CES 2006

CES, was held in Las Vegas, Nevada. Last time I was in town I was also visiting the city of lost wages for a gaming gig. The tacky, over watered desert town was even more formidable with its gigantic, out of proportion hotel buildings that skyrocketed out of the ground since my last visit.

Talk about last minute booking… I flew in for the show on Friday morning. The initial plan was to conduct interviews for Firing Squad on Friday. We were to roam the show floor and drill well prepped, slick and not so slick company reps, whose company was showing off new and cool gadgets. I was going up for one day, spending the night there and flying back on Saturday. The day before my planned flight to Las Vegas I get an email from my contact at BenQ… They need a pro gamer at their booth. BenQ has a Quake 4 gaming area set up at CES and they would like me to participate. Here comes the plot twist to the story… They had eight stations set up running Quake 4, showcasing BenQs new LCD technology. BenQ did not want me to *play* Quake 4, which is what I normally do at such events, they wanted me to *announce* the action as eight random people fought it out in free for alls in front of my eyes all day long… I said yes and I flew up there knowing that when they would see me play they would come to their senses. I did not write this last sentence because I am so absorbed in my ego that I have lost all touch with reality… I wrote it because I know that corporate people that have only been exposed to “office gamers” do not realize how entertaining it is for people to watch someone play that has a much better overall grasp of the game than they do.

Ben What?... BenQ...  (:

I got to our booth, which resembled more of a neighborhood block than a trade show “booth”. I pulled up next to our gamer cul-de-sac on BenQ Ave. and proceeded to settle in for the next three days. BenQ agreed to have me participate as a pro gamer and have my friend Elizabeth who flew up to CES with me do the announcing. Here comes the second plot twist. My idea of playing 1 on 1’s was vetoed… I was to play eight person free for alls for three days straight. (Ok, while the expo was open) Seven players vs me for the next 18 hours… My goal was to keep my opponents score down, while coming out first in each match. At the end of the three day event, the challenger with the highest number of frags won a top of the line BenQ gaming pc.

The Gaming section of the BenQ booth.

While I would have much preferred to play 1 on 1’s because the spectators can follow the game much better and the suspense usually keeps the crowd glued to the screens, it turned out the playing free for alls was a lot easier on my hands. I did not have to strafe quite so much which proved to be a nice break a day or two into the event. (It was more difficult on my eyes having to stare at so much constant info being streamed at my irises through the monitor.) The matches were fun and I was able to play a lot more games as most people played for a while so there was no need to wait in between matches for people to set up. I wish that in Quake 4 there was an easy way to tell who was and who was not readied up. It was nice to  get up and walk station to station  asking each player if they were ready. (I also implemented the “pass it down, press F3” method, which also worked well and it got players acquainted to their opponents sitting next to them.) Again the matches ran quick and smoothly. There was a five minute time limit, no fraglimit. Five minute mayhem… The match began… Run for a strong weapon and start methodically annihilating people one after another. (Try to avoid being blown up in the process, but that is easier said than done as at times things did get pretty insane in the moshpit.)

The left side of the Quake 4 Challenge area. I occupied Chair #1
(Or Chair #8 depending on how you want to look at it...)

I did not keep stats of the majority of the first day. Part of day one, day two and day three have me at a 103 combined number of matches played. My cumulative frag count was 3392 frags for the show. The challenger with the highest frag at the end of the three day event took home the gaming pc with 36 frags. My high score for the event was 55 frags. It was really great to have an announcer who actually knew what was going on in the game. I have worked with companies that hire a talking head, who is not familiar with the game that is being played They do not share with the crowd why players are doing what they are doing, etc… This show having consisted only of free for alls did not leave much room for strategic reporting, but Elizabeth did do an amazing job promoting BenQ’s LCD screens and filling in the crowd with what they were witnessing in a knowledgeable way. (Elizabeth has accompanied me to GDC, E3, Quake Con, The GAME in SF and now CES. Even though she prefers Miss Packman, she is very supportive of my FPS habit, which is really the best a gamer can hope for.)

Elizabeth, myself and two gamers girls who jumped
in for a few rounds to see how they would do.

The three days flew by rather quickly, having spent most of it glued to the monitor in front of me, trying to keep people from racking up frags. The end day three arrived. The show was over… I grabbed my gear, said bye to the BenQ crew and headed out of the convention center. I did catch on tape (like a lousy tourist) a Ferrari that was on display in a nearby booth for the show, being driven off through the isles at a slow speed.

Oh oh! The two gamer girls came back with their teammates.
Strength in numbers. Ave...

Before I flew up to Vegas I decided to gamble... just a little bit... I looked around for a $5 black jack table without much luck. I sat at a $10 black jack table for a few rounds. I cashed out even and moved on. I placed a small sum on red (Being a color I am fond of…) on a roulette table and even though I figured that knowing my luck it may land on green or black. The ball landed on red. During the roll before that I watched a guy put his last bit of money on number 00… The ball landed on the green 00. That was actually a nice glimpse into the unlikely moment where, especially in roulette, where the odds are stacked against you even more, someone gets lucky. Eventually I occupied a chair at a $10 black jack table and stayed for two rounds just to watch the house get 20 and followed by a black jack. Having spent my gaming allowance (yes, I set a ridiculously low limit for myself…) I was tempted to hit an ATM machine to stay a bit longer, but I resisted the urge to squander more money. I jumped on a midnight flight back to LA. Our flight was delayed one hour. I got home from the airport at 3am to get five hours of sleep and I was off to my 9-5 day job… Yeehaa…