Thursday, June 4, 2009


I love E3, but it is a complicated and melancholic love. I do not love, for instance, the flashing lights, the scrum of the crowd, the omnipresent rumble of electronic whatchamajiggers - all of these suggest sheer novelty, as if queued within a grand casino. In fact, I'm sure I would absolutely loathe being at E3, which either means I am lucky that I never have, or prudent that I never will. No, what E3 and I have is a long-distance relationship: It does its thing, and I love it from afar.

You see, I love it when people lie. In the epicentre of that digimal carnival, that cross between Xanadu and Faxanadu, I'm sure it all makes sense. Spin, in these places, is de rigueur - not simply a helpful tool, but a way of life. If you haven't believed six impossible things before breakfast, you're under quota.

But take a few steps back, and everything changes: the glitz seems chintzy, the electronic bleeps and bloops sound suspiciously tin-horn, and everyone seems rather crushed by the electronic goodies that surround them. And it's from this vantage that it becomes delightful.

Take this bit from Slate, presented ostensibly to comment on the economic downturn. I submit that this doesn't succeed as news - its function, rather, is parody.

What a garden of delights! We are presented with:

- A booth babe's grammatically unsound, but somehow appealing invitation: "We will waiting for you!"

- THQ's Brian Farrell calling himself a 'pundit,' and sounding like that one kid in sixth grade who doesn't know what a swear word means.

- Bob Ladrach of Digital Extreme Technologies, explains that he is not working on 'virtual reality' but rather 'augmented reality', the difference being that the former is actually a thing and not words he just made up. In Ladrach's words: "It's a new technology that's just coming out. Matter of fact, it's so new that it doesn't even exist yet!"

This isn't a unicorn, it's an 'augmented horse!' They're so new they don't even exist yet!

- Yoon Im of Perfect World extolling the virtues of free-to-play games, first by bragging how one can play without paying a dime, then by extolling the wonderful things that you can pay for.

- A glimpse of Ladrach's imaginary technology, which looks suspiciously like the VR rig that's been gathering dust at Disney's Epcot Center for 20 years. We have seen the future, and it is the present, only worse.

- Jesse Petrilla, the wunderkind behind "Quest for Al-Qa'eda" revealing hisspiritual sequel: Durka 3D: The Fall of Ahmadinejad. You play a "highly trained special forces soldier that's fed up with the current situation in Iran. So you take it upon yourself to singlehandedly dismantle the regime of terror."

- Petrilla continues: "I think a lot of video games have missed the boat, where they're shooting aliens when they could be really addressing curent issues and making sort of a subtle commentary on society as well." Petrilla apparently thinks we should all be killing more pretend Muslims. Thank you for the subtle commentary on society, Mr. Petrilla!

So now I can satirically
shoot people? Why isn't all satire like this?
Jonathan Swift can fricking eat it!

- Finally, in a real show stopper, we have everyone agreeing that the video game industry is invincible and recession-proof juggernaut that will continue to make dollar dollar bills for eternity. This of course is not shot as a valid assessment of economical stability but as elaborate set-up, like investing in a 401K of schadenfreude. What was that thing that goeth before a fall, again?

All this could be a joke. Watching, I laughed (out loud!) like it was something from "This is Spinal Tap." It is done with such sincerity, with everyone clamoring to go forward, not backward, upward, not forward, and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom. It makes such sense, you are tempted to forget that it is all malarkey.

If I were to datamine two insights out of this dog's breakfast, they would be these:

1. If you don't know who the joke is on, the joke is on you.

2. The term "spin" denotes not only orientation but sensation. Spinning can be fun: think of tilt-a-whirls and merry-go-rounds. But spin too much and you will want to puke.

Thus: E3, I love you both as a man loves a woman and the way a man loves a fine cuban cigar. Just as long as you stay where you belong... thousands and thousands of miles away from me.

- Rook

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