I went to Paris last weekend, which is an extravagant thing to do if you live in New York and should probably be making shorter weekend commutes. But I had a rare chance to go and so off I went, out Thursday overnight, back Monday afternoon.
I wasn't supposed to be working, but I can't shut off the video-game-reporter part of my brain. While on vacation I did a little work. For your benefit!
That "work" mostly involved snapping photos and learning valuable lessons (mostly) about playing video games as an American in Paris.
You will not escape the ads for Max Payne 3. It was the only video game I saw advertised in the Paris Metro and on the streets of the city, but it was also one of the things I saw advertised the most.
Fun fact: There were also lots of ads for The Avengers move, which was already out there. Weird.
Nintendo doesn't want you charging your American 3DS in European electrical sockets. For some dopey reason, Nintendo's official 3DS charger can't handle the voltage of French electrical sockets, even with a necessary travel plug converter connecting the charge cable to a Parisian outlet. A basic travel converter lets you plug in any American-style flat prongs into a European-style socket that takes cylindrical prongs. That's all the gear you need for plugging in and charging an iPad, laptop, iPhone or Vita (trust me, I did all that), but the 3DS will just sit there not taking any juice.
There is a solution! Well, there are probably two fixes: one would be to get a voltage converter, but why? The better solution, the one I used, was to buy a USB charger for the 3DS. I was able to use it to charge my 3DS off my laptop—and also off the back of the seat in the Swiss Air plane I flew to go home.
They're trying to sell the Vita in Europe, which is more than I can say for any other gaming hardware. Ads for any other hardware were nowhere to be found. I even saw a guy using a Vita... to take a picture of a dog.
I didn't see anyone using a 3DS, but I picked up plenty of people via the system's StreetPass while walking through Paris and Charles de Gaulle airport.
For some reason there is a lot of video-game-based graffiti in Paris.
There's nothing special about Parisian game shops. The selection is pretty much what you'd get in America. That is the opposite of what you experience in many of the Parisian comic shops (of which there are tons, including an entire street, Rue Dante, that's full of them!).
I might as well have been outside a GameStop.
The 3DS' 3D camera is a champ when you're taking photos in the Rodin sculpture museum, but it can't handle the Eiffel Tower. It's great with close-ups, but it can't pop any decent 3D with anything—say, a building!—that's more than a few feet away from you. (Download several 3DS pics I took of the sites from this Dropbox link.)
Here is a special piece of possibly-painfully-obvious advice to aspiring 3DS photo-takers who wish to aim their Nintendo portable at tall structures: don't turn your 3DS to snap a vertical photo. You can only see the system's 3D effect when you are holding the machine horizontally. So if you photograph the Eiffel Tower with the system held vertically, you'll only be able to watch the Eiffel Tower pop into 3D on the machine while the system is horizontal. But holding the 3DS horizontally would leave a vertically-photographed Tower on its side.
The miracle public toilets in Paris clean themselves as soon as you step out of them, scrubbing their toilets and floors through some arcane magic.
This is apparently not new, but, my god, it is amazing.
Flight attendants still refer to portable gaming machines as Game Boys (when they're telling passengers which electronics can be used after takeoff). I think they're the only people on the planet who still do this.