Eurogamer Expo

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…

Wait. What?

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.





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Meeting Saul Tigh: A Snapshot

When faced with the upright severity of Colonel Tigh, you don’t want to be introducing him to the local Cylon.

After his talk at Expo, however, we did just that. I asked him to pose for this – eye-to-eye with his arch-nemesis and antecedent. The UKG guys immediately dubbed it, ‘I Am Not Your Father’ and it’s hard to know who laughed more.

During his talk, Michael was fast, charming, funny – he spoke of Tigh with a touching sense of empathy for the character’s powerful principles and final moment. He talked of Six with a glint in his eye, Olmos with a catch in his voice and Battlestar with a huge amount of love. It tickled me that he switched from third to first person – but only when talking about the Colonel’s sex-life.

Off-stage, the last of Tigh fell from him and he became Michael Hogan, utterly wicked, and very much one of the guys. Like Edward James Olmos at the previous Expo’s press night, he was so down-to-earth you felt he’d never served on a spaceship.

My fellow Titaneer Den Patrick, aka Little Kid, has the full transcript of Michael’s Q&A on his blog.

The UKG guys and I came away with a picture, instead – a Saul Tigh snapshot, a flawless fluke.

It’s the perfect Battlestar ‘What If?’

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Expo-sed: The Fans of the Future

A couple of weekends ago, I left the FP rocket behind and attended the MCM Expo at ExCel as a prospect of the UK Garrison and their alter-geeko, Reel-Icons.

And it nearly blew my mind.

Thirty thousand – thirty thousand! – CosPlayers, dressed in everything from luminous orange fur to full Devil May Cry regalia, armed with weapons of latex, cardboard and spray-paint, all high as kites on their own explosive energy.

The weekend directly following the affable, family-atmosphere of NewCon 4, Expo’s colossal attendance and critical mass has thrown my previous post into sharp relief.

These kids are the future.

From eight- and ten-year olds through all ranges of teen into early-twenty-somethings, they’ve embraced the expansion of Japanese culture into Western fantasy and made it their own. They have no need of Real Ale; they’re drunk on Free Hugs and an overdose of Yaoi. Lured by the prospect of the first-ever CosPlay Masquerade Ball, they aren’t passively reading books – they’re realising their part in a vast, interactive fantastical community.

There was a smattering of non-CosPlayers – there for signings and to meet the very sharp and funny Michael Hogan, aka Saul Tigh – but they seemed a tiny percentage, lost in the frenzied game-playing, Pikachu-cuddling mass. And perhaps it illustrates the point: these kids aren’t only moving away from the humble book, they’re leaving behind the comic and the television as well.

Why read it, why watch it – when you can live it? When thousands of friends uphold your knowledge that you are Cloud Strife?

And leads into a final comment: a question mark.

On the Saturday night, there was an incident in the ExCel car park. Nothing to do with the MCM Expo, it was related to a concurrent event. On the Sunday, Security had erected a bag-scanner in the front entrance – and were x-raying all luggage brought in by the attendees of the event in question. Massively ironic, when you consider the ludicrous mock-weaponry flaunted only meters away.

The juxtaposition of the two iconised the sharp contrast between fantasy and reality – and brought me up short at the fine wire between escapism and obsession. We all need release – read, write, watch, dress up, play games – it’s necessary and it’s human.

But as technology swells to encompass our imaginations and the fantasy becomes all-consuming, we need to remember something.

This world is the real one.

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