Computer Gaming World (usually abbreviated to CGW) is a monthly magazine devoted entirely to coverage of PC games. Publishing uninterrupted since 1981, it is the oldest game magazine in the world that is still in production.
It was founded by Russell Sipe in 1981 in response to a lack of game coverage in the computer magazines of the day. “In early 1981 I had some questions about perceived problems in computer history-based simulations,” he said in a 2005 CGW interview. “I looked around to see if I could find reviews of these games. Of course, there were none. It occurred to me that no one was paying attention to computer games in the press, including the computer press. It was obvious to me that computer games were going to be big one day. So I said to myself, ‘Someone should start a computer game magazine.’ The rest, as they say, is history.”
The magazine launched almost simultaneously with Electronic Games, but unlike EG and many of its imitators, it kept a very low profile, keeping page counts small and limiting circulation to several thousand copies. Despite (or, perhaps, because of) this underground approach to publishing, Sipe attracted a large pool of talented regular contributors, including Charles Ardai, M. Evan Brooks, future editor-in-chief Johnny Wilson, and Scorpia, the first noted female writer in game magazines and the main source of CGW’s RPG and adventure-game coverage for nearly 16 years. CGW was the only game-exclusive magazine to survive the Atari shock of 1984, which Sipe later wrote was mainly due to CGW’s extremely low-key approach.
CGW did not seriously try to grow until 1986, when it expanded to nine issues a year. The following year it launched Computer Game Forum, a subscriber-only seasonal magazine concentrating on strategy. It ended after two issues, and CGW became a full-fledged monthly soon after, with most of CGF’s regular features (including the “Rumor Guy” news column) crossing over to the old magazine.
Sipe’s magazine expansion program continued through the early 1990s, culminating in the sale of his company to Ziff Davis in 1993. Many readers were concerned about this sale, but it was arguably a necessity — by 1993, CGW’s coverage was still chiefly targeted at fans of hardcore RPGs, wargames and flight simulators, at a time when the PC marketplace was rapidly becoming younger and action-oriented. The magazine went through an evolution phase for much of the mid-1990s, but by the end of the decade was the largest PC magazine in the US.
In the March 2006 issue CGW editor Jeff Green announced that the magazine was doing away with its five-star rating system, instead opting for more text-heavy, in-depth reviews. PC game ratings will continue to appear on Ziff Davis’ website 1UP.
Today it remains Ziff Davis Media’s flagship game publication alongside Electronic Gaming Monthly, although its readership has been one-upped by rival PC Gamer. Its ABC-audited circulation for the six-month period ending December 2004 was 226,393.