I have huffed too much Edge this past week.
Not the recent and quite readable new Edge, old Edge. Early Edge.
I’d set out originally to find some lovely choice quotes from developers or interesting snippets of old news to talk about. Instead, around fifteen issues in I kinda felt like another issue would probably break me.
Edge’s sometimes wrongness is quite legendary. It is, genuinely, funny to read the early issues where there’s barely a page without a mention of the 3DO whilst the responses on the letters pages are “eh, no, we don’t talk about the 3DO like that. Come on!”
And then there’s the notorious “If only…” Doom review where the reviewer (there are no bylines in Edge) asks us to contemplate a game of Doom where you could talk to the monsters or form allegiances instead of the one we got. Which is certainly A Thing That Someone Put To Page and all that.
If only its wrongness stopped there.
It’s hard, post 2014, for me to give a generous reading to the bulk of Edge’s early content. In its early years Edge was a magazine that on one hand advocated for the future of games and games machines and on the other, sought to aggressively narrow down what could be permitted as games.
It was every bit the awful gatekeeping that not only still lingers today but we see the end result of touching so many of us.
I tend to go through phases where I reread old magazines and I think this is the only time I’ve ever thought “you know. let’s just put them away again and eurgh, curse them or something so no-one else should suffer”.
It’s all so silly, so inane. Barely an issue goes by without Edge maintaining that in the face of CD-ROM, games are under threat from non games. I’m not inferring this from their words, it is fairly explicitly stated on multiple occasions. I finally met my match in an exhausting and exhaustive write up on the ingredients of gameplay. An over long dictation of terms. This is what videogames are. Remember this.
Even though I spent a day tweeting it into the void, I’ve forgotten most of it. It’s stuff I’d read a thousand times before and went on to read a thousand times more. It is the argument that videogames are cause and effect, they contain violence, the player must be treated as a godlike figure, empowered and flattered at every turn. It was boring in 1994, it is boring now.
Videogames are in a state of constant flux but the hardware and software leaps in the early to mid nineties were incredible things and a good number of videogames from that time gave us templates we still adhere to now. It is an exciting and glorious time where who knows what’s next but look at the speed everything is changing.
Even then I found good reason to celebrate this. Edge, sadly, were more interested in telling people no, you can’t do this thing because… look, you just can’t. There’s a part of me that smiles when one article declares multimedia is dead because it’s just not fun enough.
And you know, there’s a part of me that thinks a lot of the content of early Edge should be taught at school in media studies or just in general. There’s a straight line that runs from so many of these ideas and editorials there to where the bad things are now. And like now, so many early issues of Edge are filled with the most amazing bollocks about making games. It’s a magazine that can explain a video compression technique over multiple pages in one issue but also fail to write how game development works in any sane manner.
My memories of Edge before rereading a year or two of its early nonsense was, I fear, overly generous. I had it pinned down as a big load of silly. I think it was a silly magazine. More than that though it worked really hard at driving a bigger wedge between the people who make the work and the people who buy the work for no discernible good reason.
I would say that history has been unkind to a lot of games writing, such is what happens with an enthusiast press. Edge though? I’m struggling to figure out how anyone took it seriously. It’s inane at best, wrong somewhere in the middle and had it been even ten or so years later still doing the same stuff as here, it would be dangerous
Sadly, I found myself walking away from it all with only a couple of nice quotes to talk about. The rest felt like it was dragging me under with it. So I stopped, walked away.
Because the thing is, for most of the stuff I found myself rereading, I can get that very same conversation in forums and comments sections a million times over. Today. Without feeling like the past let us down.
Even though, you know, it often has.