Yesterday's passing of pop superstar Michael Jackson has provoked widespread reminiscences. Today, leading game reporters and game designer Dave Perry recalled when they crossed paths with the King of Pop.
"Michael showed up at the first PlayStation E3 party in 1995 as a surprise guest of Mickey Schulhof, the then-CEO of Sony. There were rumors he was going to perform, but as far as I recall he never actually took the stage. Instead, he walked around the party and spent most of his time holed up inside the ice cream parlor on the backlot. I seem to recall he was also caught sitting down and playing the arcade version of the original Ridge Racer that was set up at the party."
Electric Playground host Victor Lucas was also at that E3 and shared his memory with Kotaku:
"He was at the first ever E3 Sony party in 1995 and it was at one of their studio backlots so it was set against a fake small town street with fake little shops. There were games in some of the fake shops, some PlayStation standees and some arcade machines. [Former Sony Computer Entertainment president] Steve Race had given a short speech thanking everyone for coming and how exciting it was for Sony to be entering this new era for their business.
"A band started playing on a stage after that, and I remember rumors being whispered that Michael Jackson was going to perform. He didn't, but I remember a small crowd had gathered around one of the fake shops, peering into the windows. I took a look inside and there he was sitting down and it looked like he was being catered to by at least a half dozen people in his entourage. Eventually he stood up and started playing a game machine in that room. I remember people saying he wasn't going to come out of there, so I moved on and walked around the rest of the party.
"The Sony party that year was big but much smaller than they grew to be over subsequent years at E3, so it didn't take long to circle the party and eventually get back to where Jackson was. Only, when I got back, he wasn't in the fake shop anymore, so I turned the fake street corner and almost walked into him and his entourage as they walked down the street. It was weird. It was like a force field had been built around them and a circle of people had given Michael Jackson 20 feet of space as they followed him. He walked down the fake street, stopping now and then to play a game or two. He didn't perform. All he did was walk around and check out games and wave, smile and say hello to people.
"We were all pretty blown away—a bunch of developers and brand new game journalists were in the presence of pop culture royalty. And as I left the party, collecting my PlayStation Polygon-Man t-shirt and still buzzing about being mere feet away from Michael Jackson, one of the most famous people the world has ever known, I remember thinking how big the videogame industry was already and wondering how big it was going to grow..."
Game designer Dave Perry had a more personal memory, one he shared on his blog today. Perry recounts a story of visits to the star's home at Neverland Ranch, Jackson's playful behavior around his kids and... an egg fight.
Michael Jackson was a gamer, he wanted me to come up to Neverland and talk to him about games. The first time I went up and after walking in the door he handed me a black plastic trash bag and told me to put it on. I was like, "HUH?" He started putting his trash bag on. Then one of his staff walked in with a giant PILE of eggs. A bunch of his friends came in (wearing the requisite black trash bags) and we all went into the garden area and started a giant egg fight. I threw my first egg FULL FORCE (I have long arms), then the world went into bullet-time, I thought, "Oh No!", as I saw the egg flying full speed towards his son's face, and I noticed they were filming everything for Michael's home video collection (so they'd know who did it!) What a great start to make his son cry. Luckily, it whizzed right by his ear missing him by millimeters. I then went into "Here, take this" as I performed the lamest egg throws you've ever seen. So everyone survived, and I was invited to stay.
There's much more from Perry about his view of a Michael Jackson he very much respected over at Perry's blog.
Jackson was a historic and controversial figure, sure to be missed by many. While his connections to the gaming industry were few compared to his influences on music and television, his influence has registered throughout entertainment.