Last night in Los Angeles, Microsoft herded journalists into a big room, dressed them in weird ponchos, and set loose a troupe of Cirque du Soleil dancers overhead.
Oh yeah, and it all had something to do with videogames.
The occasion was the kick-off of the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo - the bachannalian convention better known as E3. Microsoft wasted no time hyping The Motion Capture Camera Formerly Known as Project Natal, now christened Kinect. If you've been reading this blog, then you know that Kinect isn't new - I was one of the journalists who got a hands-on preview of it at last year's E3. But now it's going wide - expected to hit the Xbox 360 in November. There was little in the way of games shown last night, but I'll be at Microsoft's press conference today to hear/see more.
Despite the fact that no new videogame consoles are hitting this year, the convention promises to be heavy on hardware hype. The Kinect camera will be getting much of the buzz, along with Nintendo's new 3D handheld system, the 3DS and, in third place, Sony's after-the-fact motion sensing Move controllers. Yes, this means a host of new kinds of game experiences on the horizon - but the horizon may be further off than it seems. A true golden age in gaming - like the one first coined in the 80s - really has nothing to do with technology. It's about iconic and addictive games that don't necessarily look or feel that impressive at all (see Pong, C64, etc.).
The last "revolution" in gameplay came with the Nintendo Wii, and some of the most unlikely and ubiquitous titles for that game were not even a faint dream at launch (Wii Fit, for example). I suspect it'll be several months before we really see games that deliver on the HUGE hype behind Kinect and company.
David Kushner is the author of many books, including Masters of Doom, Jonny Magic & the Card Shark Kids, Levittown, The Bones of Marianna, and Alligator Candy. A contributing editor of Rolling Stone, he has written for publications including The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Wired, and The New York Times Magazine.