PC Gamer takes the 10-year challenge

The '10-year challenge' has taken off on social media this past week or so. Basically you post a picture of yourself from ten years ago alongside a current picture to show how far you've come. Naturally, people have been having fun with this.

We've decided to join in with a nostalgic trip to the world of PC gaming ten years ago, as told by the 13 issue covers we published that year. Our January 2009 and January 2019 covers are pictured above. The latest issue features Phoenix Point and a massive look ahead a the games to come this year. You can subscribe now in the UK and the US for more!

January 2009

Blizzard was unstoppable in this era. From a 2019 perspective this looks like a Heroes of the Storm cover, and little did we know that Overwatch and Hearthstone were on the distant horizon. Diablo 3 and Error 37 were years away, and I wonder if Blizzard was working on their cancelled MMO shooter Titan at the time.

February 2009

You can't go wrong with a big red Space Marine. Dawn of War 2 was indeed a big gamble for Relic, and the move from classic RTS to a squad tactics game is still divisive today. It would be eight years before the third game, which turned out to be divisive in whole new ways. Mirror's Edge was reviewed in this issue too, but I want to give a shout out to Demigod. That was a cool game that landed just a little before League of Legends and Heroes of Newerth made MOBAs mainstream. RIP Demigod.

March 2009

Magazine craft normally dictates that you have a person on the cover, ideally giving some strong eye contact. But how about a fleet horrible aflame instead? Empire was buggy as heck, but I still love its sprawling ambition. It's perfectly playable these days, and mods have done wonders for it.

April 2009

Damn I miss Bad Company 2. I had my best ever shooter times in Bad Company 2 rush maps, and the Vietnam expansion was brilliant too. 1943 was fun but never actually made it to PC, while Battlefield Heroes was a mediocre cartoon free-to-play shooter that didn't take off.

May 2009

Awesome cover art; great game. Is it pseudish to say it's better than the first game? Now I want to replay it and see how it holds up compared to the first. The "mad new look" for Borderlands would turn out to be a very good creative decision and it's nice to see PopCap on the cover. This would be a couple of years before EA acquired the studio.

June 2009

I'm still not sure why StarCraft 2 was going to be the saviour of PC gaming, and I don't know where the end of Kerrigan's right leg is. StarCraft 2 is still going of course, but it has slid off the radar a little. It's easy to forget what a big deal it was at the time.

July 2009

There was a backlash against Left 4 Dead 2 at the time, for being released so close to Left 4 Dead 1, which seems bananas now, especially as I'd kill for a new Left 4 Dead game. Ten years later everything Valve does still causes a backlash somewhere on the internet; a reassuring constant.

August 2009

Sometimes you've got to go big with a cover line, and calling Star Wars: The Old Republic a Warcraft killer is quite the statement. I played SW:TOR loads in the end and it lives on in free to play form. Elsewhere Sup Com 2 turned out to be a bit of a disappointment, and the new Aliens vs Predator wasn't great either. At least we'll always have this extremely extra piece of cover art.

September 2009

Nooo, not the end of Kane! Let's savour this golden period in time after the announcement of Command & Conquer 4 and before the release of Command & Conquer 4, when for a fleeting moment there was hope that Command & Conquer 4 wouldn't suck. It did. Today it has an 'overwhelmingly negative' score on Steam, and we're left wondering if Command & Conquer will ever return in a form we're familiar with (beyond some HD remasters, anyway).

October 2009

The problem with this cover is that the secondary focal point is absolutely Napoleon's crotch, and now I've said that it has become the primary focal point for you, and it will be that way forever. I don't know what this does for mag sales, or indeed sales of Napoleon: Total War. 

Napoleon is a better game than Empire, but it always felt overshadowed by the furore over Empire's bugs and balance issues. There's also a correct five word review of Batman: Arkham Asylum here, and Alpha Protocol!

November 2009

Third Blizzard cover of the year! You've gotta smell what sells, and this was a busy year for Blizz. World of Warcraft is still going strong, but the same can't be said for Champions Online, APB, Brink, Mafia 2, and Aliens vs Predator. At least Guild Wars 2 turned out great.

December 2009

A very strong suite of games for the penultimate issue of the year. Almost everything turned out well, though Mass Effect 2 came out in January 2010, just about nicking the Bioware "RPG of the decade" title. However Anthem does this year, I wonder if Bioware will ever return to making big singleplayer RPGs like it did 10 years ago.

Christmas 2009

We publish 13 issues a year, which means we have to invent a new month called 'Christmas' to house the extra issue. This one's a doozy. APB was a third-person action MMO with tons of character and vehicle customisation. It's quite a brave choice of cover given how leftfield it was, but the art was cool. APB was a complete flop. It's agonising, in a way. In 2019, shared world shooters are huge, and APB was right there on the ground floor with all the right ideas. If the execution was better, we could still be doing covers on it today.

Tom Senior

Part of the UK team, Tom was with PC Gamer at the very beginning of the website's launch—first as a news writer, and then as online editor until his departure in 2020. His specialties are strategy games, action RPGs, hack ‘n slash games, digital card games… basically anything that he can fit on a hard drive. His final boss form is Deckard Cain.