Most people don’t bother to look at me. Some don’t even seem to notice my existence. Gamers have done this ritual thousands of times before. I’m old news to them. Years of playing video games has served them well with the muscle-memory equivalent to a trained athlete. To most I’m just an extension of their bodies. A conduit that delivers them full control and immersion into the video game world in front of them.
This is my life as a Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale demo unit Dualshock controller. Forever alone.
At E3 I’m destined to play second fiddle to the spectacle of flashing lights and sounds that’s undoubtedly beaming behind me. It’s in my carefully crafted design to be the last thing on anyone’s mind. I’m not here to take center stage and distract everyone from their hotly anticipated gameplay experience. Nothing would cause me more pain than to be the sole reason E3 attendees shuffled back to their stuffy over crowded hotel rooms in dismay. Sadly tweeting that the one game they were excited to see, ended up playing like one El Gigante sized deuce.
Honestly, I would argue that I get the best view of the expo show floor than most. No waiting in three-hour long lines next to what smells like an entire bar full of sweating bloggers and game journalists. All grumbling about how they slept only four hours the night before, wearing the same exact clothes, and how the Ibuprofen they chugged with Gatorade isn’t killing their splitting migraines. I watch them shuffle closer to me from my comfortably spacious demo area. Their tired and worn faces brighten and glow with anticipation the closer they get. With notepads whipped out, they patiently wait for my assistant to give them the nod to advance forward. The assistant hastily cleans me up with some anti-bacterial wipes as a courtesy and a vain attempt to comply with some randomly enforced health code. The slogan on the product packaging says it kills 99% of bacteria, but from the smell of some of their foul hands, I often question its effectiveness.
Seriously, where in the hell are you humans sticking your hands that makes them smell so rank? Wait, don’t answer that.
I brace myself for their warm yet empty embrace. Often I will end up playing the “what-is-this-I-smell game” with myself to pass the time. This usually leads to extreme confusion, which quickly dissipates into some combination of horror and disgust. Sometimes they smell like stale Camel Lights and if I’m lucky, pizza.
As they frantically press my buttons and go through a wide range of human emotions, I get to watch their expressions turn from pure joy to glazed zombie eyes, and sometimes devastation. All not necessarily in that order of course. Some game faces are cool and calculated, while others are laden with frustration. I’ve seen them all. My favorite is the super serious game face. Emotionless and still, they appear all too normal on the outside. But on the inside I know they’re freaking out. The fear of losing and the resulting ridicule of their peers are too strong. The game demands their utmost concentration.
It’s the saddest part of my day to watch the fallen slink their way back into the crowds. I’ll probably never see them again or even remember their faces after a few hours. I wish I could’ve at least told them they played a good game.
After our intimate time together ends, people leave me in the same way. In silence. No goodbyes, no thank-yous. Not even a: see you later, bro. Their hands slip away, leaving behind their sweat, and slowly the air grows cold again. My assistant returns to wipe me down and get me ready for my next fifteen-minute friend.
Do I feel used like a cheap date? No, this is how I was meant to be. I’m here for them. I’m here for Santa Monica Studios and Sony. I’m the result of two decades worth of design language that everyone at E3 silently understands and knows deep in their core. I’m supposed to feel and be invisible.
As I adjust my senses from the anti-bacterial wipes, Jessica Chobot steps in front of me and behind her I see Masahiro Sakurai standing next in line. Things just got interesting.