Some things kind of amaze me about E3 this year:
1. We still are talking about 3D (even though it’s a new kind)
2. We are still trying to perfect the shooting game.
3. Nintendo fans love Nintendo more than everyone else likes all other game makers put together.
4. Despite rumors, the booth babe culture is alive and well.
5. Lakers fans make game fans seem normal.
Now I don’t want to pick on the Lakers, even thought I’d be perfectly happy to see the Celtics win. But in an amusing twist of fate, the sixth game of the Lakers-Celtics championship series was played right at the same time the first day of the E3 expo was ending. So, as swarms of tired game fans poured out of the convention center, thousands of painted, pumped and quite strange Lakers fans were pouring into the Staples Center arena next door.
And by weird, I mean weird. Middle-aged moms dressed like Playboy bunnies, one-legged men throwing peace signs, evangelists in gold and purple handing out Bibles and carrying signs reminding everyone that God would judge them all. Presumably, no matter how well Kobe played. And I especially liked the old man wearing, what I assume was, a homemade Lakers uniform printed with the words:
‘If you don’t like the Lakers, F&*# You!’
When you see such a passionate display of love about a sport, a town and a team, having just left an air conditioned world filled with space marines, Storm Troopers, zombies and girls wearing a bare minimum of space age fabric doesn’t seem that odd at all.
And Lakers fan enthusiasm reminded me that even though I found Nintendo’s press announcement today a bit dull—really, you are making a new Mario Sports, a new party game, a new Donkey Kong, Kid Icarus, Goldeneye, Kirby and Nintendogs? What the hell? What about a new Wario game? It’s easier to forgive the fanboy enthusiasm. It’s fun to be in love, even if it is with a company or pro sports team.
As for this 3D obsession, I think that has about as much to do with technology for the average fan as Paul Pierce’s 3-point percentage during the playoffs. It’s not about numbers, it’s about immediacy and wanting to feel connected to things.
So Nintendo did the right thing queuing up massive lines to let people see the new glasses-free 3D DS. They were methodically creating a great pining for the system. They want fans to lust after this new object and crave it. It’s 3D, so it must be more real, because those feelings the people in line have feel were very real.
Nintendo’s 3DS is neat. But technically, that’s it. It’s neat. I was waiting in line for the 3DS demo talking to a fellow journalist, when in a conspiratorial tone he says, “Take a look at this.” He flipped over his notebook and showed the cover. It was a lenticular image of a kitty that batted at a toy when you tilted it back and forth.
The Nintendo 3DS is just like that.
But it feels different. Even though the 3D effect really has zero impact on game play, you feel closer to your machine. Making the fake worlds inside your DS seem a little more tangible just brings the fantasy a little closer to life.
The same thing is at work when EA showed off a quite exciting 3D version of Crysis 2 (complete with a theater full of journalists wearing those dork classes), and Sony doing the same thing with Killzone 3.
In every case, the 3D looks good. And like a pretty girl smiling at you in a bar, you feel like maybe this is all going someplace. But outside of a short demo, 3D still feels like a come on that isn’t going anywhere.
We already love our games and that, more and more, seems to mean we love shooting things.
So far, some of the best games of the show have been about shooting stuff:
Xcom — 50s government agents shooting aliens
Mafia II — Italian Americans shooting each other
Spec Ops: The Line — Shooting renegade soldiers
Goldeneye — Shooting rouge Russians
Medal of Honor — Shooting Afghani Rebels
Call of Duty: Black Ops — Shooting everything
What these games lack in originality they make up for in polish. And the next 12 months of gaming will have abundant opportunities to shoot things.
Which is probably why one of the games that surprised me most so far was Splatterhouse. Featuring more sloshing red liquid than a Capri Sun commercial, this game is awash in gore. But you don’t shoot anything. And the haunted house mayhem is so throughout that it’s one game so violent that it’s just sort of funny. Yes, ripping the head of a monster is always a good time for gamers.
On that point, perhaps the Lakers fans don’t seem that odd, by comparison. And If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to stroll over and ask this bikini-clad young lady serving drinks to Test Drive Unlimited partygoers what she thinks.
Paste videogame correspondent David Thomas is on the ground in LA and will file daily dispatches on life at E3—the games, the glory and the gooey guts of the biggest hype machine in the world.