I chatted with an number of the staff throughout the day, from Adrian Le Mans, the Director of the Omega Sektor chain (which is apparently 24 branches strong in Eurasia), to some of the booth babes who offered me some canapé advice.
One thing that was consistent amongst all the permanent staff who I spoke to was the obvious passion for games that they all had. There was a surprisingly equal mix of guys and girls which, if I can say so without sounding sexist or stereotypical, was a little surprising given the window-less environment and reek of testosterone and BO.
“We’re a very close team here, each with our own nicknames which we earned through hours and hours of deathmatch,”
said Piggie, AKA Paul, who was in charge of the room sponsored by Square Enix. The room was fully decked out with pictures of anime beauties and men with infeasibly large swords and Paul himself was clutching a bag of Final Fantasy goodies which had been a gift from Square Enix.
There was an obvious passion for all things Enix in his eyes and he kept stopping the conversation to watch the walls light up again and again with glimpses of the new Final Fantasy
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“Final Fantasy VII is the best game ever. Best bad guy, best music, best female character, best everything.”
I had taken a liking to Paul straight away and he seemed incredibly enthusiastic about his job, so I chose not to rock the boat by correcting him on a few issues there.
But, come on, Jade from Beyond Good and Evil
absolutely slaughters Tifa and the music of Grim Fandango
puts Final Fantasy VII
“The best thing about Omega Sektor is that it really is a social experience. TeamSpeak has got nothing on this,”
Paul said, once I had coaxed him off the topic of Final Fantasy
versus The Secret of Monkey Island
“Trust me, I used to bus myself all over for LAN matches in the attic of a mates house and nothing I did even came close to this. You can come to Omega Sektor to play with friends, family, girlfriends or just to meet new people. It really is a very social, fun experience.”
I crept away from Paul the next time he got distracted by a Final Fantasy
trailer and moved off into the room sponsored by THQ, which was currently dedicated to STALKER
, a game I now refuse to punctuate properly.
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Chatting with another room manager, I found out how the sponsorship programmes are structured. Typically, a sponsor will sign up for three to six months of sponsorship of a specific room or games sector. At the event, the downstairs entrance hall and VIP areas were currently unsponsored. Upstairs was an Activision room, running Quake 4
multiplayer, an Xbox room, a conference centre that I snuck into for a few minutes, a stage area where a single Wii was hooked up to a 70” screen and beanbags were littered around the bar and the previously mentioned Square Enix and THQ rooms.
There was also a collection of about forty PCs arranged in small clusters in an open plan hall where gamers could play ad hoc games and listen to the music provided by a resident DJ. In the centre of the room were two curtained areas where groups could sit back in some extremely
comfortable couches and play some PlayStation 3
Now, being a man who has played STALKER
to death, I know that it can be a very demanding game for some systems, so I went over to one of the free systems and quizzed the manager about what settings they had the game on and how they chose them. The conversation was shorter than I might have expected.
“All the games are running on default settings. It’s easiest that way. People can push them up or down if they really want to though.”