In-Depth: What The (Game) Papers Say - September 2010, Pt. 1

Magazine vet Kevin Gifford peeks inside the latest video game mags, catching up with GamesTM, learning what Nintendo Power can do when there are few Wii releases, and checking out GamePro's 'Shooter Issue.'
[Magazine vet Kevin Gifford peeks inside the latest video game mags, this time catching up with GamesTM, learning what Nintendo Power can do when there are few Wii releases, and checking out GamePro's 'Shooter Issue.'] I'll need to keep this intro quick as it's a busy weekend for me, but I just wanted to note that GamesTM, the monthly British mag that's the main print competition to Edge over there, is celebrating its 100th issue, available on UK stands right this minute. Sort of like what Edge did with their 200th last year, they're commemorating the feat by doing a 100-cover split run of the latest issue. You can see a large image of all of them at the above link, covering game history from Space Invaders to Mass Effect 2 and everything in between. I must admit to not reading GamesTM regularly, even though it's on sale at my local Barnes & Noble. Nothing meant against the mag personally; I just need to draw the line on my mag budget somewhere and Retro Gamer (produced by the same publisher) is a lot more unique to me. However, seeing a mag survive in this rocky industry for nearly eight years and continue to unwaveringly target mature, enthusiastic gamers for so long is worth all manner of adulation in my book. So cheers to 'em. I'll buy one of the #100 issues once it gets shipped to the US. Back to the present for now, though; read on to scope out all the game mags that have come out in the past couple weeks: GameFan Issue 3
Cover: DeathSpank Something's very different about this issue of GameFan. It's really heavy, for one. They expanded the number of pages to 100 -- thus making it longer than GamePro -- and are still using the same heavy, high-quality paper stock, so the thing feels really substantial in your hands now. MovieFan, the popular-culture section of the mag that once took up the entire rear section, is also gone, reduced to a single two-page spread of anime reviews. I wonder what made it disappear so quickly, and without any comment on why in the editorial pages. Maybe reader feedback wasn't kind; maybe Dave Halverson had some coverage commitments left over from the late, lamented Geek Monthly and kept MovieFan going just long enough to fulfill all of them; maybe a bit of both. Either way, with its third issue, GameFan is starting to seriously look like a video-game magazine, which is more than I could say for the first two. It's also starting to go "all in" with the old Halverson style of visual design -- the features on DeathSpank and Splatterhouse, in particular, are visual feasts that throw art assets and screenshots willy-nilly across the spreads with gleeful abandon; nothing you ever would've seen in Play. It's an outdated style, yes, but it shows what can be accomplished once art design folks start thinking in terms of spreads instead of individual pages, not having to worry about single ad pages interrupting things. I like it, although I could've done without the large amount of outdated E3 coverage that takes up the majority of pages this time around. GamePro October 2010
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Cover: The shooter issue (separate subscriber/newsstand covers) The difference between good online media and good print media shines brightly this week, with both GamePro and Kotaku doing broadly-themed coverage around the topic of guns and the shooter genre. Kotaku had a lot of articles about gun-related moments in games, the history of virtual headshots, some humorous videos, and so forth. GamePro, meanwhile, is a lot more serious. There's an article, complete with commentary from a psychology researcher, about how shooting games satisfy an urge within those who play therem. There are profiles on 12 iconic video-game weapons and how likely we are to see them in future real-life conflicts. There's a roundup of Vietnam/Iraq vets and game designers talking about how well games simulate the actual experience of ground warfare. And so on. Both of these roundups have their advantages and disadvantages. You can't enjoy GamePro's in two-minute spurts while doing your morning blog cruise, for example -- even the previews of upcoming shooters are pretty lengthy, heady reading. However, the format of print lends itself perfectly to GamePro's approach, allowing the editors to really get into the topic at hand and treat it as something more than a trite theme to wrap around some previews. John Davison has left GamePro at the top, so to speak, after literally turning its editorial mission around 180 degrees, and I think this issue is probably his team's greatest achievement yet. Plus, there's a preview by Dan Hsu in it. Who could've predicted that five or six years ago? That's like my grade-school self fantasizing about "Mario vs. Sonic: The Ultimate Showdown" for my NES. PlayStation: The Official Magazine October 2010
Cover: Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II You can tell that it's a) nearing the holiday season b) nearing the "mature" phase of a console's life cycle c) both when nearly everything in a console-specific magazine covers a sequel of some sort. So it is with this month's P:TOM, which gives a spread to El Shaddai and a fine-looking feature on Joe Danger but sticks to the franchises, otherwise. It does well with the content, though. The cover piece is very simple in sparse in design -- in fact, one of the simplest-looking P:TOM bits I've seen -- and it's followed by a goofy comparison of Dead Space 2 with Dead Rising 2 that is a lot funnier than you'd think. Nintendo Power October 2010
Cover: Epic Mickey NP's writers continue to suffer a bit from a lack of concrete Wii stuff to discuss, part of the reason Other M gets a 4-page review this month. The "best of Metroid" feature that accompanies it, along with another one on the 20th anniversary of the Neo-Geo, help fill out what would've otherwise been a pretty boring issue -- the cover feature is nice, though. @Gamer September 2010
Cover: Fallout: New Vegas The second issue of Best Buy's coupon-equipped game magazine follows in the footsteps of the first one, offering up quick-fire previews and reviews alongside neat little features like a swag-oriented guide to this year's E3. The mag's meant for quick reading, quick digestion, and a bright and local-news type approach to games -- almost the opposite to GamePro right now, in other words. GamePro Special Fall Issue
They really should've just called this "GamePro Presents Halo," because everything good inside this newsstand-only mag is about Reach and its spinoff properties. That's boosted by the fact that the cover piece in this issue was written by Dan Hsu, of course. Game Developer September 2010
Cover: Singularity A really avant-garde cover this month, and while I dug the postmortem inside on Singularity, there's a feature on using heat maps to tune gameplay that includes some lovely visual maps of player deaths in games, much like the ones Game Informer published last month. [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.]

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