GQ's Top 5 Casual Games at E3 2008

Monday  July 28, 2008

GQ's Top 5 Casual Games at E3 2008

The Electronic Entertainment Expo, otherwise known as E3, is a mid-July orgy of nerdiness in downtown Los Angeles where video-game companies showcase what we’ll be playing in the months and years to come. The games at this year’s E3 were, as usual, filled with first-person shooters and post-apocalyptic action-adventure games. But it was also a big week for ‘casual games’—i.e., video games for people who aren’t hardcore players, but who like to play more socially. So if Pac Man is more your type of game than Gears of War, then here are the five you can—and should—pick up and play in the not-too-distant future.

1. Rock Band 2 (Xbox 360)
Release date: September 2008

A few days after it was announced that the first track from Guns N’ Roses’ perpetually-upcoming album Chinese Democracy would make its debut on Rock Band 2, rival music game Guitar Hero World Tour (scheduled to come out this fall) boasted that two Jimi Hendrix tracks would be featured on their sequel. That’s pretty indicative of the direction these two franchises are going. While Guitar Hero seems to be more classic-rock-centric (they recently released a version of the game that was Aerosmith-themed), Rock Band seems to have more up-to-the-moment tastes, and is intent on turning the game into a new platform for music. In the future, I wouldn’t be surprised if singles and albums were released on CD, iTunes, and Rock Band all on the same day. I go back and forth between which game is superior, but in addition to the Chinese Democracy track, Rock Band recently released all of the Pixies’ Doolitle as a download. And I’d take the Pixies over Aerosmith any day.

2. Little Big Planet (PlayStation 3)
Release date: October 2008

If Tim Burton and Pixar took over Super Mario Brothers, it would look something like Little Big Planet. The graphics, while stunningly photo-realistic, are cheeky and disarming—you play as slightly-sinister-yet-cute-looking puppets made out of burlap sacks. At its core it’s a platform game like Super Mario or Sonic the Hedgehog (actually, its story arc bears a striking resemblance to Super Mario’s—save the princess). But you can also customize your characters and build your own levels. That might sound about as fun as making a PowerPoint presentation, but the user interface is as slick and satisfying to use as the iPhone’s; you’ll find yourself spending hours creating massive levels filled with Rube Goldberg-like machines. It looks like a kids’ game, but the art direction is really more for design-savvy adults. Plus it’s ridiculously simple to play—only two buttons to worry about (yet another old-school Super Mario trait). So if you haven’t played a video game since the early days of Nintendo, you’ll have no problems with this one.

3. Wii Sports Resort (Nintendo Wii)
Release date: Spring 2009

The Wii is continuing its dominance in sports games you can get shamefully sore to with this brand-new collection of simple-yet-addictive physical games like jousting, Frisbee throwing, and jet-skiing. Wii Sports Resort will ship with Wii Motion Plus, a tiny attachment for your Wii-mote that helps read your movements more accurately. The jousting game, while extremely satisfying when you win, gets your temper going when you’re losing—even more so than Wii Boxing. This dude at the Nintendo booth kept chopping at my head and knocking me backwards, digitally; I wanted to give him a decidedly non-digital beat down, with my fists.

4. Madworld (Nintendo Wii)
Release date: 2009

Although only a trailer of this game was shown at E3, those ninety seconds of what looks like The Running Man (the Schwarzenegger flick, not the dance) animated in the style of Sin City and with the comical blood splattering of Kill Bill were enough to convince me that I want to play this game. Bad. This is what the Wii-mote was made for: cutting off limbs with chainsaws, impaling heads with street signs, and whacking people against a board in a game of “Man Darts.” On any other console, this would be considered a more hardcore game, but because these deadly moves probably involve swinging your controller like a bat or making stabbing motions in the air, it makes the humorously bloody good fun accessible to everyone.

5. This is Vegas (Xbox 360)
Release date: 2009

This looked and sounded like a lame gambling simulator—and there is a gaming aspect to it—but it’s actually more of an open-world game, where the protagonist arrives in Vegas by bus with little to no money and makes it his mission to take down a land developer who’s trying to Disney-fy the town. This game is still in its early-development stages, so there’s always a chance it could turn out to be something much less, but I loved the campy Sims-meets-Grand Theft Auto aspects to it. In one of the nightclubs, your mission, in between trying to bust moves on the dance floor to impress women, is to beat up drunken, football-jersey-wearing meatheads who are harassing those women. How chivalrous! When you finish them off, poker chips fly out of their pockets.

GQ at Netroots Nation

Tuesday  July 22, 2008

On Friday night, July 18, GQ threw a party in Austin, Texas—in tandem with our friends at The Huffington Post—for the Netroots Nation conference, a yearly gathering of political bloggers. In a town this laid back, it made sense to keep it simple: BBQ and booze. So we rented out Lambert's Downtown Barbecue and set up an open bar. Here's who came out:

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Left to right: Roy Sekoff, founding editor of The Huffington Post; blogger Matt Stoller; Hendrik Hertzberg of The New Yorker; GQ deputy editor Michael Hainey.

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Former Barack Obama adviser and current Harvard Kennedy School professor Samantha Power, with Duke Law School visiting assistant professor Zephyr Teachout.

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Political strategist Matthew Dowd and GQ correspondent Robert Draper.

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Jason Linkins of The Huffington Post and GQ correspondent Lisa DePaulo.

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Ari Melber of The Nation and Hendrik Hertzberg of The New Yorker.

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Roy Sekoff of The Huffington Post and GQ deputy editor Michael Hainey.

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Miami congressional candidate Joe Garcia and GQ senior editor Mark Kirby.

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New York Times reporter Katharine Seelye and former CBS News producer Mary Mapes.

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A Lambert's hostess and GQ online editorial assistant Andrew Richdale.

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Birds Barbershop co-owners Michael Portman and wife Erin Portman with GQ multimedia editor Andy Comer.

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Washington Post reporter Jose Antonio Vargas and Sirius Radio host Michelangelo Signorile.

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Sirius Radio producer David Guggenheim, blogger Pam Spaulding, and Michelangelo Signorile.

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GQ director of publicity Dan Scheffey, Huffington Post VP of media relations Mario Ruiz, and Andrew Rasiej, founder of PersonalDemocracy.com.

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Chellie Pingree for Congress (Maine) communications director Willy Ritch and Jonathan Tasini, executive director of the Labor Research Association.

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GQ multimedia editor Andy Comer, Austin American-Statesman reporter Marques Harper, and GQ manager of publicity Corey Wilson.

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Lindsay Patross and Jon Soltz of Votevets.org.

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GQ publicity team Corey Wilson, Beth Andrews, and Dan Scheffey with The Huffington Post's Mario Ruiz.

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