E3 2006 Part 3: The Curse of Hollywood
Yes, that is a horrible picture of Annie. When one's speedlight is out of order, one tends to use any available light to get a shot; this time the light from MTV's cameras on their first meeting outside the Sony VIP booth. In a post long overdue, I'll walk you through the rest of Grandma's experience at E3. This may be a long post, so grab a drink, pull up a chair, put on some music. We'll be here when you get back.
As Grandma filmed an interview with some ridiculous camera based card game at Sony, I managed to call Annie and let her know where we were. It was a bit of a hike for her to meet us; so while waiting I watched the slow moving crowds form natural patterns of migration to briefly see the main display of the Playstation 3 and move on to the giant screen showing trailers of Assassin's Creed and Metal Gear Solid 4. No one looked as though they had a purpose for being at E3, it was merely wandering around until something caught their eye so that they may stare in that direction a bit longer. We all had our reasons for being there; some of us where there as a display of loyalty to the industry who had given us the hobby, some were there to witness what had become of the companies they felt had betrayed them for one reason or another, some were press- just doing their job to cover an event that had earned a reputation, some just for bragging rights, and then there was Grandma- who couldn't articulately tell me exactly why she had always wanted to go.
I have my guesses. I think she wanted to finally meet all those who had given her a year of love, e-mails, games, cards and advice. Perhaps she wanted to see why the magazines heralded E3 as the event of the year for gaming. Maybe it was something so much more simple, and she just thought it'd be cool. I remember watching Spike TV's "Ultimate Gamer" before I started the blog and getting pissed off at the rat bastard who managed to win a full gaming theater set for his living room and a ticket to E3. That man wasn't an ultimate gamer, I had thought, because his reaction to what he had the privilege to see at E3 seemed insincere and forced. My impression was that he was just some slob who played Madden all day and knew a bit of easy trivia.
The segment recently released on The G-Hole showing Grandma at E3, interviewing Sony and Nintendo, accurately shows her excitement because the moments filmed really do show her first look at the show floor; her first impressions of the Wii. MTV did well enough to honestly capture those instances as they happened instead of setting up multiple shots, asking repetitive questions and the like. Perhaps my impression of that Spike TV dude was wrong only because they had a shitty producer. We'll never really know.
Annie and I recognized each other almost immediately. She arrived just in time as Grandma hobbled down the stairs of the booth to meet her. In some circles of society, a firm handshake and a smile are sufficient enough for a first meeting of two persons. Grandma and Annie, however, went straight to hugs.
Grandma - "IT'S ANNIE!!!"
Annie - "IT'S GRANDMA!!!"
Together - "YAY!!!!!!!!!"
Melissa, the MTV producer was quick enough to get the camera ready for the meeting without any heads-up from Grandma or I. She perceived Grandma's excitement and knew something important was coming. (Annie's the one labeled Old Grandma Hardcore fangirl). Annie asks Grandma if she had seen the Wii yet, and it was a perfect segue, for that was precisely where we were heading.
Now, we were prepared for the treatment Grandma received at E3 from the Sony event a month prior, but it still impressed Grandma when Nintendo reps asked her if she wanted something to drink or some ice-cream while she waited for access to the VIP room upstairs, in which we were told we would find several operational Wiis with different games at each. While we sat there waiting, Grandma didn't look like she was feeling very well. She's diabetic, so the first possibility was that her sugar was too low. She hadn't finished her breakfast at the airport that morning and I didn't know if she had snacked on anything before now, almost 3:00pm Pacific Time, which still felt like 6:00pm to us. She shrugged it off and told us she was fine even though we all knew she wasn't.
After twenty minutes or so, they led us up a couple flights of stairs to a room filled with playable Wiis. Grandma immediately made her way to Zelda: Twilight Princess.
Grandma: For months now, everyone asked me what I thought about The Nintendo Revolution, (they only just started calling it the Wii, it's hard to break habits), and I had to tell them al the same thing: 'I won't know until I try it!' I'll tell you, I STILL DON'T KNOW. All the games were a little jumpy with that controller, the sensitivity was way off making for a pretty difficult play. When I asked the rep about it he assured me that they would be adjustable in the final versions, which is good because as they were, I just couldn't see myself playing these games all the way through. The new Zelda should be at least 50 hours, right? Well, if it's anything like Windwaker it should be even longer than that- so can you imagine yourself sitting forward in a chair resting your arm and twitching your wrist all that time, or do you think they're TRYING to force you to take more breaks by making the position uncomfortable? The first thing I thought when I heard about the new controller was 'well, I'm all over the damn place when I play anyway so maybe this will help.' This is especially true in FPS games, so I thought RedSteel or Metroid Prime would be easier with this thing. Let me tell you about Metroid Prime for the Wii. If you want to turn left or right in the game, you have to move the controller all the way in the direction you want to turn, and it takes FOREVER to spin around. It was a bit faster when you were in ball form, so maybe that's how you have to do it, but they really should have made the demo more like the final playable version as far as sensitivity goes, because while I was up in that booth, all of us playing all said the same thing at first: 'I can't get the damn thing to work!'"
And then there's this thing. The sensor bar that goes in front of your TV so the controller will work. They told us that you couldn't be too close to the television, and you couldn't be too far away either. I figured as much, but that means those previews that show guys jumping around the couch beating the shit out of each other on screen and swinging the controllers around are complete bullshit. If you have a large living room with an awkwardly positioned couch, you're fucked. If you have a dorm or somewhere small, you're fucked. There is a very ...narrow (I guess would be the word) available space to play this thing. Again, maybe this doesn't mean anything because these are previews of what we'll end up with later this year, but it didn't blow me away like I thought it would. Also, yeah- the price (or the price everyone is throwing around) for the thing seems reasonable enough, but if you want to play with an old school controller, that'll cost ya', not to mention any of the various controller add-ons they're sure to make you buy for different games in a 'gotta-catch-em-all' way of thinking that keeps some people away from gaming.
The games, on the other hand, looked pretty cool! Most impressive was Zelda: Twilight Princess. The graphics were about what you'd see on a GameCube (seeing as we were probably playing on GameCubes, that made sense) which is just fine with me. He was scaring me a bit talking about difficult moves one would have to master, like holding out one end of the controller and holding the other one back like you were drawing an arrow, then pressing the button to finish the job. There are many gamers, like me, who have mobility problems. I hope I can just use a regular controller instead; otherwise I'll have to buy the GameCube version (they're releasing both at the same time, the same day they release the Wii.) Some people are questioning what the rep meant when he said that we would be able to see Link get older in the game; I interpreted it as we would have playable versions of a young Link and an older Link, but it could be just some flashback scenes or some bullshit. I really hope it isn't.
Metroid Prime, again, was pretty hard. The original was so perfect with a GameCube controller with the 'Z' button and the triggers, it was... it was perfect. The new controller makes it a bit overly complicated. Also, when Samus is in the ball form, the screen went into a sort of 2-D side scrolling mode so you could control where she's bounce and roll. I guess that's nice cause it goes back to the old days of Metroid.
I wasn't impressed with Red Steel. It looked like a Playstation One game as far as graphics go, and when you'd hit someone or slash them with a sword, it was just the one swing in two directions. You weren't sword fighting or anything, you're just waving it around like an idiot until they try to swing at you when you block. Shooting was about the same as Metroid, only it lacked the lock-on function (or at least I was never shown how to use one.)
WarioWare was a blast. We had a lot of fun with this one. It was the one game that seemed to work perfectly with the controller. Sure, you feel silly moving the controller like you're pumping iron, but it was fun. My only beef with this one is the novelty may soon run dry.
Sonic The Hedgehog... what can I say. It's a racing game. With Sonic the Hedgehog. It reminded me a lot of the bonus levels in Sonic 2 (the first one with Tails if I remember correctly) with the graphics and gameplay of the Spongebob racing game we saw at the THQ event, which isn't saying much. Also, it still feels funny seeing Sonic in a Nintendo booth. It's like seeing a Yankees fan cheering for Boston.
And then there was Mario. You can't go wrong with Mario. If any game is going o convince me that the Wii is a viable and awesome console, it will be this game. The controls were subtle, unlike the flailing you had to do with the others, and it was a lot like one of my other favorite Mario games, Mario 64. If you wanted to jump up on a cliff, a flick of the wrist would do it. The 3D worlds were very much like Jax and Daxter, so I enjoyed it quite a bit. It was also the only game I didn't have any problems getting used to.
The bottom line for The Nintendo Wii is they have a lot more to show us than long lines at E3. Everyone keeps telling me they blew Sony out of the water, and I just don't see it. Some even went so far as to say that any console that kept with thumbstick controls would be outdated and stupid; that motion-style gaming was the future and we were all in the past. They may be right, what the hell do I know. Everyone said the DS was a gimmick too and here we are loving it. The one thing keeping it afloat for me is the ability to download old Nintendo and Genesis games in an XBox Live Arcade type fashion. Sure, we can do that now with the GameCube, all we have to do is go to the store and buy a games package. The Sonic Collection, for instance, pretty much has every Sonic game ever made for the Genesis and SegaCD and it's $20. But when you eliminate the packaging and all that shit, it makes it cheaper for us, so for those that can, downloading games proves better.
After we were finished at the Nintendo booth, (we were there for quite a while), Grandma really didn't look so good. She asked if there was a restroom nearby, and the rep escorted us through the bowels of the makeshift Nintendo offices to the rear exit, guarded by a pitbull of a woman who informed us that if Grandma left, she couldn't cross the rope again to meet with the crew unless she walked all the way around. The rep waited patiently with me as Grandma went off to find a toilet suitable for vomiting. It was pretty clear we were done for the day. The show floor was closing in a half hour anyway, so the rest of the MTV staff told her it was no big deal and we could film more in the coming days; she should go back to the hotel or get some food and get better.
The shuttles weren't running yet, so I hailed a cab to get back to Hollywood. We were both so exhausted I think we both nodded off a couple times in the L.A. traffic, soothed by some AM classical music station the cabbie had chosen. Hollywood Blvd. was closed off by the Chinese Theater for the premiere of the movie Poseidon. For some reason every celebrity Grandma and I have seen so far has been incredibly short, this time Kurt Russell.
When we arrived at the Hotel Roosevelt, Grandma looked as though she wasn't going to make it to the room. At this particular hotel, the magnetic hotel key-cards used to access the rooms also control the elevators, so it didn't help with me sliding and re-sliding the fucking thing to get it to work. It was only by chance that someone on the third floor called the elevator up right when I was about to fetch a bucket. Grandma literally held her hand over her mouth to barricade the ensuing vomit from reaching the historic tiled floor. Frank Sinatra had walked these halls, she'd be damned if she was going to puke all over it. I fumbled again at the door; sliding the card in *red light* and again ....*red light* and again.. *red-light* ...and again... *red light* as poor Grandma whimpered at the taste I didn't particularly want to imagine.
Finally: *green light*
She bolted into the bathroom and let go. I put the heavy load down and fetched some mints from the luggage. She gargled some mouthwash and came out of the bathroom feeling a little better, but still collapsed on the bed from exhaustion.
"You alright?" I asked.
"Yeah, I just needed to get it out of me, you know? It was probably that fucking food this morning."
"At Max & Erma's?"
"I knew the cheese on the eggs didn't taste right. I'm just gonna... nap for awhile."
And so she did. Shit, I did too. It was then I realized that both times we were in Hollywood from all this, one of us had a major incident involving vomit. Mine was induced by my own stupidity and a day's worth of booze; her's from cheese and undercooked eggs.
We woke up a little hungry a few hours later. I remember asking her what she had a taste for, her replying "whatever you want, I don't really care.." and then we both fell back asleep. Welcome to the rock and roll lifestyle, I suppose.
It was 3:30am Pacific Time when I finally got my ass up for a shower and a change of clothes, Grandma was still asleep. I was STARVED, and knew she would be as well. Downstairs I asked the dude at the front desk if there was a 24-hour Ralph's or Albertson's or something where I could score a bagel or two and a bottle of Pepto-Bismol. He gave me some quick directions but wondered if I wanted him to call a cab.
"Nah, it's only five blocks, I'll just walk, dude." Because really, what could happen?
As it turns out, crazy food-stamps card selling guy could happen.
I walked down Orange Rd. on my way to Sunset Blvd. when I noticed the most beautiful thing one can see as a traveler at 4:00am in L.A.: an open IHOP. The International House of Fucking Pancakes. Hell yes. Being of the sort that digs efficiency, I walked to Ralph's first to get the Pepto-Bismol and some Tylenol for Grandma first, planning to hit IHOP on the way back. About halfway there, I met Crazy Food-stamps Card Selling Guy.
CFSCSG - "Hey man.. can I have one of those cigarettes?"
Me - "Sure, here. You have a light?"
CFSCSG - "Yeah, I got matches. Say, are you from out of town?"
Me - "Yeah, New York" (sometimes I think I lie because I'm evil...)
CFSCSG - "Cool, man. That's real cool. Hey are you buying groceries, cause... check it out- I got this card, right; and it's got $100 in foodstamps and I'll sell it to you for $50, so you have something to eat while you're in town."
It should be noted that I am not a country-bumpkin, nor am I an idiot. Yes, in Cleveland we have the equivalant of Crazy Food-stamps Card Selling Guy, but they try harder. They give you a back story, some exposition, a REASON to help them; any number of flat tires, dying toddlers in hospitals cross town, parole officer appointments they can't be late for, etc.,... and hell, I usually give them a couple of bucks just for the effort; the theater of the thing. But this guy was straight to the point. If he wanted some crack money he should have just asked. I'm a nice guy. But, he had to be all shifty, so I laid on him with the only possible answer:
"Sorry man, I'm out to buy whiskey. Just whiskey. I can't buy booze with foodstamps otherwise I'd take you up on that. Sorry."
Because... what do you say to that? Exactly.
I found the Ralph's, bought Grandma some supplies, and made my way to the IHOP and ordered two pancake breakfasts and some coffee to go. As I sat there waiting, I overheard the two employees talking about a friend who's house had been broken into, where she was then raped and murdered. Sure, this sort of thing happens in all cities, so I didn't really have a moment of L.A. panic; but I DID question my ability to pay for my meal without leaving some condolences, but I couldn't.
Because... what can you say to that? Exactly.
It's odd breakfast conversation. Walking up Orange Rd. to get to the hotel, my phone rang in my pocket. It was Grandma.
"Where the fuck ARE YOU?!" she very calmly asked.
"I just went out to get us some food."
"Well, to me it's 7:30."
Up in the room we ate our breakfast and got ready for the day. It would be our second day at E3. Grandma was already feeling better, and now we would have more time to game, as well as meet another personal hero of Grandma's: Vic Ireland.
Check back later tonight for Part 4!