September 27, 2004

Gamer's heaven revisited

Last year, as usual, I went to the Tokyo Game Show (please see: "Gamer's Heaven"), and it was there that I discovered Lineage II, which has since become my favorite addiction. Naturally, I went this year as well. (Pictures will be up later on.) This year's game show was unlike any that I have been to before, which is not necessarily a good thing.

One of the really interesting things about the Tokyo Game Show has always been how many couples and young families there are wandering around the various booths and exhibits. There are couples dressing up like their favorite game characters, couples staring worshipfully at life-size cardboard cutouts of those same characters, along with couples taking endless pictures and hours of video tape of themselves standing next to cardboard cutouts, professional models in character costumes, and so on. The Tokyo Game Show has always been both a hot date event and an annual family pilgrimage. It is the mecca of gaming couples all over Asia.

But not this year.

There were still many couples and families, thousands of them, but for the first time in my experience a much larger percentage of the crowd was composed of small groups of three to six same gender friends that went to different game booths, sampled different products, and generally ignored each other.

Huh? Adolescent and college age young people with raging hormones who'd rather spend their Sunday at an annual event with a group of friends than with their favorite heart-throb? Tens of thousands of young people without a real date for the annual game show? Girls only interested in girls' games and boys only interested in boys' games? Okay, maybe not many girls are holding their breath anticipating Gran Turismo 4, and maybe a lot of guys aren't all that thrilled with the new version of Disney's Kingdom Hearts, but in the past the Tokyo Game Show provided the ideal time for guys and gals to travel together to check out the latest versions of the games they love to play! So why not this year? What's up with that? Has the internet driven us so far from one another that the only dates people go on are the ones they arrange through online dating services?

If I were young, you'd better believe I'd be dragging my favorite girl to the game show! By gosh and by golly, if she's gonna force me to sit through the latest Neopets promotion video, then she can wait ten minutes for me to sample Everquest II before we run over to EA to check out the latest expansion for The Sims Online. At which point I'm sure she'd be more than happy to watch a Lineage II Chronicle 2 promotion video before having dinner and heading home.

The important thing, of course, would be that we would wander together from booth to booth and exhibit to exhibit, and spend more time talking about the games than sampling them. And that chance to communicate, those hours spent discussing priorities and preferences, those are the times that intimacy is truly built between two people. Why on Earth would anyone not prefer to spend that time with a lover rather than a buddy?

I suppose this would be a good time to point out that the whole "guys vs. girls" thing has never made any sense to me, not even back when I was in elementary school, so it deeply disturbs me that the Tokyo Game Show provided one more glimpse into a general trend I've seen developing over the past three to five years: adult gender separation. Why, in this era of unprecedented communication opportunities, are men and women drawing further apart than ever? I thought we'd abandoned all this "war of the sexes" stuff halfway through the 20th Century, why has it recently experienced such a revival?

I do not want to live in a world where men are men, women are women, "and ne'er the twain shall meet!" Do you?