Calder’s Corner: ITEA Toy Fair

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By Calder Phillips-Grafflin

If you end up studying abroad, make sure you’re aware of the events going on around you. Many of these experiences will be parties or concerts, but there are also many opportunities to attend expositions, trade shows, and performances. Most of them are open to the public, either for free or a small entrance fee. This past weekend, my friends and I went to one of these very events: The 22nd Annual ITEA International Toy Fair held at the Holešovice exposition grounds in Prague.

Surprisingly, for an event largely focused towards younger children and their parents, the real stars of the show were the demonstrations put on by gaming and electronics companies. Microsoft and Sony brought several examples of their new motion-based game controllers (Microsoft’s Kinect and Sony’s Move) for visitors to use. AMD hosted a Battlefield 2 competition, and the producers of both Stepmania and In the Groove (both similar to DDR) held demonstrations. AMD provided a convincing display of the graphical power of their Eyefinity system, which is aimed towards the high-end graphics and gaming market. Gamers have traditionally bought products from AMD’s competitors, so appearances at shows like this are important if AMD wants to increase its market share.

The Microsoft and Sony displays were quite interesting, but not just because of the new hardware on display. The better show was the reactions of the attendees. ‘Hardcore’ gamers and game reviewers have traditionally reacted harshly to attempts to replace physical controllers with movement and gesture-based control. And despite the commercial success of the Wii, they have not been welcoming of the Kinect and Move, decrying them as unsuitable for ‘serious’­­ gameplay.

This group may not be the ideal platform for the classic first-person-shooter game, but if the attendees using the demo units were any indication, these new controllers are ideal for engaging ‘non-traditional’ gamers, i.e. parents and younger children interested less in cutthroat multiplayer competition and more in family fun.

If this holds true when both systems make it to market later this year, then motion and gesture-based control will be here to stay.

Games and electronics were hardly the only things on display, however. An immense variety of toys, ranging from fake pets to radio-controlled airplanes, were present, including a peculiar pedal-operated riding horse and a wide variety of pedal-powered go-karts.

We would have completely missed all of this if we hadn’t checked around for events. So let this be an encouragement to not only pay attention to events going on around you, but to go to ‘unusual’ ones that you wouldn’t otherwise think of attending.

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