The Year In Review

The Year In Review
The Year of the Turtle

Dave Thomas | 27 Dec 2005 11:04
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Looking back to E3 2005, I really should have known the year would turn out like it did. This was the year that an industrial/tribal pyro act skirted fire codes and filled the convention center with the smell of gasoline promoting a game that still hasn't launched; where zombie women drew more attention than booth babes; the Gizmondo defied the odds by building some buzz; and Nintendo irked everyone by pushing the Game Boy Micro and shrugging at suggestions that they really ought to talk about the Revolution. This was the year that Rockstar put their games in tour busses; put the tour busses in the convention center behind chain link fences and then apparently didn't let anyone actually see the games. This is same E3 that, after feeling like I was punched in the face by the overload of Sony's PlayStation 3 presentation, I turned to the head of the International Game Developers Association anti-censorship group and told him maybe the industry had gone a little too far with the violence thing.

This was also the year I met Steven Spielberg. And by "met," I mean I stood next to him and tried to eavesdrop on what he was saying.

So, like a box turtle, this year was alive, but just sort of sat there. It wasn't noble like a horse; it wasn't fleet like a panther. It wasn't even peculiar and fascinating like a jellyfish. As best that I can tell, 2005 will go down as the year that just sort of crawled along on the ground.

Steve and Me
One of the more peculiar E3 rituals involves "behind closed doors" meetings. At first glance, this seems like a great idea. Give select press limited access to products that are kept away from the prying eyes of the general public. Of course, letting, say, the New York Times into a darkened room filled with comfortable couches tucked away from the noise and chaos of the E3 show floor and presenting your game in soothing high definition video really doesn't qualify as keeping things under wraps. It's more like PR streaking. But the press likes "closed doors" because that is generally code for "free bottle of water." And trust me, haggard game journalists will do just about anything at E3 for a cold drink or a Powerbar in the middle of the day. And that whiff of exclusivity a door can give a meeting is the closest thing most of us will ever get to real celebrity.

It was during one of these closed-door meetings that I met, or more accurately, ran into, one of biggest celebrities I will probably ever encounter in my life. I was touring EA's booth, running behind Chris Morris of CNNMoney when our PR guide asked if we wanted to see the company's upcoming Godfather game. "Of course," we replied, eager to see if videogame-dom could do to a classic piece of cinema what the movies so willingly do when defacing our beloved game franchises. The trouble was, in this particular demo room, there was a group of people standing in a clutch, in front of the Godfather game, blithely blocking everyone. As we shouldered though the rude throng, Morris proved that, while he's probably a better journalist that I am in a 100 different ways, being observant was the most important one.

"It's Spielberg," he whispered as we pushed through the gauntlet of bodies to reach to the demo.

Turning around, I gawked like a hayseed in the city. "Golly gee! It was Mr. Steven E.T. Spielberg, right there!"

Double taking and checking again, I was sure it was Spielberg because, besides the fact that he looked like Spielberg (he was wearing one of those Navy ball caps that all directors of a certain era seem to favor), he was surrounded by a phalanx of EA suits. And anyone who is not a pretty girl in a short skirt surrounded by people wearing suits is, by definition, important.

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