It’s tough being a video game enthusiast living in the Northeast. Most of the video game conventions are on the West Coast, and the few shows that feature video games in the Northeast, like Digital Life* and the NY Comic Con, don’t come close to being true video game cons. After being disappointed by this year’s Digital Life, (half the space was used for people to play games that had been out for months) I made the trip down the Jersey Turnpike to Philadelphia for this year’s Video Game Expo, hoping for a better experience.
As the quality of the VGXPO website suggested, the event was extremely disorganized. Prior to the show, after asking whether press would be receiving any materials, organizers informed me that we’d receive materials during registration. When I arrived and asked if there were any press materials, my question was met with confused stares as if I said “God, I love Motown. Can you direct me to the Golden Gate Bridge?” It’s by far not the biggest crime against humanity (that would be the acceptance of Cosplay), but as there was so little description of the VGXPO’s exhibitors and events, I wanted to be able to prepare.
Nevertheless, sans materials, I entered the half-full convention room that had the light quality of sixteenth century Kansas. As one blogger defended, “Gamers like the dark. It’s our element.” No its not, you ignorant troll. It’s not “our” element at all. We’ve reached the point in our technological evolution to play video games in the light, whether by inventing screens that prevent glare or rearranging the fucking furniture. Gun to my head, I’d swear the lights were turned down to reduce the room fee.
Also noticeable was the complete lack of people. When Alex and I went to the Digital Life show in NYC a few months ago, the convention floor was decently packed; couldn’t walk ten steps without bumping into someone wearing a hoodie. As for the VGXPO, I am pretty sure that I heard echoes of my thoughts.
My first stop was the Rock Band tour bus. For those who are unfamiliar, the quick explanation of Rock Band is that it’s Guitar Hero, but with two sets of guitars, drums and a microphone (and if you don’t know what Guitar Hero is, I’m positively shocked you’ve read this far). In front of the bus, the was the full Rock Band set-up, with some experienced people playing, like they were a real band. No matter how often I see it, I can’t get over people singing while playing the game. Additionally, anyone who chooses to only sing (and not play guitar), while playing Rock Band, should be forced to live with Dog for a month. Go with Christ, Bra.
Inside the tour bus, there were multiple set-ups for people to try the game out. I chose to play drums, seeing as the last time I was around a drum kit, I thought Phil Collins was a bad ass for making that guy kill himself. I ended up playing with a couple of other people, one who kept saying “yeah, I’m going to go expert. I don’t care, I’m going to do it, dude.” Clearly, an early candidate for Douchebag of the Day (but don’t worry that category was about as stacked as Best Picture for 1939). Right before the song starts, I realize that these drums have been pounded harder than Betty White in my dreams. Despite beating on the drums like they owed me money,** only half of the shots registered. Regardless, given a new set of drums, Rock Band will probably ruin my life (or at least my marriage).
Next, I took a tour of several computers on display, one of which had a preview version of Crysis. The game looks amazing, but really that’s about it. People can drool over it all they want, but it’s just another FPS to me.
After Crysis, I completed a thorough exploration of the floor and met with several vendors (one of my activities at these conventions is watching the looks on the poor PR rep’s faces, while dealing with one of the many anti-social patrons), including a non-Billy Mitchell selling hot sauce, some people starting a Philly nightlife site and gamer networking site called Gamervision.com, which appears to have promise. Also, there was a “museum of video games” (which is comparable to “my old video game shit” in my parents attic, but I’m not charging $5 a pop to go up there), but no one was there. I’m still shocked to see the number of vendors late to the event. As if no one gave a shit.
Upon finishing up on the floor, I headed to the back trailer, where Panasonic had a display of HD televisions, including a 102” plasma that retails for about $70,000. Being invited to “try it out,” I played some NCAA ’08 for the PS3. After a couple of series, including almost-life-sized video game Chad Henne overthrowing several Michigan receivers, exactly like real life Chad Henne, I wanted to mortgage my house (again) and do whatever it took to get one of these tvs. Just unbelievable.
As for the convention floor, I was disappointed. There was tons of wasted space and that’s not even including the late arriving exhibitors. Additionally, the floor looked disorganized, including displays still being set-up an hour after the show opened. The exhibitors, however, we incredibly nice and wonderful to meet; but that may have to deal with the fact that I can carry on a conversation (most of the time). For this event to flourish, there has to be more exhibitors, more previews and some lights.
That ends Part I. Tomorrow, Part II: the Events of the VGXPO, including the panel discussions, my thoughts on the documentary Moral Kombat (see it’s a play on words) and Jack Thompson, Esq.
That’s all for now.
*Well, except for Digital Life was centered on having a massive set-up for people to watch a Guitar Hero III tournament.
** Property of Rev. Bob Levy