['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.]


It's sub-renewal time for me! Here's a kind letter I received from my good friend Dave Halverson in the mail earlier this month. I can tell that he wrote it personally, to me, because he makes the same sort of grammar errors that I see in his magazine all the time.

The fortunes of the print-magazine business being what they are these days, publishers in all fields are falling over themselves inventing ways to retain their subscriber base. A lot of the mags I subscribe to (including Wired and all of Future's publications, until recently) begin sending subscriber renewal notices to me starting about six issues into my subscription. This is merely annoying, but some slightly more unscrupulous mags are even worse.

I subscribed to Armchair General a while back and let the subscription expire earlier this year. Two months later, I received a very official-looking "bill" from the publisher, talking about how "payment is due" for another year's subscription and failure to send this payment would damage "my personal credit" with the company, whatever that means. I, of course, didn't owe the publisher anything, something I confirmed when I contacted customer support and told them to stop bothering me. From this, I can only conclude that Armchair General's circulation department is looking to confuse the elderly military nuts who are the mag's main audience by thinking they are past due on a bill when they're actually just getting an invitation to resubscribe.

No publication in the game biz has gone this low, fortunately, and so I am resubscribed once again to everything that I can in the genre. Read on to find out about every game mag that's come out in the past couple weeks (and that I care about). Things are generally pretty slow in this month's stack, given how there wasn't much to talk about before the E3 rush:

Game Informer June 2009


Cover: Modern Warfare 2

I understand that Captain "Soap" MacTavish's return is big news these days. What I don't understand is how GI can print target renders and call 'em screenshots in the table of contents.

I don't envy GI's position here, being a long-lead mag covering a blockbuster game that isn't gonna be done for months from a publisher that wants to keep a tight lid on for advertising reasons. But this feature really tells you nothing that the trailers haven't -- that, and the newest trailer actually had some in-game play, at least. Is it asking too much to look at a game preview feature and ask for it to be about a game, as opposed to some renders and Infinity Ward's president talking about how awesome it's gonna be? Or am I just being a crusty bastard?

(Also, there's a house ad for GameStop's Modern Warfare 2 presale campaign later on in the mag. Am I a crusty bastard for mentioning that, too?)

The DJ Hero subfeature is a great deal more interesting to read and filled with actual information on the product and what's going on behind the scenes. It's the highlight for what's otherwise a bit of a slow pre-E3 issue. Classic GI is really unique, too, for the first time I can remember -- it's a look at the game Oddworld Inhabitants was doing pre-production work on before closing in 2005.

Play June 2009


Cover: Bayonetta

Shockingly, Play covers a video game starring a fetching young woman and Dave Halverson isn't the writer. Hideki Kamiya's a fun guy to listen to, and there's a ton of him in here. And, er, that's about it, actually.

GamePro June 2009


Cover: The most dangerous games of 2009

I let my GamePro subscription lapse by accident, so I'm a bit late gettin' this one in -- doubly shameful, because this is the issue that includes the 20th-birthday retrospective I wrote. I was always a little sad that the 20th-anniversary piece I contributed to EGM never saw the light of day, so I'm happy to be more fortunate this time around.

Other than my part of the mag (which is absolutely brilliant, you can trust me on that), this is mainly a review/preview edition. You may be a tad surprised to open the issue up and discover that GP's opening game in the "dangerous" feature is Madden NFL 10, but then again, football is pretty dangerous, I suppose. There's a much neater roundup of "little" games afterward, most of which are PSN titles.

PC Zone June 2009


Cover: Mafia 2

The May '09 issue of PC Zone never made it to my source bookstore (sob), but I'll swallow my bitter tears for two reasons: this awesome cover, and an equally awesome feature inside where they test the durability of three PC mice by taping them to the soles of their sneakers and walking around all day. One of them actually survives, even.

Retro Gamer Issue 64


Cover: The Last Ninja

The front end of Retro Gamer has been redesigned a bit, with a bit less boring old news and some more columns and flashier-looking visual thingies. (One of them is a new regular piece by Iain Lee, a British celebrity of some variety that I've never heard of, but his writing's quite funny.)

The highlight of the issue is the interview with John Twiddy, the programmer of the first two Last Ninja games -- a series that one could argue marked the pinnacle of the Commodore 64 as a gaming platform. It's hopelessly twiddly (har! get it?!) to play by today's standards, but back in '88, nothing was more atmospheric, I don't think. There's also a making-of for the one and only Frankie Goes to Hollywood game which is a joy to read, especially if you've actually tried playing the thing.

Tips & Tricks July/August 2009


Cover: Halo Wars

T&T keeps on truckin'. The strategies seem sound, the codes code-y, the previews preview-y, the Jamster ad spread on the back eye-catching. I noticed that T&T doesn't seem to offer subscriptions any longer.

Summer Movie Game Guide


It's OXM's special for the summer! And judging by the coverlines, the editors seem to have a pretty pessimistic attitude about the Summer Movie Games! Not that I can blame 'em! If I had to write an entire special on this topic, I'd be the same way!

This is a remarkably well put together special, believe it or not. There are the usual plain-Jane previews, yes, but a number of original features, too -- a complete timeline of Batman games, reviews of every movie-game on modern consoles, a great big guide to movies based on games (did you know Tony Jaa was in MK: Annihilation?), and a rundown of the worst scenes from Uwe Boll films. Congratulations, Mikel Reparaz, for watching every Uwe Boll film for our entertainment. You deserved whatever you were paid to write this.

[Kevin Gifford breeds ferrets and runs Magweasel, a site for collectors and fans of old video-game and computer magazines. In his spare time he does writing and translation for lots and lots of publishers and game companies.]