In November 1993, the first issue of PC Gamer was released with a promise: "This is the future of PC games!" The timing was just right. The issue featured a host of future classics: Theme Park, Sam and Max, Sim City 2000. And, just a month after that issue landed, Doom arrived and transformed everybody's perception of what could be done with a plain beige box and a CRT monitor. PC gaming was the future, and we've been writing about it ever since. We've covered every major milestone, from Half-Life to Baldur's Gate 3; from the Voodoo 2 to the RTX 4090.
30 years later, that future is as vibrant and full of promise as it's ever been—no doubt far beyond the expectations of editor Matt Bielby and the original PC Gamer team. Almost every major publisher has a home on PC, as does the endless creativity of small teams and independent developers. PC Gamer has grown too, from a small handful of people launching a magazine in the sleepy town of Bath, to a global team working out of the US, UK and Australia to provide around-the-clock coverage of the most fascinating games, communities and creators around. (A few of us are still in that sleepy town of Bath).
This week, for our 30th birthday, we're marking the occasion with a series of articles celebrating the last 30 years of PC gaming, and our time spent covering it. None of this would have been possible without the many writers, editors and contributors that have lent their expertise to PC Gamer, or without you, our readers, and the passion you bring to the hobby.
Check back throughout the week to enjoy the festivities. Thanks, and enjoy!
Free software made PC gaming what it is today
Before there were demos, there was shareware, and in the process of figuring out how to make a lot of money by giving games away for free, early developers helped shape the history of PC gaming. Jeremy Peel takes us on a trip back to an almost unrecognisable version of the business of games we know today.
1993 - 2023: 30 Years of PC gaming
🔫 The most important games and moments in 30 years of PC gaming, part 1: 1993-2003
Rick Lane explores some of the major moments across the last 30 years of PC gaming. In part one, we run through the '90s and early 2000s, from Doom to the controversial release of Valve's new distribution service, Steam.
Rick's tour through PC gaming history takes us into the 2000s and the impact of some massive games: Half-Life 2, World of Warcraft, Minecraft, and Skyrim. But the feature also touches on some smaller bits of 2000s PC gaming that nonetheless made a real mark, including Recettear: an Item Shop's Tale and the first alpha of Slaves to Armok: God of Blood Chapter II: Dwarf Fortress.
The last third of our retrospective brings us into the modern age of PC gaming, with a little help from Geralt of Rivia. In the past decade we've seen new genres boom with phenomenons like PUBG, Valve dip its toes into hardware with VR and the Steam Deck, and RPGs have an absolutely phenomenal decade between The Witcher 3, Disco Elysium and Baldur's Gate 3.
The weird and wonderful history of the website
With the help of the Internet Archive and his own hazy memories, Tyler Wilde travels through the decades of PC Gamer's life as a website. From glorious '90s web designs, to forum launches, to Face Offs, to a whole section of the site called "Fun Stuff", no stone is left unturned as we explore our own online history.
The many things PC Gamer's outlasted
Chris Livingston goes hunting for technologies, trends and Touchdown Toms that have come and gone between 1993 and 2023 during PC Gamer's life. The challenge, it turned out, was finding stuff that stayed dead: "Did you know RealPlayer was still around? So are 'The Rachel' haircut, flip phones, and Tamagotchi," he writes. "There are even new Furbys coming out this year, believe it or not. Heck, the TV show Frasier started airing in 1993, the same year PC Gamer was founded, and while it ended in 2004, it's back again this year."
Revisiting PC Gamer's worst-reviewed games ever
Joshua Wolens delves into the darkest corners of PC Gamer's archives, desperate to redeem some of the most terrible PC games in history. Does he find anything to appreciate, or are lines like "It kind of sucks? I mean that in a positive way" and "The minigames are irredeemable, but the bits where I get to go and learn about these ghosts who once haunted my parents' televisions? Absolutely priceless." signs that he's been driven mad? You be the judge.
PC Gamer's most popular articles of all time
Enjoy a rare peek behind the curtain as Wes Fenlon looks back on some of the most successful stories in the website's history. From the real definition of wi-fi, to doing WASD wrong, to the sense of regret in Life is Strange, it might surprise you what draws a lot of eyes around here. And it's as good an excuse as any to revisit some great old articles.
All the times we failed to predict the future
Diving back through 30 years of magazines, Robin Valentine's dug up our storied history of being totally wrong about the future. From MMOs we declared would kill World of Warcraft, to thinking Baldur's Gate 3 would be developed by CD Projekt and come out in 2012, we're not too big to admit we haven't always been the greatest of futurists...
The death of PC gaming: Greatly exaggerated
Matt Elliott reminds us that PC gaming has supposedly been doomed for the past 30 years, yet somehow has soldiered on, growing better and more popular decade after decade. Like most things in life, this phenomenon can be explained by a Warhammer analogy: "If enough Orks believe something is true, with enough fervour, it will become true. There's a theory that the God-Emperor of Mankind should be long dead, and it's only the collective terror of the Orks, for whom he represents something of a boogeyman figure, that keeps him alive."