Thursday 22 September 2011

Even More Catching Up: GamesCom 2011

So, it seems I am finally sitting down to start writing about one of the topics I already mentioned here, the GamesCom 2011, which took place in August.
Don't worry - in this post, I do not intend to bore you to death with an endless succession of pictures and details about Europe's biggest computer games show; if you really do want to see all the snaps I took in 2011 and previous years, you can do so here in the photobucket album, and all the official stuff can be found here:

Maybe not all of you know that one of my favourite pastimes is to play The Sims, namely The Sims 2 and The Sims 3. Like a true Simmer, I started with the first game, and this is how it all came about: 
In November 2000, my husband (who back then was not yet my husband) moved from England to Germany to join me here. He was an avid computer games player and had been ever since his teenage years. I, on the other hand, had so far only used my computer to go on the internet, write emails and chat (that was, by the way, how Steve and I had got to know each other: in a Star Trek chat room in September 1999). When we started to live together, he introduced me to computer games - and soon we found out that I didn't like most of the ones he preferred. For some games, it was simply a question of not liking the idea of the game (to this day, I can't see the point of sneaking around corners and shooting monsters; this sort of thing does not give me a thrill), whereas in other games, I saw how limited I was by my lack of hand-eye-coordination. "Midtown Madness" was a game I sometimes played for a few minutes, since in that game, you are expected to race your car through, for instance, a digitalized version of London and deliberately crash into walls, lamp posts and other cars - that IS fun for a few minutes, because you fully well know you can never do that in real life and get away with it (and why should you want to, actually?).
Still, Steve wanted me to have more fun on the computer, and so when in one of the games-related email newsletters he regularly got they talked about "The Sims", a new game, he thought it sounded like something I would enjoy and bought it for me in January 2001.
And the rest, as they say, is history!

At first, it took us both some time to work out the game, but we soon found we both liked it, and it seemed to be made for the likes of me. Everytime a new expansion pack was released (twice a year), he bought it for me. It became "my" game a lot more than his, and in 2002, I signed up at the newly opened online forum on the official website. I liked reading about how others played their game, and often, I was able to help when they had game-related questions or technical issues.
This, unknown to me, did not go unnoticed, and after some time I was approached by someone from the company who produced the game, EA (Electronic Arts). They asked me whether I wanted to become part of the moderating team for the forum, and after I had talked it through with Steve, I accepted.

Well, some time later, EA decided they wanted members from the gaming community to promote the game on the show (back then, it was still called Games Convention) once a year, and I was approached once again. After I had gotten the OK from my boss (I had to take a week off, because the show is always from Wednesday to Sunday, and the Tuesday is needed to get everyone ready and up for their tasks), I accepted, and have worked at the fair ever since.
It is the biggest event for gamers in Europe, and it truly IS big.

Let me show you some pictures:
My working outfit for the whole week. Believe me, it can be quite nice not having to think about what to wear, for a change! But it also feels good getting into one's own clothes again when the job is done and the week is over.

My colleagues - the (mostly) visible part of the team working on EA's booth alone, almost 100 people. Not counted are the technicians and other people working behind the scenes. And that is just one (albeit the biggest) exhibitor at the show. 

The part of the team responsible for the section of the booth dedicated to The Sims. I am about twice their average age, but that did not stop us from working together really well.

View of the Sims section of the booth, before the fair opened. We had 20 places (consoles and computers) for people to play the game at.

Of course, EA does a lot more than just produce The Sims. The Battlefield series is one of the most popular ones. No visitor was going to get such a good, unobstructed view of the plane - this was just possible if you worked there and were there before the opening. 

This is what it was like for the visitors. Honestly, if it wasn't for me working there and getting paid, I'd not set a foot in there! Admission is not very high (10 Euro per person I think), but on a beautiful summer's day like we had there, I'd have 1000 ideas how to spend my time, and queuing for 3 hours to be allowed to play a game for 5 minutes (I'm not kidding you, that is what my colleagues had to put through where Battlefield, Mass Effect and Need For Speed were played) is certainly not one of them!
On the Saturday, which is traditionally the busiest day of the show, the gates were closed some time before noon because of safety concerns. Tens of thousands of visitors were turned away.

We didn't have quite such long queues, but we could not complain about lack of interest, either :-)

Before the show opened each morning, there were photo opportunities for us, the staff. My colleague here was one of our walking acts (yes, the Star Wars games come from the same company).

In the evenings, I was usually expected at some event or other, but I couldn't always be bothered and sometimes just went to relax, put my feet up and read in my hotel room. When you've stood on your feet for about 12 hours and have talked (or, rather, shouted - the noise level in the halls is quite high) to hundreds of people, you do not necessarily feel much like partying. But I went to the Community Party, and took this picture on the way there: Cologne's cathedral, seen from across the Rhine, at sunset.

For me, the job ended every evening when the fair closed - for others, it only just began - the cleaners were at work all night to get everything shiny and ready again for the next morning.
Another year has gone by, and I have no idea how many more GamesComs I will work at. Of course I will eventually either feel too old for that kind of fun myself, or EA simply won't ask me anymore - whichever happens first!


  1. Expos can be so tiring (I have been there)! Hope you have some time to rest.


  2. Thanks, Elizabeth - since this was back in August and now we are already near the end of September, I've had plenty of time to rest, plus 1 1/2 weeks of holiday :-)
    And yes, it was tiring, but a lot of fun, too - otherwise I wouldn't do it every year all over again (it is not my regular job).

  3. This is a really interesting account. We were talking about the Sims the other day. I used to play the original version - it was called Sim City. It was pretty limited but fun. However I spend so much time sitting down I try to keep away from gaming.

    I have often wondered what it's like working at trade fairs. I attend a day or two of World Travel Market each November at ExCel in London. I would not like to work there but perhaps if it was non stop busy I would Not have time to get noted. It's the constant noise and fluorescent light ...

    The other thing about your post is that I am impressed at the level of interest in gaming. There must be some way to hook in to that for publicity if you are running other type of events. Like music poetry stories - what' are your thoughts on that ?

  4. I never played SimCity; that series is, by the way, still going on. For me, "The Sims" was so much more interesting because you had individual Sims to accompany through their lives, not just a city population as a whole.

    Working at trade fairs is fun if you do not have to do it every week, and if you know what to expect and are ready to put yourself as a person away for a while - you are, in effect, the company's face, arms, legs and voice for a while, and the person named Jenny or Meike etc. takes a back seat. It can be refreshing, believe it or not! Physically, it is demanding if one is not really fit, and I must admit I am quite proud to be fitter than many of my promoter colleagues who are half my age.

    The games fairs are not only ones attracting so much interest. There are, for instance, the book fairs in Frankfurt and Leipzig (I have worked Frankfurt, too), and they are huge, with equally big numbers of visitors.

  5. I am envious of your job! And I've been a moderate Sims player -- although I started with Sim City. But I can take the Sim's for only so long before I get tired of having to stop what my charactor is doing (usually flirting) so he can eat,get to the bathroom, take a shower, and clean the kitchen. Surely there is more to life. I'm not a big first person shooter either or anything that requires speed and fast fingers. My favorite game at the moment is Civilization. Maybe in my retirement I actually do miss a little of the challenge of trying to control things.

  6. Mark, it is not my all-year-round job, I consider it more a paid hobby - one week of the year is spent working on the show (and I get paid for it), but I am one of the moderators for the official forums all year round (without payment).
    Sometimes I let my Sims do what they want, and only interfer when someone is in serious danger of either wetting themselves, fainting with tiredness or starving to death, but most of the time my Sims are kept happy and well by my (micro-)management :-)

  7. My times at trade fairs are thankfully over. I enjoyed them very much for the most part but there comes a time....

    I think that the last computer game (apart from the occasional Solitaire about 15 years ago) was Jet Set Willy on either the Spectrum or Amstrad. I see my New Zealand family playing games and it's almost beyond my comprehension.

  8. The popularity (and may I also use the word, obsession?) of computer games just amazes me. When I read that they had to turn away TENS OF, that's a lot of people! I love the photo of you in the group, you look so happy! And in the photo of you with the stormtrooper, I know you had to wear the white t-shirt and jeans, but weren't you tempted to wrap a white sheet around yourself and put some buns on the side of your head?

  9. GB, most of the fairs I work at are "proper" business fairs, where I work for the company my regular day job is with, so the GamesCom makes a change with its completely different set-up. Still, the essence of playing host and promoting something or other is the same. And I know what you mean about a lot of today's games being beyond comprehension!

    Kay, I was not tempted - we had a "Leia" as part of our walking acts, too, and she looked way better than what I could have ever managed! Yep, tens of thousands is a lot of people. They did the same last year, and I understand that many, many people were very upset - they had bought tickets and were not allowed in until other visitors left the fair. For us who worked there, it was a good decision - it meant you were still able to breathe in the halls, and getting from the booth to the restroom only took you 10 minutes instead of half an hour... But something is wrong with ticket selling when they have to turn so many people away every year, and I am inclined to believe that "wrong" is spelled "greed".

  10. Sounds a great (if hard-working) 'break' from your real world - I like the photo of you with the Star Wars trooper.

  11. Wasn't that sweet of your husband to introduce you to that game, and now look, you are actively involved! The photos look like you had a great time at the Expo!

    Also, thank you for your kind words about my mom, she will be forever missed and in our hearts.

  12. Scriptor, it was indeed a break from everyday life and quite the parallel universe there.

    Mary, I did have a great time, yes. And I guess you will indeed miss your mom forever, but the pain will become a little less sharp over time.

  13. Well here's a whole world i knew nothing about.
    What a wonderful place it seems! (I mean Sims)


  14. Julie, it definitely is a world on its own, and one I like to spend time in to unwind after a busy working day or a rainy weekend.