It starts with a queue, a chatty young journo (in a leather longcoat – what else?) and the usual promo gubbins – hot girls with free handouts, anticipation, tanks in the forecourt…
Being one of the first into Earl’s Court this morning was delightfully surreal – a sharp, twenty-first century take on the spooky and deserted carnival theme. There were banks and banks of screens, piles of goody bags, a couple more girls, dancing in the SFW version of cages… but mostly, the darkness was empty but for the tempting gleam of the alternate reality.
I did find a careers stand, a small games Expo and the place where all the early birds had gathered – BT Infinity’s cloud stand, offering a free link-up to the future.
Me? Well, I’m the past – I got a couple of chuckles when I said the last game I’d played was Summoner. Couple this with making notes in a Moleskine when all the (half my age) press reps are sitting there with their iPads and it’s all worth a chuckle.
Out of place or not, I was fascinated as to how a Games Con compares with the Book and Comic Cons that I’m used to.
The conclusion? This seemed to be a whole different kind of escapism – the games companies were, almost literally, the only things in the vast, dark building. There was one booth selling electronic accessories, headphones and similar, and the ever-present cybercandy – but no-one else. No toys, no books, no costumes, no phone-danglers or badges or collectables. There were just a lot of people standing watching each other play games.
It looked like a whole different kind of community. A community that didn’t exist in the Con, in the building – it existed in the screens, in the cloud. It was a shared reality and experience that was literally out of this world.
A game like Skyrim is compelling – it’s exquisitely constructed, the artwork is beautiful and the gameplay so real you could almost put your hands on it. It’s every fantasy book I read as a kid, all brought to vivid and interactive life.
One thing remains true, though. Whatever your choice of escapism – film, comic, book, game – it still has to conjure a reality in your imagination, a whole new world that’s real to you… Perhaps it’s not so different, after all.