['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.]


Many game outlets on the web reported -- a little gloatingly, perhaps -- on comments that Ziff Davis Media chief Jason Young made to the New York Times on Wednesday.

In case you zoned out on it, the report (mainly about PC Magazine's move to an online-only distribution format starting January) mentions that Young is entertaining the idea of taking EGM online-only as well, though no decision on the print mag's ultimate fate will be made before the end of the year.

To most gamers, the reaction was probably "Well, duh, I get all my news and reviews from forums." (That or "Oh nooo my bathroom reading!!", which I never quite understood. Quit spending so much time in the bathroom, people!) My reaction, though, is a bit more nuanced.

If I had to spout it out in one sentence, I'd take a deep breath and say: "Well, duh, EGM's ad pages have plummeted over even last year when they were already getting pretty sparse, and it's published by a company still recovering from bankruptcy, and given that EGM is the only remaining print magazine in the brands they own, it's plain that dead trees aren't anything like priority one over there any longer." Then I'd breathe again.

Sad, but true: Ad pages are down for every rag in the video-game market, and out of all the US mags coming out this month, only Game Informer and Play (who prints some anime and Geek Monthly-runoff ads the rest don't) have book sizes over 100 pages.

A distressingly interesting 2009 in store, eh?

Electronic Gaming Monthly December 2008 (Podcast)


Cover: Watchmen: The End Is Nigh
Gift Guide: 2 pages

To the magazine itself: This month has a remarkable amount of variety despite its eensy size, from the cover feature (intricately designed and breathtakingly full-featured, as you'd expect with Mielke behind it) to the Goichi Suda interview where he talks about how porno inspires his games to a think piece about why more games don't do "funny" correctly.

There's also a gift guide, but it's very small and doesn't get in the way of things, which I give high marks to. Sometimes I wonder if holiday gift guides exist solely to get PR people off the editors' backs. Hang on. That's the cynic in me talking. Please ignore that. Strike it from the record! Now!

Game Informer December 2008


Cover: Halo 3: Recon
Gift Guide: 10 pages (same size as the cover feature!)

A typical GI "stretch it out 'til it snaps" cover feature. When the cover says "world-exclusive details," it really means details, not anything else -- other than a couple of concept art pieces, there is nothing in the feature's visual aids you've missed assuming you saw the trailer. The text is half dev interview, half play report written to sound like a Halo novel except, and I have a feeling that the feature would've been better served if it were delayed a few months for some more concrete stuff to support it.

Play December 2008


Cover: Persona 4
Gift Guide: 0 pages (yay!)

Frankly, a pretty amazing 10-page cover feature/review in the style of OXM's mega-reviews, complete with three or four interviews and more bits of trivia than an RPG fan could possibly shake a stick at long enough to digest before his arm grew tired. Otherwise, it's an issue you'll mostly buy for the reviews, since I think Play gives more space to them this month than even GI did for theirs.

Nintendo Power Holiday 2008


Cover: Reviews special
Gift Guide: 3 pages

Play may have the most in-depth interviews, but NP always seems to get the coolest people to talk to. In this issue you've got Eiji Aonuma (in a long, lovely, incredibly readable Ocarina of Time retro-feature), Goichi Suda, Shinji Mikami, Gradius ReBirth director Toshiyasu Kamiko, and Daisuke Amaya -- aka Pixel, the Cave Story guy, who comes off every bit the Japanese Jonathan Blow I imagined him to be. Plus, since it's the last issue of '08, this book also has the final installment of NP's history of itself -- all the editors chime in on what makes the mag special to them, and it's just a happy, warm little thing, you know?

Simply put, Nintendo fanboys should be beating paths to the bookshops to get this issue.

PlayStation: The Official Magazine Holiday 2008


Cover: Alpha Protocol
Gift Guide: 8 pages overall (though with the most striking visual design out of them all, an "iPod silhouette"-inspired look that's eye-catching)

PTOM's a year old! And I'm sure editing it must be a ton easier now that the PS3's finally got a critical mass of developments to report on. This one's full of TGS coverage (probably has the most per-capita out of NP's rambling tour of the show floor) and reviews, reviews, reviews. I'm really starting to dig PTOM's design, to the point where it's hard to decide if the writing or the art is the most improved part of the rag compared to Issue 1.

Retro Gamer Issue 56


Cover: Gauntlet

On to the Britmags! RG shelled out for a crazy fold-out cover this month; the rest of it features the new DS Gauntlet, which is reviewed in this issue alongside an enormous retrospective look at the original.

There's a massive bumper crop of making-of features this issue -- Samba de Amigo, arcade game Rampage (an intensely interesting look into Midway arcade management in the '80s), Brit-adventure Beneath A Steel Sky, somewhat older Brit-adventure Terrormolinos, and an ancient Brit platformer called Super Pipeline that not even I'd heard of until now. Plus, a Kojima interview where he talks about Snatcher. Good heavens!

CVG Presents Issue 4


I am really, really starting to dig this series of specials. I couldn't give two craps about Call of Duty, but this is one hell of a piece of work, the best one they've done so far. Game recaps, interviews, gun info, programming tech info, old covers, even a potted WWII history that actually succeeds in engaging the reader thanks to its crazily stimulating, geographically-themed art design. I don't even want to think about the amount of time that went into this work, and how few people will really appreciate how high-quality it is. If you see this sucker, get it.

PC Zone November 2008


Cover: Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning

I had a look at the next issue of Total PC Gaming, but it appeared to be more of the same thing -- basically, your typical Brit PC mag -- so I decided to quit buying it in favor of PC Zone, which is similarly expensive and comes with a DVD I don't care about (and also a month or two behind in US distribution) but at least is hilarious to read.

I kind of have difficulty explaining why I enjoy this mag so much sometime. It's certainly not because I get lots of hot and exclusive information each issue, not with the time lag on it. It's not because of its design, which is pretty run-of-the-mill (PC Gamer US is flashier, even). No, it's because it's seriously goddamn funny, and that's the only current game mag I would even consider using that adjective to describe. I should just devote a column to scans of bits and pieces I laughed out loud at -- then it'd be easier to explain.

Anyway, if you're American and are lucky enough to see this, give it a shot, please.

Game Developer November 2008


Cover: Age of Booty

Can't forget about this one, of course! The "Top Deck" list of the most influential people in the industry, teased on the top of the cover, is pretty cool -- I wrote the same sort of feature for 1UP.com's launch five years ago, which I tried to find on the site just now but I'm sure is long gone. Comparing the two features woulda been neat, though. I'm positive that I had Satoshi Tajiri and Nexon's Min Kim on my 2003 list, for example. Lorne Lanning was on my list, too, though in the ensuing half-decade he seems to have missed the cut for GD's. Hmm.

[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.]