Since the dawn of time, the back page of the PC Gamer magazine, which we call All Over, has been a place for jokes. Some of those jokes have been good. Others... have not. With that in mind, and only a few weeks late, it's time for our yearly retrospective. Was 2019 a vintage year for back-of-the-mag patter? We'll let you decide.
And if you want more of this—and why wouldn't you—you can revisit the 2015 (opens in new tab), 2016 (opens in new tab), 2017 (opens in new tab), and 2018 (opens in new tab) editions of this article. And don't forget to subscribe (opens in new tab) to PC Gamer, the paper-based version of this website.
Robin Valentine: This is a very silly joke, but I do really enjoy the simplicity of Geralt crudely pasted over a Gone Home screenshot.
Andy Kelly: In hindsight, we probably jumped the gun on Geralt cameos being an actual trend that was ripe for lampooning. I think technically there needs to be three examples of something for it to count. I do like seeing a Gwent card on a Hearthstone board, though. Someone should do a MUGEN-style card game mash-up.
Phil Savage: OK… I can explain. The last time (opens in new tab) we did one of these round-ups, Samuel, my former boss, spent most of it complaining about how all of my back page jokes were "too wordy". Fresh from that, myself and Pip, my former deputy editor, decided—almost entirely out of spite—that we'd commit to a run of purely visual jokes. The problem here is that we asked our art editor John, on deadline, to slap Geralt into a bunch of game screenshots—that's on us—but… I mean, portals don't even work that way? This is saved only by the pure no-fucks-given audacity of the Gone Home screenshot.
Robin: Oh wow, yeah, that massively isn’t how portals work. I have to admit I didn’t notice until you pointed it out.
Phil: I feel like my entire run as editor was being annoyed at things that other people didn't notice until I pointed them out.
Pip: This might actually be my favourite back page. I'm a massive fan of really lazily sticking a cutout of one stupid picture onto another picture so I am this joke's target audience. For context, I'm still photoshopping Ed Sheeran's lion chest tattoo onto things. It's been four and a half years and I still find that hilarious. BY THE WAY I feel like this is a great time to bring up my grievance with the Planet Zoo subscriber cover. It was a literal LION PICTURE. So much wasted chest tattoo potential!
Robin: I sense this kind of simmering anger emanating off this one. Had you guys just had a fight with a PR or something?
Phil: Er, if I remember correctly I just thought the name "Acceptable Combat 7" was funny, and worked backwards from there to fill a page. They can't all be winners.
Robin: Ah good—at least it came from a place of love, not hate.
Phil: A place of deep ambivalence, at least.
Andy: I’ll be honest, I don’t get this.
Pip: I still find this hilarious. I remember laughing at my desk over the Three Kingdoms one - that may or may not have been a deadline stress-related overreaction, but come on. Acceptable Combat 7 is at least worth a "heh" even if it's not a ROFL. I'm very disappointed in Andy right now.
Phil: Nah, I've got nothing. Kudos to John for finding a picture of me doing a silly face to try and liven this up, I guess.
Robin: I definitely see what you were going for. I like the idea that one day in 2024 someone might read this in a doctor’s office and quietly have a moment.
Andy: Oof, this is a high concept back page. I don’t even remember the Anthem thing it’s allegedly parodying, so I’m just confused.
Pip: This... has not aged well, but I can at least remember the reasoning. It was that absolutely stupid chart where EA tried to simplify the process of knowing when you could play their game and accidentally created the world's most boring choose-your-own-adventure. Originally this one was going to be a lot weirder—"did you sacrifice a goat on the third Tuesday of the month"—but then we made it about the magazine. That was an error. The only humour left is thus the word "hence" and the picture John found of Phil.
Phil: Hey, it's the first good back page of 2019!
Robin: “Holding Ryan hostage while having no discernible political views of his own” is great. With Sam gone, I can speak freely: I like wordy All Overs.
Phil: THANK YOU. I drafted Samuel back onto the mag to help write this, a sequel to our Division 1 back page from March 2016. My overriding memory of it is the two of us giggling like teenagers as we goaded each other into lines like "Air Force One has become Air Force GONE (it crashed)" and Sam's personal masterpiece, "Only Jack Ryan can stop DC from being blown back to BC".
Samuel Roberts: It was probably the best thing I wrote during my time on PC Gamer. And I'm not exaggerating.
Andy: Yeah, this is a good one. "Columnist denied Twitter verification" is my personal highlight.
Phil: I'd forgotten about this one, but I still quite enjoy it—even if 'fake game box' is a well I've gone to a few too many times. Again, I think I just liked the phrase "A Big Marrow" and built the joke from there.
Robin: I feel like you hit on a weirdly good idea with this one. I’d totally play a village fete sim. Like a reverse Untitled Goose Game.
Andy: This is my favourite so far, I think. I like how unashamedly British it is. But let’s be real: those are not corned beef sandwiches. Those contain ham, cheese, and salad, and maybe mayonnaise, but I can’t be sure.
Phil: That's what happens when you've got to find free stock images to make your joke page work.
Robin: But… but… it’s a different gun in every shot, guys.
Phil: This is basically an entire genre of back page joke: things that look funny when written out in the Google Doc, but just don't work in execution.
Robin: Still funnier than Borderlands 3.
Andy: I forgot the original concept for this, and had no idea those guns were supposed to be firing hot takes. Sorry.
Phil: This was the last back page I wrote. Nice to go out on a high.
Pip: I came back to proof-read this while Phil was at E3. That is how I know that this joke is kinda dependent on you having played Octopath Traveller. I had not played Octopath Traveller. But it says a lot about the average hilarity of the back page that it didn't stop me saying "yes, publish this".
Robin: This has got to be the year’s best. The joke’s rock solid with just the right amount of self-indulgence, and the pixel art is brilliant. Is there a reason Andy’s surrounded by small animals, though?
Phil: Square-Enix approached us and asked if we wanted Octopath Traveller-style sprite avatars for the mag's intro page. Instead I suggested we'd happily use them for the joke page. To their credit, they agreed. As part of that, though, I was supposed to send them images of the team. I forgot, so I guess they pulled some pictures off Twitter instead and just decided to spruce them up. In short, no, I don't know why Andy is surrounded by small animals.
Andy: I don’t know why I have a dog on my head either, but I like it, and I wish I had a dog on my head right now. What confused me about this was, when I checked the PDF before it was sent to the printers, I thought there was a problem with the mag cover image. Sometimes if an image in a page isn’t ‘linked’ properly it looks pixelated. So I thought the joke was a printing error.
Phil: Actually, yeah, just looking at this now is giving me The Fear, and I don't even work on magazines any more. Next!
Phil: This was mostly written by acting acting deputy editor Jeremy Peel, who was filling in for acting deputy editor Malindy Hetfeld. If the last few years of back pages prove anything, it's that Ubisoft is always a rich vein for comedy.
Robin: Most of the jokes on this page feel like a smokescreen for the surprisingly biting takedown of Theresa May.
Andy: If the image looks weirdly composed here, that’s because I had to find a still from the Legion trailer that A) would look good on a vertical page and B) had several NPCs in it to tag. Which was trickier than it sounds. I think the street sweeper in the background there was actually added in from another scene. Why is someone sweeping Piccadilly Circus at night anyway? I guess it is supposed to be a dystopia.
Robin: What I learned from this one is that you can put the word ‘tactical’ in front of nearly anything and I’ll laugh. I’m not sure I can explain why.
Phil: This was Andy, I think, and yeah—it works well.
Andy: Yeah, I was the 'creative director' of this back page. I think it’s the only one I had entirely free reign over, which was fun. Ghost Recon is easy to mock. I think 'Tactical Man' is probably the funniest bit, even if I do say so myself.
Robin: 'Tactical Sandwich' is a winner for me.
Robin: So this is the point where I took over as editor, and started having to be the guy who comes up with these. For some reason I decided to kick things off by having a dig at the magazine’s past? Bit bold, in retrospect, but I do just like this photograph. It was taken by art editor Rob Crossland who was covering while John was on holiday, with props from around his house. Believe it or not, that’s the keyboard after it’d been cleaned.
Andy: I like this. It’s an enjoyable nostalgia hit. Boy, our covers really were text-heavy back then, weren’t they? I like that this is both an image-led AND a text-based back page joke.
Phil: We occasionally get emails from people complaining about how things were better in the old days, and so I'm always in favour of giving the past a light kicking. Not that I'm bitter.
Phil: This one's so good that I don't really have anything to say about it. After the back pages I let slip through at the beginning of the year, you're really showing me up here Robin.
Robin: I’d love to take all the credit, but this is another Andy Kelly special. Once he’d come up with the idea it all fit together very easily.
Andy: I wrote this shortly after a ten-hour flight from Seattle, so the experience was fresh in my mind.
Robin: This one’s a classic case of over-ambition. In my head, I thought it’d write itself - something to do with us being medieval kings, maybe an elaborate family tree. But then deadline crept closer and I couldn’t really translate what was in my head into something funny on the page. And then it didn’t really work visually either. End result is a bit dry and weird, with the joke also spoiled a bit by me already being photoshopped onto that king art in the intro page. At least you look happy to be royalty, Phil.
Phil: I'm a bit disappointed, to be honest. For a 'didn't really come together' back page, this is fine. Perfectly acceptable. Come back to me next year with an actual disaster. A lightbulb gag (opens in new tab) for the 2020s.
Andy: Excuse me? That lightbulb joke was one of our best ever back page jokes, and I will walk backwards into Hell before I admit otherwise.
Robin: The Outer Wilds/Outer Worlds joke was very much just for me. Maybe a bit of a straightforward back page, this one, though I’ll stand by 'Best Tom Hardy'.
Phil: Sometimes when you can't think of one big joke, six little ones do the job. Still, as someone who made the terrible and incredibly stressful decision to have both The Outer Worlds and Outer Wilds on the same cover, I appreciated that reference.
Robin: Throw it all at the wall and see what sticks, that’s my motto.
Andy: Calling Euro Truck Simulator a 'strand game' is very funny to me for some reason.
Robin: Tom Senior contributed that line—even though neither Euro Truck Simulator or Death Stranding came out on PC in 2019, it made me laugh too much not to include.