['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.]


My dog and one of my ferrets would be happy to wish you a merry Christmas and happy second-half-of-December. They would, that is, if they knew what Christmas, December, or "merriness" was, or were even paying attention to you, which they sadly aren't.

This will be my last column of 2009, since I'll be home with the folks next week and generally not thinking about video games for a little while. Things in print mag-dom this year have been largely the same as last -- low page counts, gamers proclaiming their imminent demise, the usual. It's an encouraging sign, though, that nearly every outlet is actively trying new things, from Game Informer's redesign to GamePro's campaign to shed its kiddie image once and for all. The really big efforts, the EGM remake and Future's WOW: The Magazine, both got delayed to next year, but at least we're ensured something to talk about in '10, right?

That said, click on to check out all the game mags that crossed my desk over the past two weeks. Enjoy the rest of December!

Nintendo Power January 2010


Cover: Mega Man 10

One of the more impactful subscriber-only covers we've seen on an NP, yeah? For once, it's a lot better than the newsstand version, which is a simple clip-art collection of Nintendo icons with some neat captions. It advertises a "250 reasons to love Nintendo" 24-page feature that's packed with neat stuff, although it's a little pedestrian in design.

The reviews section takes it in the chin a little bit as a result of this, but I'm not complainin', especially because of the MM10 coverage and the three pages the editors spent interviewing Takahashi-meijin, the sort of cross-generational hero that I only wish I was.

Game Informer January 2010


Cover: Dead Space 2

If last month's GI was a celebration of everything that's great about print mags, this month's is a reminder of the industry's problems. The book size went from 132 to 104 pages in a single issue now that Christmas is "over," and GI has a house-ad spread for their website on the inside front cover (some of the most coveted and costly adspace in a magazine, after the back cover) instead of a paid advertisement.

Now that the 200th-issue celebration is over, Issue 201 goes back to the more familiar GI format of feature, feature, feature, previews, reviews. The features were the bit that changed the least with the redesign, and like traditional GI articles, they take the kitchen-sink approach. It suits them, though, and if you're into the subject games, they're engrossing.

In the letters page, GI confirmed that retro reviews are a thing of the past in the print mag, as well as editor bios that showed each contributor's likes and dislikes. I can't say I will cry over either omission too much, although Lord knows I slaved over the 50-word bio I got in EGM when I freelanced there half a decade ago. There's a game trivia quiz in the back page again, too -- "The Game Over section will now have a few different rotating features to change things up," GI writes, "so you'll still see an occasional quiz on the final page." Hmm. I dunno. That sort of thing, I wonder if the few dozen people (ballpark guess here) who complained to GI about the quiz's absence are the only ones who actually read it. Wishful thinking on my part, maybe, but...

Official Xbox Magazine January 2010


Cover: Splinter Cell: Conviction

Hey, Conviction's back on the print-mag circuit! The feature inside is classic Future -- big, flashy, packed with eye-catching sidebars and such. It's almost to the point, in fact, where you have to hunt for the main body-text. Almost.

Besides the MW2 blowout and Bayonetta on the disc, the main draws are a couple of funny quickies -- a profile of four annoying gamer personalities and a concept for a Toyota Tacoma designed to be a Pimp My Ride-style portable Xbox lounge of sorts.

PlayStation: The Official Magazine January 2010


Cover: 2010's hugest games

Gary Steinman starts next month (former EIC Eric Bratcher is at Games Radar now), so nothing too drastically different this issue -- just a lot of previews, mainly. The vast cover-touted roundup is bookended by more MW2 mayhem and a bunch of quick, humorous one-off pieces like "the worst water levels in PlayStation history."

Game Developer December 2009


Cover: Brutal Legend

Did you know that Brutal Legend cost $24 million to make? Yow! Just one of the things I learned reading this cover feature. Another: If I want to keep my sanity, I probably better not angle for a job at Double Fine anytime soon.

There's also a long, technical piece on character creation that blew most of my mind to pieces and immensely fascinated the surviving remainder of it.

Videogames Hardware Handbook Volume 1


Ah, the final magazine of the year! Adios, 2009! This is simply a collection of hardware-oriented features from the pages of Retro Gamer magazine -- 255 pages of pure content for $20, covering everything from the NES and 2600 to more obscure byways like the Konix Multi-System. Useless if you have the individual issues, of course, but man, this volume really packs a presence on the coffee table. (It's an excellent cheapo Xmas gift for a gamer friend, come to think of it. I shoulda thought of that before the local B&N sold out of copies.)

[Kevin Gifford breeds ferrets and runs Magweasel, a really cool weblog about games and Japan and "the industry" and things. In his spare time he does writing and translation for lots and lots of publishers and game companies.]