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Thursday, May 30, 2024

Local Firms Stay on Cutting Edge in Game Showcase

The hippie never had a chance. Approached by a silver-colored space alien, the hippie with his flowing hair and love beads has his body taken over so that the alien can, as the title of the video game in which he is a character states, “Destroy All Humans.” “When we were talking about the game we wanted to base it on 1960s science fiction movies and what we found cheesy and funny about them,” game producer Derek Proud said as he played the game at the recent Electronic Entertainment Expo held at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The aliens and hippies of “Destroy All Humans 2” released by Agoura Hills-based THQ, Inc. joined a veritable gallery of soldiers, gangsters, motorcycles and racing cars, athletes, spies and freeway-crossing frogs at the trade show put on by the Entertainment Software Association. The show is the premier event for an industry that had $7 billion in sales last year at which its biggest names showcase their upcoming games and new equipment in elaborate and sensory-overloading ways from the 360 degree video screen at the Electronic Arts exhibit to Hollywood-quality previews to the small theater designed to look like Tony Montana’s mansion to promote the “Scarface” game. “Retailers like to come to E3 so they can see what’s available so they can make their buying decision around which products they’re going to focus on and which they aren’t depending on which way the market is heading,” said Graham Hopper, senior vice president and general manager of Buena Vista Games. As a division of The Walt Disney Company, Buena Vista’s booth was heavily promoting the company’s popular branded content such as games based on the ABC Television’s “Desperate Housewives” and the upcoming swashbuckler “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.” Disney’s head start Games based on television shows and movies were well represented at the trade show Warner Bros. Interactive used E3 to announce its upcoming game based on Clint Eastwood’s “Dirty Harry” character but Disney has had a jump start on its competitors. Buena Vista’s strategy is to take film characters and settings and put them into a gaming situation but not “slavishly” follow a film’s plot, Hopper said. “We try to make sure these games stand independently as a creative initiative in their own right and would be fun to play even if the movie never came,” Hopper said. Even games inspired by Disney films but not released by its gaming arm take the same approach. THQ will release next month a game based on “Cars” the computer animated film from Disney and Pixar that features dialogue written specifically for it and voiced by the same actors from film. The “Cars” game expands on the setting used in the film and includes 10 of its characters, said Ali Bouda, a brand manager for THQ. “If you go see the movie and happen to fall in love with a particular character, chances are you will be able to play that character or interact with them,” Bouda said. THQ has done games based on other Pixar hits such as “Finding Nemo,” which sold 8 million units, and “The Incredibles,” which sold 7 million units. The company is under contract to create games based on the next four Pixar films, Bouda said. Hopper sees the industry heading in a direction where its products edge ever closer to giving players the emotional experience that a film does. But Aaron Lemay, an associate producer at THQ, finds that while films are a given experience while the gaming experience is one in which the player becomes a participant. He personally believes that video and computer games will get to a point where that participation will only increase, said Lemay, one of the brains behind “Saint’s Row” a new game set for release in the third quarter that falls into the street gang genre popularized by “Grand Theft Auto.” “It’s being able to control the experience for the player in a way that engages you more and more,” Lemay said.

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