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E3 2012: Lots of Dancing Zombies (and More!)

July 5, 2012

Last June, just like we did the year before, Videogamecat made the great journey to Los Angeles for three days of gaming excitement at E3.

(If you are asking yourself what E3 is, please look at our blog from last year.)

 

 

SO… WHY DID YOU GO AGAIN?

The better question is… why wouldn’t we go again?  Although the premise was the same as last year – videogame industry types meet to show off new products – the content was of course different. Just like last year, attending E3 was a fantastic way to be ahead of the curve on hearing industry announcements, trying out new games and hardware, and seeing brand new game trailers.  It was also an opportunity to network and talk directly with developers and designers – something that we cannot do in our day-to-day jobs.  This is one of the best places that we can go to explore how libraries and education can interact with gaming professionals.

 

WHAT DID YOU SEE?

Although the attendance of E3 2012 was slightly smaller (45,700 people) than E3 2011 (46,800 people), the event was still hopping with activity.  Obviously, since the point of E3 is to promote new games and hardware, the content of the show continually changes year after year, as one would expect.

As always, there were many big-name games being hyped, such as: Borderlands 2, Halo 4, Resident Evil 6, Fable: Journey, and Gears of War: Judgment.  Unlike the previous examples, not every game advertised was a sequel to a well-regarded, popular series.  There were some new stand-alone offerings creating large buzz and poised to be critics’ darlings, like: The Last of Us (from developer Naughty Dog) and Beyond: Two Souls (from developer Quantic Dream).

This year we were finally able to get our hands on the Wii U and the PS Vita and sample some of the new games being offered as opposed to last year when the hardware was just being introduced.  We tried out the new mini-games that were set to be packaged with the Wii U’s release, including a Luigi game that is a take-off on Luigi’s Mansion, a new Zelda game, and a new Donkey Kong game.  Each of the mini-games tries to highlight some of the functionality of the Wii U.  The Donkey Kong game illustrates the motion-sensitivity of the Wii U system, showcasing how the controller can be tilted in order to move the character on screen whereas the Luigi game illustrates how the Wii U controller can be used as a secondary screen allowing one to hide your motions and actions from players watching the main TV screen (in this game, one person plays as Luigi trying to extinguish ghosts while the other players play as ghosts trying to take out Luigi).

 

According to what we saw at E3, music and fitness games have still not lost steam.  There is a new game being released, called Band Fuse, that is like Rock Band with real instruments.  Just like Rocksmith, players in Band Fuse can hook up their real guitar to play the songs in-game.  Unlike Rocksmith, Band Fuse also supports bass.  The silliest and most impractical game we saw (our opinion, only) was NBA Hoops, the game that allows you to practice basketball with a real basketball.  We can’t help but wonder how this will work in real-life households.  Carpet might be an impediment to dribbling a basketball for hours on end?  Or, maybe downstairs neighbors in an apartment?

We also sought out the smaller booths that were situated on the convention center perimeter, as we didn’t want to focus our attention entirely on the major developers and publishers.  One thing that got our attention was Dice+, dice that are used for digital board games.  Confused yet?  The premise is this: plastic dice are connected to your tablet device.  When the dice are rolled, the number that comes up is transmitted to the tablet via Bluetooth.  Players then move the appropriate number of spaces, etc.  Dice+ also allegedly has built-in anti-cheating devices.

Although it is pretty ridiculous how much money goes into the displays and “booths” (booths sometimes are the size of large rooms), we have to give props to some of the brilliant advertising that we saw.  Aliens: Colonial Marines brought the actual replica of the alien featured in the 1986 film Aliens (it is scary in person too!), whereas PopCap unleashed a bunch of dancing zombies into the convention center that provided hours of hilarity (everywhere we turned, there they were).  However, our personal favorite was the guerilla advertising courtesy of Resident Evil 6.  Rather than adorning their booth with logos for the game, they featured only a wall that looked like a make-shift vigil: missing person’s photos, candles and dried flowers.  They also had a man dressed up like a preacher walking around the outside of the LACC proclaiming that the end of the world was nigh.  Once you know that the game is about the zombie apocalypse, this all makes sense and is utterly brilliant.

Finally, you can’t mention E3 without talking about all of the freebies.  Along with the typical t-shirts, one of the most popular items was an Epic Mickey 2 Oswald hat.  Apparently, if one were to wait in line for several hours, one could have their name personally stitched on it for free (we did not wait).  Also, just like last year, there was lots of free deodorant available (because, you know, gamers stink and stuff) and energy drinks (because, you know, they also stay up late and are often tired).  Our personal favorite acquisitions were a Borderlands 2 t-shirt that was acquired after waiting in a two and a half hour line only to find that we were NOT going to be able to demo the game (the line guys took pity on us and gave us a free shirt) and a headlamp/flashlight from Resident Evil 6 that mimics the one that Leon wears in the game.

 

WHAT DID YOU LEARN?

Convention food is awful.  Although it may sound tasty: tempura fried macaroni and cheese is a bad idea.

All kidding aside…

New developments with games and game hardware may have implications for the future of teaching, and learning.  There were demos illustrating the full panoramic picture capability of the Wii U for example, and it was very clear that motion, fitness and music games are not going away anytime soon.  Although we didn’t witness it ourselves, there was even a presentation about Wonderbook by Sony SCEA, which shows how the PlayStation Eye can make books come to life by augmenting reality, using JK Rowling’s Books of Spells as an example.  Although right now Wonderbook is mostly for children, they hope to add both fiction and non-fiction over time.   For obvious reasons, this could directly impact libraries and library collections.

Overall, it is easy to see why E3 is a big annual draw.  There is so much to see and experience, and the excitement of the gaming community is palpable.  The feedback that we got from individuals that we met with about our work and mission was enlightening and reassuring and we hope that going forward, we can continue to build new connections.

 

Pictures from the event:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/thevideogamecat/sets/72157632822572673/

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