Convention Coverage: Video Game Expo 2007

Most video game conventions out there are nearly impossible to get to if you’re on the east coast. All of the big names, like PAX and E3, take place on the west coast. It only makes sense since that’s where the majority of the companies reside. Thankfully, Video Game Expo is there to fill this void on the east coast.

While VGExpo wasn’t as large as the big industry events out west, it still more than held its own in terms of guests, exhibitors and events. Plus there was the opportunity to play a few unreleased games – and a lot of other games besides.

The first big event of the expo was the screening of Spencer Halpin’s anticipated Moral Kombat, a documentary looking at the often-alleged connection between video games and violence. If that weren’t enough, the movie was followed by a debate between Jack Thompson and Oddworld creator Lorne Lanning, moderated by none other than Newsweek writer N’gai Croal. If you’re interested, check out this post over at Joystiq for the full rundown.

No major video game event would be complete without a few playable titles that aren’t yet available to the general public, and VGExpo was no different. The most noteworthy were Crytek’s Crysis and Harmonix’s Rock Band.

I’ll start with Crysis, but let me just say that I haven’t played a PC FPS since the first Half-Life was new so I can’t speak for the controls (it was all awkward for me). The graphics were probably the best I’d ever seen in any game, PC or console. Amid all the running through the jungles, I made myself stop and look around at the incredible detail they had put into their levels. It’s a shame my PC won’t be able to handle this kind of software.

Being a huge fan of Guitar Hero, I was most excited to get Rock Band. Over the weekend I managed to get my hands on all of the instruments and found that I can only play strings. My pitiful drum performance may be anonymous, but my horrible singing is available for the world to see and was recorded by MTV. You see, in order to get the cool Rock Band t-shirt you had to get up on stage with three of your friends and play a song for the audience, which was filmed by MTV. So at the risk of potential national embarrassment, I scored myself some nice swag.

One of the true highlights of the Expo was the many classic arcade machines set to free play scattered throughout the convention hall. Sure, it’s easy enough to find these games online and play them on your computer, but it’s not the same as playing it in a large wooden cabinet bigger than you are. My personal favorites from the show were Time Pilot, TacScan and Robotron.

Since my 360 is out for repairs, I wanted to get a little play time with Guitar Hero III because I hadn’t played it yet. Fortunately, I got to play a song from the game … unfortunately, I had to go up against one of the lovely ladies from Pandora’s Mighty Soldiers Clan and I got thoroughly schooled. But then again, PMS Clan put most of us amateurs in our place.

Other big exhibitors at the event included Dell, who had a number of high-end setups in a trailer rig running Hellgate: London;, who was signing people up for their site and printing out cool looking ID badges; and the Entertainment Consumers Association, a non-profit organization created to represent gamers’ interests.

If a job in the game industry was on your list of things to accomplish, the Expo was a good place to get started. Not only were game companies like GAME COCK and Red Storm on hand to take resumes and give advice, there were also a number of colleges on hand (e.g., DeVry and Digipen) with programs that offer game-related degrees.

The Video Game Expo is no match for E3, PAX or TGS in either size or scope, but the sheer accessibility of it makes it well worth your time. While their page hasn’t updated since the Expo, keep your ears to the ground next fall for more information on the 2008 Video Game Expo.