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It's 2010, and I have been drinking heavily every day so far this year -- something I should probably knock off, before that streak becomes both longer and more fearsome.

I thought I would kick off the new year by discussing a magazine that's trying to be very new indeed. I talked a bit in the past about how GamePro is making a serious effort to reinvent itself in 2010, under the direction of new boss and ex-Ziff Davis standby John Davison. John pins down his mag's festering crisis perfectly in the editorial from the February '10 issue: "In truth, GamePro hasn't been focused on a young audience for many years, but it also hasn't firmly declared itself as standing for anything in particular for a while. As the industry has struggled with its identity, so too has GamePro."

It's a testament to the ironclad laws of branding that GamePro, long after the the 8- and 16-bit eras have become ancient history, is still seen as "kiddie" by so many people. It's also a testament to IDG's tenacity (or, maybe, bullheadedness) that they kept the magazine sailing along throughout the past decade without doing a heck of a lot to discourage this image. Now, with a book size that's under 100 pages and a rather tiny pool of advertising, GamePro may not have had much time left unless something serious was done to it.

That "something serious" took place with this February issue, one that carries over nearly nothing from the old design except for the name. There is no previews section in this magazine any longer, a move that I've been hoping some print title or another would undertake for years; the few preview-y pieces are small and fit into the "Spawn Point" front-end section.

Everything is cleaner than before, with the main content font a bit larger and care taken to keep everything orderly, and the features take a bit of an Edge-like bent in look. (The only visual fault I found is that GamePro uses the same picture of Tim Schafer three times this issue, once in stylized form to kick off a feature about writing comedy in games.)

This cleanup job extends to the reviews section, which emphasizes one really big review (New Super Mario Bros. Wii this time around) up front. Only a few pieces in this bit are very tiny, which allows writers to turn each one into a sort of narrative about their experience instead of trying to play the old-style GamePro "voice of authority."

And on that note, I should emphasize that revised visuals are not the main focus of this redesign. Game Informer's revamp a few months back involved a refreshing of the print-mag externals and a brand-new website; GamePro's involves the writers taking a completely different approach to covering the video game industry from the one they preferred before.

Davison pointed out in his editorial that he wants GamePro to "endeavor to shine a light on the talents that build the experiences we all love so much, and also on the people that play them and are inspired by them." It shows. Nearly every non-review piece in this magazine places names on the forefront, from the piece on Street Fighter character design up front (with Mike Kime, who works at Epic Games) to other bits on MAG, Mega64, the charity group OneBigGame, and an outfit that sells game-themed wine.

That's a huge difference from the old GamePro, which in my mind (and in my experience, working there in 2002-03) had been about being some kind of all-seeing authority that covered everything equally expertly, sort of like Life and Look and the other general-interest magazines of the mid-20th century.

This, despite the fact that the Internet had long shattered any illusion that the editors of GamePro were anything besides human, like anyone else -- a group of hardcore gamers who just happened to be better than average at keeping deadlines and schmoozing game-pub PR. In making GamePro about people (either involving industry folks, or in the way it makes previews/reviews about the writer as much as about the game), Davison has truly put a human face on the brand that wasn't there before and had never been.

You could conclude, if you were a bitterer man than I, that this new GP is basically trying to be Edge USA. But if GP can survive, and keep covering the human side of the industry without becoming too pretentious, it has the potential to become far more than that. Already it's a massive step forward for the brand and a sign that there's no excuse to treat it like some also-ran in the business any longer.

[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.]