XCN 2011: Greeting, Gaming and Giggling at The Gathering
The number one question I’m asked – well, besides why do you swear so much, Vik? (answer: BECAUSE I DON’T KNOW HOW NOT TO ANYMORE) – is this: is writing about video games really as cool as it seems?
The answer is both yes and no. From the outside, I know how it looks; free video games. Pro-bono peripherals and accessories. Hot and cold running events with open bars, quality nibbles and sweet, sweet swag. And I’ll be honest with you. The perks? The perks are pretty incredible. So no, I’m not going to sit here and complain about that stuff (I’m a lot of things, but a liar isn’t one of them). But the truth of the matter is, most of the time, you put more into this business than you ever get out. For every step forward, I’ve had sixteen back. For every piece of writing I’ve sold, I’ve had a knockback someplace else. For every preview code we’ve had, someone has chosen to bump us off-list someplace else. So yeah, the perks are pretty sweet; but super-glued to either my keyboard or controller all day, sometimes it’s surprisingly easy to lose sight of the good stuff.
And then something like The Gathering comes along and I’m left gaping – figuratively and actually – at my ridiculously good fortune.
Yeah, I know. It’s a clumsy sentence, both in form and sentiment. But it’s the truth. Checking into the hotel on Friday, I was full of excitement and a sprinkling of trepidation. Checking out Sunday, I was stuffed with new gamey goodness, and just a little sore from too much laughter (I blame Dance Central. One of the world’s best ice-breakers, it should be adopted by the United Nations). So forgive me for my inelegance but that’s truly how I felt; fortunate, honoured and just a teensy bit smug.
The Xbox Community Network itself is exactly what it says on the tin; a network of sites and communities that celebrate gaming and the discerning gamer’s console of choice – the Xbox. The Gathering is the collective of said network, where attendees come from all across Europe to sample the very best of what Xbox has to offer from it’s team, it’s games, it’s developers and it’s community. It’s one of those events where you can be every bit as awed by the people in the audience as those presenting to you on stage, and I have to admit – it was both awesome and daunting.
For me, it was a first. Still sparkly new in comparison to many of our contemporaries, The Gathering (which, incidentally, is the most appropriately entitled events I’ve ever attended) was my opportunity to meet, greet and learn from two jam-packed days of wall-to-wall Xbox goodness. And thanks to great presentations – the powerpoint presentations alone deserve a standing ovation – and some raucous tournaments and competition, learn I did … and not just that all Kinect games should be played on a 110 inch screen and that I choke under pressure. (Sigh).
But enough of that: shall I tell you about the games? Exposed to a smorgasbord of titles – and not one of them a dud, either – it was difficult to keep afloat of all that awesome, particularly come Day Two when we were marched through a fantastic series of presentations, demos and quality hand’s on time. And while much of the footage I’d either seen and/or played through previously, that couldn’t dampen my enjoyment any; with small, enthusiastic groupings of attendees and a flawless selection of titles to consume, I didn’t leave a single room without knowing just a little more about the game within.
I’ll expand further on each game in time but for now, I can tell you that my personal highlights included Resident Evil Raccoon City (about a thousand times more enjoyable than I’d expected); Halo Combat Evolved Anniversary (painstakingly and flawlessly recreated for 2011) and Batman Arkham City (yes, I choke when the pressure’s on – but up until that point, I loved every second of that combat). Honourable mentions go to Modern Warfare 3 (yes, I suck playing it – but even as a spectator it is outstanding) and Tomb Raider (good grief, that game looks fabulous). And as spoilerific and fangasmy as our keynote presentation on Mass Effect 3 was, it was the other two trilogies – Max Payne and Hitman – that grabbed my personal Game(s) of the Weekend award. I’ll be watching these games with an unhealthy interest as the months unfold, believe me.
See you next year, XCN. Until then, I’ll be perfecting my Dance Central moves …
Want to win one of those gorgeous and exclusive XCN hoodies you might have seen floating about? Keep an eye out … we’re launching a competition very soon!