Arts & Culture News

The Xbox One Demo Was an Unnecessary Sensory Overload of Lights, Noises and Mountain Dew

Game demos, whether they are smaller affairs like Sunday's Xbox One reveal at a Commerce Street warehouse or massive gang bangs of game industry PR, like the annual E3 conventions in Los Angeles, never seem satisfied to be able to assault the human senses with just video games. They are like walking into a danger room for epileptics.

Bright lights dart around the room like fruit flies and eventually into your cornea as if they are looking to build a nest in there. Noises come from 10,000 different directions but never from any of the games you are there to play. Even your taste buds are assaulted as corporately sponsored food stuffs and liquids are crammed into your body. They all form together into a gummy, sticky cotton candy cloud of sensory data and information that your brain has no idea how to process. It's just like being on a low-grade form of acid, except the only deep revelation that comes to you is that your retinas start to smell of bacon if too much light passes through them.

This isn't the unwashed rambling of an old man who doesn't understand why these whippersnappers play video games in the first place. Gamers come in a wide variety of ages, personalities and sizes. Most of today's survivors grew up with some kind of video controller in their hands. But just because we have five senses doesn't mean that all of them need to be engaged in as many ways as possible. We're there to play the games, not test the limits of our brain synapses or cognitive stamina. That's what alcohol is for.

This past weekend's Xbox One demo felt like walking into a club with no discernible music act or sense of direction, despite the presence of signs and queue railings suggesting otherwise. That's not to suggest it was a total waste of time and resources. I'm always excited to experience the next creations of the digital entertainment industry, especially before the general public has a chance to plunk down money to reserve a copy that will be on the shelf when the time comes anyway.

In terms of titles, it did not disappoint. A solid number in the group were already released titles on the soon-to-be outdated generation of gaming consoles, such as Skylanders: SWAP Force, EA Sports' FIFA 14 and the extremely overrated Battlefield 4, which at this point just feels like one of a billion war simulators that could make the most grizzled military veteran laugh like a beered up frat boy watching a homemade Jackass film.

Most of the games, though, the public has not yet seen. It was worth a short wait in line to get an early peek at the open world zombie mauler Dead Rising 3, the long anticipated Killer Instinct reboot and the newest entry in the fiendishly addictive Forza Motorsport racing sim series.

As we waited to experience the titles that we'll be selling our Nintendo Wii's (and if Nintendo's losing streak continues, Nintendo WiiU's) to buy, the friendly Microsoft PR folk went out of their way to keep us as engaged as possible -- almost to the point that it seemed some secret eye in the sky was watching their every move and grading their interaction with the populace on some clipboard. They are probably just as excited to be part of the experience, but just because we all enjoy the experience of virtually vivisecting a stranger on the Internet that doesn't mean we're overly caffeinated honey badgers operating on the nervous system of a mosquito.

It's impossible to know just what the musical tastes are of any given room, especially in a place like Deep Ellum, but the selection was a blast of aural buckshot that must have been made by some kind of Don Draper devotee who sets up a playlist based on a cross section of music marketing data. At one point, my ears could actually single out amongst the wall of bass pounding noises a remix of Will Smith's Wild Wild West, last heard on the soundtrack of a movie that dropped to the bottom of Walmart's discount DVD bin as fast as gravity would allow.

The amenities in general were also generous. In addition to being able to play the newest Xbox One games, gamers who completed enough demos were also given free food and drink. The drink, however, seemed like a suggestion taken directly from one of Jay Leno's weaker attempts to joke about stuff the "cool kids" are doing while they wait for Jimmy Fallon to start his show. They served Mountain Dew. Maybe most of the younger gamers are guzzling the cocaine equivalent soft drink so they can play longer and increase their carpal tunnel chances, but it's still just another way to attack the senses, this time down right to bloodstream.

None of this will deter today's gaming generation or even myself from wanting to experience the newest consoles or any of these games. If anything, being able to play them in a quiet, subdued setting that doesn't feel like a giant rave fart will make most of us want to play them more. Perhaps this Pavlovian strategy is just one part of the gaming industry's master plan to ensure its total dominance over our desires, dreams and wallets for eons to come.

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Danny Gallagher has been a regular contributor to the Dallas Observer since 2014. He has also written features, essays and stories for MTV, the Chicago Tribune, Maxim, Cracked, Mental_Floss, The Week, CNET and The Onion AV Club.