International Consumer Electronics Show, Las Vegas, Nevada – First Impressions…or Slumming

I woke up at 6am, stuffed cigarettes and coffee down my throat, coughed; and played some PSPgo, FIFA 10, and was very concerned about my 8th place standing, with Atlet Mineiro and my star player Junior, half the season out. There was no way to come back.

Lounging and bad television consumed much of the morning as I looked over the convention maps (which proved utterly useless).

While I could have easily hobnobbed with the likes of Lady Gaga and Stan Lee in the Central Hall, I did my natural duty. Go to the Games Showcase and hobnob with the real people! Large crowds can make me uneasy, as do celebrities unless it’s one-on-one; then it’s like talking to Aunt Shirley. I wanted to be on what I considered the front lines; not the red carpet.

After several manoeuvres through a mob of people to get my press badge, I smoked a cigarette in the casino, and popped a few dollars in a slot machine. This is Las Vegas after all.

Part of the convention space is shared with the Annual Adult Entertainment Expo convention. The porno and electronics conventions coincide every year, this must raise suspicions. Just imagine me, awkward in a button-down shirt and coiffed hair, as a scantily clad babe passes me by. The distractions are easy and the setting gauche. No more than ten feet from the convention, pimps trade their wares. They are called “clickers” because they have baseball card like ads of party girls, and click the cards together to have you make eye contact. I looked up, was handed a few “trading cards” and learned I could save $47 if I used the card as a coupon.

After another cigarette in a drove of smoking electronic-types, I headed to the goal of the day: the Gaming Showcase. The room sparkled, but many booths were inattentive and their products non-inventive knock-offs, essentially, like a retuned Sega Genesis. Or one such product, by Penguin United, was their Crossfire Remote Pistol for the Wii. The precision was nice, but the laser gun was too heavy. It would work for an adult, but not for youngsters; and hardly a new idea. GamBridge produced a more realistic guitar for such rhythm games, while next door DDR (Dance Dance Revolution) showed a wide variety of products for home fun in their catalogue, but their display was defunct and unmoving.

Figurines by Fruit Shop – nature television channel meets Kid Robot – were displayed in glass cases like diamonds in an impressive presentation; all meant to be accessories to portable devices, including laptop buddies. But truly “new” was lacking. Perhaps it was the girl in the short skirt and sequenced top (she looked like a cocktail waitress, gin and tonic?), but Exo-Flex had the best gaming system skins I’ve ever seen. Perfectly fitted, the skins represent street culture and alternative in their designs. Also, something that will wow WoW players. Imagine an effective “power glove” for PC RPGs, you can program a move for each section of your finger, calling on weapons and magic with more speed and precision. The PEREGRINE glove form fits. Sexy chicks, skins and gloves, which convention am I at?

Being UK based, and my footie intro, I couldn’t overlook this gem from Speakel. This is an iPod stereo. It emmits rather good sound through a powerful sub-woofer speaker system. The docking stations also come in a array of cutesy animals and creatures.

Aware this may be the last convention with close-by smoking areas, I lit up again next to video poker machine, which claimed $10; I could’ve used that.

Well, the talks and exhibits elicited little, but there was one trick left in the barrel. Well known accessory guru Nyko brought out the Wand+. No more fooling with the silly “motion plus” attachment, you’ll have the more precise control built in and ready to go in a slimmer format.

Night fell and the exhibitions closed. The tight hallways of obscure overseas electronics companies emptied. Smart phones went hay-wire and taxis lined up in a long, dizzyingly maze that stretched for yards.

This is Las Vegas, and night falling, well, that’s when you see more light than by day. The glitz and gutter, similar to the convention woes, seems appropriate. Local News media continues to impress upon the public this year’s convention is a lot less fancy and much smaller than previous years because of the Great recession. Meanwhile, the streets nearby and the price tags inside tell a different story.

I realized quickly that I was slumming it with business men. A contradiction to be sure. But their faces turned up in the same lurid spots, in the late hours, that mine did. Las Vegas is like no other city, it is Sin City, so this must colour the goings on, whatever they may be.

Will a visit with Sony and Microsoft tomorrow change the tenure of the convention? Or will my time be better spent conversing with the “clickers” and in the many run-down videogame arcades scattered across the city?

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Written by Les T

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