GDC 10 Diary: Day 3 (Part 1)

I forgot to mention in Diary Day 1, that part of the reason my arrival in San Francisco was so exasperating was that I’d left the house forgetting every one of the items I’d need most at the conference: my camera’s USB cord, my netbook’s charging cord and my ever-so-essential-on-blustery-San-Francisco-days pink fuzzy scarf. (I can only blame my mother’s cat.)

Adding to this was the fact that although the Beresford Arms claimed to have free in-room WiFi, I wasn’t able to stay connected for longer than ten seconds at a time. As a result, rather than working in the groovy comfort of my 70′s hotel room, I was forced to go down eight floors and work in the lobby. All I can say about that is that the Victorians were damn lucky they didn’t have computers because their furniture is utterly un-ergonomic. That I got anything done while sitting in a hard parlor chair, hunched Quasimodo-style over a low, glass-topped table was a friggin’ miracle.
My back hurts just looking at this thing.

My husband had flown in the night before, bringing me all the forgotten essentials (No, he didn’t fly in just for that, cool as that would’ve been. He was attending the show too.) and so once I straightened up and no longer looked like a human question mark, we went to a nearby crepery called “Honey Honey”. The minute we walked in I could tell this wasn’t really a quaint little local place; the professionally-lettered chalk menus on the wall betrayed it as a corporate cousin to places like Squat ‘n Gobble and the Crepevine.

Sneaky the way businesses are doing that—trying to fool us into thinking they’re not chains. Even Starbucks is doing it, changing the name of some of its stores to something that sounds local like “15th Avenue Coffee and Tea”, so people who prefer to support local businesses will be fooled into patronizing them. We decided to give this crepery imposter a go anyway and had some acceptable if forgettable breakfast foods. Add one more restaurant to the list of places we won’t be visiting again.

Leaving Honey Honey, we then walked to Moscone, going our separate ways at 4th and Mission. I headed to my first appointment of the day, a publisher promoting a couple of new iPhone titles. I was greeted at the door and shown to (Who was he? A producer?) a sort of diffident-looking English guy who demoed the games for me. It was one of the strangest—in tone—demos I’ve ever had. Admittedly, being very sharp-dressed, the guy wasn’t your average demoer. He seemed kind of hurried and disinterested in explaining things to me, as if games weren’t his usual gig and he was only doing it because he’d lost a bet. Not a great vibe to get from someone who expects you to cover their games.

This blatant ‘tude made the awkwardness inherent in iPhone demos even worse. I wish people would just hand the damn iPhone over and let you look at the games yourself. When they don’t, it creates this bizarre situation of forced intimacy, where in order to see the screen, you have to be pretty much cheek-to-cheek with a total stranger. I suppose this isn’t so bad if you get a perky, well-groomed PR girl; then it’s just awkward. But when you’re forced to huddle up with an unwashed, hungover developer, close enough so you can almost feel his Burt Reynolds hipster moustache tickling your ear,
well…let’s just say I can think of a lot of things I’d rather do.

In either case though, it’s an uncomfortable experience. I end up overworking muscles that have lain dormant for years, trying to get close enough to see without breaching that critical quarter-inch separation between us, and fearful of knocking the demo guy or gal over with my inevitable coffee breath, I just stop breathing altogether.

I’m thinking maybe I keep getting forced into these situations though because people take one look at me and recognize my complete lack of iPhone skills. I might be the last person on earth who doesn’t have an iPhone (or any kind of PDA for that matter) but it’s a conscious choice. I’m already ten times more OCD than I used to be, thanks to email, cell phones, IMs and Facebook. But I digress…

I keep wishing during demos that people would just hand me the iPhone, but I’m not sure why. When they do, I suddenly turn into my father, trying to use a TV remote. “What’s this do? How do I change screens? How do I turn this goddamn thing on?” It happened to me again during a subsequent appointment at GDC when I took a look at the new Splinter Cell game (Conviction) on iPhone.

If there’s anyone left out there who doesn’t know, when you play iPhone games, it’s all about the thumbs. (Thus, why dogs cannot play iPhone games)
You select things with your thumb, you move the virtual thumbstick with your thumb, you shoot with your thumb. Anyone who can’t get a handle on that is more or less doomed, as I was when trying to play Conviction. It was especially embarrassing because I’m a hard-core gamer and a habitual player of action/shooters but I was sucking so royally at Conviction that the PR girl suggested with a look of pity in her eyes,“these kinds of games can be difficult for casual gamers.” GAH! She called me casual?? “Hey, I didn’t get a fair chance! I wasn’t feeling well! The sun was in my eyes!” Yeah…she didn’t buy it either.

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