['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. This time - a look at a classic magazine collection completed.]


As threatened earlier, I tracked down a copy of the 100th edition of GamesTM published last month -- the cover I wanted the most out of all 100 they produced, no less. It was something of a stroke of luck, considering that I found it in the loneliest, most barren bookstore within ten miles of my house, and they had a whopping selection of three copies to choose from.

It was actually the first time I've purchased a GamesTM since their 50th issue, about four years ago. At the time, I didn't have an extremely high openion of it. I appreciated what it was going for, mind you -- a 180-page magazine full of original game content every month, the sort of book size that becoming kind of rare even when GamesTM opened in December 2002, along with an extensive regular section devoted to retro gaming. (Imagine Publishing now handles both GamesTM and the standalone Retro Gamer, making them the biggest professional outlet for old-game content almost by default.)

The idea was nice enough, but the execution used to be pretty lacking. Sure, there was a lot of content, but that was their only selling point -- quantity. A great big heap of the same old, boring, by-the-book news, previews, and reviews, something every magazine was doing already.

They would occasionally have good ideas, but they wouldn't follow through with them, like the time they opted against reviewing Half-Life 2 (since final code arrived too late) but wound up doing nearly no other coverage on the game, either.

gamestm100-1.jpg   gamestm100-2.jpg

That was, of course, a pretty long time ago. I can't comment on how the mag is overall now, but I can say that while the 100th issue doesn't contain any great surprises, I like the package a lot more now.

It being the 100th, GamesTM goes through all the basic celebratory features -- a history of the past ten years in gaming, a rundown of the "100 Greatest Games Of All Time," all that kind of stuff you expect to see. But there's something different about it, and I'm not just talking about the fact that their top-100 list has ZX Spectrum games in it.

It's still inherently GamesTM, with lots of text out the wazoo and an otherwise pretty clean design, but it's changed from before, somehow. Maybe it's just a matter of the magazine maturing and getting into its groove. Where articles used to be color-by-numbers in their boring predictability, four years later they seem a lot more intelligent and engaging.

This engaging-ness extends out to the regular content as well, which seems to have dropped the standard previews for a much more Edge-like, industry-oriented approach. There's tons of interviews with folk like Peter Molyneux, Tim Schafer, and Takashi Iizuka, the Sonic guy, all of which go on for lots of pages and successfully stay thematic and interesting despite their length.

The retro section, the bit I always liked, is still as well-done as always -- I'm always astonished at how Imagine seems never to run out of content along these lines. Even the reviews, the most standard part of the magazine, have seen a bit of innovation, with intelligent little sidebars focusing on what makes the game in question unique or flawed and a special emphasis on online components.

I never really considered subscribing to GamesTM ($75 for 13 issues) until now, but the next time I get paid for a big project, I might just be inclined to change my mind. GamesTM has never been a massive sales success -- its circulation has bounced around the low 20,000s for most of its run -- but nearly eight years after it was founded, I'm wondering if it's finally starting to hit its stride.

[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.]