['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.]

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If only Game Mag Weaseling was around in 1977! Then I could've covered books like this!

While clearing out my closet, I came upon my one and only copy of Video Games by Len Buckwalter, very possibly the first third-party book devoted to games (and, if you reeeeaaaally want to stretch the definition, the first strategy guide ever written).

The book actually predates the Atari 2600, so the majority of its coverage is devoted to dedicated Pong consoles. It's packed with great photos of 70s people in their 70s living rooms and 70s electronic stores playing 70s games, and it's a killer collector's item -- you generally won't find copies online in good condition for under $50. (I think I got mine back at a swap meet in 1996 for a couple bucks.)

But enough about the past! It's the present I must worry about now -- specifically, the three game mags that have crossed my desk in the past fortnight, to wit:

Edge June
2009

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Cover: Blur

Back when I was at Ziff, there was a rule -- I'm not sure if it was ever a spoken one, or just a rule of thumb passed around the graphic designers -- that racing-game covers didn't sell. This may've been influenced from the time GMR did a cover piece on Auto Modellista that nobody really liked. I have to admit that Blur does not sound like a super-exciting game to me, but then when I think of arcade racers I think of Juiced so perhaps I'm too jaded for my own good.

The following feature on Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 is also a bit disappointing, given that it's the first look I've seen inside the post-Itagaki Team Ninja and yet it asks hardly any questions about life without the flashy biker cosplayer leading them.

The other features are far neater, including bits on underground/viral marketing, a progress report on Xbox Community Games, and the most in-depth look at adventure game developer Cing that I've ever seen. (The Cing feature has a bit of a gaffe in it -- one of the screenshots from their past games has a visible watermark on it from advanscene.com, a Nintendo DS pirate-scene news site. Undoubtedly it was just a careless Google Image search.)

N'Gai Croal finally goes in-depth on his meeting with Resident Evil 5 producer Jun Takeuchi in his column, and it's almost worth his touting it for a whole month, because he makes Jun look like a total fool, a guy who couldn't even remember where exactly in Africa his dev team was location-scouting. Whether you agree or disagree with Croal's views, it's "game journalism" at its finest.

Game Developer May 2009

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Cover: Deadly Creatures

This is an issue of GD worth paying attention to. Not that any of them aren't worth attention, but you know what I mean. I wouldn't go so far as to call it a "redesign," but I think we're witnessing a restructuring of priorities with the mag.

The new GD is a great deal more visually resplendent than before. All the articles have much more illustration and design to them (the back-page humor column has a piece by Dan Paladin, artist for The Behemoth), and the cover story is designed almost like it would be in a Future mag, featuring a ton of neat concept art and making Deadly Creatures look a lot more exciting than the uninspired box art lets on.

What's more, the articles take an approach to game development that's a fair bit more kinder to the wannabe industry insider before. In addition to the usual postmortem, there's a roundup feature where anonymous writers from all the major departments of a game outfit chime in on surviving and making yourself seem important in your job.

There's a GDC recap that has quotes from all sorts of neat maker types, old and new, including Hiroshi Matsuyama talking about how he lived at work for three years. There's even a page written by Derrick Sobodash covering humorously bad Chinese NES ports of games like Final Fantasy VII and Chrono Trigger. (He wrote something similar for PiQ in '08, but nobody read it, so I forgive him for re-tackling the topic for GD.)

I like this direction they're taking, definitely, and I'm hoping that the mag consistently becomes interesting to the "common man" for more than its postmortems in the future.

Nintendo Power June 2009

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Cover: Red Steel 2

A solid issue filled with lovely interviews -- though I think I say this about Nintendo Power every time a new issue arrives. (In fact, the lengths of the Red Steel 2 and Punch-Out!! interviews are just as long as something you'd see in Play. Maybe a little too much text, perhaps? I dunno.)

[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.]