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I’ve never really understood the hype behind motion controllers. I’ll admit to owning a Wii, but it’s gotten less play than iPhone Scrabble has the last year. Sure, I did some Wii Sports with Dad. That was at least until he kicked me out of his league for bowling like a European – whatever that means. When I was asked to go to the Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco last week, maybe I should have told my editor, Greg Tito, that I probably wasn’t the right guy for the job. I even thought about emailing him about it, but got distracted by a marathon session of Scrubs. Constant visual non-sequiturs? Hilarious!

Even at GDC the opportunity didn’t really present itself. Every time I tried to broach the subject, Greg was busy telling someone about his new manuscript for a book about mythical animal mating habits. It wasn’t so much that he was ignoring me as he was probably avoiding the effects of the mini-cheesedogs I’d been eating all day – It’s not my fault that I’m lactose intolerant.

My first stop was at Sony’s “Move” booth. Move is Sony’s new motion controller which, in my opinion, resembles one-half Pez dispenser and one half painful sex toy. Every time some confused participant shook the glowing ball trying to elicit some sort of response from the game, I imagined the following conversation between Sony fanboys figuring out how to use it:

“Hey bro, how do I use this thing?”

“Here, let me show you.”

“Are you sure about this? What are you doing – wait don’t… Ow!”

“Want a Pez, man?”

While standing around waiting to get a chance to mess about with Sony’s motion controller, I got a history lesson from one of the onlookers. He told me that Sony’s motion controller had been first called Gem. I guess that they changed the name to Move because Gem was a little too fruity. But to be honest, there’s something about the word “move” that makes me think of an interpretive dance troupe. Or my last bowel movement. Maybe that was the mini-cheesedogs talking. Still, it’ll be fun to hear stories of people confusing their friends with phrases like “Let’s play move!”

Move’s games were somewhat boring, and after watching people do the Sony equivalent of Microsoft paint, I grew bored and wandered off to complete my duties as a journalist.

At the Natal booth, they were running the same game they were running at last year. Perhaps that is why the queue was so short. I decided to stand in line for the Breakout game. Not because I wanted to play, but because I wondered where Milo had gone. Maybe the PR guy would have some answers. My curiosity was piqued when something about Peter Molyneux, Natal and his new son Milo was first announced on twitter. At first, I suspected that my theories about Molyneux’s vagina were true. But later, as the hype around Natal grew, I became increasingly skeptical about the existence of Milo at all. My uncertainty about whether Milo was a real boy was realized when, at a recent conference, Milo failed to recognize an audience member because he was wearing a black jacket. Ever since that incident, we’ve seen neither hide nor hair of Molyneux’s quasi-racist Pinocchio.

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Instead of Milo, Microsoft has been shilling a game called Breakout, where you smack balls into boxes. A less mature writer would probably make a joke there. I, however, will take the high road and just say that, as simple as it sounds, there is a certain amount of pleasure to be had from watching people flail around like an epileptic at a disco. I think the Germans have a word for that even, isn’t it scheunefreund? [Ed. Note: Scheunefreund roughly translates into Barn Friend. I don’t get it either.]

And then it happened – I got so caught up in the experience that I decided to stay in line and play. It wasn’t my fault: there was a very pretty boothbabe in a bright orange wig who kind of looked like Leeloo from The Fifth Element. She smiled at me. I’d like to think that it was a genuine smile, though I suspect that it was just her job description to smile at all the bald fat guys.

As I got closer to the front of the line, I became nervous. I nearly bolted more than once, until I noticed Greg Tito and Russ Pitts waving at me from the sidelines, pushing me on. Even more reason for me not to back down. I wouldn’t give them something to harass me about later.

As I started playing, something strange happened; I started having dumb, stupid fun. I noticed my editor, Greg, cheering at me from the sidelines – I tried to wave at him and missed a ball, falling flat on my ass. I must have looked ridiculous laughing, flailing wildly and tripping over my own feet. I got back up feeling a little short of breath. Greg looked at me and mouthed, “Are you okay?”

I guess I didn’t look okay, but I continued anyway. It seemed like everyone was cheering for me and having a good time watching the fat man dance. Even the pretty boothbabe smiled at me again as if to say “Don’t worry, everyone here today is just letting go and having fun.”

That was all I needed. I was going to finish my game even if it was more embarrassing than the time I tried playing Track and Field on the Nintendo Power Pad and wound up kicking my friend’s poodle across the living room.

No sooner had I resigned myself to finishing my game than the room began to spin. I hadn’t been drinking (much), so something was wrong. I gave a look over at the boothbabe only to see the look of shock on Greg’s face. That was the last thing I remember before I blacked out.

I woke up in some backroom of the conference. It was pitch black and smelled like ammonia – I think it was a janitor closet. Greg, Russ and the friendly booth babe were all gone. GDC had been closed for the night and there was literally no one there. I guess Microsoft had presumed me dead and tossed my body in a closet to cover up a PR nightmare.

I discovered later that The Escapist crew had gone off to the Activision’s True Crime party. And while they were hobnobbing with hotshot game designers and pole dancers, I spent the remainder of the night locked in the conference hall. All I had was every game demo for 2010 to keep me company. Too bad the power wasn’t on.

I think I’m done with motion controllers.

Also Greg Tito, if you’re reading this: Watch your back – I’m coming for you, man. [Ed. Note: I think Marion’s joking. Haha, what a card…]

Marion Cox would like to thank the person who left the suicide note in his pocket; it was quite good.

Question of the Day, March 20, 2010

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