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E3 shows game industry's true colors

Spandex-busting booth babes show off games that seem to have come off an assembly line with about five components. But some gear manages to stand out for reasons weird or wonderful.

LOS ANGELES--The marketing drone was demonstrating a new extreme-sports game based on roller skating, calling attention to the way the game's physics model allowed the skater's extremely short skirt to move with lifelike precision.

"We've also revolutionized the boob technology," he cheerfully reported as the skater jiggled her way through another death-defying jump.

And there you have the essence of what makes the Electronic Entertainment Expo special, at least for someone who spends a lot of his time covering the video game industry as a big, lucrative and growing business.

E3, the industry's main trade show, confirms that gaming is all that. But it also reminds you that this is a $6 billion business designed for, and largely by, 18- to 34-year-old males.

The result, at least on the show floor, is a bevy of anatomically gifted, spandex-busting booth babes showing off games that seem to have come off an assembly line with about five components. You can shoot people or you can hit people. You can spin around on a skateboard or a motorcycle. You can enjoy a soundtrack that consists of rap-metal or metal-rap.

Still, as the show wraps up Friday, it's possible to reflect on some stuff that managed to stand out from the pack, for reasons weird or wonderful:

• The Breakthrough Invention award goes to game-accessories maker Nyko for its Power Switch, an elaborate gizmo that allows PlayStation 2 owners to turn on the thing from the front, rather than having to reach around to the back of the unit to find the power switch. It's a welcome correction to one of the dumbest industrial design decisions in recent memory.

• Nyko also gets the Dubious Achievement award for Air Flo, a new line of game controllers with built-in fans that alleviate the gamer's curse of sweaty palms. I guess the idea of putting down the controller and doing something else is just too radical.

• For runner-up, take Foul--please. The newish magazine combines game reviews, soft-core porn, and articles such as "How I Left My Husband for My PS2."

• For Goofiest Game Concept, we direct your attention to "Restaurant Tycoon," a PC strategy game in which you compete to do the best job of running a virtual steak house. Did we miss the point when an actual restaurant career became an unobtainable dream for young people?

• For Worst Job in the World, lets have a hand for the Nintendo models who had to squeeze into horridly uncomfortable costumes to portray "Pokemon" characters that basically consist of little round balls. After watching one lass contort her way into a petite, yellow fuzz ball, it was hard to imagine how she was able to keep breathing, let alone continue walking.

• And last but not least, Cybergun, a manufacturer of light guns for shooting-based video games, was pleased to announce that it now offers an Uzi model.