Gears of War 2 LA launch event lacked emergence holes; featured lines and celebrity

There’s this game, maybe you’ve heard of it, Gears of War 2 and it’s kind of a big deal, right? That’s pretty much an understatement as it very well may be the biggest game of the year and for some, the biggest game of their lives — oooooo drama!

On Thursday night, deep in the heart of the neon nightmare that is the Universal City Walk, GameStop held the big midnight launch for Gears of War 2. Amidst the voracious gamers eager to get their hands on the continuing adventures of Marcus Fenix and Delta Squad, there were prizes, costumes, famous celebrities — of both the internet and world varieties — and lines…lots of lines. So what’s a midnight launch event of this magnitude like? Read on, dear viewer, to find out.

The festivities were due to kick off roughly at 9 PM, but with this being the launch of Gears 2, I figured I’d head up early in case an emergence hole opened up and the area was overtaken by Locust. Whatever guys, I play videogames and have a vivid imagination. I quickly learned midnight launches — this was my first — work very much like a concert in that nothing starts on time and people are just in line because everyone else is doing it and that’s how you stay hip. The festivities didn’t officially start until around 10 PM when Microsoft’s Larry Hryb, aka Major Nelson, took to the stage and got the party started. I am saying this is when the party started because the radio station KROQ attempted to do it earlier but the DJ was made of utter fail and embarrassment.

While Major Nelson was getting the crowd jazzed about standing in groups and lines, he picked five random people in attendance to get up on some multiplayer action…against Cliff Bleszinski and the Gears of War voice actors. The five attendees were sent into the GameStop where Xbox 360 kiosks had the game ready to go while the stage filled with many of the people involved with bringing the game to life: Cliff Bleszinski, John DiMaggio (voice of Marcus Fenix), Carlos Ferro (Dominic Santiago), Lester Speight (Cole Train), Michael Gough (Carmine), Fred Tatasciore (Baird), Nan McNamara (Anya), Jamie Alcroft (Col. Hoffman) and Robin Atkins Downes (Locust horde/Travis Touchdown from No More Heroes!). Yes, the stage was like a clown car and the controllers had to be passed around. Unfortunately, and unbeknownst to those on stage, we couldn’t see the actual game being played. It was like listening to a radio play hearing everyone on stage describing the body parts, blood and general mayhem happening while everyone stood around scratching their heads. Even when Carlos Ferro — he says bad words and stuff — took steps to start the riot and get the audience some peepers-on, nothing could be done. For all anyone knew they were playing Gorf up there. In the end, the stage players lost 3-0 complete with Cliff Bleszinski eating it in a chainsaw duel. Better practice up, Cliff!

With plenty of time left until the clock struck 12, Major Nelson kicked off a trivia session with prizes including Gears of War branded Zunes and a special edition Gears of War Xbox 360 console. Away from the stage, the actors were being interviewed, celebs mingled with the crowd — including Zachary Levi and Joshua Gomez from NBC’s Chuck — and the peeps from Nightmare Armor Studios walked around in their insanely amazing, custom-made COG armor, talking with fans and taking pictures. The moment everyone everyone was waiting for drew ever closer and with only a few minutes left until midnight, attention went back to the stage and the countdown began.

At midnight, the game people have been waiting almost 2 years for was finally on sale and ready for their happy hands to hold. People with pre-order wristbands were let in five at a time to get their copy and have it autographed by Cliff Blezsinski and the company of voice actors. It was all smiles from this point on and the excitement from some people was palpable; you could absolutely tell they were going to have a LONG night ahead of them. After the first couple hundred gamers got their copies signed, with roughly another 300+ waiting to buy, the Gears crew called it a night and said their goodbyes.

What’s really cool about an event such as this isn’t so much acting like giddy schoolgirls — it’s fun, don’t get me wrong, but getting nervous, sweaty and having your voice crack isn’t for everyone — but really about seeing fans come together and not bludgeon each other to death whilst arguing about which game/console is better. To see a group of people come together due to their love of something that many think is silly is pretty amazing and makes me glad to be a gamer. In conclusion, this kid is the coolest kid ever and is definitely cooler than all of us. You cannot argue.

Special thanks to Charlie Suh for the header image.