Brief History of Early Chinese Game Magazines

Author: ayame
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This article is co-authored by Dino Ge Zhang.

The turbulent past of game magazines in China

Electronic Game Software (Youxi Jizhongying[游戏集中营], Youxi Fengjingxian[游戏风景线]) is the first officially published magazine for videogames in China. It was established by Xianfeng Katong[先锋卡通], the predecessor of Qiandao[前导], which is a well-known Chinese game company during the early stage of the games industry. This background led to a very close relationship between the magazine and Chinese game industry.

First Issue of the magazine was published in 1993. It was initially published monthly, later switched to half-monthly. Videogames were still a sensitive topic at that time in China, so that the magazine was shut down temporarily from July to October in 1995. As the crisis of print media ensues, the publisher for the magazine was changed to ‘Next Generation Media’ in 2000 until the eventual suspension of publication on February 27, 2012. Though reemerged in 2012, the magazine modified its name, style and content entirely.

Game Criticism is one of the supplemental publications of Electronic Game Software. It focused on game criticism, games culture commentary and featured viewpoints from industry insiders, critics, and fans. First Issue of Game Criticism was published by ‘Mongolia Culture Press’ in September 2000. It was published on an irregular basis. There were 21 issues of Game Criticism in total. The publisher was then changed to ‘People’s Jiaotong (Transport) Press’ in 2001. The magazine was shut down in 2003 then re-published again in 2006 by ‘Xueyuan Audiovisual Publisher’.


Early The editorial team of Electronic Game Software come from a diversity of backgrounds: Liu Rude(刘儒德) from literature, Liu Wenyu(刘文羽) and Tian Song(田松) from philosophy, Suo Bing(索冰) from (fine) arts, Xu Yanming(徐燕明) from animation, Zhang Xian(张弦) from TV production, Ye Ding(叶丁) and Ye Zhan(叶展) from games development, Bian Xiaochun(边晓春) from games production, Huang Changxing(黄昌兴) from electronic technology, and so forth. This diversity of perspectives broadens the angle of magazines (to use videogames as a departure for a variety of writings rather than being a merely informative magazine on games).

The editor-in-chief of Electronic Game Software was Liu Wenyu(刘文羽), also known as Xunfeng(熏风). He was a graduate of Beijing Academy of Social Sciences. He wrote most of editorials for the magazine, which addressed a variety of topics including videogames, market and society. These editorials became an important component of Electronic Game Software because of their incisive diagnosis of the still inchoate Chinese game market at the time, many of which remains thought-provoking today.

Electronic Game Software had a close relationship with the domestic game industry at the time. This connection built a solid foundation for its timely and informative journalism of the industry. The same authors who wrote for the magazine even published the first Chinese book on game design in Mainland China, Game Design and Development. This group formed the core of later establishment of Game Criticism.

Bian Xiaochun(边晓春), CEO of Qiandao, was a columnist for the magazine. Ye Wei(叶伟) and Zhang Xian(张弦), founders of an even earlier yet unofficial game magazine Dianwanmi(Fan of videogames, 电玩迷), joined in the editorial team. Ye Wei later went to Ubisoft as a game designer. Their knowledge of the local game industry made Electronic Game Software a very unique media outlet. Ye Ding(叶丁) and Ye Zhan(叶展), who later worked in some US-based Triple A videogame companies and now established their own indie game studio Zing Game, also contributed to Electronic Game Software at that time. Ye Ding was in charge of a column on the basics of game development. After moving to US, Ye Zhan provided many updated news of overseas market. Xu Yanming(徐燕明), with a background in animation, contributed feature articles from alternative perspectives. It can also be speculated that the magazine was one of key origins of the later ACG culture.

Key Contributions

Electronic Game Software was important not only because it witnessed the history of Chinese game industry, but also for its role (and perhaps ambition) in making a real change by clarifying the many misunderstandings of videogame cultures and promoting a healthy market.

Since there was no legal way for videogames to be published in China, Electronic Game Software served as variety of roles—educational, literary, cultural, intellectual, technical and so forth. Before the ubiquity of internet access, it was one of the few reliable sources of news and updates as well as international trends on console gaming during the 15 years long ban of consoles. Its legacy can be found in many of its successors such Ultra Console Game (Youxiji Shiyong Jishu, 游戏机实用技术) and Gamers (Youxi Ren, 游戏人), as well as many new media outlets. Throughout the years, the magazine also gathered a community around videogames cultures. The people who initially joined the magazine as authors and editors, devoted their lives to the game industry in various ways.

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