.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}


May 04, 2006

Got Schwag?

Here's my latest Dad's Take column for GameDAILY Family:

How fondly I remember my mini Manneken Pis, from Brussels.

Or my tiki of Lono, the Hawaiian/Polynesian god of fertility, music & peace...made out of lava.

Less delightful was the Ball-on-a-Peg, which can best be described as a poor man’s Ball-in-a-Cup.

And then there are the snowglobes from....well, from the airport gift shop on the way home, probably.

When I was a kid, my folks used to bring back various and sundry little tchotchkes – souvenirs of trips taken and places visited. And while I certainly had favorites and...um...not-so-favorites, my siblings and I always appreciated getting something, because it showed us that no matter where on the globe they trotted, our folks were thinking about us.

Well, these days, I’m a parent, and my next trip is to E3 2006. So as a traveling dad, I want to, nay, must bring home some quality gaming schwag fer the young ‘uns.


No, not that kind of Doom. It’s been said that those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. And eager though I am to look ahead to next week, I have to reflect on schwag bags of the past, to see what I can learn going forward.

Since I wasn’t yet a member of the fourth estate last year, I had to grovel for scraps with the rest of the hoi polloi. No fancy press kits or Xbox 360 faceplates for this guy. I had to earn my freebies, baby.

As I criss-crossed the 540,000 square feet of L.A. Convention Center exhibit space, I slowly and discerningly filled my basket, kind of like a Katamari ball with pinpoint steering.

Speaking of elegant clumps of stuff, as I cut and paste my way through this column, my mouse is gliding effortlessly across the Katamari Damacy mousepad that my family loves so well. How’d I earn it, you ask? Why, by bringing a cow-in-a-can for the Namco folks to glue onto the giant Katamari ball, of course.

Namco was one of the companies that made schwag hunters sing for their proverbial supper. And although I had games to play and networking to do, my kids come first, damn it. So I sallied bravely forth.

I played mobile Namco game after mobile Namco game, in order to earn some miniature rubber Pac-Man characters (though my kids would have loved the fuzzy Pac-Man hats the Namco staffers were wearing). I played long enough to obtain not only Pac-Man, but also Inky, Pinky, Binky and Clyde – enough latex to make Art Vandelay proud.

But my work wasn’t done yet, because while I could let my kids choose 2 ghosts apiece, I only had one Pac-Man. And while the pizza in which Toru Iwatani found his inspiration could easily be sliced up, I couldn’t do the same with my little Schwag-ManTM. So what was I to do? I could have pulled a King Solomon with my kids, and offered to give each kid half of a chopped up toy. Or I could have politely asked for another one. Guess which one I did?

Taking a short break from the G-rated schwag, I fought my way through a veritable forest of sweaty geekery, in order to get a calendar that featured not only a month for We Love Katamari (September, I think), but also an autographed photo of Namco’s scantily clad, surgically-enhanced uber-babes. Now who do I know that would appreciate something that brought together Katamari Damacy and the objectification of women? That’s right, I gave the Namco calendar to Robin Hunicke.

Weapons of mass promotion (a.k.a. How my schwag almost earned me a body cavity search)

If I can impart one schwag-based lesson to my readers, it would be this: If you happen to obtain, say, two green foam hand grenades emblazoned with THQ’s Company of Heroes logo, with a pull string that makes them rattle, make sure you put ‘em your checked baggage, ‘kay?

‘Cuz I put them in my carry-on luggage.

Mistake #1.

Then I told the TSA agent about it at the security checkpoint.

Mistake #2.

You see, I actually anticipated the whole real-threats-get-through, but nail-clippers-and-foam-grenades-get-confiscated thing that seems to happen in American airports these days.

I figured that if the baggage screeners saw the outline of a WWII-era pineapple grenade, they would tear my luggage a new one, and that if it was in my carry-on, at least I would be there to explain and show them how harmless it was. Wrong! The agent told me that I should have put them in one of the bags I checked.

So, given the choice between surrendering something I knew my kids would like, and going back to stand in line at the counter to check one of my carry-ons with the grenades tucked safely inside, I chose Door #2. It was truly a pain in the ass, but when I saw the shining faces of my children looking up at me with joy in their eyes and a song in their hearts as I gave them their buzzing fake grenades, I knew it was worth the sacrifice (even I can’t write that kind of hyperbolic, syrupy drivel with a straight face). Easy for me to say, of course, since I’m not the one who actually made said sacrifice. My wife volunteered to fall on the grenade (get it?*) and stand in line, while I waited for her. Thanks, honey!

* EDIT: Just making sure y'all realize that I know that the falling-on-the-grenade joke was a bad one. The "get it?" thing is my written version of a sarcastic, self-deprecating rimshot. FYI. So does the fact that I feel the need to explain my writing after the fact mean I'm an excellent writer?

Lanyards and buttons and pins, oh my!

Some of my kids’ other favorites included...

A playable demo of Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves, complete with 2 pairs of Sly-shaped 3D glasses

2 Ultimate Spiderman flip books

2 Top Spin foam tennis balls

2 flashing red thingies (not to be confused with the 2 flashing blue thingies)

We got schwag, yes we do! We got schwag, how ‘bout you?

The Game Developers Conference is all about developers networking and learning from one another....and drinking. But in addition to enlightenment, inspiration....and inebriation, there was a surprising amount of schwag available on the expo floor and career pavilion. To wit:

Nintendo DS Lite keychain flashlights

Other flashlight thingies

City of Heroes cards

Folding frisbees (sorry, non-Frisbee-brand flying discs) from Radical

Activision Hacky sacks

Putt Nutz golf balls (yes, you read that right)

T-shirts! T-shirts! T-shirts! (more for my wife and me than for the kids)

You say swag. I say schwag. (a.k.a. You’re wrong. Start saying schwag.)

As I prepare for another pilgrimage westward to E3...

...I look forward to previewing the many kid-friendly games that will be released in the coming months...

...I look forward to catching up with friends I haven’t seen in a while...

...I look forward to networking my ass off, in my quest to become a producer in this here industry...

...And yes, I also look forward to finding some fun stuff to bring back for my kids.

So I close by paraphrasing (and apologizing to) Horace Greeley...

Go west, young man, and don’t forget to bring home some delightful schwag for the chillens.

P.S. No freakin’ snowglobes.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home