['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.]


It was noted in the comments for last week's column that Play Magazine is, perhaps, a misunderstood title in the US marketplace.

I want to set the record straight on this one as soon as possible, especially because assuming Dave Halverson's little game mag makes it to May '09, it will have published more issues than the infamous Die Hard GameFan, the publication that made him gamer-famous.

There are many good things to say about Play -- mainly, its unique design and ability to take any kind of game asset and make it look pretty. There are a few bad things to say about it -- mainly, the fact that the staff seems to not believe in copy editing, perhaps for religious reasons.

But the greatest attraction that the mag has going for it is undoubtedly Halverson himself. If you think the publisher and former EIC of Play has changed his writing style any from the age when he wrote things like "Atari is back, come pet the cat......", you are blissfully incorrect. His penchant for snappy, occasionally nonsensical closing lines has aged like fine wine over these past 15 years, and in recent times, it's only been improved by his new-found undying love for games starring either furry animals or girls with big breasts.

It is not an exaggeration to say that I subscribe to Play half because of its visual design, and half because of Dave's whimsical writing. The man is such a stud that he wrote a report for Play's E3 coverage in the September issue without actually attending the event, something he freely admits in the text. Does your favorite game media outlet have anyone ballsy enough to do that? Of course not. That is because they are not hardcore.

Don't believe me? Just take a look at these actual excerts from Dave's 2008 work:

"You want 'casual' gaming? And you bought a Wii? Ah-hahaha. Take it back and do yourself a favor. Meet Eye of Judgment; shelf life...forever! I need more cards STAT by the way Wizards of the Coast." -- Dave discussing his favorite PS3 online game in February. Does he still play it?

"I get a few (like 2-5 a month) hate letters of my own griping about how we score games too high. They obviously don't read Play as I've explained our philosophy over and over, but I'm pretty sure that none of them really play games. Seems like they pretty much surf the web and then grab a torch." -- Dave hatin' on the haters in March. Play dropped scores entirely a few months later.

"If this one doesn't launch a major franchise, then there's absolutely positively no justice in the world for Valhalla." -- Dave giving a 9.5 score to Viking: Battle for Asgard in April, approximately 30 points above the Metacritic average.

"If this doesn't float your boat, then you live in a dingy [sic]. See that 80ft. motor yacht about to run you down; that's me." -- Dave goes nautical without warning while previewing The World Ends With You in April.

"The genius behind [Hellboy:] Science of Evil started in the board room, which is never the case, when someone said 'rather than constrain ourselves to the rigors of creating a game based on the movie, let's make a game that further solidifies Hellboy as a top quality brand. The last time that happened we got Diesel-powered perfection. I rest my case." -- A bit from Dave's May preview of the latest Hellboy, a game that got average reviews from nearly every other outlet.

"[X-Blades] certainly has all the requisite ingredients [...] There's the parallax mapping, high dynamic range lighting and rendering, radiosity lighting, radiance transfer/indirect lighting, rim lightning, subsurface scattering effects, shadow depth mapping, ambient shadows, volumetric lighting, motion blur, dynamic color correction, advanced image post-processing, animation blending, particle effects, trail effects, and one of the most epic asses ever." -- Dave wrapping up a May preview in only the way that he can.

"I don't see a 360/PS3 version of Tak or Spongebob [sic], but I'm gonna let that slide." -- Dave kicking off a collection of THQ game previews in June.

"Portal is neat I guess, if you're bored, but short." -- Dave berates midgets (or is simply wording his sentences awkwardly) in July.

"Here's a game that's gorgeous on Wii and 360, endlessly creative and 100% FUN." -- Dave talking about (pause for a moment here and try to take a guess..........) Crash of the Titans in July.

"The only problem: We may never see Faith's beautiful face as it's been depicted on many a magazine cover -- including our own -- and advertisement. We also don't see much of her body. Her point of view begins below her chest and so far there are no in-game cutscenes. Then again, the game is called Mirror's Edge; it can't be long until she's standing in front of one." -- Oh, if only Mirror's Edge came through for Dave's wild fantasies!

"Prepare to fall in love with Sonic all over again, unless you're a hater, in which case do us all a favor and play through Brothers in Arms again." -- Dave explaining exactly what anyone who didn't like Sonic Unleashed can do in November.

"Tyris is a beautiful heroine; so beautiful, in fact, that the absence of dynamic animation is all the more puzzling. Her distinctive walk and run, separate animations for every beast (and there really isn't anything more intoxicating than a beautiful half-naked woman riding bareback on a snarling beast) and superb battle movement make the flat stance on sloped surfaces and steps a real head-scratcher. Her boobs are motionless until you reach Fiends Path, too, after which they have subtle natural animation, but I'm guessing that's due to the detail on her various tops. Some flies, eh? Darn limited boob animation!" -- Dave doing what he does best, devoting boundless page space to nubile fantasy game heroines, during his Golden Axe: Beast Rider preview in November.

"Is it too much to ask to enjoy my critter-based epics and various action/adventures without having to be reminded that the average on Game Rankings doesn't echo my enthusiasm? I don't pretend to be the authority on Call of Duty now do I? I just want to enjoy as many Crash, Conker, Kameos, Brutal Legends and Darksiders as I can before the big cryo-sleep (or we colonize space, whichever comes first) and the more heroines and less token GI-Joe's the better." -- Dave admitting what we all knew in August.

[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.]