['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 -- an analytical look at the latest video game magazines released in the last couple of weeks.]


I need to finish this column up quickly, as I'm going to Japan in two days and have a crapload of work to handle between now and then, but I wanted to comment a bit about the current goings-on at GamePro, the outfit that gave me my first full-time job in the game industry.

The news doesn't seem to have been discussed much in public yet, but Mike Weigand, managing editor at GamePro, announced on Twitter that he's left the company effective this week. Major Mike had worked at GamePro since the salad days of the mid-1990s, when he jumped ship from Sendai -- where he mainly worked on EGM2 and, at times, seemed to practically write the entire magazine solo. He had the honor of being the last man at GamePro that I worked alongside during my own stint at the mag (from the start of 2002 to mid-2003), so the event's a particularly interesting one for me.

Who's replacing him -- and, for that matter, who's replacing John Davison, the print veteran that joined GP in 2009 and completely revamped the mag and website before jumping to GameSpot last month? There hasn't been any official announcement from IDG yet, but I've heard through the grapevine that Julian Rignall, former head of Future Plus (the outfit that handles pubs like @Gamer and NVision) and a guy who's been involved with game mags since 1985, will be taking the reins over there.

If the news is true, then Rignall's certainly got the qualifications for the job. The question at hand, though: GamePro's reinvented itself, yes, but now what? The circulation on the print mag is still not all that hot, reportedly peaking with the Medal of Honor cover and falling since then. I firmly believe that Davison extended the life of the GamePro brand during his short time at IDG, but where Rignall goes next with the brand could be an even more interesting story to watch.

Anyway, let's move on to covering the mags that crossed my mailbox over the past two weeks:

Game Informer November 2010


Cover: Resistance 3

The cover piece is a good example of the dichotomy you tend to see a lot in GI's large-scale pieces. It starts with a description of gameplay which is frankly hard to get through -- a lot of plot exposition and the like, which (no offense meant to Insomniac) is not the main reason why you're playing a Resistance game. As the article moves on, though, it gets more into the technical wizardry behind the game, as well as Insomniac's role in the game business going into the future, and that's where it gets a great deal more insightful.

Subsequent features on Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood and The Last Guardian are nicely executed, too, although the latter is a bit lacking in real content.

The real highlight this month is the Connect feature up front, which rapid-fires three straight articles on story development -- one on Mass Effect, one on storytelling in horror games, and a humorously convoluted flowchart that describes "Every [Japanese] RPG Ever." Put all together, they make you think a lot more than they would have alone.

Electronic Gaming Monthly December 2010


Cover: Dead Space 2

EGM is down to 84 pages this month, which is quite a bit off from when the magazine relaunched -- a tad worrying, especially considering it's the November issue, which used to be the largest or second-largest of the year.

In a perhaps not entirely irrelevant turn of events, EGM's proven itself a place for industry commentary on the scale of GamePro. There's a long interview with Ted Price up front that goes into great depth on the topics GI simply scratched a bit in their Resistance 3 piece. There's a long article about the gap in ethics between an FPS hero's motivations and his actions (it's a lot more interesting than I make it sound, trust me). There's a bit with Ken Levine, a bit with indie MMO developer Undead Labs, and so on and so forth.

Not a large-sized mag, no, but near every page is worth reading, at least.

PC Gamer November 2010


Cover: Guild Wars 2

Not the flashiest of issues in terms of big-names (at least, not unless you follow the PC scene really closely), but the large pieces on Guild Wars 2 and BioShock Infinite are extremely impressive on the eyes.

Out of all the US mags currently being released, I'd argue that PC Gamer has the best design -- or, at least, the most "designed" design. I say this because every page seems to be "just right," in a way -- just the right visual presentation; just enough interesting distractions, just enough text such that you don't get bored making your way to the end of the page. It's a delicate science.

Tips & Tricks November 2010


Cover: LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4

T&T shakes it up a bit (just a bit) this by placing the previews at the start of the mag, ahead of the strategy guides. This might be a pretty good idea, actually -- I have to admit that I only rarely paid them very close attention in the past, shunted to the far end of the book like they were.

The previews themselves are nothing hugely interesting -- they remind me a lot of how GamePro did them back when I was there; very standard and screenshot-laden -- but for a lot of games, this is pretty much the only print-mag coverage they'll get. (Club Penguin: Game Day!, for example.)

Game Developer October 2010


Cover: Final Fantasy XIII

The cover postmortem is co-written by Motomu Toriyama, producer on FFXIII, and he goes into a lot more depth on the game than he did in most mainstream media interviews. It's a fascinating peek into a Japanese high-budget development project, one that you don't often enough.

I was also enthralled by a piece inside about how to make realistic-looking shattered-glass effects, even though I slept through too many math classes in college to understand much of it.

[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.]