GAMES - Article
14:45 - 23rd December 2013, by Daniel Robson

Geeks rule the Game Show

From games to cosplay to anime-themed merchandise, TGS 2013 offered everything a self-deprecating otaku could want, as Daniel Robson found out.

Tokyo Game Show has always been a beacon for Japan's otaku subculture, but somehow this year seemed more so than ever. The show, held over four days in September at the Makuhari Messe convention centre, was rammed from top to bottom and inside-out with everything you need to keep a homebound hikikomori happy.

There were videogames, obviously. This was the first chance for Japanese gamers to get their hands on the PS4 and Xbox One - so long as they could handle the two-hour-plus queues. Japan is getting the PS4 in February, three months after the US and Europe and even a couple of months later than most of Asia. Several punters told me they felt Sony is taking Japanese fans for granted, but they lined up to try Deep Down, Knack, The PlayRoom and so on anyway.

But the true way to spot a hardcore Japanese gamer is to wander to the Microsoft booth. Xbox has never caught on in Japan, but the people who love it really love it. And the same goes for first-person shooters, which are anathema to all but the most dedicated of Japanese gamers. So the long line for Xbox One's mech-riding shooter Titanfall was filled with the most rabid specimens you could imagine - and many of them were scarily good at it.

A lot of the games at TGS were obviously aimed towards the otaku demographic. After all, otaku are loyal to the franchises they love, and willing to commit all their spare cash to their hobbies. Cue the special Gundam-edition PlayStation Vita, a sequel to the Akihabara-set Akiba'sTrip game for Vita, games based on a million anime series and an abundance of Hatsune Miku stuff - the latter appearing in everything from Sega's Project Diva / Project Mirai games, to free PS+ Vita game Miku Miku Hockey, to Xperia's booth ladies, to the cosplay area, to the Domino's Pizza stand, to statues, and beyond.

While Hatsune Miku was the most popular character for cosplayers this year just like last year, a close second was Dangan Romper. Originally a PSP game, the story of a bunch of high school students with a headmaster who happens to be a murderous remote-controlled bear has spun off into manga and anime as well. I must have passed a dozen different girls dressed as Junko Enoshima over the course of the show.

Actually, cosplayers got an expanded area this year too. In the past, they had to do their peacocking in a covered space between two of the main halls, but this year an extra hall was opened in Makuhari's annex building, part of which was given to the cosplayers. This was kind of a mixed blessing though - although they got more space to pose for photos, mostly in a large outdoor area, it meant you were less likely to spot them wandering around the main show floor.

This year for the first time there was also a Romance Simulation Games Area. You might be thinking of those pervy games where your "little sister" begs you to ogle her in the bath, but actually all six companies in this area specialised in making Otome - romance games aimed at women. You can even get some in English: Hit the iOS or Android app stores for a free download of 10 Days With My Devil to see what I mean.

Just as well, really, because the blokes at TGS get much more to leer at than the ladies already. Every booth has its attendant "booth babes", and as a general rule, the worse the game, the sexier the costumes these women wear. Thankfully, this year there didn't seem to be as many shockingly offensive ones as usual (assuming you don't find the whole concept shockingly offensive to start with).

Another thing to gawk at was the range of live performances, including concerts by the various voice actresses of the Idolm@ster rhythm-game series and AKB48 spinoff group NMB48 - both firm favourites among otaku. In fact I probably saw more people wearing Idolm@aster T-shirts than Monster Hunter ones, and that's Japan's favourite videogame.

There were also a few new must-have items for the stay-at-home otaku. One was the PS Vita TV, Sony's forthcoming device that plugs into your TV to play portable Vita games without leaving the house - and even doubles up as a video and manga viewer. Sony also had its new HMZ-3TW Personal 3D Viewer headset on show, which lets you not only watch 3D movies but also connect your Xperia smartphone and a DualShock 3 controller for some up-close gaming. And afterwards you could relax your tired eyes with a free hot eye-mask being promoted in the merch area.

Another bizarre device was the Goron Tablet Cushion, a huge cushioned frame to which you affix your tablet device so you can use it more comfortably while lying on your back or side. Oh, and if you really must go outside, how about a grey hoodie with a flip-down visor for that knightly armour effect? Anonymity is yours for a mere 10,500 yen (£66) at the Cospa merchandise booth.

TAGS: TGS 2013
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