Date: November 4, 2005 Source: Chaplin, H., & Ruby A. Smartbomb: The Quest for Art, Entertainment, and Big Bucks in the Videogame Revolution (p. 20). Algonquin Books.
There’s Munch’s Oddysee, the sad tale/adventure game of a one-eyed aquatic creature on the verge of extinction, who must liberate his species, helped by an ex-slave with a pinhead and chronic flatulence named Abe. The game’s animation is creative and original, and its story is subversive, at least by mainstream entertainment standards. Its creator, Lorne Lanning, of Oddworld Inhabitants, is a thirty-seven-year-old former painter and hydraulic amusement-park-ride inventor, who does the character and animation and voice acting himself. Lanning is six feet three inches, with recently cut-off long black hair, a pointy goatee, and a Cary Grant—like elegance. Ask him what his religious inclination is; “Jedi,” he’ll tell you.
By midnight, Alan Yu’s post-awards party is in full swing. Winners from the night and others in the know take the Fairmont elevator to the top floor, walk down two hallways to a set of double doors with a plaque beside it engraved with the words FAIRMONT SUITE. Tall and elegant, Lorne Lanning opens the door, drink in hand, relaxed among his peers.
There aren’t supposed to be any working press at Alan’s party, but by three a.m., their presence is undeniable. One cable TV host is staggering drunkenly around the edges of the poker table, much to the players’ annoyance. It’s a touchy subject, because last year P.J. Huffstutter, a reporter for the L.A. Times, filed a story that included a scene from the Fairmont Suite party that had Lorne Lanning passing a pipe filled with marijuana to the Xbox’s Ed Fries.
IT’S ALMOST MIDNIGHT now at Times Square. The first person in line, a twenty-year-old named Edward Glucksman from New Jersey, is introduced to Bill Gates. He demolishes Gates in a round of Fusion Frenzy and then gushes that he’s always wanted to grow up to be just like him. The shelves of Toys “R” Us are filled with Xboxes and games to go with them. Ed Fries is proud of the titles. There was one other chink in the armor of competitors, and Ed worked the spot like a surgeon going after a lodged bullet. Nintendo was known for squeezing their third-party partners so tight they could barely eek out a profit; Sony was known for a kind of rampant corporate arrogance. Empowering became a key word in the Xbox lexicon. Treat the developers right and they will come, became the motto.
Ed is particularly proud of sci-fi first-person shooter called Halo, made by Bungie Studios, in which Microsoft acquired a stake in 2000. It’s a new property, but Ed hopes it will become one of the Xbox’s franchise pillars. (Under Ed, about 58 percent of Microsoft’s publishing portfolio was devoted to original material.) Another big title is Munch’s Oddysee from Oddworld Inhabitants, which everyone who’s seen it admits isn’t quite perfect but is worthy of being lauded for its creativity alone.
Upstairs, superstar trance DJs Sasha and Digweed are spinning. The members of Garbage are getting ready for their set. Seamus takes a deep breath. He steps onto the stairs with an arm outstretched to start shaking hands with all the people he knows streaming up and down the vast staircase. While J Allard may have gotten named one of Bill Gates’s most likely successors in Business 2.0, Seamus has been named of the most connected men in the world of technology by Wired magazine. Seamus sure seems to know everyone. He runs into Lorne Lanning of Oddworld, one of many who champion his ideas.