GameRiot was heavy on the music and the light show and the big on-stage competitions, but the real fun was to be had behind the 35 or so X-Box and PC consoles scattered about the room, as a broad range of young and old video gamers played enthusiastically.
Myself, I had some doubts about the $16 price tag for an event that featured almost entirely games that are already on the market and only a few previews of brand-new stuff, but nobody at the event seemed to be complaining. “I think it was totally worth it,” said Brian Bradshaw, 17, after an extended sting playing Unreal Tournament 2004. “They just have all the best games for X-Box and PC, and some new stuff. It’s cool to be able to find all these different types of people to play against, hang out with and get to know.”
Even a trio of local high school students who weren’t into video games at all — Tisha Hennessey, Ashley Carter and Ann Burgner — said they were having a great time just checking it out. “I don’t play games much,” Hennessey said. “I don’t even own a Sega. I have one of those little games that came with a Happy Meal, and I can’t even beat that!” So why get into this at all? “I like it because I get to shoot her!” Hennessey said, pointing happily over at Burgner.
Ah, the adaptability of youth. An hour behind the console and already they’ve discovered the main point of multiplayer games: the joy of blowing each other away. “It’s the only time you get to shoot your friends and get away with it,” Carter said.
And a good thing people could find their own fun, too, as the scheduled entertainment was not terribly enthralling. The event host, known only as The Game Wizard, seemed enthusiastic enough, but he also never got terribly motivated either. Then there was the guy running the America’s Army game competition — they claimed he was a colonel but honestly, who knows — who tried to work up a group of kids by giving a second-rate version of R. Lee Ermey in Full Metal Jacket, with lines like “OK, maggots, which of you is man enough to be in my army?”
Once people were behind the consoles and raring to go, though, they were having a blast, attention focused on their games and each other. It didn’t hurt that the GameRiot Girls — local models Shanna Jackson and Meg Roth — were making the rounds and encouraging the gamers. They were the only members of the hosting crew that were from around here, and oddly enough they were the most enthusiastic. It’s also a scientific fact that no male gaming nerd has ever been discouraged by the presence of a hot chick who is interested in gaming, so let’s not underestimate that either. “I dabble in gaming a lot,” Roth said. “I just like to watch. They fill me in a lot. It’s fun to watch their reactions, the excitement on their faces.”