12 June 2013

Remembering CVG 101 and Classic Gamer Magazine

I no longer remember precisely how I got started writing for Classic Gamer Magazine. I seem to be missing my first e-mails on it and, unfortunately, I'm finding Google Groups completely unhelpful at the moment. But I believe the sequence of events was probably something like this. Chris "Cav" Cavanaugh published the first issue as a fanzine in 1998. It was a success, so he decided to relaunch it as a for-profit venture and put out the call for writers on Usenet. I'd quit my on-the-side job at Suite 101 a year before and was closing on my son's first birthday, so was beginning to feel like I had a handle on my new life with child. Also CGM was planning a bi-monthly schedule, giving me twice as long to write as I'd had on Suite 101's monthly schedule. Therefore, I volunteered.

I was relieved at the warm welcome Cav gave me. Reviewing the earliest e-mail I have from him, it looks like I probably referenced Suite 101 and he was not only familiar with my articles for them, but said he enjoyed them a lot. I quickly proposed a column called CVG 101 (for "classic video games") as a continuation of what I'd done at Suite 101 and he agreed. He introduced me to my fellow writers a few weeks later.
Our second item up for bid is: Lee Seitz.  Lee also knows his stuff.  He runs a great website at http://home.hiwaay.net/~lkseitz/cvg/nexus/ or better known as the "Classic Videogame Nexus" [sic].  His website is a great resource for information and I'm very thankful for having him along for the ride.
In addition to my column, I also worked with Cav on a classic video game newswire. My memories of this are fuzzy at best. I think we probably just agreed to make each other aware of news stories for our respective sites. I know I was running news on the Classic Video Games Nexus.

Looking through my old e-mails, it appears I gave feedback to all of Cav's e-mails about the progress on the latest issue or the magazine in general. I didn't mind giving my opinions, but tried to do it nicely and with the full understanding that I wasn't the one in charge. Which is good, because some of my suggestions were not the way the magazine went.

In addition to my CVG 101 column, I also conducted a couple interviews. They were both things I proposed to Cav and he thought were, indeed, good ideas. The (Buckner and) Garcia interview in #2 was the only time I got an article mentioned on the cover because you want news on the cover, not a recurring feature for newbies. Sadly, I never followed through on my proposed interview with former Atari programmer Dennis Harper. I still kick myself about that.

Things went okay. I say okay not because of any bad experiences -- Cav was incredibly nice and understanding -- but because I had a bad tendency to run up against and sometimes a bit past the deadlines. This was entirely my own fault. But when I did miss a deadline, I was typically given a bit of extra time because my work generally required little editing. I think part of the reason he was so understanding is that Cav had a tendency to blow his own deadlines, which is understandable since creating an entire magazine was, as best I know, an entirely new thing to him.

For #3, I wound up lifting a great deal of text from an article I'd written for Suite 101, with Cav's permission. I took the article I wrote on Sears labels and reworked it as an article on cartridge label variations with special emphasis on Sears labels.

I finally got to meet Cav at Classic Gaming Expo 2000. I also met his significant other (and later, wife) Sarah Thomas. It was a pleasure hanging out with both of them. It was also nice to hear Sarah, who was the one primarily responsible for editing all the submissions, say to me the same thing Cav had about my articles needing little in the way of editing.

Chris Cavanaugh and Sarah Thomas
I should point out that the magazine turned out not to be bi-monthly, but quarterly. After #4 was finished, Cav struck a deal with Tower Records to distribute the magazine on their newsstands! Unfortunately for me, there were no Tower Records stores in Alabama, so I didn't get the thrill of seeing a magazine with something I'd written on the racks. I suspect each store only got a handful of issues, as the one time I did find a Tower Records on a trip to Nashville, CGM was nowhere to be found.

I really blew things on my article for #6. That was when, because I hadn't finished reading a previous issue, I wrote an article very similar to one Leonard Herman had written for #4. Oops! Luckily, Cav gave me time to write another article instead. I've included that never-before-published article here, just for completeness.

I submitted an article for the seventh issue of CGM, but before the issue was published, Cav had to fold the magazine. Despite a major investment at the beginning, the magazine had continued to lose money due to lack of advertisers, so he had no choice. He later tried reviving it as a free, PDF-only publication, but only got two issues out before folding again. My article intended for #7 was included in Volume 2, #1 in 2004. But by then I had two kids and little spare time, so I was unable to contribute any more articles.

Cav has kept the Classic Gamer Magazine name around. He published a single issue of Volume 3, again as a free PDF, in 2010. He also still owns the www.classicgamer.com domain, although as I write this he's been having problems with his host and the site is down. However, he also runs an active Facebook page for it. And you can find a complete PDF archive of CGM at Digital Press. But for my own ego trip, here the articles I wrote for the magazine, which I'm proud to have been a part of.