Keeping the Con in Content Free: Jeff describes the geekiest thing he did in San Diego

Someone will one day write a post that will catch San Diego Comic-Con in all its current monstrousness--a long New Yorker-esque post filled with telling details. Hell, at the size it is now, maybe only a Moby Dick sized book will be able to catch it in all its wonder and peculiarity, filled with digressive chapters on the history of comic books, and conventions, and cosplay. Believe me, I want to write the fucking thing but can't figure out how.

Also, impossible as it seems, I want to try to avoid the six or so types of SDCC posts so prevalent this year (the "SDCC is too big" post; the "no, it's not" rejoinder post; the "here's my interaction with a celebrity" story and the "who cares about the celebrities" post (you can sometimes find these two just a few entries apart on the same blog); the "here are my pictures" post; the "this is the panel I was on" post; and the "here's the news I found exciting" post). I want to just cut straight to the chase: what was the nerdiest thing I did at San Diego? When I tell friends I went, this is usually what they want to know, although they approach the subject in a roundabout way. "Did you dress up as a jedi?" they'll ask. "Did you get your picture taken with a chick in a skimpy outfit?" they'll inquire. "Did you buy something you can wear when you play Dungeon Master?" "Did you wait in really long lines to see the cast of Stargate?" "Did you bathe?" (No, no, no, no, and not as much as I would've liked, frankly, but that's more the heat and humidity than any sort of hygiene mishap.)

The runners-up to the nerdiest thing I did?

**I took pictures of the cast of The Greatest American Hero. Unironic pictures.

**I was on a panel with awesome people. (See? I'm cheating already.)

**I paid so much money for that stupid FLCL Ultimate Edition DVD I'm scared to tell my wife. Although now that I look at the prices they're going for on Amazon, I kinda wish I had bought two.

**I gave unsolicited advice to a total stranger about the best way to play her Region 3 Battle Royale DVD.

**I coveted a Brother Voodoo lego figure that also glows in the dark. (That was before I saw these.)

**I stood in the line to meet Grant Morrison, and then ducked out at close to the last minute because I had nothing for him to say and nothing for him to sign.

**By contrast, I not only bought a mini comic from Nat Hernandez (Gilbert's daughter), I paid extra to have her do a sketch on the inside.

But the geekiest thing I did at San Diego? Is after the jump.

I played Golgo 13: The Arcade Game.

I first came across it on Thursday night. We were walking up Fourth Street to the DCOnline/SOE party at some bar that looked like it should've been called "Senor Roofie's:" nice, well-lit, but when you try to leave you realize how many freakin' stairs you have to climb and how far from the street you actually are. When Eli Roth gets around to filming the inevitable Hostel: Con Night, he should keep Senor Roofie's in mind.

Anyway, yeah, on the way there, I looked over as we were walking and saw:

in a darkened window.

Somehow, I did not manage to lose my shit. While my love for Golgo 13 is well documented on this site, I may not have confessed my shameless love for the Silent Scope arcade games, and the two month period I spent driving to a miniature golf course in Redwood City twice a week just to play Silent Scope 2: Dark Silhouette to the unconcealed amusement of the fifteen year olds behind the concession counter. I think I'd read about Namco's Golgo 13 sniper game long ago and assumed I'd never see or play it, or maybe it was the video game had visited me in my dreams, but there a strange twinning effect happened as I glanced over and saw it: I was both shocked and nonplussed, disappointed and sanguine. After all, I had seen it. All I had to do was find it again, come back and play it.

So, allow me to qualify my earlier statement: the geekiest thing I did in San Diego was leave the Con on the middle of the day Saturday, skipping innumerable panels and the chance to better pan for the bits of awesome in that seemingly endless convention floor, so I could go play Golgo 13: the arcade game.

All the nerd obeisance surrounding the Con had led me to believe I'd find the game in the window of some trendy tattoo shop with a "Welcome Comicon!" poster I hadn't noticed earlier right above it. Inside, the game would be nestled right next to copies of Drifting Classroom and a Betty Page lookalike behind the register whose arms would be tattooed with sleeves recounting, on the left, the entire Planet of the Apes film series, and, on the right, Logan's Run, modified to include tattooed adaptations of both Logan's World and Logan's Search.

Actually, the Golgo 13 arcade game was located in a combination liquor store/laundromat/hobo joint. Dudes in unwashed sweatshirts slouched by the hostess products, staring at the scowling counterman as he sold cigarettes and liquor. On the laundromat side, clothes tumbled like nervous acrobats while a man with a sunburned face and dirty feet adjusted two plastic chairs so he might transition from nodding off to dozing off. A Marvel Vs. Capcom console growled and burped its way through its attract mode, the screen faded nearly to the color of clouds. Not only was there no Betty Page lookalike, the counterman looked at my request for a few dollars in quarters with a perfect marriage of disgust and suspicion.

Although it looks just like Silent Scope, the Golgo 13 game runs on an entirely different dynamic. As I recall, Silent Scope has a monitor inside the rifle scope that synchs what you see on screen, only magnified, and as you pass the scope of your sniper rifle across the screen, the area coved by the scope magnifies as well. So you're able to scan terrain quickly and, actually, make some of the sniping shots without bothering to look through the scope.

By contrast, from what I could tell, G13: TAG has a genuine magnifying lens within its scope, and a monitor built into the rifle stock which reads when your shoulder is in place. When you're in position, the entire video game screen switches to a zoomed in version of the scene, but you need to look through the scope for further visual amplification.

What's awesome about this is nerds who groove on the whole science of sniping (says the guy pretending he doesn't have John Plaster's Ultimate Sniper on his bookshelf) can actually deal with issues of parallax and eye relief and looking at the location of the crescent to check whether you're positioned appropriately. What sucks about this is that if the lens is screwed, you're screwed: it's like playing Missle Command with a broken trackball.

Additional impediments to the enjoyment of G13:TAG include not a word of English to be found anywhere in or on the game, a baffling initial scene where you're shown where to point your rifle for it to zoom in on the scenario (which leads me to think Namco had originally designed the game to have two stages, one of which tested so badly all that remains is this vestigial sequence), and a distressingly aroused hobo who was very eager to turn my tender pas de deux with the video game into a tawdry menage a trois: "Yeah, dude, shoot, shoot, shoot!" He suddenly gurgled over my shoulder. "Blast that fucking diamond, bro! Do it! Do it!"

As Golgo 13 would say: "..."

One of the cool things about the game is each scenario is introduced by a quick bit of G 13 manga (presumably done by Saito and Co.) to set up what you need to do: gang boss needs executing; detonation trigger on skyscraper bomb needs to be shot off of a rooftop; perfect diamond (sigh) needs to shot and destroyed during the one moment of transfer between two safety deposit boxes. It's done in a panel by panel presentation and is such a keen little thing all its own--the first two-thirds of a Golgo 13 story compressed into seven or eight screens--I continued to put money in a busted video game just so I could see the different scenarios. There are something like 20 scenarios, but they're tiered so you have to try all of the first four before you can access the next four so I didn't see very many. So if there was a scenario where you snipe hobos so a middle-aged nerd can have a few minutes of rhapsodic interaction with a busted video game that hates him, I sadly wasn't able to access it.

It was definitely my geekiest moment, although it technically was more like forty-five (since the experience was disappointing in the first five but I hung out for another forty). And what's weird is, if it'd been awesome I'm not sure who I would've told. Tim Leong? Whoever was working the Viz booth? It's not like I saw any Golgo 13 cosplayers running around the floor. I pass it along to you, however, in the hopes that if you find yourself down San Diego way, anytime soon, and you're inordinately fond of Golgo 13, busted video games, and scary hobos, you'll be able to look it up for yourself.

Next: Content, I absolutely swear. Content!