The Consumer Electronics Show: Corndogs, Anyone?
by Mark Simple
One of the side projects that has prevented me from kicking out an X on time is a PC adventure game entitled "Pizza Guy 2000," created by Worthy Enterprises. Earlier this summer (and last), I went to the Consumer Electronics Show with fellow Worthy members Ray Eifler and Jennifer Cisco to scope out our competition. Our area of concern lies within the empty promise land of full-motion video, but we first turn our attention to just sucking in the grandness of it all; for instance, that seven-foot calculator walking around promoting some new piece of software. Ray thinks we can take him.
As various large goofy characters and beautiful models try to catch our eye, we naturally fall into line for Sega's new "Virtua Racing" game. Up to eight players can compete against each other, which is nothing new, but this game feels a lot more realistic than any other predecessors; you also can select one of four views (in the cockpit, just behind the car, above and behind, and birdseye) at any time. Jennifer ixnays the whole affair, but Ray and I get about four games in, ignoring former MTV VJ Alan Hunter chattering for Sega only 50 feet away. During each race, two independent monitors show various typical racing angles, along with an atypical "announcer" created out of polygons. His exaggerated movements are funny enough (very similar to the robots in Herbie Hancock's "Rockit" video), but the Japanese-English we've become familiar with in products like these is an added bonus: "SHOW ME A GOOD RACE!" "FIND ME A NUMBER ONE POSITION!" "SPIN!"(1)
After showing the announcer a "GOOD RACE," we head over to see "Mad Dog MacRee," a shoot-em-up game with full-motion video. It's a brilliant premise for a limited technology: film one scene of the bad guy "shooting you"; if you "shoot him" beforehand, you do a cold cut to another camera angle of him "dying." Cheap, but effective. They have a woman dolled up in that authentic old West style, and some hombre dressed up like Mad Dog himself. I'm watching the large screen, catching all the details, and, in true geek mode, when the woman strolls by with all of her old West style décolletage, I move so she's not blocking the screen.
On the way to the 3DO booth, I'm sorely tempted to hug a large snowman character, but I'm afraid I'll knock him down and then security will be on the both of us with official CES clubs. Scratch that idea. We come up to the much-touted 3DO booth.
As we're looking at all the kids playing 3DO games, I shudder momentarily when I see Mad Dog Macree. "These people have really got it together," I think, "to get a port done for 3DO that fast." As we find out later, the 3DO boxes were hollow shells; the monitors and joysticks were hooked up to hidden PCs. Is this what they mean by VIRTUAL REALITY? The Consumer Electronics Show strikes me as being the modern-day equivalent of the state fair, and 3DO would have to be the guy walking around selling corndogs out of a box (and at $799 a pop, that's ONE EXPENSIVE CORNDOG).
Walking far, far away from 3DO, we find ourselves betwixt a few booths touting the latest that PC porn technology has to offer. Megatech's "Cobra Mission" warns: "you will be subjected to violence and nudity in graphical and text form!!" I've always found Japanese anime to be a hoot (those eyes...those big round sad eyes...). Some of the game's text has me rolling: "Chrissy says: 'this is the bathroom. You don't intend to do it in a place like this, do you? I can't get turned on looking at a pile of shit!!!'" Erotic, isn't it?
Just before we left CES, we sauntered over to the audio/video hall, where Ray immediately fell in love with RCA's Digital Satellite System. We listened to the entire sales pitch, rapt with attention; you hook up a tiny 15 inch satellite outside your home, and then YOU select what you want to watch, and when you want to watch it. Truly a dream machine. Then we discover (much later, like most everything at CES) you can't just automatically get a specific movie at a certain time; your selection counts as one vote among many others, and the central computer "averages" who wants what when. This leaves you pretty much wide open to the whims of Fat Bob, "average" consumer(s): "Hmmmm...mebbe EIGHT HOURS OF GILLIGAN'S ISLAND!" Punch up Liquid Sky and you'll probably get to see it in the year 2073.
It was getting pretty late at that point, and next door to RCA, Philips was breaking down their booth. "You want some gumballs?" We turn around to see a man pouring five skrillion gumballs into large boxes. He instructs us to grab some bags from Denon (right around the corner), and we fill up. It's too bad I didn't have this booty earlier, I could have wooed the Authentic Old West Babe. "Gumballs? You DARLING LITTLE MAN!"(2)
In an eye-blink, Ray is at the VirtualVision(tm) booth. If you haven't seen this truly scary product, let me fill you in: it's a pair of sporty, jaunty sunglasses, with a small mirror mounted directly below one of your eyes. The mirror reflects a TV image that's created within the rim. To actually use the device, the demonstrators make everyone take the "left-eye/right-eye" test (to figure out which eye is dominant), and then they put a big ole' sticker on you that says (in my case) "I'm left-eyed." There are some things in life I'd rather the whole world didn't know, so I immediately rip mine off and stick it on Ray, who's trying out the device. He's not as impressed as he was before, so I give it a try. The thing weighs a ton sitting on top of my jaunty, sporty glasses. "This thing weighs a ton!" One of the sticker women informs me that they will be making models "in the future" (another CES catchphrase) that incorporate your prescription. While I'm trying to simultaneously play Nintendo with the glasses, watch Peter Jennings on a distant TV, and carry on a conversation with one of the eye-women, Ray secretly sticks two "eye" stickers on the back of my shirt.
After the show, we retreated to the bank parking lot to get our car. One of the "attendants" approached me:
"How was CES?"
I walked around with those two "I'm Left/Right-Eyed" stickers on my back the rest of the night, wondering why all the women were staring.
1. Later, when we find this game in the arcades, we invent
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