E3 2012 Diary: Day One
I was looking at a schedule and panicking this morning while the last of those, the Nintendo conference, happened. I paid less attention as it’s their second conference, which seems like outright cheating, but also because I find the idea of a new console launch of any kind exhausting, and one with an Xbox-y pad and Pikmin like a deliberate attempt to upset me.
I’m currently sat in the driveway of the brilliantly reliable Staples Centre Inn, a mere two miles from the Staples Centre and with the finest internet I’ve experienced so far at the show. I asked some American journalists if all of the internet in California was inhumanely slow today and they said “only downtown,” which I’m 68% certain was a joke.
We got to the Convention Centre at eleven this morning to film the crowds entering the show. There was hollering which seemed as genuine as anything gets in LA when the doors were opened, from at least five different but similarly excited people. What struck me was that the gush of people entering the West Hall doors lasted for about five solid minutes, which is a lot of people to stand behind while waiting for a turn of Darksiders II.
Which is a joke because nobody went to see Darksiders II at all, including us who went to see Call Of Duty Black Ops II instead. It’s still a rebounding echo of the original Modern Warfare’s slick lethality, a game released five years and a changed universe of gaming ago. I’m loathe to save the president or even shoot foreigners again, despite the presence of armourdogs made of exploding woof and the particularly welcome sight of LA being bombed to utter bollocks. The most moving part of the demonstration was when the Activision staffer charged with playing through the game turned up the lights because he’d seen a European journalist with a white fucking jacket filming the screen with his phone. He was apologetic and asked sincerely “I’m a gamer too, please don’t get me fired.”
I played Borderlands 2, which is probably hard to demonstrate properly in twenty minutes, especially when that twenty minutes is spent holding fire continuously and watching robots fall to pieces. And I saw Hideo Kojima, who I followed through a thick crowd for about thirty seconds. When I finally caught up with him I said “Excuse me…” and his companion turned to me as they ducked into a door and said with brilliant, totally deserved contempt, “We’re going to the bathroom.” Rob decided to use the same urinal directly afterwards as it would give him something to tell people. He said “he does it the same as everyone else,” which is a scoop of sorts if you think about it hard enough.
The show floor is enormous and overwhelming, and at every cranked, floor-trembling turn refutes what I tell my ten year-old son when he asks if he’s old enough to play Call Of Duty yet: games can do more than killing people and driving cars. EA’s stand is a huge cylinder of videos and demo pods that’s very impressive to look at while at the same time being a sort of zoetrope spinning cracked glimpses of the end of civilisation. And if that seems melodramatic it’s worth mentioning I’ve had quite a long day.
Time spent at the Square Enix stand reinforced things I already knew: Tomb Raider seems to be a journey of learning to kill people, Hitman is a journey entirely about killing people, and I’d rather like to play them both anyway. Also, we were reliably informed by a member of the development team that the barcode on Agent 47′s head was once scanned and revealed to be a double-ended dildo available to buy on Amazon. I spent most of my time with Ubisoft thinking how nice everyone was, while suppressing a fury that still won’t go away about Assassin’s Creed’s Vita spin-off having a female hero. Which isn’t the bit I mind, of course, but the fact everyone seems very pleased about it, like the place for proving you’re cool with having a strong female (murder) character is on handheld console away from the main stream of the series.
Later while sat in the Sony media room uploading some of the endless files that are the increasingly abstract reason for us to be here in the first place I sat through the gameplay demo of The Last Of Us that was shown at the conference yesterday. It’s a different thing altogether without extraordinary cheering punctuating the game’s peaks of atrocity. On the one hand it looks a lot like Uncharted – the lighting, the ruins, the movement. But the world is a very different one – yesterday I mentioned how it was almost in deliberate opposition to Uncharted’s casual mass killings. Today a line I’d not head previously underlined that with a red pen 78 times – after Joel tosses a molotov cocktail onto a writhing, screaming enemy Ellie whispers “Jesus” and he tells her “Keep it together.” We understand that /they/ understand they’re doing horrible things, which seems unusual and interesting.
I told you I was biased.