I arrived in Japan on September 10th and while I had a few things I knew I wanted to do such as visiting specific museums I didn’t plan things out in too much detail and forgot about certain events such as the Tokyo Game Show (TGS). It wasn’t until a friend mentioned going to it on the final day that I realised that I was about to miss a weekend extravaganza of games.
TGS is the second biggest video game event in the world after E3 and it’s the chance for the Japanese video game industry to showcase what it can do. The majority of the event is for journalists only but on the final weekend the public get to experience the games on the show floor. The part of this year’s TGS that was open to the public ran from September 17th to the 18th and, as in previous years, took place in the Makuhari Messe in Chiba Prefecture which is less than an hour away from Tokyo. Since I was based in Ikebukuro I had to catch a Yamanote Line train to get to Tokyo Station and then a Keiyo Line train to get to the Kaihin-Makuhari Station from where I could get to the convention hall. This was my first trip to Tokyo Station so I was unprepared for how huge it was but that wasn’t much of a problem due to the signs that were in Japanese and English and the logical layout of the station itself. The train ride was a short trip made slightly longer by the fact I missed my stop and had to double-back. I knew I was on the right train due to the high number of Westerners, otaku, and video gamers but totally didn’t register when they got out at the right station…
Once I arrived at the station at around 14:00 and met my friend we followed a huge line of video gamers towards the Makuhari Messe. It was a long journey along concrete concourses, up and down flights of stairs and weaving through pillars. Very grey and dull, which matched the weather.
The Makuhari Messe convention hall is a cluster of huge box-like structures that look like aircraft hangers and what with all the wide open spaces concreted over it and security personnel it struck me as looking like an international airport. There were a number of ticketing booths outside of the hall itself and with so much choice it wasn’t immediately obvious to me which one we should go for and even my Japanese friend was confused to begin with but we eventually found the right one and paid about 1200 yen each. We then had another epic walk towards the hall proper with another huge crowd amidst which I found some fellow Britons and had a brief conversation about how huge the place was. I would see them from time to time during the day but kept to my own company and that of my friend.
Entering the hall through a set of huge hanger doors was like entering another world (I think we entered through the wrong entrance but whatever). The grey light of the day receded, barely touching the darkness of the high-ceilinged space. What did pierce the black was the brightly-lit and noisy spectacle of video games played on huge screens, spotlights and ambient lighting, game demo stations, booth models, cosplayers, idols and actors all wearing brightly coloured costumes and more. The music from the games was so loud it morphed into noise and was an absolute din what with percussive bass and the high-pitched singing of idol girls along EDM tracks. It was a cavalcade of noise that hurt the ears. Despite the discomfort there was plenty to see and enjoy. There was the red-velvet game area for Persona 5 and the purple screens of the Twitch Street Fighter competition. A replica haunted house with a shooting range was set up for Resident Evil 7 while Final Fantasy XV just looked epic what with all the cool-looking banners hanging down from the rafters. If you wanted to see Joshi Wrestling, it was there and there was also a mecha suit for some PC game or other. The most impressive set-up had to be the large section for Sony’s VR kits where people had to wait in line to try on the head-sets where I could see many players moving around gingerly with huge grins on their faces while the games that they were playing games were shown on televisions next to them.
As my friend and I wandered around I talked about the games that we were passing. Having not played games for quite a while I found my interest slowly reviving as I recounted the history of Final Fantasy and Biohazard (Resident Evil) in film and games but my friend has little interest in video games while I was in my element despite my constant claims that I don’t care for them. I like playing certain games but don’t have the time or inclination these days but an event like this appealed to me due to my long-held love of Japanese role playing games where you can find fun characters such as this guy:
In fact, the first mascot I encountered was a Prinny from the Disgaea franchise. He was the highlight, dood. Otherwise, it was just me and my friend roaming around elaborate booths which were surrounded by hoards of fans. Indeed it was incredibly crowded with throngs of people gathered outside booths set up by companies. The reason for renting out this convention hall quickly became obvious since something of its size was needed to contain all of the stuff and the people who wanted to see and play games. There were more people than demo stations at the booths and business stands and so I didn’t get to test out any of the games. I had visited in the middle of the second and final day and the number of people was so huge it was going to be impossible to play anything. You had to queue and hope that you would get a position close enough to a game station to play it by the event’s finish at 17:00. I had to settle for just walking around and taking in the sights but even that was fun. I was slowly slipping back into thinking about the games I could play after the walk and then thought about the reasons why I shouldn’t to prevent it.
My friend and I stayed right up to the end before heading off to do some clothes shopping at a nearby retail park full of outlet stores. We thought we’d give it an hour for the crowds to let up.
You can leave early to catch a train if you want but it won’t make any difference when it comes to beating the crowds since there is a large and steady stream of people heading both to the convention hall and back to the train station. It isn’t just Tokyo that’s crowded, it’s whatever commuter city and event space near it that gets flooded with people.
Next year’s TGS will take place from September 21st to September 24th. I don’t think I will go but at least I experienced it once.
From the previous post about Akihabara you can tell that I slipped back into buying video games but the question is, will I play them when I am back home?