|This year's E3, the world's biggest video game
convention, was back in LA with a vengeance. There were three airplane hangar-sized rooms
absolutely packed with the best hardware and software the video game industry has to
offer. The immense scale of E3 reflects how well the market is doing. This year--for the
first time--Americans spent more of their money on video games than any other form of
entertainment. Top shelf artists like Everclear and Beck played at the exclusive
nighttime parties for the big name companies like Sony and Eidos. The amount of money
poured into this event is truly phenomenal. (I wonder how much a giant blow-up Laura Croft
costs, and I wonder if she does parties.)
E3 is all about getting noticed, which isn't so easy with hundreds of game companies and thousands of reporters filling every square foot of the convention center. Some companies, like Konami, resorted to using nearly naked women to push their products, while others, like Nintendo, used giant huggable characters to snare reporters and onlookers. Despite the jockeying for attention, the different companies seemed to coexist in harmony. Sega bordered Sony; Sony bordered Nintendo, yet no skirmishes broke out. Um Jammer Lammy (the guitar strumming hero from Playstation's Prappa the Rapper's sequel) and Sonic were content to stand side by side.
While the main stream media focused on violence in video games, the eyes of the gaming media were on the Dreamcast (already out in Japan), Playstation 2, and the announcement of the next generation Nintendo "Dolphin." Sega has done a lot to overcome Saturn's failure; the Dreamcast makes them a contender once again. Graphics on the Dreamcast rivaled those on any computer system and with 11 titles debuting with it--and many more to come--there wasn't any lack of games to play. Power Stone, House of the Dead 2, Blue Stinger, and Sonic Adventure all made me wish I was Japanese and could already enjoy the Dreamcast and its excellent games. Though next year Sony plans to display working production models of its Playstation 2, for this year there was a demo of Grand Turismo 2 that gave us a mouthwatering taste of things to come--so mouthwatering there were security guards posted round the clock.
Nintendo made a break away from traditional console titles and showed off Starcraft, Quake II, and Command & Conquer straight from the PC. Nintendo was really pushing Star Wars, Episode 1: Racer. They had a giant screen showing choice bits of the pod racing scene from the movie. Star Wars had to split the airtime with Pokemon, Pokemon, Pokemon. I don't know if anyone over the age of 18 plays it, but people sure were wrestling over the Pokemon beanie babies being thrown out of the Pikachu Volkswagen.
For the Playstation (my system of choice) there were tons of excellent titles coming out in the next year. I was most impressed by Ape Escape, Jade Cocoon, Final Fantasy VIII (of course), Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, and Shaolin. They transcend their genres and give the players what they want: more options and control. Standard games just don't cut it anymore; fighting games like Shaolin have role-playing games in them, Tony Hawk Pro Skateboarder included Tony Hawk (skateboarder extrodinare) in their game development, and Ape Escape demands an analog controller to work its intricate controls.
This was my first E3 and I'm already fantasizing about going back next year. The general public can buy tickets at $100 a pop. While this may seem like a lot, just imagine how many quarters you'd have to spend to play video games from 10:00 to 6:00 every day for a whole 3 days. I heartily encourage anyone with a little money to spare to reserve their tickets to LA today. I had more fun in three days than I had in the rest of this year.