['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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Some sad news, at least for me -- I learned the other day that Japanese mag GameSide is closing up shop with its August '10 issue, which went on sale a couple of days back. Devoted largely to Retro Gamer-style coverage of older games and interviews with game designers of the past, the mag had survived two name changes and about 14 years of constant publication before finally giving up the ghost.

GameSide began life in 1996 under the title Used Games, an A6-size (105mm x 148mm) mag that was published on a seasonal basis. It was part of a small wave of A6 game titles that debuted in Japan during the mid-'90s, spearheaded by editors from Kadokawa Shoten and other large publishers who wanted to write about games without suffering under the advertiser and reader demands of a mainstream outfit.

Chief among these new mags was Game Hihyou (Game Criticism), which launched in 1994 and devoted most of its pages to longform, in-depth reviews of console games. Like Computer Gaming World until the early '90s, Game Hihyou had a policy of only reviewing boxed retail copies of games, which made their reviews late but gave them a well-researched sense of authority that was appreciated by its fans far more than the 60-word blurbs that Famitsu published in their cross-review section. (The mag was also famous for its fairly obvious anti-Square bias, as well as for refusing all advertising from game companies, a policy that remained in effect for all but the final two issues.)

Used Games' beat wasn't strictly retro stuff; it was a bit more nuanced than that. Its editors were more interested in simply finding obscure, fun old releases, the sort of games that fell through the cracks of mainstream media coverage, and giving them the push they deserved. It was written for the kind of guy who liked spending afternoons going up and down the game-shop aisles, thumbing through CD cases and trying their luck with something they hadn't heard of before -- the thrill-of-the-hunt sort of gamer.

That was exactly who I was when I lived in Japan 12 years ago (I devoted most of my Sunday mornings to touring Tokyo flea markets for Famicom and MSX games), so when I discovered Used Games, it was like I had found a magazine written exclusively for myself.

This approach continued with remarkably little change through the years, as Used Games changed names to YuGe and finally GameSide in 2006. The mag held regular yearly events in Akihabara that attracted pretty big crowds; it was the focal point of a retro scene in Japan that was remarkably large in size, especially considering that it existed before the Internet was a household item. The mag really felt like something new, and I was always a little sad that it had no ready counterpart in the US or elsewhere. (Retro Gamer is close these days, certainly.)

GameSide was pretty much the last of the A6 game mags to survive in Japan. Game Hihyou closed in 2006; Continue (a mag I've written a little about in the past) is still around but has been reinvented as an anime/subculture mag with very little game content. The GameSide name will live on, at least -- the publisher has promised that paperback compilations of old issues, which apparently do a pretty brisk business in Japanese bookstores, will remain in print.

[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.]