[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 month.]
May is here, and with it come the pre-E3 print mags. It's a delicate time to be in the game mag business, since any really major E3 bombshells aren't going to be revealed for another couple weeks or so, leaving the print mags to scrounge around for what they can find for this month.
It ain't all bad of course, to wit...
Edge May 2011
Max Payne 3
A very somber theme for this month's issue, what with the cover feature devoted to a progress report on Rockstar's other
big IP and an equally feature on alien shooter Prey 2.
It's to the point where the editors feel the need to point out in the intro that there's some "warmer" content too, including features on meta-parody-monster Cow Clicker and Double Fine's new Sesame Street game.
The dark broodiness extends even into the "think" features this time around, which are devoted to gamers' fixation with killing in games and the pains users (and devs) have with online and co-op play. Both features are typical Edge at their best, covering everything you can think of and speaking with everyone pertinent you can think of. It's not cover fodder, exactly, but it's the sort of thing I remember the most.
GamePro June 2011
The joy of PC gaming
I don't mean to sound alarmed or anything like that, but a year ago, GamePro was doing covers like this one
and now they're back to doing "[number] Reasons Why [positive statement]"-type coverlines. The design's a lot snappier than it used to be, still, but I can't decide whether a return to more newsstand-friendly cover subjects like this is a sign for the better or for the worse.
These fears are allayed a fair bit by the inside, though, where the design folks are putting in some serious effort. Although it's not quite as kooky as the Davison era at its peak, there's still something eye-catching and pretty done with the design in every spread.
The cover feature's also a surprise to me -- instead of being a boring preview roundup, it's more of a feature
roundup, my favorite one being "5 reasons why we love PC gaming" with counterpoints written in for each reason. The feature on the gain/loss equation of game psychology is also great -- one of what's threatening to become a series of crazily in-depth features on this subject.
I'm not sure I mentioned it yet, but the review section is now an "analysis" section that sizes up the state of each platform for the month, offering some excerpts from Gamepro.com reviews along the way. I love it to bits. It gives the mag the ability to be critical about games while not pretending the online site doesn't exist; that freedom allows it to do its own thing and be a hell of a lot more readable as a result.
So, yeah, I was preparing for disappointment with this cover but it wound up being my favorite mag of the month. Can't complain.
Electronic Gaming Monthly June 2011
EGM's no slouch either, of course. I love their long interviews, and this month it's with Tim Willits, creative director of Rage and a guy with a lot to say about himself, his company, and his game.
I'm not sure many readers in the US will care about the FIFA 12 preview, but it's not a bad one as these things go, even though it misspells the name of EPL team Tottenham Hotspur as "Tottenham Hotspurs" -- something that will really, really piss off a fan if you call them that at a bar. Voice of experience here.
A "10 games you've never played" feature also gives the unreleased PS brawler Thrill Kill the odd honor of being mentioned by three different game mags in a single month.
Official Xbox Magazine June 2011
Red Faction: Armageddon
Between the cover piece and the bit on Saints Row: The Third, OXM's just as gritty and extreme as Edge this time around. It's well balanced by the developer profile on The Behemoth, which sounds like an utterly ridiculous place -- the first time a dev piece made me want to work there since that time PC Gamer visited CCP a year or two ago.
PlayStation: The Official Magazine June 2011
The glue Future's used as of late to affix advertisements to the covers of subscription magazines is proving to be a major pain in the ass. I just can't seem to find a way to remove the ad without the blue ripping off the cover around the midsection. (I'm sure Sony has more important issues to worry about at the moment, but still...)
Evan Shamoon, who's been in and out of game media since he worked for Ziff's Xbox Nation way back in the day, has made a habit out of writing game-preview cover stories for OPM.
It's one that I hope he doesn't quit anytime soon, for while the quality of his subjects vary, he's always solidly capable of keeping readers' attention. It's partnered with a humorous timeline of history as defined by the premises of game backstories -- a lot funnier than it sounds, trust me.
Nintendo Power June 2011
In the latest case of Nintendo Power knowing their audience all too well, the back cover of this month's issue is from Centrum. Yes, the vitamin people. Centrum Ultra Women's, to boot. They're touting a contest for a Wii Fit Plus prize package on their website. The on-again, off-again ocarina ads are one thing, but man, I'd expect this in Woman's World, not a mag with coverage of Resident Evil and Dead or Alive!
The juxtaposition is particularly funny because the content this month is chiefly for hardcore fans, what with features devoted to Ocarina of Time 3D, the 3DS Tales of the Abyss, and the Japanese visual-novel genre.
Gaming pedants (or former game magazine editors) may not like this issue quite as much, though: It spells the name of the Ninja Gaiden hero "Ryu Hyabusa" once.
Retro Gamer #88/89
I finally got my subscription worked out, so I've got a double dose of RG this week. Joy! The first issue features an interview with Dave Theurer, coder of Missile Command and Tempest and a guy who's a bit notorious for being a tough interview to track down. The RG editors used it as an occasion to completely nuts with Missile Command coverage, from the interview itself to a full breakdown of the original arcade cabinet. Issue 89, meanwhile, is all C64, all the time -- I can't complain about that.
Game Developer May 2011
Aw, and how can I forget about Game Developer? This month's top feature (in my book at least) is "Real Game Dev Heroes", a sort of reverse of the "Worst Game Dev Nightmares" bit they did a while back -- it's a collection of stories about the heroic efforts dev-team members went through to save projects from disaster.
[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.]