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Once Upon A Beginning...



To kick-start this new column of features we thought it would be best to go back to where it all started. Everything has a beginning and videogaming magazines are no different. No matter where you are from, you will bound to have read, or at least heard of, Computer & Video Games magazine or its many aliases (C+VG, C&VG, CVG...). C+VG was launched in the middle of October 1981 (cover dated November 1981) by publishing company EMAP and is generally considered among videogaming magazine historians as the world's very first magazine - by a mere couple of weeks, granted - to be totally dedicated to videogaming.

CVG issue 1

If you are a slightly younger reader who grew up in the colourful and glossy magazine era of the 1990s, then looking back to C+VG issue 1 - or any other magazine around the same era - will come as a bit of a culture shock. For 75p, or £2.73 by today’s valuation, the reader was enthralled by 100 pages of computer and videogaming, most of which were in black and white. Content included the likes of 'Practical Programming', 'Down to Basic' and then there was the dreaded type-in listings (28 pages of the blighters) that many an eager gamer spent hours typing into their computer in the vain hope of actually playing a game at the end of all the effort.

Also of note were the reviews, which were not really reviews as we came to know further down the years, but thinly disguised advertisements for the games with no critical comments whatsoever. There were no ratings, no comments on how well the game actually played and no screenshots, just a description of the game with some background information. As editor Terry Pratt noted in his inaugural editorial page, a computer's "only limitation is the programmer's imagination — COMPUTER & VIDEO GAMES is out to push your imagination to its limits," and, indeed, we really needed to use our imaginations in the days of screenshot-less, non-critical review articles.

The reviews were split into three sections: 'Computer Software', 'Video Screens' and 'Arcade Action'. Computer formats covered included the VIC-20, Acorn Atom, Sinclair ZX-81, Sharp MZ-80k, Apple II and TRS-80 computers, while 'Video Screens' featured Philips G7000, Atari 2600 and Mattel Intellivision consoles, and 'Acrade Action' contained the, well, arcade action. The influence of games such as Space Invaders, Asteroids and Galaxian was evident with the style of games invading all formats. There was Alien Rain on the Apple II, Space Monster on the Philips G7000, Space Battle on the Database and Asteroids on the Atari 2600. In total, there were 16 games reviewed in total and though this may sound like a lot, they were actually allotted as little as a quarter of a page in some instances, amounting to seven pages of games reviews in total. Understandable, of course, with the lack of any screenshots and such.

ZX81 ad
ZX 81 advert

You may have thought that with being a launch issue C+VG would have very little in the way of advertisements, especially as the game reviews could be considered an advertisement themselves, but you would be wrong. Spread over the 100 pages were 23 pages of adverts for companies and 10 pages for games. This meant that the prominent sections of C+VG weren't actually the games news and reviews, taking up 3% and 7% of the issue respectively, but the Type-Ins (28%) and adverts (38%). Of note amongst the adverts was the two page spread for Sinclair’s ZX81, which included specs for kit (£49.95 - £168 in today’s money) and build (£69.95 - £236 today) versions. This basically meant for the saving of £20 you could get the kit edition and build it yourself. Considering the prices of other computers on display (around £350-£650 or £1183-£2197 today), either ZX81 edition was an absolute bargain. Other single page ads were present for the Sharp MZ-80K, VIC 20, and the Acorn Atom.

If you weren’t interested in type-ins or programming, the early years of C+VG would have been a bit overwelming. However, there was some relieve amongst the mass of type-ins and adverts. Keith Campbell's 'Adventure' column was amusingly well written, and I don't even like adventures - well, the text adventures that were around in those days. Keith would continue to write the  Adventure column for the next eight years, testament to its enduring popularity and appeal to readers. There was 'Arcade Action', which had lasted the test of time very well indeed, until the arcades themselves faded from videogaming history. And 'Kit Korner' proved invaluable if you wanted to get hands on with your computer hardware assembly and soldering components!

Arcade Action
Arcade Action

C+VG evolved through the years and decades with the format changing along the way. Games reviews were eventually included with critical comments on the game’s merits, as well as  screenshots in favour of an artist’s illustrations. Mean Machines was mothered within the pages of C+VG before breaking off into its own separate magazine, which split into two separate entities itself. Famous staff came and went (Eugene Lacey, Julian Rignall, Paul Glancey, Richard Leadbetter and Paul Davies), the magazine's readership dipped up and down, finally dwindling away during the late 1990s due to a staff purging and re-design by the publishers in charge and later  sold off. This was all before the big sad finale in 2004 when the magazine was purchased by a rival publisher as part of a deal and subsequently killed off.

Just like the videogaming scene, there are readers who prefer certain eras of the magazine's history to others. Certainly, we have a lot to thank C+VG for innovations that they introduced from the off or further down the line. C+VG, thank you for the innovations and the legacy you left behind. We'll all meet again in Valhalla.


Notes:
• Scans courtesy of Mort at The Def Tribute to Zzap!64.
• Full index of CVG issue 1 can be found at Magazines From the Past.
• Text reviews and features from CVG issue 1 can be found at Reviews From the Past.
This is an Out-of-Print Archive feature presented by Nreive.


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