Living in the future leads to mixed feelings. Even five years ago, we struggled against our 56kb connections to get even the smallest scrap of news. Nowadays, we got information on all sides: Facebook on the window behind, Twitter on the iPhone and some podcast downloaded on a ridiculously fast fiber-optic connection. Whatever you want served up on a silver plate at a moment’s notice.
Therein lies the problem with events like Tokyo Game Show. A solo writer is immediately out-classed and out-gunned by the armies of the Playstation Network, Gamespot, IGN or any number of other people with far more connections and money. All capable of delivering it to you at a minimum of cost and effort compared to some schmuck with a camera and overpriced cell phone.
Plus, there is one dirty little open secret that makes an event like this all the harder for this writer to cover TGS:
I don’t like games very much.
Oh sure, while on the train, I work on perfecting my Angry Birds score, can marathon Tetris with the best of them, and yeah I’ll marathon artier games like Killer 7 and Silent Hill for hours, but that’s about it. The most recent console I own is the Playstation 2 and see little reason to upgrade since the many arcades around provide just enough bursts of excitement without breaking the bank.
Besides, I just can’t get excited about waiting three hours to play five minutes of a game that I could buy next month if so inclined. If I really want to get a taste of a game before playing, I could just download videos, trailers, or even the game demo from any other site. Even the novelty of girls in mini-skirts for a modest fee has long since worn off to one who scours Akihabara and Shibuya on a weekly basis.
Beyond casual objectification of women and overlong queues, there is something that keeps that spark of love alive. Sure, the shiny stuff is usually kept upfront and center—the latest this or that from whatever companies happen to have the most money at the time. Ubisoft shills out its Michael Jackson – The Experience, Level 5 has a massive booth devoted to the Ghibli co-production Ni no Kuni and I’m going to pretend that AKB 1/48 doesn’t exist.
Yet, the most interesting thing is what's on the other side of the hall, seemingly a world away—the student games. Largely ignored by the majority of TGS-goers for the lack of sexy titles starring name-brand franchises, it is a call back to what games are really about. Produced by hungry college kids with a lot of talent and little material backing, there are no long waits or fancy graphics—indeed, most of the games on display barely go beyond what a PS1 is capable of.
What these games lack in graphics though, they make up for in sheer wild abandon. Some are relatively recognizable like Sonic Groly—a blazing-fast shooter/racing hybrid that recalls Roadblasters with the added burden of constantly needing to swivel between your front and rear guns to fend off foes. Others tend toward more experimental use of peripheral hardware, such as an action-platformer controlled using only a Dance Dance Revolution pad, or the bound-for-infamy Love Press++, where players must press on their WiiFit balance boards to “massage” their lady love and elicit their excited moans. “There aren’t any graphics yet, so just use your imagination for now,” I’m helpfully informed.
Of course, student games merit comparison to their film counterparts—some of them have more passion than actual innovation or even gameplay. Puzzle clones abound and the controls on some make the handling of the greasy '80s trackball feel tight and responsive. That’s okay though. The boys at Capcom got that covered long ago and they’re dominating the store shelves anyway. For now, as the crowds swarm around and its impossible to move elsewhere, the little guy can have his chance to squeal in delight.