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14

Better Accelerate Than Never?

Photoshop is like Bloom lighting, but for girls.

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.

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.

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Kieron Gillen

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Kieron Gillen is robo-crazy.

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