['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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N. Evan Van Zelfden, editor of the brand-new Interactive Age magazine, was kind enough to send a copy of the first issue to me in the mail earlier. The title made its debut at DICE in February and then the Game Developers Conference in March, where it was included in the attendee swag bag.

Interactive Age describes itself on the website as "a peer-journal printed twice-yearly for an audience of executives, creatives, and decision-makers in the video game industry." That verbiage immediately reminded me of Ziff Davis Media's long-forgotten Gaming Industry News, a monthly newsletter-sized publication that promised to "feature up to-date news, inside analysis, business and technology trends, opinions and commentary on the business of electronic videogames." It folded after five issues, thanks to an executive-class subscription cost ($695 per year -- no, I'm not forgetting a decimal point) and a news-oriented beat that was exciting but not unique enough to merit the price. (You can read all five issues of the newsletter on editor Jimmy Guterman's personal website if you're curious.)

After reading Interactive Age, I'm confident that the two publications are absolutely nothing alike. For one, Interactive Age's content is truly unique -- a surprisingly wide selection of features, roundtables and columns, written by people know what they're talking about.

The first issue of IA is themed around the topic of globalization, with articles on the move to internationalize game development and the studio scenes in a wealth of different nations. Gaming Industry News was straight-on Bay Area-centric news and rumors, but IA's beat is all really thought-provoking stuff -- 30 full-length articles, in fact, each of them worth reading.

Among my favorite pieces: Square Enix's Yoichi Wada writing on how Japan's splintered game marketplace could be a harbinger of things to come for the West; histories of game-making in countries that a Westerner wouldn't normally associate with gaming (like Turkey and Iran); meditations on the future viability of the web browser as a game platform; and Harlan T. Beverly (founder of the company that makes the Killer NIC) writing about where he failed and succeeded with marketing the high-end PC network card.

Interestingly, Dean Takahashi, who wrote regularly for Gaming Industry News, moderates a roundtable for this mag devoted to venture-capital investment in the game industry. The group talk's manned by people like Bing Gordon, ex-EA president and current venture capitalist wtih Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and in the genre of "top-class game execs shooting the breeze about the future," it's one of the most fascinating articles I've read in recent memory.

All this is presented in a 136-page-long package with a durable cover and non-glossy but thick and readable internal pages. The mag is (by nature) mostly text, but illustrations from the Into the Pixel video-game art exhibit help break up articles. It's a classy-looking effect, but for whatever reason -- maybe they didn't have enough art -- the virtual exhibition isn't spread out across the entire issue. Eventually the colorful game art way to illustrations from video game patents for things like the Game Boy and the PlayStation controller, which is interesting in a "huh, neat" sort of way but nowhere near as eye-pleasing.

Still, that's a minor quibble compared to the sheer quality of content you get here. Interactive Age is really an unmatched presence in game media; nobody does what it does, nearly as well as it does, and I can't wait to see what's waiting ahead for it. One issue may be $24, but considering that it's a biyearly publication -- and considering that yes, it's actually that readable -- I'm definitely not going to complain.

[Kevin Gifford used to breed ferrets, but now he's busy running 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 of publishers and game companies.]