Wednesday, March 16, 2005


If you don't know anything about the game business, there is one thing to know: E3. If you know a little bit more, there's another: GDC.

E3 is the Electronic Entertainment Expo. In theory, it is supposed to be an industry-only show in which game publishers show off their wares to buyers. E3 was meant so that EB and GameStop can know what Actision is up to this year. In practice it is the ultimate masturbatory fantasy orgy for the video game industry, where the idea of rich publishers owning the world is reinforced by huge-ass booths full of hired porn stars who pretend to like sweaty journalists and half-drunken buyers.

GDC is the Game Developers' Conference. In the past, you could describe the event by reading its name out loud. You have keynote speeches, some game demos and stuff, and tons of classes and workshops about how to become a better game developer.

In recent years, though, many publishers have begun to see how useless E3 is as far as getting the good word out to gamers. The gaming press HATES E3, except in the way in which it tweaks their horny gaming fanboy vibe. They hate covering the event, but they like to go because the convention center is full of Pamela Anderson clones who can somehow manage to pretend the press members are sexy. The publishers have realized that to a journalist, E3 is a drunken flurry of hot chicks and loud noises, interspersed with a handful of games that the press remembers because the hype was so huge that the games managed to punch through the din.

For the past few years, the publishers have been making special "Editors' Days" in which they take a full day (or two) in April and show off their E3 titles. Then, when the press shows up at their booth at E3, no one has to do anything but go through the motions and promptly forget.

Some publishers, however, have set their sights on GDC. It's perfect! GDC is held in San Jose, California, in mid March. It's a place teeming with game developers, some of which don't even get out to E3. It's the home of the annual Independent Game Festival, in which the little guy gets a bit of recognition. It's also cheaper and perfectly timed to be a test-run for E3.

This year, apparently, Microsoft gave away a thousand HDTVs at its keynote speech. Meanwhile, Nintendo staged a bit in which six people came onstage and played Mario Kart DS over wireless network with Nintendo's president and Bill Trinen. At the end of Nintendo's bit, they asked the participants for the DSes back.

I've heard people bringing this situation up and using it to comment on Nintendo's stinginess. Nintendo is, indeed, pathologically weird about who gets their materials and when and for how long, but in the end, it's Nintendo's prerogative, because it's their materials. But I think people are looking in the wrong direction. I don't think Nintendo's wanting the DSes back is so odd. I think Microsoft's handing out a thousand TVs at a game developers' industry conference was a bit inappropriate.

It's jsut dirty. Here we have all these starving game developers who are taking time out of their busy schedules of working 80 hours a week to hang out at a conference for 14 hours a day. Some of these people can influence decisions as to what platform their team develops for. Some of them might even be up for grabs to a hungry publisher. Meanwhile, Microsoft is handing out free TVs... and not just TVs, but thousand-dollar TVs. Microsoft took a keynote speech (which was essentially an ad for the next Xbox) and made it a bribe-fest, while simultaneously making Nintendo look like misers for not handing out the DS systems they rightfully owned.

For those who are confused, here's a breakdown: E3 is for handing out free shit and giving the industry a hand job. GDC is for getting together with other developers and trading ideas on how to make better games. Just to keep things straight.

When you go to GDC, you're a developer hoping to connect with other developers and learn something. When you go to GDC and receive a free TV from Microsoft, you're now a gleeful consumer who got something for free. To some extent, one that differs for each person, you've been bought by Microsoft. If you're there to learn something or teach something, as opposed to being there to win something, then you lose. If you're there to win something, then don't fucking go.

Enh. I really have no problem if Microsoft wants to hand out TVs to people and buy a certain percentage of the developer population (they own a lot of them anyway). My problem is that people are seeing this and thinking that Nintendo is a bunch of stingy bastards. It's like someone pulling out a machine gun during a boxing match. You don't think, "Oh man, Henrico Rodriguez Gonzales is a shitty fighter because he's boxing without a gun!" The gun-guy isn't a pioneer changing the face of the sport, he's a moron playing unfairly. That sort of thing would threaten boxing as a sport, just like this sort of high-profile press-moment nonsense threatens the usefulness of GDC as a developers' conference, as opposed to a pre-E3 hype factory.

Stop fucking co-opting things for your greedy personal use, publishers. Let some things exist as they are. Let GDC be a boring (for outsiders) conference at which developers trade ideas and come away better developers. You already took over E3, so let those of us who care about the QUALITY of games keep GDC. You can make your own pre-E3 thing and call it "Industry Wankfest No-Fans-Allowed *Wink* Conference 2047."

Don't kill GDC, you bastards.