This past weekend in Las Vegas, Sony celebrated the 20th anniversary of the PlayStation videogame console by holding what they’re calling the first annual PlayStation Experience — a sort of mini-E3 devoted solely to Sony’s in-house and third-party-developed games.
I’m sure this could be said of any nerd-specific convention, but it’s always weird seeing people who are not famous in any other arena roll like rock stars for 72 hours. Only in a place like this can a pocket of 200 people start chanting “Shu! Shu! Shu!” upon first spotting Shuhei Yoshida — the president of Sony’s Worldwide Studios for Sony Computer Entertainment — and then surround him, cell phones at the ready. Greg Miller from IGN — who was hosting a panel — had a steady stream of people lining up for pictures, after fans spotting him in the audience, waiting for Saturday morning’s Keynote speech to start. For 40 minutes, he gladly gave hugs and posed. Clusters of fame. Then again, Comic-Con is the same way: In that place and that time, the guy who writes Batman comics is as famous as Tom Cruise — every other day, he is Scott Snyder, smart, talented dude you wouldn’t look twice at.
And there is something fundamentally odd sitting in a cavernous room with 5,000 other people, watching one dude on a stage play a videogame, as we did when one of the Naughty Dog developers took a spin through Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. It’s an impressive-looking game, to be sure, and the gameplay looked pretty sweet, but we were all, essentially, sitting over a guy’s shoulder watching him play. And the crowd cheered. A lot. Nowhere else will you find spectators cheering someone as he does a thing that they themselves can and will do. Odd, is all.
The rest of the Keynote was a barrel of news: a bunch of new game announcements (Drawn to Death, Kill Strain, Tearaway Unfolded, Street Fighter V), a couple of old games coming to Sony’s consoles (Final Fantasy VII, Persona 5) and fresh looks at previously announced titles (Batman: Arkham Knight, Until Dawn). If game news is what you want, I’m sure you know where to go to get the skinny.
Unlike E3, where you could spend the entire day on a line to play a single game, pummeled by sound-and-light assaults, the floor of the PlayStation Experience was almost civil. You could play pretty much whatever was available to play, the waits were survivable, and the people weren’t manic with desperation – hunting for swag (or journalists hunting for exclusives).
I got to play more of The Order: 1886 which is still one of the 2015 titles I’m looking the most forward to — the seamless blend between third-person-shooter and interactive cinematics is astonishing. Until Dawn is spooky as shit; probably too much so for my blood, as I am a big pussy, and forcing Hayden Panetierre to dodge a serial killer is heady stuff. I am very intrigued by Broken Age, from Double Fine, and What Remains of Edith Finch from Santa Monica Studio — two games that seem to be building fascinating worlds while feeling apart for everything else.
And then there’s No Man’s Sky. No one knows a damned thing about No Man’s Sky, other than that the Hello Games product is the single most anticipated game of 2015. No one knows what the game play is. No one knows if it’s a shooting game, or a fighting game, or an exploration game…no one knows anything, aside from that they wants it, and wants it bad. On Saturday, Hello Games held a Night Under No Man’s Sky concert, featuring the band 65daysofstatic, the UK electronica outfit doing all the music for the game. No new information, hardly any new footage — that wasn’t shown during the Keynote — and no one cared. Hello Games has done such a masterful job of cultivating mystery around No Man’s Sky — not by hiding from anyone, just by not explaining a friggin’ thing — that J.J. Abrams could learn a thing or two.
If Sony wants to throw themselves a convention every year, I don’t think anyone’s going to cry foul. Besides, what’s the worst thing that could happen? Microsoft could decide to host a XboXpo. More for everyone is always a good thing.
Marc Bernardin is the Deputy Editor of Playboy.com. Some days, he just wants to play Red Dead Redemption over and over.