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PC Zone: In Tribute

Will Porter was editor of PC Zone in 2008, having worked on the mag for many years previously and since. Below he writes his eulogy for the first PC gaming magazine, that will be closing down after the next issue.

Hi! My name is Will Porter, and I'm here to deliver a stilted eulogy on the imminent demise of a magazine that shaped my love of PC gaming, my love of writing and much of what could laughably be called my career. I can’t help but feel that a lot of RPS readers will have, perhaps in older times, shared my love for PC Zone. As such I asked the RPS hive-mind for a platform on which to stand to address whoever present that wishes to celebrate its life. Or, indeed, tell us all how it was never as good as it used to be. I am aware that this site is to some degree the spawn of the auld enemy, those hateful bastards at PC Gamer, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

During the sermon there will also be a reading from Paul Presley, a surviving veteran of the PC Zone ‘Ninja’ Age, who wrote something lovely about the mag for its Issue 200 celebrations a year and a half ago. There will be coffee and tea in the foyer after the service. A minibus will then be provided for those wishing to head out and start burning shit down.

Well, that was a joke. I don’t think anyone should particularly be blamed for PC Zone potentially shuffling off this mortal coil. No need for flames and pitchforks. By its very nature the PC gaming press has always been at the thin end of the wedge when it came to readers turning their attention to the many blaring voices of the internet. Of which, it appears, I am now one. PC Zone could have been the best magazine out there (and often I think it was) but still the rise of the internet would have proved a black hole for circulation that was stronger than everything in its path. It could defeat a particularly well-written review of a Sims H&M clothing add-on pack, and it could defeat even a decent cover exclusive. The internet absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead. It was beat them or join them time, and PC Zone never joined them. I genuinely wish the chaps at (jaunty RPS tribute site - Ed) good luck in the battles ahead. They’ve made a great start – as, let’s not forget, have the chaps at RPS.

PC Zone, yesterday.

God, so morbid. Let’s talk about why PC Zone was amazing. No, fuck that. Let’s hear it from the horse’s mouth. Ladies but mostly Gentlemen, the first reading is from Paul Presley – Grand Old Man of PC Zone and National Treasure. It is taken from the book of the Nineties, chapter three:

“Given that I have hung on to Zone’s coattails almost throughout its entire existence, it’s hard to pick out any one single event as the most memorable. Truth be told, what sticks most in the mind, long after the hazy recollections of drunken nights, foreign adventures and hair-lowering escapades is that hazy, somewhat indefinable concept of the PC Zone ‘spirit’. Without wanting to devalue the recent incumbents’ masterful contributions, back in what is loosely described as ‘the golden age’ of Zone, when it strode the gaming industry like a colossus of words, screenshots and vague allusions to game playing, everyone involved with the thing felt a sense of belonging. Of camaraderie. Of brotherhood.

We were more than just a team, we were a family. A family of scoundrels, of egotists, of health risks and fanatics. And a family of the most brilliantly talented, effortlessly creative and dedicated-to-the-cause individuals that ever existed in the business of magazine creation. Every publication, especially those targeted towards ‘entertainment’ feels a sense of kinship, but as someone who has experienced more publishing industries than is strictly healthy, what PC Zone had was something beyond a mere working relationship. PC Zone was a Place To Be. Somewhere to go. Whatever the time of day, day of the week or month of the year. It was a post-nightclub chill-out room, a pre-pub drinking lounge, a home away from home where you were always welcome. People came to Zone’s offices just because that was what you did.

Not to say there wasn’t a work ethic. Come rain or shine, the magazine made it out every month, each issue filled to the brim with the most intelligent and consistently hilarious writing, eye-popping design work and acceptable quota of spelling errors. Even on deadlines, Zone would work hard, go out and party, then go straight back to the office en masse, to carry on through the night. Even if you didn’t have any work on for them, you’d turn up in the evening just to hang out and show support, to have a game or two of Doom or Quake against Macca (and lose), to skin up over by the art desks to hear Mallo ranting about “UN-professionalism”, to hear Jeremy bark “You were only supposed to blow the BLOODY DOORS OFF”, to see Woods and Ant defeat Sefton and whoever was unlucky enough to partner him at Pro Evo… to just belong to this incredible collection of talent, to take it all in and hope your own contribution was somehow worthy of them.

PC Zone, yesterday.

Somewhat inevitably, though nonetheless remarkably, was that this pride, this talent – this spirit – seeped into every page of the magazine. You couldn’t be a reader of PC Zone and not feel as though somehow, in some way, you belonged to this family just as much as the people putting it together. Zone was as much infused by its readership as the readers were infused by the magazine. Most publications have a definite line, a strong feeling of ‘You’ and ‘Us’. Zone was different, its readers were as integral to its success as any of Brooker’s cartoons, Hill’s cynicism or Mr Cursor’s insanity. Through the many contributions we asked of you the reader, we became as proud of the many characters that lived in our forums, our Fight Clubs and Zone Chats over the years as any of the paid writers.

All magazines go through ups and downs, yet somehow because Zone was always greater than the sum of its already mighty parts, the Zone spirit continued throughout the magazine’s life, from the first issue through to this one. Whatever was thrown at it, wherever the magazine was being produced for whichever corporate behemoth, whoever made up the cast list, from the incumbent Lakin and Scotford all the way through to Porter, Log, Brown and Hogarty today and everyone in between, that spark never, ever, died. The family was always there, even when the days seemed dark.

Whatever the future holds, that sense of brotherhood, that spirit, never did and never truly will die for as long as there are people who can raise their heads and with pride in their voice say the words “Yeah, I used to work for PC Zone.” I’m honoured to have been a part of it.”

PC Zone, yesterday.

There’s little I can add to that, but I will anyway. I first bought PC Zone in the mid-nineties. It was the green claw-print Bioforge cover. Reading it was like being granted access to another world, where not only was PC gaming at very heights of creativity and originality, but much of it would be given away as shareware on magazine cover CDs. (Sometimes magazines would even accidentally give away free pornography masquerading as xxx doom .wad files. Thanks from my teenage self go straight to Dan Emery for that one.)

More importantly perhaps, the writers at PC Zone were hugely talented – and hilarious. Charlie Brooker, of course, was at the forefront and his triumphs were legion: the prank calls, the Wombles/Quake cartoon, Sick Notes, the eating of his own arse, Dr Helmut’s and/or Lara Croft’s Cruelty Zoo... Every bugger seems to like him now, but us PC games lot can be smug about the fact that we had him first. It wasn’t just him though: remember Culky’s attack on EA? On top of that you had Mr Cursor, Prez, Mallo, Macca, the incomparable Steve Hill (take that whichever way you please…) and all the other certified comedic geniuses that have passed over the PCZ threshold.

I think I speak for all the writers who worked on the magazine throughout the last decade when I say that we’re pretty proud of what we achieved. So that’s me, Rhi, Ant, Dave, Sefters, Hill, Dave Brown, Prez, Korgon the Magnificent, the occupant of the Zitronosphere, Sooze, Hill, Richie, Steve ‘TheWidowmaker’ O’Hagan, Keith Pullin, Log, Ali, Pavel, Mark Hill, Wandy and that Irish Hogarty kid who made good… and God help me, but I’m sorry if I’ve forgotten anyone. (And sorry for not mentioning Art and Production in that list too, it would have been a bit much.) (Actually: Clare/Dale/Kevin/Phil/Wee J/Big J et al: love you!) (And Chris Anderson and Tim Ponting should get a mention, though I never met Chris.) (Almost saw too much of Ponting to be honest).

PC Zone, yesterday.

There’s something more important than my emotional warbling though – and that’s the fact that this was a living magazine, and soon it won’t be. I don’t know exactly what’s happening with the current PCZ team, only that they have one more issue to make. Job uncertainty in this economic climate is not a pleasant thing. I have every confidence that the team will go on to greater things, as they’re a hugely talented bunch, but also wish them all the luck in the world. Richard, Dave, Matt and James were great people to work with back when I was editor, and I find it really sad that their last experiences with such a great magazine are pretty tumultuous ones.

I genuinely believe that PC Zone was one of the greatest magazines that this country has ever produced. It certainly had the greatest, bitterest and most sincere rivalry in its ongoing battles with PC Gamer – and I’m proud to say that we consistently punched above our weight despite the situation we now find ourselves in. Seriously – a book could be written on the battles over Half-Life 2 alone, and if I ever have a tattoo done it will almost certainly read: “It was finished. And I played it.”

I’ll shut up in a minute. I want to turn it over to you, and the things you’ll remember about PC Zone past and not-for-too-long present. The outpouring of sadness to the news of Zone’s closure both on forums and from misty-eyed industry folk last night after the Develop conference has been extraordinary. Strange to say, but PC Zone suddenly feels more popular than it has been for years. It’s been part of my life for seventeen years, and the focus of it for eight. I’m really, really going to miss it. I think a lot of us will.

Oh, but there’s a final piece of advice. One in-joke from the ancient bowels of PC Zone, and one that should not be allowed to die. Never forget. Never EVER forget, that the first rule of games journalism is to ALWAYS check your first screenshot. ‘Grab.’

PC Zone, yesterday.

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