Play Stuff Blog

Three Themes of E3  

Between individual meetings about our work here at ICHEG, I grabbed an opportunity to wander the E3 conference floor in LA. After interacting with the various displays, I concluded that this year's E3 encompassed three themes:

1) What’s Old is New Again—Given ICHEG’s mission, I happily noted old video game titles and characters finding new audiences in fresh games. Square Enix showed off Space Invaders Infinity Gene, a high-energy sequel to the classic game and a blast to play! Namco Bandai introduced Pac-Man Party for the Wii. Later, at the company’s evening celebration for Pac-Man’s 30th anniversary, I participated in a fun, four-player, cocktail-style arcade game, Pac-Man Battle Royale, due out in September. I also sampled a Bejeweled-like Pac-Man matching game for the iPad.  And finally, Disney’s Tron Evolution proved exciting—as a middle school student, I geeked out over the original Tron. And since we have both the Tron and Discs of Tron arcade games in our ICHEG collections, I couldn’t help but snap this photo of the light cycle at the Disney booth.

Disney Booth

2) Active Play—Given recent trends in video game news, it’s not surprising that highly-active systems and games dominated the show. Microsoft’s Kinect and Sony’s Move appeared often, and their capabilities look impressive. Here’s an iPhone photo I took of George Lopez showing off his moves at Harmonix’s Dance Central booth.

Dance Central

3) The 3-D Killer App—I must admit, I’ve been skeptical about 3-D. At first, I thought this was a result of my not being an early adapter of technology—perhaps that’s why I’m an historian, not a futurist!  However, I’ve been wondering how many people will plunk down money for 3-D televisions, after they recently purchased new high-definition sets. More importantly, I’ve always been wary of any technology that requires special glasses. Sure, they’re okay to wear in a movie theater where everything is dark and we are essentially having an individual experience (even if we’re with others), but I believe the best games have a social component.

I first learned this many years ago when playing Nintendo’s Virtual Boy. With your face plastered to the viewing area of the Virtual Boy, you lose contact with the people around you. Although the 3-D glasses are less cumbersome than the headpiece for Virtual Boy, the frames still limit your ability to interact with the people next to you. Nintendo’s new 3DS, however, offers a 3-D experience without isolating you from others nearby. The competition from the iPhone and other smart phones caused me some reservations about the future of DS, but the 3DS assures me that there’s still plenty of life in the old system.

So of these three trends—revival of old characters, new movement-based controls, or 3-D systems—which do you think will have the most success in the coming years?