What I learned going to TGS

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So I’m back from a weeklong trip to Tokyo and the Tokyo Game Show, my first trip there. Folks have been asking how the trip was so I thought I’d recap. I went down to meet with a few different folks and mostly to talk to the press about Oblivion, as it just came out there not too long ago for 360 and comes out on PS3 this Thursday.

The press folks were extremely nice and all went out of their way to talk about how much they liked Oblivion, how different it was than Japanese RPGs, asked lots of “how did you do this” questions, it was fun. Doing interviews via a translator (my Japanese is limited to anything mentioned in a Styx song) is always a bit trying as every question and answer gets repeated in both languages and can be pretty time-consuming, but Tetsu (our guy from Oblivion’s publisher in Japan, Spike) and I have done this a couple times now so I’m getting comfortable with it. Plus, when you get asked the same questions over and over, it gets to a point where he could pretty much give the answer without even asking me. We did a live interview on the show floor with Famitsu on Saturday, the first day the public can show up.

And let me tell you, show up they do. It’s like a big concert just got out and ran smack into Halloween. People crammed in everywhere, waiting in long lines for a chance to have a hands-on experience with their favorite upcoming game. The image at the top, which I borrowed from the boys at Kotaku, gives a pretty good idea of what the show floor looks like. Not everywhere mind you, but in enough places that it’s still pretty impressive, and daunting.

In between the exhibit halls are these large hallway-type areas where people (most of them female) gather along the wall in the costumes they’ve come up with paying homage to their favorite video game character. And then you have long lines of other people (most of them male) who are there to take pictures of these people, sometimes with, but usually not. And the costumes aren’t limited to one area, as you see plenty of those folks making their way through the throngs of people in what can only be described as fairly uncomfortable-looking getups. They take this stuff pretty seriously and make some personal sacrifices to do so.

TGS is big, but it’s not quite the “old E3.” Not nearly as loud or congested in terms of number of booths in a certain space. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still jammed, but just a notch below in terms of booth size, layout, noise, all that. Not that I’m complaining, it was hard to take in as it was. They definitely don’t trail E3 in the booth babe dept. They have them about every four feet in every direction. They also don’t lack for odd stage presentations, like this one I happened to be walking by.

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Don’t know what in the world was going on there, but it ranked high on the unintentional comedy scale.

Walking around I did grab some hands-on time with a few games in various booths. Wandered over to Sony’s booth to watch folks lined up to try Oblivion and had a chance to play Guitar Hero III (crushed some French guy in Sabotage head-to-head), played a little Heavenly Sword, checked out COD4, Little Big Planet, Pro Evo, MGS4, and a few others. Didn’t get a chance to see the new Final Fantasy Tactics, but I can’t wait to see that. Most of the rest of the games feature characters with big eyes on screens entirely in Japanese that I didn’t even bother to fiddle with and make sense of.

Other thoughts from the show:

Let me say that 14 hours is a heckuva long flight any way you slice it/dice it. We had a direct flight from DC to Tokyo that goes up over Alaska to get you there more quickly than flying off the West Coast, which seems more logical, until you take into account that whole “curvature of the Earth” thing.

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Anyway, sitting in an enclosed tube for 14 hours is a chore, even if you have the Lord of the Rings trilogy handy, which I did. I had always wanted to watch the whole thing back-to-back-to-back, including all the extra/added scenes. Still had plenty of time left to kill. That’s a long flight.

Downtown Tokyo is almost mind-boggling big. It’s just immense. I’m not talking about the whole city as it extends away from the bay, I’m talking the dense part you would call “downtown.” It’s more like 10 downtowns, all side-by-side, only bigger. You can look at pictures or have it described, but until you drive across one of the bridges and just sort of look around in all directions, it’s hard to fathom. Why it is, then, that they go way outside of Tokyo proper to have the game show is beyond me. 10 minutes into the drive to get to TGS, you drive right by a very large convention center off the highway that seems like a much more ideal location for the show. What’s wrong with that place?

While we’re focused on electronics and cars, I don’t think anybody is paying attention to the fact that Japan is WAY ahead of the rest of the world in toilet technology. That thing you’re using now, they moved on from that about 20 years ago. I kept meaning to take a picture and forgot, so I borrowed one off the Internet that looks like the ones I saw. Looks like something you could drive down the street with all those controls…controls on both sides of the seat, they got the time on there in case you lose track of it for whatever reason, controls on the wall…Buck Rogers would be impressed (or perhaps Buckaroo Bonzai is a better cultural reference there).

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Joan D’Arc is a pretty darn good game so far. Picross is a good way to blow an hour’s worth of time without thinking of it. Bookwise, I recommend Robin Hobb’s series “The Farseer.” Having finished Assassin’s Apprentice and being halfway through the 2nd book, I’ve been pretty well engrossed.

Waking up at 4am so you can watch your alma mater take on Ashley’s alma mater in football via the Internet is only a good idea if you’re fairly sure your team will play well. Mine played horribly for about three quarters, woke up, and stormed back from three touchdowns down to win in overtime. That didn’t keep me from thinking I’d blown three decent hours of sleep to watch a lot of lousy football. At least we won.

Reader Comments

  1. The Farseer trilogy (along with the Liveships and Tawny Man trilogies, although you don’t strictly, entirely need the Liveships for continuity) are absolutely great. You should also check out the new Soldier Son trilogy, although sadly it’s not (quite) up there with the Farseer/Tawny Man trilogies in terms of successful resolution/build/character arc. I’m an evangelist for Robin Hobb, so, good for you : )