[Gamasutra contributor Kevin Gifford documents the history of video game magazines, taking an analytical look at the latest video game magazines released in the last couple of weeks.]
There's one modification that I should note in this week's coverage of the latest video game magazines -- I'm not going to be covering Beckett Massive Online Gamer
in the future. I received a renewal notice and it made me realize that I have not enjoyed reading a single issue of that magazine since its debut.
Yes -- Beckett MOG is so bad that I am willing to resist my obsessive completionist ways when it comes to magazine collecting, just to starve the publisher of their $15. I have to draw the line somewhere.
Game Informer May 2011
Mass Effect 3
I got into a discussion with a colleague of mine over this cover. I have an aversion to bald space marines on the covers of game magazines, something that longtime column fans might've noted once or twice over the past half-decade.
My friend, on the other hand, hailed this cover as iconic and a sort of culmination for the series -- which, admittedly, it very well could be, if
you were familiar with the Mass Effect games in the first place. However, in the end, it's still a bald space marine. (This is not GI's fault, of course -- most of their covers are first looks at upcoming AAA titles, and most upcoming AAA titles have starred Vin Diesel-ish dudes for the past 2 or 3 years.)
The ME3 feature has already been well dissected online, so I won't dwell on it apart from stating that it's your basic sort of modern GI feature -- divided into discrete parts, and a bit more like something you'd see in a Future magazine than the long narratives that used to define cover stories here. (The secondary feature on the new Spider-Man is more standard in that respect.)
Opening features are an interesting mix of modern and classic in terms of game mags. There's a roundtable piece that tackles and debates some of gamedom's outstanding questions ("is Japan irrelevant," "will mobile gaming kill handhelds," and so on), which is quite Edge-ish and in-depth.
A couple pages later, though, there's Matthew Kato driving a Porsche 911 Turbo around a racetrack in order to see if his Forza 3 addiction prepared him adequately for the real thing. That's the sort of thing that EGM did all the time in the late '90s, and in some respects, I miss articles like that. Game mags getting mature is good and all, but there needs to be some fun now and again too.
GamesTM Issue 108
This month's GI devoted a small article to the new UE demo Epic showed off at GDC, but GamesTM goes all-in with the bit, spending eight pages on it (including a spread devoted to interviewing Tim Sweeney). Everyone who cares has long since seen the demo, of course, but I have to say that GamesTM's capsule explanations of the technical tricks behind Samaritan are really concise and explain some pretty complex techniques extraordinarily well.
Six pages also get devoted to an interview feature on El Shaddai, the sort of treatment that I don't think any US mag could afford to give at this point even if they wanted too. It's backed up by a couple of other evergreen features, including one about how the proliferation of game options is cheapening the entire industry -- a topic GI obliquely covered in the aforementioned "big questions" feature, but again GamesTM goes all-in with it, interviewing folks and fielding opinions from all over the place. That's the difference you get, I suppose, when you have a bit more freedom in page real estate.
@Gamer May 2011
It's renewal time for readers who ponied up to be charter subscribers of Best Buy's in-house magazine. Unlike Beckett, I'll cheerfully renew for this one -- the mag's not the most extraordinary one I get by a longshot, but I like Andy Eddy and I like the design a great deal.
That being said, @Gamer is mainly previews, reviews and gear coverage, so there isn't a lot I can write about in a column like this. The PSX East feature is neat, though, and part of what seems like an ongoing effort to cover gamer-participation events which I don't see in much other print media.
Electronic Gaming Monthly May 2011
Contrasting @Gamer, the print side of EGM continues to concentrate almost entirely on "industry" topics -- the concept of "problem" gaming, the devaluation of games by mobile platforms (a popular issue this month after Satoru Iwata's GDC keynote), and the Mustard brothers talking about both their current successes with Infinity Blade and the pains they went through with the big-budget Xbox flop Advent Rising. The latter, in particular, is really worth reading, as are most of EGM's longform interviews.
All this before we even get to the cover feature, which is remarkably pictoral in nature for a mag with such a small book size -- and such a rep for being wordy, at least in my mind.
The industry bent makes this a really great mag, a worthwhile companion to GamePro in that respect. They might want to proofread a bit more carefully, though -- an article claims that Iwata made his keynote speech at "GDC 2010," and the word "impressive" is misspelled right at the start of the Mustard interview.
Retro Gamer Issue 87
I am paying dearly for Retro Gamer lately -- first to renew my subscription, then to pay for this issue (which I missed because my sub lapsed), and presumably next to pay for Issue 88 because it arrived MIA in my mailbox and I've failed to find anyone breathing at Imagine Publishing to tell me if I can get a replacement or not.
The cover kicks off a new series of collectors' guides in the mag, features that cover each game system and concentrates on what makes it collectible, what are the must-plays on it, what are the oddities in the library that are worth looking out for on the market, and so on. It's basically Retro Gamer taking their console hardware profiles (a hallmark of the mag since its debut) and freshening them up a bit to avoid repeating themselves too often, and I think it succeeds -- a good mix of history and the sort of goofy trivia that is right up the alley of this mag's target audience.
PC Gamer June 2011
The DVD included with this issue has some really neat Minecraft-themed PC Gamer artwork on it, touting the demo on the disc. It's enough to almost make me wish PCG put it on the mag's cover too, although that'd be silly in a month with Portal 2 coming out.
The review feature's nice, as is a follow-up piece rounding up cheap PC games you can purchase online, but otherwise it's the usual sort of business.
World of Warcraft: Official Magazine Issue 4
As I wrote a bit ago, it's time for charter subscribers to this expensive-but-deluxe experiment to decide whether they want to spend $40 on another year. I must admit, I'm still pondering over this. I don't care much personally about WOW at all, but I want to support drives like this -- and what's more, back issues seem to be outdoing their retail price on eBay right now, something that I suppose is encouraging news.
This issue keeps up the standard, too, offering the big tour of Cataclysm and featuring enough pretty art and design to keep any fan enthralled.
[Kevin Gifford owns over 8000 video-game and computer magazines. Despite this, he is capable of sustaining a conversation with a woman for at least three minutes per go. He runs Magweasel, a really cool weblog about games and Japan and "the industry" and things, and in his spare time he does writing and translation for lots of publishers and game companies.]