['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.]


Welcome to Mag Roundup, my regular roundup of all the game magazines that hit newsstands and/or mailboxes in the past two weeks. Excited? Sure you are! And so is Washington Redskins rookie Devin Thomas in this not-at-all-Photoshopped picture of him holding the latest issue of Beckett Sports Gamer...that was published inside the issue of Beckett Sports Gamer he's "holding." It's a time paradox! Help meeee!

The past couple weeks have been bountiful for more than silly 'shops, however. So keep reading and find out about the one magazine you must get this month -- and the five squillion or so you probably shouldn't.

Electronic Gaming Monthly September 2008 (Podcast)


Cover: Soulcalibur IV

For hardcore gamers (or for that matter any gamer of a certain age) this issue is simply a must. It's a little downplayed on the cover, but "Japan" is the theme here, chiefly taking the form of three awesome, blockbuster interviews: Hironobu Sakaguchi (with some comments from Uematsu and Amano, too), Kenji Eno (the former Warp head, in an interview which is an awesome look into the mind of the looniest developer of the 1990s), and Tomonobu Itagaki (a largely drunk and rambling interview, but it is still packed with rad quotes).

There's also a general roundtable piece about the Japan games business and an interview with Hideki Kamiya that's largely about Bayonetta (his latest) but lets him ramble a bit about the rest of the industry, too. Great, great stuff, and arguably EGM's best "theme" issue so far -- I just wish it a) was more than 100 pages b) had the guts to make the theme the main cover subject instead of Soulcalibur IV.

(PS. Hsu and Chan is ending this issue. I think this is the first time I have ever mentioned Hsu and Chan in around two years of writing this column, which sums up my impression of Hsu and Chan pretty well, I reckon.)

Nintendo Power September 2008


Cover: Sonic & The Black Knight

If EGM didn't give you enough interviews with Japanese industry giants (and ex-giants), just open NP up and Wham! Right there on page 18, they're interviewing Takahashi Meijin out of nowhere! There's no way in 'ell 99% of NP readers would know who he is, and I wonder if the piece could've better been pitched as a retro piece into the Famicom revolution in Japan instead of a kinda-weird interview where he talks about Bonk and Virtual Console games and stuff.

Otherwise, this is a preview-laden issue -- and also oddly celebrity-laden, including interviews with both Les Claypool (who did the music for Mushroom Men) and Dan Aykroyd (for Ghostbusters, the first time I think he's talked in print about the games).

PlayStation: The Official Magazine September 2008


Cover: Frakkin' Shaun White Snowboarding

Why does Future love Shaun White Snowboarding so much?!!?! It seems like it's been in every damn issue of every magazine they've published this year, including the ones covering systems Shaun White Snowboarding isn't coming out on. (Just kidding, folks. Please don't cancel my subscriptions and/or kill my dog.)

It's a rad-looking, whitespace-heavy feature, though, as is the following piece on Linger in Shadows (which features a design just as unorthodox as the title itself, it seems).

Play August 2008


Cover: Darksiders

This month's Play has more "Play being Play" in one go than I've seen in a while -- a spread on Snatcher out of nowhere, Dave Halverson going crazy about some B-game you never heard of (Monster Madness: Grave Danger in this case), and a piece on an Alienware-themed short film just a few pages away from an advertisement for the same Alienware short film. Woo-hoo!

The Others

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There are a ton of specials and not-so-special regular mags out this time around, and none of them are eye-popping, so I'll cover them in rapid-fire fashion. Beckett Massive Online Gamer #14 is their big blowout issue for Age of Conan, but the still-terrifying comic the mag kicks off with makes it hard to keep the mag open for very long. Much to my chagrin, however, it's well-stocked with advertising and probably making a profit for Beckett Media by this point. That's life.

Beckett Sports Video Gamer: Madden 09 clocks in at 92 pages for $9.99, which is frankly painful, but I have to hand it to the editors -- this is definitely 92 pages about Madden, complete with interviews and statistics and strategy guides for all 32 teams, and I'm sure there's a huge market for something like this.

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Tips & Tricks Codebook September/October 2008 touts "How to Kick Ass!" on the cover, though sadly it's talking about Super Smash Bros. Brawl and not life in general. Shame. As before, the games that get walkthroughs this issue seem really dated.

Nintendo Power Presents the 2008 Nintendo DS Game Guide is simply a compilation of old reviews, as you'd expect.

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Game Developer Presents Game Career Guide Fall 2008 is the unlikely largest issue of this Mag Roundup at 112 pages, mainly packed with recruitment ads, game outfit and salary profiles, and a huge directory of game schools (Jesus, every college in the world has a 3D animation program these days, don't they?)

Video Game Collector Issue 10 marks a fairly extensive redesign for the classic-gaming mag, with "special guest editor" Bill Kunkel making his mark everywhere in the issue. There are more pages and a lot more articles than in previous issues, but overall it's still far below professional-level, much less Retro Gamer level -- pieces ramble on and on, screaming for an editor; several illustrations are extremely blocky and low-res for no apparent reason; and the name of the developer behind the Sam & Max series is repeatedly misspelled "Taletell Games" in a news article.

The patriot in me is still somewhat annoyed that the Brits at Retro Gamer perfected the formula for a classic-game mag long before anyone in America could, but Video Game Collector seems to cater exclusively to the fortysomethings that dwell in the Digital Press forums, and that's so colossally missing the potential audience for a mag with this subject that it boggles my mind.

[Kevin Gifford breeds ferrets and runs Magweasel, a site for collectors and fans of old video-game and computer magazines. In his spare time he does writing and translation for lots and lots of publishers and game companies.]