Tom French (The Saboteur) and Tim Schafer (Brütal Legend)
While E3 is supposed to be for developers, game journalists, and other members of the video game industry, there are always a few ne'er-do-well celebrities — we’re looking at you, Robin Williams — who try and crash the bash, and get their filthy mitts on the new games, too. But this year’s show looks like it might be a Celebrity Free Zone thanks to “House of Game,” an event held the Monday before E3 began that let celebs and other Hollywood power brokers get their hands on some hot upcoming games without having to cockblock people at E3.
The impetus behind “House of Game” wasn’t just to keep Robin Williams from getting between us and Modern Warfare 2, though. “I came up with the idea after I took some celeb friends of mine to E3,” explains Tom Ham, a veteran game journalist who organized the event with Kevin Chang, a production executive at Misher Films who worked on the upcoming Johnny Depp movie Public Enemies, and Zach Schiff-Abrams, a producer at Mike DeLuca Productions whose next project is Brothers with Natalie Portman and Tobey Maguire.
Greg Grunberg (Heroes) and Tom Ham (organizer)
But while the idea was originally to have the event be a celebrity party, it quickly morphed, according to Ham, into something else, something more of a showcase. Ham, Chang, and Schiff-Abrams are all members of Nerd Poker, a cabal of Hollywood writers, producers, and others who met and became friends by playing such games as Gears of War online. Working in the biz, they not only knew other writers and producers who like to play, but that some might be interested in turning cool new games into movies, TV shows, or comic books (and, of course, just playing them). Which is why the event had such actors as Zach Levi and Joshua Gomez of Chuck, Napoleon Dynamite star Jon Heder, and Heroes co-stars Greg Grunberg, Masi Oka, and Jimmy Jean-Louis fighting for time on Dante’s Inferno with such screenwriters as Zak Penn (X2: X-Men United) and Stuart Beattie (the Pirates of the Caribbean movies), as well as writer/director Jeff Wadlow (Cry Wolf).
Though, Ham adds, “another Nerd Poker goal was to incorporate independent game developers, talent that would've probably been overlooked at E3. That is, if they could even get into E3.” Hence the inclusion of such smaller games as Flower.
Lofty goals, for sure, but if the event’s attendance was any indication, they were certainly reachable. Some of the biggest game companies around participated in the event, including EA, Namco, Capcom, Sony (who sponsored the drinks and gave out copies of inFamous, thanks for that), and Bethesda, while the upcoming games they brought along included Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, Heavy Rain, The Saboteur, Need For Speed: Shift, Brütal Legend, Battlefield: Bad Company 2, Lost Planet 2, Tekken 6, Katamari Forever, Spyborgs, Dark Void, and the upcoming Fallout 3 DLC “Point Lookout.” In addition, Activision brought Guitar Hero 5, DJ Hero, Singularity, and Tony Hawk: Ride, though these were not playable.
The event even brought out some of gaming’s biggest names, including such designers as Tim Schafer, Jordan Mechner, and the artist formerly known as Cliffy B, as well as such execs as Pandemic president Josh Resnick and Blizzard COO Paul Sams.
But while “House of Game” may not have kept celebs away from E3 this year — both Oka, Elijah Wood, and Saturday Night Live’s Jason Sudeikis were all spotted around Sony’s booth — the event still went over so well that Ham says this is just the beginning. “The plan," he says, “is to make 'House of Game' the premiere, must-have ticket at E3.”
Check out the full photo gallery.
All photos taken and provided by Charlie Chu.