['Game Mag Weaseling' is a weekly column by Kevin Gifford which covers video game magazines from the late '70s all the way up to right now.]


What you're looking at here is the completion of something of a Holy Grail for myself -- a full run of the first incarnation of Game Player's magazine. I wound up spending $25 to get the final issue I needed to finish this run, but it was worth every penny to me, since finding pretty much any individual issue in this run seems to be nearly impossible these days.

For those unfamiliar, Game Players began in 1989 as a multiplatform magazine and lasted until 1991, when publisher Signal Research went bankrupt. It was resurrected in 1993 once Future Publishing bought Signal's assets, and continued unabated until 1998, renaming itself to Ultra Game Players and finally Game Buyer before folding. The 1993-96 run of Game Players is well known for its off-the-wall humor (there's even a fan site for it), but the original 1989-91 version was damn hard to find on newsstands even back in the day.

Far outsold by its sister publication Game Player's Strategy Guide to Nintendo Games, the frugally-designed, cheap-looking title tended to toil in the shadow of flashier mags like GamePro and Nintendo Power. Hell, even I never bought it back then, although Strategy Guide was a must-read for me every month. Now, though, I've finally managed to collect all 28 issues of the original run -- and in this picture, I've also included my cherished copy of Game Player's Sports for Kids, an athletics mag from the same publisher that comes complete with a profile of 13-year-old Tiger Woods. (If anyone knows how many issues of that mag there are, let me know.)

Enough bragging, though -- there are mounds of new U.S. magazines to cover this time around, so click on to see them all...

GamePro February 2007

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Cover: Wii win!

All right, it's time to look back to my "If I Ran GamePro" column and see how many of my wishes came true. Let's have a look:

1. Drop the old-school GamePro stuff. Well, good news: they got rid of Protips! I repeat, they got rid of Protips! Oh, how joyful I am as I dance upon the Protips' grave, hopefully vandalizing it a bit before I leave! Editor personas are still there, sadly, but there's a revised rating system that drops the graphics, sound, and control scores in favor of a single "Fun Factor" rating out of 5.

2. Knock off all that text. This they did to some extent, most notably in the "Opening Shots" section that takes up the first five pages of the mag. Similar to OXM's opening spread (as well as similar photo spreads in ESPN The Magazine and other sports rags), this is simply a section of enormous game screenshots with small captions identifying them and adding a witty comment or two. (The "Parting Shot" on the final page is the same thing, but for only one game -- in this issue, a somewhat blurry pic from Half-Life 2 Episode 2.)

3. Get a good designer. GP's design has improved a fair bit, although it's still recognizable as GP. The reviews section looks a lot like EGM's now, complete with an opening spread introducing the reviewers and the month's top-rated game. Smaller reviews are now written up as long columns, similar to the late Official PlayStation Magazine, and the rest of the mag finally succeeds in looking clean and clear without seeming unfinished, like GP was before.

The only obvious mistake I saw in the design is in a feature spread on online services that, at first glance, seems to mix up the labels on Xbox Live and Wii's Shopping Channel. (I also think there's still too much text and not enough illustration in the previews, though. This isn't Edge.)

4. Give the editors some personality. The opening news section (retitled "Spawn Point") now opts for quickie humor pieces and introductions to obscure little bits of game trivia instead of boring old news coverage. Static (the rumor section that used to be written by Dan Amrich) is back and mostly filled with snarky running commentary; fun to read. There's a "Hub" section in the back with reader letters and interactive stuff from the gamepro.com forum audience. Overall, about as vast an improvement you'll get as long as personas are around.

5. Keep on skewing younger. Well, GamePro is now back to writing original strategy guides... partly, anyway. There's a useless 3-page bit on Lost Planet from Brady Games, but the original one on Gears of War has a guide to chimera classes and the seven most grueling parts of the game, which is far more helpful. Otherwise, not much of an effort has been made to target any particular audience.

Overall, the redesign is a marked improvement all around, but ultimately, it still feels like GamePro up to now, which I'm not sure is the sort of reinvention I was hoping for. I'm hoping that the redesign and new interactivity with the website does help to attract readers, though -- I'm noticing a distressing amount of ads for in-house products in this already thin 100-page mag.

Electronic Gaming Monthly March 2007 (Podcast)


Cover: PS3 under fire

The pattern for EGM covers post-redesign is starting to become clear -- the past three issues have featured extremely clear, almost barren covers, none of which focus on a particular game. This month's cover seems to get some influence from old Next Generation mags, but I think it's a misstep -- there's too much text and it's not immediately obvious what the cover subject is to the casual browser. (It also features, front and center, the exact same PS3 stock photo as the January cover two months ago. Lazy, is what I call that.)

If the cover isn't memorable, though, the feature it touts inside is. EGM's interview with SCEA head Jack Tretton goes on for nine pages, making it longer than even NextGen's infamous talk with a demented, possibly drunk Sam Tramiel of Atari in 1995. The PS3 is in nowhere near the type of trouble the Jaguar was, but then again, Tretton does a much better job than Tramiel did with staying realistic, making for an absolutely superb text-based feature -- something refreshing to see in EGM.

This, combined with the revenge of "Child's Play" (this time, six ladies aged 74 to 86 trying out the Wii) and long pieces on viral marketers, the continued success of Pokemon and the way video games work their way into the minds of designers, make this one of the most readable EGMs in a while. Best part: absolutely no enormous, boring, page-eating preview features. Huzza!

By the way, the Pokemon feature includes an interview with Lawrence Neves of Pokemon USA -- who, in another life, was known as Scary Larry at GamePro. Scary in EGM! What a traitor!

Nintendo Power March 2007


Cover: Sonic and the Secret Rings

The poster (which has about a million Rabbids on it) makes NP worth buying all by itself this month, although the rest of the issue is pretty standard. The other main highlight: "Better Gaming Through Science," a downright weird 6-page feature that covers a boring middle-schooler's rise to gaming stardom through liberal application of the Wii. It's highly reminiscent to the head-scratching features of the Japanese-writer-era of NP, and I think everyone should read it.

Official Xbox Magazine March 2007 (Podcast)


Cover: Guitar Hero II

OXM reverts to classic Euro-style OXM-ness by packing in tons of random features (30 reasons why '07 is awesome for the 360, what we'd like to see in Gears 2, 20-minute hacks to improve your console) to cover the usual slow period for the Xbox between Christmas and...well, next Christmas. OXM's been really turning it up on the original features lately, and that can only be a good thing for a magazine.

The disc is highlighted by College Hoops 2K7 (zzz) and, making a special guest appearance from XBL Arcade, various demos, including Contra.

PSM March 2007 (Podcast)


Cover: Saints Row

Man, remember back when a rap dude on a game-mag cover was almost as cliche as an army dude? PSM brings back the glory days of '03 with their coverage of PS3 Sainta Row, now immortalized in my mind thanks to the YouTube "Buggy Saints Row" musical tribute.

The rest of the mag is packed with way-too-long previews and dev interviews, and overall it's the exact opposite of OXM's original-feature goodness. Everything in this mag is already on IGN...or, at least, it seems that way.

Games for Windows: The Official Magazine March 2007 (Podcast)


Cover: Army dude

GFW is its usual superbness, starting up with a bit on how Europe is the real hot scene for PC games these days and continuing with an interview with Bill Roper where they ask WTF is up with him these days. It's a surprisingly review-laden issue, too, and the Tom vs. Bruce this month (covering Imperialism II, a boring-looking European strategy game) is the best in a while.

Computer Games March 2007


Cover: Universe at War

Man, I wish I was reading Massive -- all these pages of previews really don't excite me very much. The Mad Lib sidebar is back again, though, this time covering reviews ("Worst of all, the voice acting is , and the dialogue the off a ").

Play February 2007


Cover: Overlord

A Codemasters-published title gets its first game-mag cover since, well, approximately ever with Overlord, a crazy action RPG with a sense of humor. The brunt of the issue is devoted to Play's 2006 game awards, which feature what's likely the most leering art of Lightning McQueen I've ever seen in my life. Rock on, Play.

Tips & Tricks March 2007


Cover: Lost Planet

Your basic T&T issue here, albeit with yet another new column -- this one covering game music, although it's not what you'd expect (half of it is devoted to the hip-hop stars who provided tracks to the 2K7 sports games).

Beckett Massive Online Gamer February/March 2007


Cover: C'mon, it's never gonna be anything besides WoW, who're we kidding here

More boring Beckett stuff here, though I will say that they do make a good effort to put in as many interviews as possible.

[Kevin Gifford breeds ferrets and runs Magweasel, a site for collectors and fans of old video-game and computer magazines. He's also an editor at Newtype USA magazine.]