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Tokyo Game Show 2016

Date Published
17th September 2016

Today I braved the sweaty crowds and headed out to Makuhari for the annual Tokyo Game Show.

This is Asia’s largest video game trade show, showcasing all the latest upcoming software, hardware and selling expensive merchandise to the most hardcore of fans, who queue for hours just for a chance to shop.

The buzz word this year was without a doubt “VR” (virtual reality), with Sony, HTC, Oculus and several other manufacturers all vying for their platform to become the standard. There was an entire section of the floor dedicated to VR Romance games, with huge queues of young women patiently waiting their turn to flirt with virtual anime pretty boys.

Less subtle and somewhat worrying was Sony’s “Summer Lesson” VR game where you take the role of tutor to a rather buxom high school girl.

Japan has never been shy about sexualisation in their pop culture, and nowhere was it more obvious than the booth for “School Girl Zombie Hunter”, where players had to actually stare up the skirts of giant school girls to view the game demonstration.

One positive in all this was Japan’s emphasis on hygiene, with special VR face condoms being enforced if you wanted to try out one of these headsets, so you weren’t coating your face in the juices of the thousands of others also keen to try out the latest tech.

Alongside VR come a slew of other immersion aiding devices, such as virtual snowboards, treadmills and horsebacks.

Also popular was the cosplay zoo, a fenced in area full of people (mostly females) dressed up as their favourite anime and video game characters, and orderly lines of photographers (mostly males) patiently waiting for their turn to get a few poses out of them. The level of craftsmanship in some of these costumes really is remarkable, as is their dedication to details with painstaking prosthetic makeup and accessories like coloured contact lenses being used to match the characters as closely as possible.

I always wonder if the type of attention the cosplayers receive is really worth the talent and energy they put in.

All of the lines to play new games were either 3 hours long or required you to have queued up from 5am that morning to get a ticket before the doors opened, so the only thing I played on the show floor was a neat little indie game in the Netherlands pavilion. I had a chat with developer Jeroen Wimmers and then played his game Circles, which is an interesting puzzle game with no overtly stated rules or goals, and you learn how to play it simply by moving the mouse around and figuring things out as the world responds to you. It felt very organic.

The crowds and the noise and the lights all started to get to me after a while, so I made my way back home.

The show is nothing if not a spectacle, but I’m not sure that I will be heading there again in 2017.