['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.]


The first details on the new Future-produced game mag launch are beginning to expose themselves a bit. Called Nvision, the title (a sponsorship of some sort with Nvidia) covers "visual entertainment," which seems to mean a mix of PC games, hardware, video tech, and a bit on movie CGI and such. It's a seasonal mag, and sub cards are in the current issue of Maximum PC (or you can subscribe online right now).

There are still some questions I have about this mag's main thrust -- it sounds basically like an Nvidia-branded Maximum PC to me, just going off the media blurb -- but I look forward to seeing the first issue nonetheless.

This isn't all that's up in Future land, though -- PC Gamer is all new and spanking and everything, so click forward to see how it looks.

PC Gamer April 2009


Cover: F.E.A.R. 2

I put this issue of PC Gamer up front this week because it's the first one to really have the imprint, the impact, the sheer force of a Gary Steinman applied to it. His biggest move: Get rid of the columns in the back of the book and throw the resulting free space into the features and front-of-the-book well, both of which are quite a bit larger this time around.

The "Eyewitness" bit up front reminds me a lot of what you see in the British PC mags nowadays, with a mix of amusing little pieces, interviews with quirky gentlemen (such as the creator of de_dust), first-look previews, and so forth. I like it a great deal. The actual preview well is the same as always -- ok-looking, but the new design is a bit same-y across the pages -- and the features (including a roundup of non-WOW MMOs to try and a top-49 list of game studios) and longform reviews are great as always.

Basically, the editorial got rid of the part of the mag that I'm guessing the fewest people read regularly and used those resources on the bits it wants to push harder instead. I can totally buy into this, and I think it makes for a better magazine. The best US PC game mag, in fact, assuming there was some other US PC game mag to compare it with these days.

PC Zone March 2009


Cover: Also F.E.A.R. 2

This month's reason to buy PC Zone: "When a game develops a vocal following, it's a blessing and a curse. On one hand, a lot of people love your game; on the other, they've all got ideas and demands about the sequel, and if it goes tits up they'll say it's because you didn't use the awesome idea they had where the soldiers wear wedding dresses and use them like parachutes."

There's also a neat, quick read of a feature inside: 35 Ways to Make PC Gaming Better, covering the gamut of modern complaints from SecuROM to the cruelty of patent law preventing minigames from appearing on load screens.

GamePro March 'n April 2009

gp-0903.jpg   gp-0904.jpg

Cover: Terminator Salvation and GI Joe

I got my March GamePro late this month, but it's for the better, because both the March and April ishes are thematically similar -- ie., they've both got movie-license games on the cover. The Terminator feature is classic GP -- they tend to take the kitchen-sink approach to their cover pieces -- and it's backed up by more movie coverage in April, which is led off by a GI Joe feature that's breathtaking in its fullness.

GP is also getting pretty silly with its front-end throwaway features, with bits like "7 best video game lifebars" and "The 9 greatest palette-swapped video game characters". I approve.


It's also worth noting that IDG has released Ultimate Game Guide! for its spring special, a buyer's guide that's interesting chiefly because it's all numbered lists, as the cover suggests. Seems to be all original content, too. It brings me back to the days when I wrote dumb sidebars for Code Vault, it does.

Retro Gamer Issue 61


Cover: Pac-Man

I've worked things out with Imagine's customer support, and now I'm all caught up with my RG collection! Woo! And what a lovely cover to start my spankin'-new subscription with. You've undoubtedly read a "Toru Iwatani talks about Pac-Man" piece at least once in your life before, but this one's pretty to look at and bloody exhaustive. Much fresher is the Resident Evil making-of piece, chiefly because Iwatani was just one guy while Shinji Mikami's RE staff was one giant drama bomb from the very beginning.

The mag is pretty rough on the Mega-CD in the hardware feature tucked inside, but I'll forgive them.

A Tale of Two WOW Guides

ultimateguidetowow4.jpg   cvgpresents6.jpg

On the left is Beckett Massive Online Gamer Presents Ultimate Guide to World of Warcraft #4. On the right is CVG Presents #6, which covers...two guesses...yes, World of Warcraft.

Which one would I recommend? Well, does it really need to be said? CVG Presents is superior in every field I can think of, from visual design and content to readability and gotta-pore-over-it-ness. In the classic CVG fashion, every spread is designed from the ground up to be visually pleasing and worth reading. Just thumbing through it is a joy, even if you don't know jack about WOW. Beckett's guide, meanwhile, is boring columns of text and small pictures, stories packed with jargon and written without a hint of style, and layouts that go from clumsy to something out of GamePro six years ago.

It could be argued that CVG Presents is more of a beginner's introduction to WOW while Beckett's ongoing publication is meant for hardcore players. Well, maybe, but if that's the case, then Beckett is not demonstrating much knowledge on how to sell print magazines on the newsstand (both of these mags are newsstand-only). Think about it. The majority of WOW players would never spend money on a plain-Jane WOW strategy guide; they don't need to when there's a mind-bogglingly enormous wiki and countless guides and FAQs available on the net. That leaves a) casuals b) hardcores who'd impulse-buy a pretty, coffee-table-style publication. CVG Presents covers both markets; it's written to be completely understandable (and entertaining) for anyone and it's filled with pretty art and design. Beckett's guide is the opposite.

I mean, just look at the two covers! If you were a man with just a passing interest in WOW, which cover would grab your eye first on the newsstand? I'm willing to guess the CVG one. Even the coverlines are more inviting on their mag -- meanwhile, Beckett's cover leaves me wondering what a "Naxx" is and why I would even want to craft past 375, whatever 375 means. (These are rhetorical questions. I'm just sayin', your average mag buyer would be confused.)

I've now written far more than I ever intended to about these two mags, but it boils down to this: just buy CVG Presents, okay?

[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.]