I know there are a lot of people who think that video games journalism is nothing more than a grift. I have to admit, it would look like that to me too, if I were on the outside of it. However, there are days where one is reminded exactly how much real work and constitution is required in this job. I got mine last week in Tokyo.
Feast your eyes on this schedule:
0:600 Awakened by the evil alarm clock. This alarm is starting to warble a bit due to the age of said alarm clock. Good. This means it’s on its last legs. If I agree to buy a new alarm clock, the wife may agree to allow me to destroy this one. If that happens I shall get horribly drunk one night, set the alarm for 5am and then go to sleep with a hammer on my bedside table. Then the evil alarm clock will get his.
06:15 – 08:55 Eat breakfast. Pack bag. Make sure passport is in bag. Check email on computer. Yell at self for having bottle of wine last night with wife. See that cab is booked. Make sure passport is in bag. Shower. Shave. See wife out door. Consider packing gym gear. Charge phone. Make sure passport is in bag. Sort out hand luggage. Debate about whether to start playing Lair Of The Shadow Broker. Decide against it. Try to quench thirst with coffee. Not working. Make sure passport is in bag. Gaze at clock. Wonder if it’s broken. Send emails. Debate about whether to write blog. Write blog. Time it for publication tomorrow. Feel smug. Make sure passport is in bag. Right, it’s in there. I don’t need to check again. My passport is in my bag. Hooray!
08:55 Cab arrives. Grab bags. Open front door. Make sure passport is in bag. Yep, it’s still there, cretin. Close and lock front door. Head over to cab. Sling bags in. Go back and unlock front door. Check lights are off. Check stove is off. Didn’t use stove this morning, but you never know. Close and lock front door. Get in cab. Make sure passport is in bag.
09:00 – 09:45 Get driven to airport. Check passport is still in bag at frequent intervals.
09:45 – 10:00 Grab coffee. Check in bags. Debate about whether or not to buy a magazine I won’t read on the plane.
10:00 – 11:45 Head through customs. Trigger alarm. Get well and truly fondled in the name of safety. Mooch around the Terminal waiting for my boarding call. Consider buying a book I won’t read on the plane. Buy an overpriced Tuna sandwich. Buy an overpriced can of fizzy orange juice. Head to gate. Board plane. Sit in huge seat in Premium Economy. Meet lady from JCPR and fellow hack from Observer. Lovely people. Take off. Don’t panic.
11:45 (London Time) – 09:45 (Tokyo Time) Sit on a flight to Japan over a period of 11 hours and 30-odd minutes. Watch several films. Play Plants Vs Zombies. Play Peggle. Watch more films. Do NOT get a wink of sleep. Arrive in Tokyo. Disembark the plane and head through customs. Get bag. Get cab. Head to Chiba to pick up accreditation for Tokyo Game Show.
09:45 – 12:15 Arrive in Chiba. Leave bags at New Onari Hotel. Head over to Tokyo Game Show, which isn’t open yet. Get told by lovely TGS official that we have to pick up accreditation tomorrow. Head over to ATM. Get told by nasty ATM to take my gaijin bank card elsewhere. Head back to New Onari Hotel. Collect bags and hail cab.
12:15 – 14:30 Sit in gridlock until cab arrives at Hyatt Regency in Shinjuku. Legs fall asleep.
14:30 – 16:00 Arrive at hotel. Try to get out of cab. Legs refuse. Talk to legs in a reasonable but firm manner. Legs tell me to intercourse off. Beat legs. Legs ask if I’m sure I haven’t lost my passport. Make sure passport is in bag. Beat legs harder for siding with internal paranoia. Limp into hotel and check in. Marvel at huge chandeliers and glass elevators. Head up to room. Boot up Laptop. Leap into shower and remove 23 hours worth of grime, sweat and ickyness from my skin. Fall onto bed and consider passing out. Decide to check email first. Notice that the EA briefing I thought was tomorrow is in fact today at 4pm. Use language so foul that it causes several people on my floor to suffer severe migraines. Get dressed. Google a map. Laptop crashes. Use language so foul that it causes several people in different locations in the world to burst into flames and die screaming. Run downstairs. Talk to hotel Consierge. They produce a map and start pointing. Smile maniacally and ask in a cracked voice if I might borrow said map. They hand it over and back away, careful to make no sudden movements. Head out of the hotel and hoof it four blocks to the Plaza Hotel where the EA briefing is taking place.
16:00 – 18:00 Head into Plaza Hotel. Follow directions from smiling young Japanese ladies holding cards that helpfully say ‘EA’ on them. Go into briefing room. Try not to fall asleep. Watch the gaming media set up their cameras. Fall asleep. Woken up by friendly French journalist. He yells at me to stop stepping on the cable for his poxy camera. Not so friendly after all. Fanatsise about said journalist’s camera shorting out as briefing begins and him getting into trouble. Notice Suda 51 wander into the room. Suda 51 notices me and waves. Wow, how cool is that? Now completely awake, thanks to Suda 51. Sit through EA briefing and take notes while frequently stabbing myself in the leg with my pen to stay awake.
18:00 – 22:00 Head over to EA desk to organise interview. Get told that since I was so last minute I am last in line. Should be about 22:00. Burst into tears internally. Smile outwardly and ask if there’s any chance of moving the interview to earlier as I have been awake now for 30-odd hours. Am told by smiling, lovely PR lady that there isn’t a snowball’s chance in a blast furnace of that happening. Actually she didn’t say that. She just said no. I say ‘okay’ and try to stay awake. Sit down at Dead Space 2 demo. Maybe I can scare myself awake. Nope. Not happening. Sit down at Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit demo. Driving helps a lot. Slowly waking up. Grab some mini burger. They should help.
Resist urge to eat entire bodyweight in mini-burgers. Head over to the bar.
Resist urge to drink bodyweight in champagne. Think better of that and drink two flutes in rapid succession. Watch room swim back into focus. Wonder if I’m now so tired that alcohol is actually having the opposite effect. Suspicion confirmed with next belt of champagne. Who needs burgers? Head back to Need For Speed demo. Kick everyone’s collective backside! What do the Japanese put in their champagne? Head to Bulletstorm demo.
Play Bulletstorm demo twice. Get free T-shirt from the lovely guys at the Bulletstorm demo. Get one for brother too! Head over to Alice: The Madness Returns. Sit through half the demo with blokey from American McGhee’s office. Says I’m the first journalist all night to notice the Jabberwocky in the opening cinematic. Tempted to call mum and tell her that the BA in English Literature didn’t go to waste after all. Am moved in the middle of the demo by polite American journalists who want to sit American (McGhee) on a couch and film him while I sit through the demo behind him. Think I’ll be famous. Am asked to move out of shot. Maybe not. Still, American journalists are very polite and grateful, so I slink over to the bar for another flute. Check watch. Where did all the time go?
22:00 – 22:30 Interview Shinji Mikami. Give him and his translator new business card. Get cards in return. Congratulate him on new game. Interview goes well. Mikami is very cool indeed. I particularly like his vinyl kick-ass cap. Interview Suda 51. He remembers me from London. Give him and his translator new business card. Suda 51 and translator leap up and go and get their business cards. Ha! Usually this happens the other way round. Suda 51 is the nicest man in all of gaming. Talks up his new game. Much laughter. Congratulations all round. Stumble out of the EA event into the rainy Tokyo night.
Marvel at how beautiful a rain-slicked Tokyo at night is. Put VLetrmx21 by Autechre on the headphones. Go back to hotel and collapse into bed. Think today couldn’t have been more perfect. Probably the sleep deprivation talking. Time to fix that. Close eyes. Begin to drift off.
Make sure passport is in bag. It is. Thank God.