Technology is all well and good for creating that global village type feeling, but sometimes nothing beats a bit of face to face, up-close and personal banter. So when I was heading over to Washington DC for my cousin's wedding a couple of weeks ago, I arranged a meet-up with the GiN team. It's important to fit in some team building, so that we can maintain the ‘one for all and all for one' ethos that brings you the wonder that is Game Industry News.
The meeting place was the ESPN Zone in Washington DC – or downtown DC, as you like to say. Having met here a couple of times before, I was ready for the sensory overload that is that most American of things – the sports bar. Or so I thought. Flickering screens, dimmed lighting, noise from your seat, noise from the big screens and the perky banter of the waiting staff – aarrgh.
Then there's the minefield that is the sports bar menu. Hmm, how to avoid the orange cheese. Well, there was nothing for it but to just throw caution to the wind and go with the cheese. So two huge sharing plates of nachos and cheesy fries later, I was buzzing on E numbers and ready for my main course. But really people, I think you should know that cheese that comes from earth mammals isn't orange. Just something to think about"
Eating over and natural light but a distant memory, we plunged further into the Zone to explore the delights of the arcade. Well, I never thought I could burn calories in an arcade, but that day I was proved wrong. It's been many years since I've played games outside of the home and there's still some fun to be had.
The cunning thing about ESPN Zone is the gaming card. You charge it up and have no idea how much each play on a game actually costs. See they're just helping us have fun with none of the worries of the real world – it's like gaming Vegas style.
First up on our gaming extravaganza was a mountain biking game. It seemed like a good idea at the time. So Greg, Hargosh and I hopped on our bikes – yes fully working bikes – while Breeden cheered or jeered from the cheap seats. All was well and good until we reached the sprint zones and the uphill zones then we started groaning and gritting our teeth as our thighs burned. Standing up was a problem after that, so with shaky legs we proceeded to something a little more sedate.
Of course my cousin decided to join us once we'd jumped on the horse riding game, which involved jiggling up and down on an unconvincing, limbless horse dummy. Needless to say, our thighs were burning once more and my just cousin looked on in mild amusement.
But once you've humiliated yourself on one machine there's nothing stopping you trying water skiing, skateboarding and hang-gliding – and nothing did stop us. Our very own John Breeden remains the king of Sega Bass Fishing and Hargosh managed to cause the baseball pitching game to go into meltdown.
Being the ESPN Zone, the games were limited to sports only, so there was no House of the Dead, but they could have maybe slipped in a couple of fighting games.
Back in the day of course the arcade lead the way in terms of graphics and we all sighed wistfully as we thought, "If only I could have graphics like that at home." Now you enter an arcade and think, "Holy crap, how old is this machine?" But they're not old; they're just struggling to keep up.
That said, when it comes to interactivity, the arcades are doing pretty well. I've never been so active when gaming. The peripherals are getting more and more ingenious with every passing moment. Get ready to sit on bikes, swing swords, wield paddles and even operate a hang-glider. Of course the launch of the Wii has stolen some the arcade's thunder, bringing a highly interactive gaming experience into the home. So alack and alas, once again the arcades are going to have to pull out all the stops to stay in the game – if you'll excuse the pun.
Most played: Gears of War
Most wanted: Bullet Witch