['Game Mag Weaseling' is a weekly column by Kevin Gifford which documents the history of video game magazines, from their birth in the early '80s to the current day.]

dogaformer.jpg

Time for a roundup of all the new mags of the past two weeks. This time around I cover the new issues of Game Informer, PSM, OXM, Computer Gaming World, and PC Gamer, along with one brand-new launch. I've decided with Simon that I'll cover "new" mags and "old" mags on alternating weeks, so you can expect a roundup similar to this one every two weeks from here on in.

With all the bags of money I receive for this column (seriously, it's not every day you are Fedexed a heavy, unwieldy bag with a big "$" on it) I've successfully taken out subscriptions to every US game mag in...erm...well, the US. The trouble is, they take forever to kick in, since most magazine clearing-houses are based in Iowa and they carry the bulk mail around there on smelly brown Highland cattle. So, sadly, I don't have the new Nintendo Power yet, even though it's right there on their own homepage. Next time, I swear it.

(Click through to read the full column, including synopses of the above-mentioned magazines.)

Game Informer July 2006

This is the first time I get to cover "the world's #1 computer & video game magazine" in this column, so I want to start by pointing out the top reason why everyone should have a subscription to Game Informer, even if they hate GameStop. That reason is the GISpy page. Seriously, what kind of brilliant idea was this? Take a page of the magazine each month and fill it with pics of the editorial staff posing with (a) B-grade celebrities, (b) developers from game companies, (c) PR people from game companies, and/or (d) editors from other magazines if nothing else is available.

Since this is the E3 issue, you get a bit of everything in this GISpy: Clint Eastwood pretending to give a flip about his Dirty Harry game; American Idol reject Ace Young with utterly dejected-looking senior editor Matt Helgeson; fellow editor Matthew Kato with utterly dejected-looking programmer John Carmack; and, of course, Shigeru Miyamoto dressed in a T-shirt and smiling like an idiot while shaking hands with Steven Spielberg -- creating "a vortex of geek fandom that nearly consumed the entire LA Convention Center," as GI puts it.

Their big E3 feature is text-heavy and pretty much what you'd expect, with interviews with all the same bigwigs EGM covered in their E3 issue. GI is the only mag to take Carmack up on what he was at E3 to talk about, spending a page interviewing him about how awesome cell-phone games are. The best quote from it all -- Kojima's "I acknowledge that we have already lost [to overseas developers]" -- is already all over the net, and as many have noted, it makes sense considering that Kojima's games are basically "US-developed" by every notable standard except the geographical one.

Forgettable: Need for Speed Carbon, GI's hot-sclusive of the month. If I had a wee for every preview feature I've read that talks about how big EA is and how they're really, really going to change gaming with their latest title in Series X, I'd need a boat to float out of the john. (An honest admission: I've written two myself in the past.)

Computer Gaming World July 2006

One or two EGM podcasts ago, Shane noted that doing a cover for a military-themed game is difficult because they all look the same. CGW is forced to tackle the problem headfirst in Issue 264, which has Splinter Cell: Double Agent on the cover. To be honest, I think some other art may been more suitable here -- Sam Fisher looks like some random bald dude at first, and it took several glances before I even realized that's a gun he's brandishing in his hand.

Top features: Oh, there's tons of them this month. The front news story is a 3-page feature on love in MMORPGs, complete with bitter tales of getting dumped for a dirty German and a Las Vegas wedding guarded by stormtroopers. There are interviews with Warren Spector, that "NOW FUCKING HIT THIS MOB!! HARD!!" guy from WOW, and a guy who runs a combination CounterStrike/girl model website. The Tom vs. Bruce (where two men compete against each other on the same game over a month) is on Oblivion, and it's funny. Even the cover feature isn't bad, as it talks about Ubisoft's mysterious Shanghai offices almost as much as the game.

Hey Ziff: Put the dod-durn subscriber label in the dod-durn subscriber label space next time, please. Thanks.

PC Gamer August 2006

The cover this month is on Half-Life 2: Episode 2, where things like a new vehicle (a two-man go-kart made from scrap metal) and a new monster (the leggy Hunter) are introduced. As opposed to CGW (which hardly did any E3-labeled coverage whatsoever), the rest of the mag is flush with showfloor previews, which may or may not be interesting depending on how psyched you are for all the RPGs and crazy European RTSes out there.

Notable: Both CGW and PC Gamer cover the new PhysX cards, meant to create dazzling showcases of boxes falling in orderly fashion without weighing down your CPU. CGW gives it not much more than a passing glance, but PCG gives is a full page treatment, even though both mags admit that there isn't much use for one right now. PCG also gives a page to a device that lets you connect three monitors together into a single virtual screen -- lovely if you, you know, have three screens laying around.

PSM August 2006

PSM does the E3 blowout with enormous screenshots all over the place, another huge bit on the PS3 controller, and not a whole lot of spin around that list price and lack of standout games. Particularly notable is one page that compares screenshots from Xbox 360 launch title Call of Duty 2, PS3 launch title Resistance: Fall of Man, and 360 "second generation" title Gears of War. Perhaps it's a consequence of the screenshots chosen to illustrate the sidebar, but if it's any indication, then the next generation of games is going to be brown. Very, very brown. With a lot of muzzle flashes.

Also amusing: Reader comments on PSM's redesign. "I don't feel like I have to hide my PSM from my roommates anymore," writes Holly Jasper of Iowa. I do like the bright, simple cover schemes they've thrown at us the past few months -- it looks unique and pleasing to the eye, even as it throws a ton of coverlines at you.

Official Xbox Magazine August 2006

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think this is the first issue of OXM where the disc is for Xbox 360 only. It's an all-right one, too, with hi-def trailers of Halo 3, Fable 2, Call of Duty 3, Shadowrun, and all the other E3 biggies. Demos are lighter, though, including Lost Planet, PDZ, and FIFA World Cup '06 (hurrah France, I hate you no more).

Otherwise: It's all E3, baby, including a frame-by-frame analysis of the Halo 3 trailer that is so obsessive, even those people on the teamxbox forums might be a little wary of the editors' mental state right now. There's also a preview of the upcoming Halo graphic novel, which uses Japanese-language sound effects (and not particularly accurate ones, either) for some reason.

Despite all the E3 360 love: The reviews section has one 360 game, one Live Arcade title (good ol' Uno), and nine "Xbox 1" games.

Beckett Massive Online Gamer June/July 2006

Well, here it is, I suppose -- America's first regular magazine devoted exclusively to MMORPGs, beating Massive Magazine to the stands by a few months. The content is, well, not very good. It seems to be targetting gamers who have played one or two MMO's but want some help really getting into them, but I'm not sure packing a mag full of confusing, jargon-packed how-to features is the best way to do that. But if you're a hardcore nerd, no worries here! You got your huge WoW centerfold poster, your auction price guide, and, of course, your pages o' bad fantasy fanart (from all the hottest DeviantArt creators, of course). The coup de grace: a feature titled "Jay & Cat: Keeping the battles out of the bedroom and inside the game" that's illustrated by what I can only call erotic tauren furry art. The spread makes me laugh out loud every time I turn to it. Run to the bookstore and check it out yourself. It's absolutely worth the gas money.

Sample news story: "Scientists in Japan recently created floating bursts of light in three-dimensional shapes using a special laser beam technology. Researcher Tatsumi Kimura of Japan's Regional Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology shows us how these laser beams can create a cylinder shape of glowing plasma emissions that light up in the air. It truly is an amazing sight! Can you just imagine how this will affect the future of video and computer gaming? We can see it now... Your [sic] battling large beasts in mid-air as your warrior swings his mighty sword and slices his opponent to pieces. Images of light... are flying everywhere! And, we're sure Star Trek fans are thinking Holodeck!!!"

And on the next page: A badly JPEG-compressed picture of a Sony 30-day game card with the Ebay photo hosting service's watermark on it.