In-Depth: What The (Game) Papers Say, January 2011

Magazine veteran Kevin Gifford takes a look at the latest video game mags, this time examining the Skyrim feature in this month's Game Informer, and what the reborn GameFan is up to of recent.
[Magazine veteran Kevin Gifford takes a look at the latest video game mags, this time examining the Skyrim feature in this month's Game Informer, and what the reborn GameFan is up to of recent.] Woe seems to befall me whenever I mention Tips & Tricks Video Game Codebook in this column. Two weeks ago I remarked that I hadn't seen a new issue come out since November or so. I didn't have any further information, but anything I may've been insinuating with that observation proved to be completely incorrect last week, when I found the latest issue in a supermarket in Austin. I promptly purchased it, I lost it someplace. It's got to be in the car, or on a table somewhere in my house, or something. But it's stubbornly refusing to turn up, even after an extensive search. So I looked around Houston for another copy...and damned if I can find one now. Part of me wants to think I just imagined the whole Austin episode, but...but that's crazy. I had it, in my hand. There were tips, and tricks. And pencil puzzles. So I apologize that I can't show you the new issue of T&T here, but rest assured, the mag's still around and it's going along fine. To make up for it, why don't I link to Video Game Ephemera, the website run by T&T editor Chris Bieniek? It's filled with neat stories and collectible junk from video games of the past, and it's worth anyone's time to read. (The above photo, showing Howard Phillips 'rapping' with some of his 'homies,' comes from an educational pamphlet Nintendo distributed to parents.) Now, on to the rest of the mags that came out over the past couple of weeks. I am taking off from this column for a few weeks in order to bum around Colorado ski resorts for a while, so I'll see you on the other side, eh? Game Informer February 2011
Perhaps I should wash my scanner's glass plate with more than just a damp cloth now and then. It is, as you can plainly see, highly incompatible with jet-black originals. Suffice to say that the magazine, in real life, looks a lot better -- though, interestingly, my copy doesn't have the "Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim" coverline seen in GI's own site. There may not be a large number of articles in this month's GI, but every feature gets a massive amount of real estate: 14 pages on Skyrim, a whopping 18 for the "Best Games of 2010" roundup ensconced inside. A third of the mag, right there. That helps to make up for what's a very slow month overall for previews and reviews, but devoting so much space to single subjects also serves to improve the coverage a great deal, I think. The Skyrim bit could've been your typical GI "screens, concepts, director sounding enthusiastic" cover piece, but the extra space lets the writer go just as deep with his interview subject as he does with the gameplay experience. (I tend not to trust much of what Bethesda says about their games pre-release, having seen what 'Radiant AI' wound up actually being like in Oblivion, but they're great folks to talk up anyway.) The "best of 2010" piece ain't bad, featuring a nice mix of serious rankings and humorous lookbacks at the previous year. The second-tier features on Silent Hill and Mortal Kombat are also pretty full and interesting, if a bit cramped-feeling compared to the two huge articles preceding them. GameFan Issue 5
GameFan is another magazine that I never have any idea how well they're doing, since they're still newsstand-only (and their website's still a basic placeholder) after nearly a year of operation. Dave Halverson is still going strong, though -- he's hired on IGN old hand (and former editor) Brandon Justice as editorial director, and he promises in his column this issue that the print mag will go monthly in 2011 "if things go as planned." Good on 'im -- I know I make fun of his writing every chance I get (he wrote the cover piece on LBP2, and it's suitably nuts), but one thing you definitely can't call the new GameFan is generic. LBP2, reviews, and a "top games of 2010" feature occupy nearly the whole mag, but in a way, the games being discussed aren't what you get this mag for -- you get it for the incredibly flashy, busy, and completely unique art design all over each page. In that way, at least, Dave has realized what made GameFan of old seem so special. If enough folks agree with him to keep this mag afloat, then more power to him, I say. PlayStation: The Official Magazine February 2010
L.A. Noire makes a return to print-dom for the first time since GI's March '10 issue, complete with that incredibly iconic sort of cover image you see with a lot of Rockstar titles. The feature inside is very nice -- nothing incredibly novel if you've been following the game online, but with more than its fair share of new info-tidbits and wrapped up into a very neat (and, again, very avant-garde and Rockstarry) package. PTOM also has a "best of 2010" award piece, and I'd say it's the best of the lot this batch -- not too long, not too boring, doesn't fall into the trap of simply printing out a list of games sans explanation. Nintendo Power February 2011
Between Pokemon Black/White and Dragon Quest VI, NP finally has something really meaty to talk about for a change. The review well isn't exactly laden, though, so there are still a couple of filler pieces like "Gaming's Greatest Couples" and a guide to essential games for your DS. All of this is still's well-written in that classic NP sort of way, but there's a particularly special place in my heart for the piece on the Wii version of THQ's WWE All Stars, complete with an interview with announcer Howard Finkel -- I dig it, at least. Beckett Massive Online Gamer March/April 2011
Even B-MOG has a reader-voted "best of 2010" article this issue, with free-to-play, kid-friendly MMO Wizard101 winning Best MMO for some reason. ("OK," says the mag, "maybe it wouldn't be that much of a shock if you could see our Google Analytics results for where the views for the awards page were coming from, but even so...") [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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