EDGE® is a monthly video games magazine published in the UK by Future Publishing under the Future Network label. The cover price is £4.00. EDGE very rarely carries a cover-mounted gift. The magazine's tagline is "the future of electronic entertainment", and its remit is to report on current developments in the field of video games. The magazine places a very strong emphasis on the most commercially successful home console formats, with PC, arcade, handheld and other forms being relegated to only occasional scrutiny. It is refered to by some in industry circles as 'The Edge' (which may be a reference to the U2 guitarist or the Pizza Hut pizza, or possibly in imitation of 'The NME').

EDGE came into being in 1993, during the 'multimedia boom' when the first wave of home entertainment devices built around the CD-ROM format were emerging. These formats, manufactured by consumer electronics giants (such as Philips and Panasonic) with software heavily invested in by the movie studios, were intended to supercede the 16-bit home computers and consoles that dominated the video games sector at the time. What actually happened was that these machines were an expensive flop, and it fell to the traditional video games companies (along with Sony, who had cannily waited and learned about the industry from an aborted partnership with Nintendo) to establish the 'next generation' of 32-bit games machines in the following years. But these events were still yet to unfold. Unfurl. Whatever.

This was the buzzword-heavy, optimistic climate in which a group of writers at Future Publishing developed the concept of EDGE: A videogames magazine intended to be a maturely written document of the most exciting and thought-provoking developments in the field each month. Many (but by no means all) of the traditional components of a games magazine were dispensed with, although it still carries previews and reviews (scored out of ten). The layout was also far removed from the gaudy and cluttered norm, recasting the games magazine as a glossy, matte-finished tablet that wouldn't look out of place on a (glass-topped) coffee table laden with Bang & Olufsen brochures. Most of the editorial content in EDGE (with the exception of regular columns) is uncredited. Statements where the writer would normally use the first person are attributed to 'EDGE' as a collective (e.g. "In Edge's opinion...").

While EDGE is unquestionably different from any games magazine that preceded it, this effort to differentiate itself has introduced some negative elements. The magazine's writing style is for the most part humourless and impersonal (in stark contrast to the warmth of the most highly regarded games magazines in the past, such as Your Sinclair, Amiga Power and Zero). It is also frequently interpreted as being arrogant, élitist and pretentious. EDGE has at times tried to position itself as an industry magazine or even an academic journal, although it is clearly neither. (It would seem that developers' main interest in the magazine is for it to cover their games in hyperbolic previews which they can then frame on their office walls.)

In my opinion there is also rather too little in the way of original editorial content in each issue- a fairly skimpy (and often internet-researched) historical article can be stretched to 12 pages, there are several monthly columns that spend most of their time discussing subjects on the very periphery of gaming, and the 'stylish' layout seems overly keen on vast tracts of whitespace. Roughly a third of the page count is taken up by large recruitment adverts for game developers, some of which seem to be intended more as proof that the advertiser is financially healthy than as a rallying call to potential employees.

In EDGE's favour, it is probably the only magazine where a lot of its content could find an outlet, as the traditional games magazines (at least the console ones) have no time for retrospectives, profiles or features that are not immediately relevant to current and forthcoming releases. Unfortunately (for reasons detailed below) this courtesy is only extended to subjects that have been deemed fashionable either by clever marketing, internet-originated trends or the magazine's own historical biases. Generally speaking, EDGE represents a thin wedge of the actual landscape of gaming, rarely venturing beyond the boundaries that it has defined for itself, into the exotic lands of (for instance) shmups, MMORPGs, Interactive Fiction, Continental and North American developers, scratchware or modding.

EDGE is sometimes described as a 'bible for gamers', and this is true after a fashion: it attracts a vocal minority of fervent supporters who spend their time trying to convince everyone else that its words are, well, gospel. These followers tend to model their view of games and developers on EDGE's review scores and coverage. (The easiest way to identify one of these EDGEists is to ask them to name an original game, to which the reply will almost always be Rez or Ico.) What these people fail to acknowledge is that EDGE is at its core a lifestyle magazine, or a 'style manual', which is based around the attitude of reporting on trends and promoting certain parts of the industry as fashionable. (Some obvious examples including Treasure, SNK, United Game Artists and Llamasoft.) This tactic, often used by single format magazines in the past to massage the readerships' egos, sells the idea that EDGE readers are members of an élite that is capable of appreciating games in a way that dumb old Joe Public can't grasp. (It basically mixes up cause and effect- I consider myself to be very knowledgeable about games, and find that I generally read EDGE out of interest to see how they interpret subjects that I am already familiar with.)

EDGE's review scores should be taken with a large pinch of salt, as more than any other games magazine they are skewed towards the personal tastes of the reviewer (in accordance to the winds of fashion) - the highest EDGE scores seem always to be awarded to games that are the platform's Great White Hope (Super Mario 64, Gran Turismo, Halo), and particularly low scores are often accompanied by a text that reveals the reviewer's unfamiliarity, if not downright animosity, towards the developer, platform or genre, or suggests that the game has only been given a cursory inspection.

EDGE is perpetually accused of bias toward and against particular gaming platforms. Although it constantly denies that there has ever been any bias, the magazine certainly didn't give the Sega Saturn particularly favourable coverage, and had an ambivalent attitude towards the Dreamcast (scoring a succession of high profile titles as 7's or 8's). Throughout its entire life (starting, remember, from the point at which the PC and the existing order were to be classed as unfashionable dinosaurs) the magazine has had a bitter and splenetic aversion to covering PC gaming in any depth, a position which seems increasingly anachronistic and untenable with every passing year.

As for biases in favour of platforms, Sony have probably been the most successful exploiters of EDGE's attitudes. By positioning the PlayStation (and its follow-up) as a 'cooler-than-thou' lifestyle accessory, and promoting a string of titles as having unique artistic and design merit (for instance Metal Gear Solid 2's cinematic asperations), they have managed to have EDGE eating out of their hands (at least, until the review scores are printed). More recently EDGE has gotten into bed with Microsoft's Xbox platform, a decision probably entirely unrelated to Future Publishing's acquisition of the rights to publish the UK's Official Xbox Magazine, or their web presence now being tied to MSN.

In the last year or so, EDGE has also started to embrace so-called 'Retro Gaming', starting a series of retrospectives on individual formats from previous hardware generations, and publishing occasional specials (under the name RETRO) re-evaluating a number of old classics. Unfortunately the magazine has fallen into the trap of classing old games as a discrete entity of only nostalgic interest, and worse, has encouraged the activities of obsessive collectors (those fools who buy 'mint condition' -yet terrible- games because they're 'rare') and the eBay price-gougers who exploit them (by printing some highly questionable guide prices for old games).

After many years having its particular niche to itself, EDGE has recently found itself with a competitor, a magazine from Paragon Publishing called Games™. Although early indications suggest this new magazine has more than its fair share of flaws, it should be beneficial for gamers to have a choice of magazines covering all formats. It will be interesting to see whether Dennis Publishing decide to throw their hat in the ring, perhaps providing something as a counterpoint to their kid-oriented multiformat magazine, Computer and Video Games.


Video Games Magazines