Monday, February 07, 2005

CGW: Off the Rails

Over the last few months, I've said many complimentary things about Computer Gaming World magazine. I said I thought it was the best-written, best edited, best layed-out computer gaming publication. I also implied that it was the most intelligent.

I'd like to take all that back now.

Before I do, I'd like to say that I still think Jeff Green is hilarious and also a terrific editor. And Robert Coffey is a very funny writer. And they have some very talented people working on the magazine.

None of which explains why their Game of the Year Awards article was so bad that I actually burst out laughing several times while reading it. This article was so bad it made Gamepro look like The Washington Post. During the Nixon years.

To start off, they basically invent a category called "Arcade Classic" in order to give Sid Meier's Pirates! an award. The other nominee was Zuma Deluxe. Baffled? Me, too.

The War Game of the Year went to Battles in Normandy--unopposed. There were NO other war games in 2004 even worthy of a nomination?

I have no idea who the RPG nominees were (besides the winner, Vampire), because they duplicated the Adventure nominees by mistake.

"Best Use of a Game Engine?" Silent Storm, because it "...calculates every detail--every broken window and bullet casing--and lets you see it all onscreen." What they should have added was "...two minutes after you end the turn." Yeah, it's cool to calculate all that crap, but not if I have time to shave between turns--with a blade.

It goes on and on. I've just scratched the surface, but you get the picture. And you think I'm just being pissy. Fair enough. Keep reading.

Then they get to Single-Player Shooter of the Year. Painkiller. Sorry, Half-Life 2. Listen, Painkiller was a nice game. It was pretty, absolutely no thinking whatsoever was required, and things blew up in ways that made seventh graders shiver with delight. But there is no known universe and no coherent method of evaluation that can make Painkiller a better game than Half-Life 2. It's ridiculous.

Half-Life 2 did win one award, which made me burst out laughing again. By far, the weakest element of the game was the music, and I wrote about in some detail. So of course, Half-Life 2 wins the award for--Best Music!

In another strange twist, Half-Life 2 was nominated for Game of the Year (World of Warcraft won), while Painkiller wasn't, but Painkiller is still the best in its category--which included Half-Life 2.

Even funnier is the Staff page where everyone lists their top-five games of the year. Eight people, mind you, and Half-Life 2 isn't mentioned ONCE.

Here's a little exercise. The chances of someone who's played Half-Life 2 thinking it's one of the top five games of the year is, conservatively, around 80%. That's probably well below the real number, but let's go with that. So four out of five people would put Half-Life 2 on their top five list. So what are the chances that a random group of eight people wouldn't mention Half-Life 2 once?

15,625 to 1.

Clearly something is going on here. And it's probably Steam. And they do give Steam the "Coaster of the Year" award, which is fine, because Valve has done some extremely jerky things with Steam, some of which appear to be of questionable legality. Blast the delivery method all you want, but the delivery method is not the game.

So why do I care? I'd like to think that there were some publications that I could depend on, and CGW has been my favorite gaming magazine from the day Jeff Green took over as editor. He took a magazine with no style or consistency whatsoever and turned it into an excellent publication. But I don't see how I can take a group of people seriously if they are so insular that they can collectively delude themselves.

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