By Rich "Beaker" Wyckoff
At any rate, this kind of technical arrogance is understandable if not quite excusable, but there seems to be a new trend of lifestyle arrogance emerging Ė in other words, the "Iím so cool" attitude. This was already becoming apparent from reading the output of some of our industryís up-and-comers, many of whom feel the need to go to great lengths to prove that they have lives by reporting their drinking and carousing through their .plans and columns. (The virulently anti-Trespasser comedy site Old Man Murray chronicles these sorts of excesses hilariously well).
However, the "Iím so cool" attitude seems to have spread far beyond the net presence of a few outspoken personalities. From what I could tell, the stereotypical "hairy developer" joked about in fluffier pre-E3 articles
may not even exist in force in the industry any more, or at least didnít get to go to the show. Instead, the norm was oh-so-alternative piercings (remember when piercings were cool, in about 1992?), funky hair styles, and show uniforms consisting of black t-shirts with industrial stylings or white t-shirts with rave stylings.
And of course, in true high school "cool" fashion, developers cliqued up with people they knew, and rarely deigned to even say hi to anyone outside their own little black-t-shirted circle. I can say with some amount of authority that this is a change from the E3 Ď96 Ė back then, I remember booths being manned more by the "hairy developer" computer geek type that I know and love (not in that way, sheesh). As I explored the 96 show in my precious time off, at most places I went someone seemed really excited to tell me all about whatever product my glance had fell on, even though I was a complete no-one in an Izod-style LG show uniform.
This year it seemed like most of the places I went were staffed by people waiting for someone they had heard of, and as I was stealthily attending with a turned-around badge that said "Mary" on the other side, I wasnít trading on whatever recognition this column may be worth. Now I was used to the impersonal style of the console and arcade stands in 1996, but it was sad to see the PC games community, which sort of grew up as a bunch of weird geeks making games for other weird geeks, beginning to echo the hierarchical, fiercely competitive and very exclusive attitude of the Japanese developers. What will American developers borrow from the Japanese next? Their annoying habit of wheeling large suitcases all over the crowded floor?
From a games perspective, this yearís show was pretty good. A lot more design was in evidence than previous years, and the comparative lack of traditional RTS games was enough to make me jump for joy. (Iíll take a cookie-cutter FPS over a cookie-cutter RTS any day of the week, because Iím still waiting for RTS games to make the S begin to measure up to the RT). But in the end, it wasnít the games so much as the show itself that will stick with me.
I could make mention of the other ridiculous aspects of the show, like all the stupid little live shows, Lara Croft model autograph sessions, and ear-blistering crappy music and audio drowning out conversation and game sound effects, but these arenít really new developments for E3 or trade shows in general. No, itís this attitude thing which has me worried, because letís face it, we make computer games for a living - itís not like weíre rock stars (even if a company had the temerity to name itself that).
But just in case this coolness thing is here for good, I just have to say this: any developers who were truly cool found a way to stick around on Saturday night and see Meat Beat Manifesto perform. And may I conclude by stating that I was listening to Meat Beat when you thought Nirvana and Pearl Jam were where itís at and long before the word "electronica" was even coined. Now that Iíve got that out of the way, hopefully I can concentrate on the business of making games, at least until next yearís E3 when Iíll have to go through this silly posing all over againÖ
- Rich Wyckoff is a professional game designer.
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