['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.]


For the first time in about three years of writing Game Mag Weaseling, I'm going to not talk about magazines at all. Hopefully you will forgive me; I've been on vacation in the lovely CA Bay Area for the past few days, largely basking in the nostalgia, and my mind hasn't been on the subject.

I lived in San Francisco from '01 to '05, working first for GamePro then Ziff Davis, and as a result I spent a lot of time in SF's downtown district, home to some of America's most expensive real estate...and, also, some of its most vacant presently.

I was particularly interested in revisiting the Metreon, the urban shopping center established by Sony in 1999, for the first time in a few years. I always sort of saw the Metreon as the most unique symbol of the PS2/GC/Xbox era of console games, chiefly because I went there all the time for industry events.

Konami and SOE held their big video presentations for their Gamers Day events in the "Action Theater" upstairs; Square Enix and Bandai held big public game launches in the PlayStation Store on the street corner. There is the Walk of Game, a catwalk on the second floor with some tiles that say "Sonic the Hedgehog" and "EverQuest" on them.

For a while in '03-'04, game press and developer rank-and-file gathered in the bar/lounge area for semi-regular industry networking events, which I went to mainly 'cos a new kind of liquor would be half-price every night.

Even at the time, I don't remember much of the Metreon being heavily-trafficked apart from the movie theater. My suspicions were confirmed when I revisited a couple days back. The Metreon, which was bought by mall developer Westfield in 2006, is remarkably empty.

The Bandai store is gone; Games Workshop is gone; the comic-book shop (photographed above) is gone; Sony Style is gone; the PS Store is closing soon; the bar appears to be available chiefly for special events only these days.

The big arcade on the second floor, which also had a bar and used to feature this weird Heavy Metal-magazine theme to the decor, is now more than half composed of redemption games. And I haven't even gotten to the Where the Wild Things Are stuff on the third floor.

Westfield is planning a $30 million renovation of the Metron that'll take the noticeably cave-like structure and make it wide-open, cheery, and a bit more like a typical mall. A lot of the "current structural clutter" will be removed in the process, likely including the Walk of Game (which hasn't seen any new inductees since the 2006 Westfield takeover anyway).

I feel, in a way, like I'm losing part of my history...even though I rarely ventured inside for reasons that didn't have to do with eating free hors d'oeuvres and listlessly taking down notes about games like Sonic Heroes and Nano Breaker.

The game industry may not be in any danger of disappearing tomorrow, but it, like everything else, is changing more rapidly than ever before. Maybe I don't play as glamorous a role in it any longer, but even today, there are few fields I'd rather want to work in. Though, I do admit to being glad that I haven't had to write the words "Sonic Heroes" in about five years until today...

[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.]