An interesting night last night; I went to Vivendi Universal’s launch of F.E.A.R, which for reasons of providing a spooky atmosphere, was held at the Quarantine Station at Manly. This entailed getting in to Circular Quay and getting on a bus for an hour or so through rush hour traffic, during which time I kept myself busy playing multiplayer Everybody’s Golf (PSP) — until my battery died. Bah. I was winning, too, a pattern I wouldn’t see repeated later on in LAN F.E.A.R play. So conversation it was — firstly on the horror movie scene cuts they were showing on the bus video player — it’s amazing how a gory and scary scene loses all its effectiveness when you remove the context and just place it inbetween fifty similar clips — and then a very bizarre conversation with Alex Zaharov-Reutt about the economics of hiring midgets. Maybe you had to be there.
The first part of the event was a somewhat annoying “ghost” tour of the quarantine facilities. I say annoying not in that I don’t beleive people have supernatural experiences, but annoying in that it’s a site with lots of history, and because the tour’s designed to invoke a “spooky” atmosphere, we kept going into these historical sites — and leaving the lamps outside. So we’d be in, say, the hospital, and the guide would be talking about a photo of the cemetary on the wall “over there” which we couldn’t bloody see, because the lamps were outside.
The other annoying factor in the tour was that I felt the ghost stuff was somewhat unnecessary. The Quarantine Station was where sick boat and plane passengers would convalesce or pass away from whatever afflicted them or their travel companions. Imagine, then, that you’ve just spent eleven months on a boat, going halfway round the world, and you finally land — and your first and last view of Australia is the insides of what eerily resembled a concentration camp. Especially as the first thing you’d do when you got off the boat was be herded into fumigation chambers for a cancer-creating infusion of sulphurous gases. From there, it’s just a quick run through the carbolic soap showers to remove your skin, and then you’d be stuck there until you got better or died. That’s grim enough that it doesn’t need spooky stories, or tour guides deliberately kicking walls to “create atmosphere”. I’d be interested to go during the day to check out the carvings at least — and from looking at the site, there are fairy penguins as well. Blast. I’d better do it quickly, though, as apparently it’s being leased out to a private concern who are going to pump money into it and turn it into a tourist site. I can see the shower-block slip-and-slide and Scarlet Fever Rollercoaster already. Eugh.
I’ll be commercially writing about F.E.A.R in due course, but my first impressions of the full game are all pretty positive, as long as one has a suitable gaming PC — and the DVD edition intro does a better job of scaring the willies out of me than any number of ghost stories. I think I acquitted myself reasonably in the LAN competition (not that I won or came all that close) but confusion about player numbers means I’m not sure how well I actually did. Being eliminated made for more time of chewing of the proverbial fat with various seedy journo types — seedy journo being a proud appelation, naturally enough — and watching the eerily good players of the game hunt each other down. FPS spectating of modern good-looking games could be a great televised event, although you’d really need a superimposed scoreboard and some free-floating cameras to really create the proper atmosphere.
We wrapped up at 10:30, made it back to Circular Quay by 11:30, and so I rushed to the station, only to find that I’d just missed a train, and that the next one was in 30 minutes. That’d see me miss my connecting train, so I jogged up to Wynyard — only to find no North Shore trains running. That meant waiting for a bus, which took me to North Sydney, then waiting for a train to get me to Hornsby, then a cab for the final leg home. Back at 1:30, asleep by 2:00 and then awake again at 6:00am to start the day afresh. Or not so fresh, as the case may be.