last five years at least, in terms of approach to the material, it’ll be difficult to put any significant space between them. But if PC Zone was like PC Accelerator… well, then these are two different magazines. While magazine trends continues downward in terms of sales, the move away from trad-mags is interesting. The emergence of Retrogamer, for example, which finds a niche not on any abstract format, but a culture of gaming akin to (say) Mojo in the music mags. Edge remains its own creature, of course, and a forerunner of this sort of stuff. On some level, I’ll support PCXL just because it’s itself and if we’re to have magazines, I’d rather ones with their own template rather than some tatty one passed down from publisher to publisher from the Stone Age.

Thirdly, gamers – especially PC gamers – are terribly puritanical. I remember the furore when Edge did their infamous girl issue, where it seemed the entire readerbase were enraged by the horrific sexism of a their Dead or Alive Beach Volleyball cover. Of course, the actual image was a carefully cropped, virtually sexless, impressively iconic midriff. The only Tomb Raider cover we did when I was on Gamer got similar complaints, and that was a profile shot of the polygonal adventurer. It’s over-reaction. Since games are considered geeky, people want to separate themselves from that stereotype. Buying a magazine with a girl on the cover… well, that labels them as what they fear they may be. But FHM was selling 800,000 for a reason, and it wasn’t to those of us who’ve seen all three endings of Deus Ex. No-one cares. PCXL’s use of sex is always light in tone. It has no guilt. These are, I think, pretty healthy attitudes relatively speaking.

Fourthly, its staff could write. In fact, in its period, I’d argue it was the best written American magazine on the shelves.

Finally, very few mags actually do the final issue properly. While Accelerator didn’t match up to Amiga Powers concept-issue glory, it gave it a fair crack.

Such panache earns it a curtain call, I think.

But do remember: There is no such thing as ironic masturbation.

, , , , .

14 Comments »

  1. NightShade says:

    Wikipedia:
    “Every night, the staffs of PC Gamer and PCXL would challenge each other to massive team on team Rainbow Six battles. The PCXL staff rarely won a single match.”

    Considering how poorly the PCG guys were whenever I played or saw them playing someone (not any of you guys I believe, but if it was then no offence ;)) then they must be really bad gamers.

  2. Andrew Farrell says:

    How are you on the “Loaded was actually great back when it had features like ‘Today, we attempted to organise a piss-up in a brewery’” theory?

  3. Andrew Mayer says:

    It’s an interesting idea, but I have the same questions now that I had back then:
    Who is the audience for this?

    Are articles about sex and video games better than articles about sex or video games?

    I also remember thinking that the lad-rag boys have lots of magazines to choose from, and the gamers have lots of magazines to choose from. If you want a little of both why not buy two magazines?

    From the looks of that cover none of these questions have been answered.

  4. Kieron Gillen says:

    Quick response, in passing…

    Andrew Farell: I always recall a speech I saw James Brown do Re: Loaded, where he noted that – despite what it became – when he was in charge, only 50% of the covers were actually women. So, yeah, I go along with the early-Loaded=Culturally interesting magazine hypothesis.

    KG

  5. Alan Au says:

    Why oh why couldn’t they have resurrected Computer Games Magazine instead?

  6. Reason says:

    The “gamers are puritanical” angle is just apologism in the guise of counter-elitism. I don’t buy it.

    I just look at stuff like the Frag Dolls and fail to see how it’s having a net positive impact on game culture. Yes, they’re not wearing bikinis and being paraded around like pieces of meat, but if you look past the marketing message (and make no mistake, they are a marketing instrument for Ubi) they are still very much on display for the benefit of guy gamers. Anyone who tells you they’re building bridges is trying to sell you copies of Splinter Cell in a frustratingly disingenuous way.

    I’m all for an eyes-wide-open look at all the sex-related issues in games and game culture, but there’s way too much fratboy defensiveness surrounding crap like this. You like ogling girls, that’s fine, so do most of us – but don’t act like some envelope is being pushed. Growing up means actually being honest about your appetites.

    from the comments on this over at GameSetWatch:

    “Finally, someone is reaching 16-year-old boy gamers. They have no media outlets to call their own and are sadly neglected in their favorite format, print.”

  7. Reason says:

    Hmm. I read your lead again and realized that you were sort of trying on this argument for size, Kieron, so please don’t take what I’ve said as a real stab.

    I guess I just see the “unabashed pandering but then getting kind of defensive about it” behavior as part of a larger pattern in which the lowest common denominator sinks not because of human nature (ie What People Actually Want) and more because certain key people have a low opinion of their audience… as if to say, “Here, you Neanderthals like tits don’t you? Here’s some on the cover. Don’t act like you don’t want it.”

    The tricky thing is that they can always throw a charge of elitism back in the face of anyone who raises an eyebrow. When really, if I’m the media and I give people nothing but lowbrow / crap and tell them that crap is all they want, that’s the ultimate form of judgmental elitism. It’s all tangled up in a hateful sort of justification logic. Society can do better.

  8. Sparky says:

    If this really were about PCXLs “use of sex” and covering those really important “sex-related issues” (which has already been done by non-”lad” mags like CGM anyway) where are the half-naked hot guys? Where are the Frag Dudes? The photos of snug banana hammocks with Space Invaders printed in strategic places? Oh – wait, there aren’t any. Because it’s about selling magazines by using pictures of hot chicks. To straight…”lads”. Be honest.

    David St. Hubbins: They said the album cover is a bit sexist.
    Nigel Tufnel: Well, so what? What’s wrong with being sexy?
    David St. Hubbins: Sexist, Nigel.

  9. Gap Gen says:

    This is a bit late, but did Kropotkin write ‘Conquest of Bread’ or ‘Conquest of Beard’? Because either works.

  10. Dorian Cornelius Jasper says:

    Your old article made me sad. I usually don’t comment on old articles, but…

    I clicked the last link in the article, and then immediately thought: “Wait. I have that issue. I used to read this magazine.” And then became sad when I realized I couldn’t find it.

    Thus, your old article made me sad. About a girlie rag. I would have tried to be wittier here, or at least meaner, but I’m still sad. You meanies.

  11. Y3k-Bug says:

    For what its worth, NextGen (or more formally, Next Generation magazine) was an excellent read.