A triple dose of CVG

So, here we are – the grand daddy of all videogame magazines.

The first issue arrived in newsagents back in October 1981 for 75p, complete with some Mars Attacks-style aliens on the cover. Back then the magazine was very different from the colourful, console focused, publication most remember it as being. Micro computers, such as the Spectrum ZX81, Apple II and Vic 20 were given the centre of attention and very few pages were in colour.

It’s a little known fact that back in the early days of videogame magazines writers had to photograph their TVs to capture images, but this first issue goes back to before even somebody had that idea. Reviews featured no screenshots and were instead decorated with hand drawn artwork.

Most of the magazine was made up of pages upon pages of game code intended for budding coders to use to make their games. The first issue offered versions of Space Invaders, Hangman and Tarot that could be yours to play, after hours of typing and weeding out errors (often the writer’s own).

As new computers and consoles came and went, Computer and Videogames – later abbreviated to CVG – evolved with the times. This is something it did very well. When Julian Rignall took control in 1988 we saw arcade games and imports taking pride of place, while the letters page was hosted by Mean Yob – a rather crude and snappy imaginary individual. Even though the then new and exciting Mega Drive and SNES were upon us the writers made sure that older formats still had plenty of coverage.

When the handheld market took off in 1991, with the Lynx, Game Boy and Game Gear battling it out, a pull out handheld magazine named GO! was included with every issue and was a staple feature for a number of years. Even though the PC Engine GT wasn’t available in Europe, it too was covered in GO!

Over the years as editors came and went, the magazine saw several revamps. It’s the late ‘90s issues that most gamers have fond memories of. The jump from 16-bit to 32-bit saw the type of transition that we’re unlikely to ever see again, and CVG was the forefront for news of all the shiny new systems due to release.

The late ‘90s saw the magazine ditch using percentages for review scores and started giving scores out of five. It also came with a Freeplay section, printed on rather cheap feeling yellow paper which contained a page of retro reviews, a rumour round-up, reader’s high scores and a drawings section entitled ‘Drawinz wot you dun’. Cartoon dog Hunter governed this page – bad pictures were awarded a picture of a stinky turd; good pictures were awarded bones.

It’s during this era that the writers’ enthusiasm genuinely shined. The likes of Paul Davies and Ed Lomas were so excited about Tekken 3 that it appeared on the cover no less than three times.

But pride always comes before a fall. The start of the millennium saw the magazine change publishers, who wanted their newly acquired magazine to appeal to a larger audience. Content was watered down and dross such as Def Jam Vendetta started appearing on the cover. Gamers flocked to forums to vent their rage and sales dropped swiftly.

Future Publishing then picked up the pieces but rather than revive the magazine it was culled in 2004 and subscribers were sent issues of GamesMaster instead. Did Future kill CVG off to help boost sales of GamesMaster? It’s possible, but more likely they wanted access to the computerandvideogames.com domain name, which Future now uses as a hub for all their videogame related content.

CVG does live on in print. Well, just about – the likes of Future’s Xbox World feature CVG logos on their covers, prompting readers to check out their website.

Usually in our magazine features we pick just one issue to take a look back on, but with such a rich and varied history this month we’re going to take a look at the three issues in the photos above.

Issue 112 (March ’91) Highlights

  • Best feature: Special Report from the Winter Consumer Electronics Show
  • Best quote from above article: “The Sega Genesis had a huge amount of stuff on display for it. Most impressive was Sonic the Hedgehog, another jumpy jump game in the Mario mould.”
  • Lowest review score: Turbo Kart Racer (Amstrad) – 22%
  • Highest review score: Super Mario World – 96%
  • Best quote from letters page: “Super Famicom, hah! ‘SM4 contains the most amazing graphics’ – large bull’s udder! It looks like a NES game from the screen shots…”

Issue 113 (December ‘92) Highlights

  • Best feature: News: Street Fighter II on Mega Drive!!
  • Best quote from above article: “So you’re a Megadrive owner who’s sitting there, thinking ‘well my machine is a good laugh and all that, but those spawny Super Nintendo gits have got Street-fighter 2 and keep laughing at me. Boo hoo’ A reason to swap formats you may think. But hold on a minute – perhaps you haven’t heard that Capcom’s coin-op cracker is coming to YOUR MACHINE!”
  • Lowest review score: Pit Fighter (Sega Master Sytem) – 13%
  • Highest review score: Super Mario Kart – 96%
  • Best quote from letters page: “I own a Game Gear and I have some money (£25 to be precise) and I would like to know if Two Tails is in Sonic 2.”

Issue 191 (October ’97) Highlights

  • Best feature: Red-hot rumours!
  • Best quote from above article: “Mario 64 2 will feature the previously missing Luigi in a two-player simultaneous mode, and both characters will be playable at the same time.”
  • Lowest review score: The Fantastic Four and Explosive Racing on PlayStation both scored 1/5
  • Highest review score: Resident Evil on Saturn and PC scored 5/5
  • Best quote from letters page: “I had a dream yesterday about the Spice Girls being made into a computer game!!”

With magazine sales constantly dipping it’s doubtful that we’ll ever see CVG brought back to its former papery glory. Most of the writers are still around though – Julian Rignall writes for GamePro and is a regular on Twitter, while Paul Davies has a monthly column in Retro Gamer and often muses over the days of CVG and Mean Machines Sega.

Matt Gander

Matt is Games Asylum's most prolific writer, having produced a non-stop stream of articles since 2001. A retro collector and bargain hunter, his knowledge has been found in the pages of tree-based publication Retro Gamer.

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  • Damn. I remember the early days with no photos and pages of code to be laboriously typed in, often to no avail due either to a typing or a printing error.
    Thanks for making me feel old.

    No love for Bug Hunters and good old Big Red, though?
    Or am I REALLY going back too far there?

  • Perhaps, although I had forgotten about Sadie until re-reading the issue at the top of the article, so it could be my memory too.

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