The Ultimate Gaming Rig: Nostalgia or Pyramid Scheme?

A nostalgic discussion about the infamous "Ultimate Gaming Rig" magazine ads gets triggered, revealing memories of a clever pyramid scheme.

The Ultimate Gaming Rig: Nostalgia or Pyramid Scheme?
Published by Ethan @ PC Game Spotlight 9 months ago


The topic of Nostalgia is brought up in a conversation in one of the Steam groups I moderate, and it leads me to dig up an old memory from my childhood. It’s a story about a gaming magazine ad with the word “pyramid” in it that causes a bit of a stir, and it’s got me thinking about the good old days.

The Ultimate Gaming Rig

“The Ultimate Gaming Rig” magazine adverts are what I’m referring to. Many of you will remember these vintage ads, and plenty of you have even shared your own personal stories in the ensuing discussion. Some of you even recognize the game in the screenshot!

“Giveaway! Win the Ultimate Gaming Rig!” the advertisements would say, and the attached form would contain a list of over 70 expensive parts. But the real kicker was the disclaimer at the bottom, stating that you would be receiving only one of the parts, with the rest being prizes for the people on your list.

“I think this was my teenage introduction to pyramid schemes,” one user jokes, while another replies, “I remember filling out and mailing in the entry form. I was so convinced I’d win the whole thing.” Another says, “I remember it being a joke among us that the ad should have read, ‘Giveaway! Lose the Ultimate Gaming Rig!’”

Some of you were suspicious of the scheme from the beginning, assuming it was a scam and that no one ever won. “I always knew it was a scam,” one user states, “but I kept my fingers crossed the whole time.” Other replies chime in with similar experiences, reflecting on the good old days of childhood and their dreams of winning the ultimate gaming rig.

Eventually, I come across a video by Whang on the subject. It’s a bit lengthy and has some British accents (I’m a bit of a sucker for those), but it provides a lot of insight into the scheme as well as a bit of its history.

So what was the mystery word in the advertisements? It turns out that “POWER” was the word in question, causing me to chuckle a little at the clever pun.

In any case, if you’re still curious about this subject, I highly recommend watching that video. It’s a bit long and a bit British, but it covers everything in great detail and will answer any questions you may have. I’ve always been fascinated by schemes like this, especially because of the sentiment they evoke in people. It’s a sign of the times, a reminder of a childhood steeped in the glow of a CRT monitor and a Pentium II.

I’ve even shared my own story about the Packard Bell PC I had as a child, which I still remember the exact details of to this day. It’s funny how something like that can stick with you for so long. For the magazine editors out there who chose to print these ads despite the obvious scam, I understand your decision, but I think you knew deep down that you were exploiting people’s dreams.

And speaking of exploitation, check out the best multiplayer games you can play right now.

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