Culture, Gaming

Moments We Remember: Daryl Baxter on Tomb Raider II

Chronicling stories of how gaming has changed us – one moment at a timeTomb Raider II (PC), Venice, Bartoli, 016 (900x506_Title: Tomb Raider II (Eidos, 1997)
Format: PC, PS1
Spoilers: mild, gameplay-related

Daryl Baxter looks back on one of the defining video game series of the 1990s: Tomb Raider. The second game in this world-conquering, British-designed game series was renowned for gymnastics, pistol posing and giving that nosey butler a right bruising. It was, and perhaps still is, Ms Croft’s best-loved adventure.


Magazine Celebrations and Endings

Circulation figures may be dropping, yet collectable magazine covers have probably never been more prominent. Last year, Future put out specials for Total Film, SFX and a whooping 200 covers for Edge #200. Following in the same paper pressings as their Bath-based competitor, Imagine Publishing have released 100 different covers of Games™ (reflecting the titles in its Greatest Games of All Time feature) to mark the release of the magazine’s one hundredth issue. Space Invaders, Beyond Good & Evil and Oblivion are among the inclusions – I picked up the Portal cover.

I’ve never been a regular reader of Games™. I find their design less appealing than Edge’s innovative page spreads and their cover features, often on popular games that have been covered a month earlier by single-format magazines, offer little in the way of a unique angle. It’s easily Edge’s closest competitor, and for those regular readers that buy the magazine for its writers and content, I’m sure they get their money’s worth. I do, however, admire their retro section (with contributions from the Retro Gamer writers), concept art spreads and commitment to providing mature and intelligent games coverage.

Their one hundredth issue is a celebratory parade of their 100 greatest games, interviews with Peter Molyneux, Clint Hocking, David Cage and others, and a look back at the years since Games™ arrived in newsagents. Nowadays, advertisers like to get in on the celebrations too, with adverts congratulating the magazine team. From trademark characters adorning a product-less show of support from Sega, to Deep Silver’s opportunistic marketing for their upcoming off-road motocross game (“Congratulations! Games™ You nail’d it”), magazine milestones have changed at lot since the nineties. And for all my niggles, I consider Games™ an important enough piece of gaming history to own the first 10 issues, so well done to Rick Porter and the team for marking issue #100 with style.

Now, from a gaming tome to a true piece of magazine history. The final issue of PC Zone was released on September 2, the last send off for 17 years of irreverent, community-focused PC coverage. The magazine began under Dennis Publishing in 1993, and Paul Lakin was launch editor. Future Publishing acquired the magazine in 2004 – just one of many they’ve picked up from Dennis and Highbury, like CVG and PSW, only to close them in the wake of falling readerships. PC Zone was seen as the poor cousin to the clean, professional feel of PC Gamer (Future’s main PC gaming magazine which launched the same year). Since turning from the path of PC gaming (sorry, Dungeon Keeper), PC Zone and other gaming-only PC magazines have been on the periphery of my radar. But the cheeky, frequently controversial, approach to PC culture that PC Zone delivered to its many loyal readers set it apart from the samey PC mags covering and graphic cards.

In its time, PC Zone has had contributions from a phonebook page’s worth of contributors, like Jon Blyth, Rihanna Pratchett, Alec Meer, Ali Wood, and, geek-turned-high-flying-cultural-commentator, Charlie Brooker. Their politically incorrect whimsy remained right through to the final issue, making PC Zone a snapshot of game magazines long gone. It feed its readers joystick innuendo, pixelated babes and plenty of colourful language to wash it all down. Informative, but with the crude naughtiness of FHM, PC Zone was the alternative magazine that spoke to its readers in much the same way as a best mate would at the pub. May they laugh all the way to magazine heaven.

Image: PC Zone #225, RaNDOM


PC Gaming Itch

During my brief pauses (*wink, wink*) in between gathering my thoughts for this first essay, my mind has begun to drift back to my PC gaming days of old. Not counting the Sega Mega Drive (which was at my cousins), the PC was the first gaming machine I had access to, and it was in my own home! I can’t even count how many hours I must have spent playing Command & Conquer, Age of Empires, Star Wars: Rogue Squadron 3D, Star Wars: Episode I Racer, Heroes of Might & Magic and many more.

And speaking of Star Wars, LucasArts had a lot of great PC games back in the 90s. Grim Fandango and Sam & Max are two such titles that have been lying dominant in the dusty extremities of my mind. What’s more I don’t actually remember too much of these titles’ storylines. Grim Fandango, I use to watch a friend of mine play, and Sam & Max I remember from the TV series.

I’d like nothing more than to pick both of these games up for a few quid and indulging in a bit of old school point-and-click detective work. Unfortunately with these titles being made so long ago the volatile OS that is Windows Vista may have other ideas. With the recession in full swing I don’t think now is anytime to be spending money on luxuries that may or may not work. Oh well. I’ll just peek out suspiciously from the Venetian blinds in my room, hoping that big case will come along – heaven knows it’d be better than doing this essay. Blimey!