Amiga Game Zone was America's last Amiga games magazine, publishing three issues in 1994.

It was the brainchild of Geoff Miller whose new project is Idiot Savant Studios.


From 1994 to 1996, I published a nationally distributed magazine in addition to being a full-time graduate student in the advertising program at the University of Illinois. Amiga Game Zone was a 48 page bi-monthly publication that catered to a niche market of computer game enthusiasts. Each issue contained industry news and product reviews as well as a cover-mounted floppy disk with playable previews of upcoming games. The magazine was sold throughout North America at hundreds of book and computer stores including Barnes & Noble, Hastings, and Tower Records. This was a time before the rise of new gaming systems from Playstation, XBOX and Nintendo.

Bzzzzzt... Reality check. We're not exactly talking Time magazine here, folks. Amiga Game Zone had a base of only around 1,000 subscribers, with an additional 4,000 copies of each issue printed for newsstand distribution. And I'd have to perfect Obi-Wan Kenobi's Jedi mind trick in order to make anyone believe that I actually stuck to a bi-monthly schedule – I only published three issues of the magazine in a year. Far from being a household name, I can't even begin to tell you how many times the magazine had been mistakenly referred to as Omega Game Zone, Amigo Games, or (my favorite) Amiga Gonzo.

I also sold computer games directly through the magazine, and I employed a few students to help me answer the phones and process orders. Although we affectionately called it "the spacious mid-town office," all the work was done out of my house in Urbana, Illinois. Early one morning a subscriber phoned in with the request, "Do you have Monkey Island II?" My comatose brain processed the question as "Who am I talking to?" and I replied, "Oh, this is Geoff." (The moral of the story is not to answer the phone next to the bed at 7 o'clock in the morning no matter how coherent you think you will sound. Believe me, it won't foster repeat business.)

But the magazine's relatively small scale was part of the attraction for me. It was large enough that I could realize a small profit, yet not so demanding that it controlled my life. And publishing your own magazine did have its perks. One was that you got to make up your own title. My official job description was head head of the many-headed hydra that was Amiga Game Zone. I designed every page of the magazine; I wrote some of the articles and edited the rest; I handled all the public relations, marketing, and advertising; and, most importantly, I got to play a lot of computer games. Being in charge of so many areas did lead to some problems, though. It was hard to pressure the art director into finishing a layout for the editor when you were the art director as well as the editor. But I loved having complete control over a project, from deciding the type of paper stock to use for a promotional flyer to listening to a reader beg, "I'd run somebody over in a car to get a copy of Mortal Kombat II."

The best part of this situation was that I was been able to use my academic experience to supplement my publishing venture and vice versa. I learned a great deal about publishing schedules, project coordination, media buys, and magazine design by actually experiencing them first hand. Thanks to the elaborate computer network provided to students by the university, I was been able to use the Internet since 1989 – and I started utilizing the World Wide Web to market my magazine in 1994. I was also able to apply my publishing and design experience to specific problems in my graduate courses.

I feel that the advertising graduate program at the University of Illinois developed my strategic thinking to a much higher level. My greatest accomplishment in graduate school was the realization that I actually knew less when I received my master's degree than I thought I did when I received my bachelor's degree. And, of course, that I should always let the answering machine pick up before 9 a.m.

E-mail your comments to Geoff Miller at miller@idiotsavant.com


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