<< Portico: CGM Summer Issue

6/03/2006

CGM Summer Issue

Computer Games Magazine has a combined July/August issue this year, which makes sense since they are trying to launch their MMO mag. One less CGM issue to produce probably means more time for the new publication.

Lots of great strategy stuff in this issue, including a delicious preview of Medieval 2: Total War by Kelly Wand and a preview of the three upcoming Roman city-builders, co-written by Alex Handy and Cindy Yans. My interview with Firaxis' Jesse Smith is there, too. The wargame Birth of America gets a big thumbs up from Bruce Geryk.

Two reviews from me this month. I gave Take Command 2: Second Manassas a strong endorsement; Mad Minute Games should start getting some serious money behind them, because I think they could do some great things if they had things like a staff.

The other review is of the non-violent edutainment title A Force More Powerful. I have some issues with the game, but this is my favorite review of the year so far. AFMP is a game with ideas, and I'll write more about it later. The review was hard to write since the game fails in its primary mission, but succeeds in ways I wasn't quite expecting. Not a great game, but an interesting one.

Be sure to check out Steve Bauman's opening editorial, wherein he writes that New Media sucks. Well, that's an oversimplification. But he makes some very good points about how New Media isn't all that new, and is held to different ethical standards than the print media.

7 Comments:

Anonymous rea said...

Nice plug for Wesnoth as well.

Take Command series seems pretty interesting. Especially since you have only limited control of what happens in the battle. I've always enjoyed some fog of war games where generals could have the possibility of ignoring orders or not following them through.

Honestly, I'd be more interested in a Shiloh/Gettysburg/Antietam version of Take Command. More interesting battles.

I've enjoyed some of the Tiller Civil War games. But I guess those are different being a more pure wargame more like a boardgame.

Always wondered about the lack of great CW games. It's one of the most popular periods in American history. Hack CW books sell a ton. I'm surprised there haven't been more successful games based on the CW. Maybe b/c it's only 2 sides and therefore more constrained.

6/06/2006 11:19:00 AM  
Blogger Troy Goodfellow said...

Wesnoth is very good, and a better looking version has come out since that Alt.Games segment was written.

Re Take Command, they recycled the Bull Run battlefield instead of doing a larger, better battle partly to ride the momentum from the first game. Mad Minute is only two guys with real jobs, so they stuck with the same terrain. Now that the sequel is getting good reviews, hopefully they will have the time and money to work full time on their games.

There are still Civil War wargames, as you note, but as a mainstream theme it has gone the way of the wargame itself. Sid Meier's Gettysburg is probably my favorite pre-Civ4 Firaxis game, and I remember the cartoon violence of North and South. But most ACW games were wargames like the old Battleground series.

The latest Cossacks game, American Conquest: Divided Nation, has a civil war theme, but I'd check the reviews first if I were you.

6/06/2006 04:43:00 PM  
Blogger Thomas said...

Kind of a stretch to say that he made a lot of good points, I think. It doesn't help that the Kotaku article he's referencing seems to actually be about Gamespot--not exactly the face of the parasitic blog community.

The argument that blogs can't produce anything rings a little hollow after the E3 glut of information coming out of various bloggers writing from LA. Bauman may comment on how blogs are just editorials, but you'd be hard pressed to find a single page in CGM --or any other trade publication--that wouldn't fit the same category.

Fear of the "New Media" is at least worth pondering when it comes from a place like the Washington Post. CGM doesn't have the credibility to demand deep, meaningful content of anyone.

6/06/2006 10:32:00 PM  
Blogger Troy Goodfellow said...

Steve isn't saying that the New Media is just the blog community. It clearly isn't. Gamespot may be established, but its still New Media.

(Not that Kotaku is necessarily a good barometer of journalist ethics either, given their penchant to post any rumor.)

His counterpoint holds though. The Gamespot rotation thing was barely a story in most places that care about this sort of thing; look at the Kotaku comments on that story. A large percentage of people thought it was no big deal. Conversely, EGM editor Hsu's editorial on competitors "selling" covers must have set some sort of "I told you so" record on forums, blogs and internet chatter. Then were those who criticized his ethics for not naming names.

Is a lot of CGM editorial? Hell yeah. It probably has more columns and opinion pieces than any other gaming mag. Steve's not saying that's a bad thing, only that it's not a new thing. His argument in that paragraph is that the New Media isn't all *that* new in terms of content or style; it's only delivery that sets it apart.

Steve isn't dismissive of the New Media. Read his final paragraph. If gaming new media wants to be useful, it has to avoid cultivating the same cynicism in its readers that much of the old media has. And that means that it has to take itself seriously as a media. Fact-checking. Advertising conflicts of interest. Making ownership clear. (Like Kyle Orland has just done with VGMWatch since he began to realize that there could be more perceived conflicts in the future.)

As for deep, meaningful content, I see no reference to that anywhere in the editorial. Are you projecting? ;) This is an enthusiast press magazine. Good, insightful commentary that readers can rely on but he's not expecting his writers to settle the debates of the ages.

I'm curious as to why you think CGM has no standing to speak on ethics. I would think that until proven unethical, it's something all writers have standing to write about.

I love the Washington Post, but in lieu of that I'll accept Bauman's pencil crossing out my lines any day.

6/07/2006 07:43:00 PM  
Blogger Thomas said...

You'll have to forgive me, as I'm quoting from memory, but I believe Bauman makes a comment to the extent of how he would love to read a blog (assuming one existed) that delivered thoughtful, well-reasoned commentary. It's in the second column, a couple paragraphs down, if I remember correctly.

Yes, if only there were someone discussing, say, politics and games. Or ethics. Or if there were a "round table" (to pick a random term) where people could virtually gather to discuss an aspect of gaming. I know it's probably a relatively small number of people out there who aren't either Tim Rogers excess or drooling American preteens, but it can't be that hard to find.

I understand that he's trying to make the point that online media is not radically different (it's a little counterproductive to say it's the same old stuff and then call it the "New Media," isn't it?), but I don't understand why that's supposed to be a news flash for anyone. And indicting an entire Internet of content for being blase toward corruption just because Kotaku (not the most reliable source or set of commenters in the first place) didn't get enough reasoned responses on the post is kind of a low blow.

I think it's got no standing on ethics for two reasons. First, I still (perhaps irrationally) hold a grudge against the magazine after Steve's mis-defense of Gallant, as well as when claimed in an e-mail that the magazine itself was for a mature audience, but later backpedaled furiously away from taking stands on issues like sexualized advertising. Second, you know my stance on almost everything being written about gaming: it's marketing nonsense dressed up as pseudo-journalism.

If Gamasutra, for example, were to come out with a thoughtful statement about the differences between blogging and print rags, I'd probably be less knee-jerk in reaction. But frankly, between my history with him and what I see as a condescending, self-important tone, I saw red after reading that editorial.

6/08/2006 10:09:00 AM  
Blogger Troy Goodfellow said...

I think you are misreading that paragraph as a general slam on blogs - that he thinks they don't provide this. I take as an assertion that he likes reading that, but that it is too rare - as we well know. (Since he reads this one from time to time, maybe I'm just hoping that he doesn't think I suck. But if he does, fine. Lots of people do.)

He also reads VGMWatch regularly, and comments regularly. Not a lot of other editors doing that, making themselves publicy accountable for things they say out of the corporate bubble on a site that aims to expose his colleagues' errors. Maybe this is Steve's "arrogance". I see it as him acknowledging the issue and stepping up.

And he's using the New Media/Old Media labels that others use, they hardly originate with Steve. Most of his essay argues that the distinction is false and should be falser.

I forget most of that Gallant/blogosphere nonsense, but mostly I think bloggers took his comments *way* too seriously. Gallant can push a joke too far, but he's a genuinely insightful and interesting guy who doesn't take gaming news as a life or death thing. (He's blogging now, btw.)

Steve's basic point on advertising, IIRC, was that he has little control over it, as he should. We want a firewall between editorial content and advertising, don't we? But it's not like CGM's ads are any worse than any others in a mainstream entertainment magazine. That may be a lame justification, but it's a targeted audience; I don't see Coke lining up to buy ad space so editors are a little constrained by what PR decides.

If you want to go after CGM as an ethical voice, though, you need more than "they run sexy ads" or "He defended a guy I hate." You're too smart for that, especially since the last complaint is an ad hominem. Steve can sometimes take a strident tone, sure. But you're no shrinking violet, Thomas. ;)

If you want to go after CGM on ethics, at least ask why they still run ads for IGE when the competition doesn't. Or ask how they can possibly keep making a great read with a skeleton permanent staff without signing some sort of Faustian bargain.

6/08/2006 10:50:00 AM  
Blogger Thomas said...

Cheers to most of what you've written. We, as usual, can amicably agree to disagree--and Cthulhu knows, it's not like I've ever overreacted to anything. But on Gallant--sorry, no. He's shown up a couple times on Mile Zero, never reads anything before he comments, and ended up being one of only three people that I've deleted for being an abusive, disruptive presence. I know PeterB is likewise not the most tactful person on the planet, but the way Gallant treated his review by posting it anonymously for ridicule on Quarter to Three, then link to it in comments as a bragging point--that was disgusting, and I was surprised to see Peter handle it as gracefully as he did. The fact that he's blogging now, I have not enough snark in the world to counter.

6/08/2006 11:03:00 AM  

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