The Mary Gamescom Experience or How Nature Hates Me

If Vanilla Ice were a Russian hacker

Last year’s Gamescom was a strange time for GamingLives as well as for me, personally.  Between having to fly home days before the event even finished, thanks to some arsehole in Russia who decided to attack Facebook using one of our servers, and dealing with somewhat ludicrous incidents days later, I had written it off as one of those things that would have been better had it never happened.  The one thing I managed to take away from the entire experience was being able to enjoy a Big King yet again, and even those aren’t as good as they are in Berlin. Damn you, imperfect franchise model!

Not being the type to walk away from a challenge, or mark something down as a no-go area just because it didn’t quite work out the first time around, it was decided that we’d give Gamescom another shot and see what happens.  It’s a very different beast to  E3, which is more about the spectacle than getting down to business, but if you step outside of the business area at the Koelnmesse then Gamescom takes on a whole new shape and form, flooded with kids who want nothing more than to gather as much swag as they can, which will undoubtedly be thrown on to eBay as quickly as possible or used in a posturing exercise to make their friends feel inferior because they don’t have a badge with a logo on it.

The queue for a badge with a logo on it.

With the route from Edinburgh to Cologne cancelled by Easyjet (presumably because the airport was actually where it was supposed to be, thereby going against Easyjet policy), Mark and I had to fly from Glasgow with KLM via the IKEA-designed Schiphol airport in Amsterdam at a cost of more than six times that of the previous Easyjet flights.  A panic the night before caused by Mark’s questioning our twenty minute stopover in Amsterdam, when it was actually almost an hour, had him wondering how we’d even make the gate in time for our connecting flight but I assured him that we had plenty of time and that he was worrying too much over nothing.

With preparation now over, at midnight, it was time to get a good night’s sleep… for two hours. The cab was coming at 3am, so we could be at the airport for the recommended 4am check-in time even though we’d already checked in online.  En route to the airport, I receive a text from The Other Mark asking if I was up yet… which prompted me to scoff and mention to the driver that he’s asking me if I’m up less than thirty minutes before we’re due to meet at the airport, when it takes an hour to get from GLHQ to Glasgow airport.  This scoffing quickly turned into tomfoolery as the cabbie recommended that I text him back and let him know that we’re only ten minutes away from Edinburgh Airport.

Success! A text came back saying “Edinburgh airport??”, to which I quickly replied “Yeah, we’re flying from Edinburgh” in the hope that he hadn’t read his itinerary properly.  Sure enough, before the keypad on my HTC had gone cold, he was on the ‘phone to ask if I was taking the piss, admitting that he hadn’t read the flight details very carefully.  I succumbed to rationale and told him that it was Glasgow Airport and that he shouldn’t, as he’d been considering, turn the car around and head in the opposite direction at high speed.  Gamescom 2012 was already off to a great start.

Then KLM had to get involved.  Without going into ANY detail as to why, they somehow managed to allow the take-off to be delayed by over thirty minutes, which meant we were sitting on the tarmac with absolutely no clue what was going on.  I say “sitting on the tarmac” but we were all on the plane… they hadn’t arranged some fucked up picnic in the middle of the runway with pork pies and “flattened tourist on a stick” or anything like that.  Finally, Captain Twat decided that it was okay for us to take off and so we made our way to Amsterdam, to catch our connecting flight to Cologne… you know… Cologne… the place we’re supposed to be heading?

Ms Fakesmile, the head flight attendant, wandered nonchalantly up the aisle at one point and crouched next to me.  “Oh here we go, my time has come!”, I thought, remembering those Swedish movies from when I was a kid growing up in a small village on the west of Scotland, and was about to reach for my zipper when she asked “You are both connecting to Cologne, yes?” to which I replied “Yes”, as I hadn’t yet gone into “Ja” mode.  Well, apparently we’re not.  The flight had been delayed so much that we wouldn’t be able to catch our connection to Cologne and so we should instead head for the transfer desks to see about getting on a later flight.  I couldn’t understand how this was even possible, given that it was KLM that had held us up and so they should take some responsibility and, you know, fucking wait a few minutes for the people that THEY had inconvenienced.

Sadly, this wasn’t the case.  After running the entire length of the airport to gate 87 bajillion, with me clutching at my waistband for dear life from not having enough time to put my belt back on after going through security, and not relishing the thought of spending the next thousand years in an Amsterdam prison for flashing my considerable arse at all and sundry, we arrive at the gate and see our lovely shiny plane sitting there with the walkway still attached.  “Wooo!” I mouthed, although it probably came out as “Uuuuuuuuuuuugh” as an eighteen-stone asthmatic carrying a heavy-arse laptop bag in one hand while the other hand held on to his now-non-existent dignity isn’t great at conveying joy while his life flashes before him.

Fat asthmatic guys and running don't mix - this guy has the right idea. He's probably en route to McDonald's though.

Unfortunately, Ms American Tan Tights decides to turn my “Wooo!” into a “WHAT?!” as she explains that she can’t let us on.  The gate has closed.  Even though, as we could both clearly see, it hadn’t.  So… a few more minutes of delayed flight while they offload our luggage, rather than actually letting us on the (hopefully snake-infested) plane and saving some time for all involved, and we’re ushered back to T2 (no, not Robert Patrick) to arrange a new flight to Cologne.  Except there aren’t any.  Apparently there’s some games expo going on in Cologne and so all the flights were full, meaning that we had to instead fly to Düsseldorf, which I was convinced was in New Zealand or something like that.

Long story short, we eventually get to Düsseldorf and drag our tired arses off the plane toward the baggage reclaim area, and spend the next fifteen minutes slagging off the people with the fluorescent pink luggage, the various Mary Poppins carpet bags, the guy who thought it would be okay to have an acoustic guitar go into the hold with no case (enjoy playing that one with no neck, my friend) and the weirdos with ten-feet-thick cling film encasing their bags. Suddenly, the carousel stopped and seven bewildered people stand with blank stares like bassists trying to decipher notation.  Joy of joys, KLM didn’t bother sending our luggage on the correct flight and, for some reason known only to them, had it transported to Paris instead.

Thankfully, there wasn’t anything important in the bags.. just everything other than a laptop and ‘phone, and so we join Gunter as he drives the seven of us to Cologne from Düsseldorf, sans baggage.  By the time we actually get to the hotel, it’s hours later than it should be, and I’ve been attacked by a swarm of African killer bees who decided that they didn’t like the combination of Cat boots with Cat socks, or something.  After poison had been unloaded into my foot no fewer than nine times (yes, Ed Rooney, nine times) I took an allergic reaction and spent the evening with one of the worst migraines I’d ever had, coupled with projectile vomiting and a cold sweat.

The cold sweat was quite welcome, if I’m honest, as the room was twat degrees Celsius with zero air conditioning, a window which would let in a plague of locusts were it allowed to be opened more than a single micron, and one of my roomies appeared to be the world’s first organic methane factory.  Granted, the hotel was much better than last year’s hovel, which would have had even the cheapest prostitutes turning up their noses, but it was too hot to sleep and the wi-fi didn’t even work so we couldn’t get anything done.  We were there though, and that’s all that mattered.  This wasn’t about getting our jollies or filling up our bags with swag; this was about producing content and doing it well, so as long as we got some sleep then we’d be fine.

The fact that the press area had glass-bottled Coke at only €1 yet again, and two large wieners in a roll came in at only €1.50 meant that I could stay alive without breaking the bank… although I secretly (read: was very open about the fact, regularly) wished I could spend my entire wad on just one meal at the Saddle Ranch in Los Angeles instead.  We did decide to break away from the usual Burger King meal one evening though, and sat down to enjoy a delicious meal at a Caspian restaurant in the heart of old Cologne.  The other four guys decided to share some weird lamb-infested grill platter thing, but with chips instead of salad… because they’re hardcore… while I was told that I couldn’t in fact have the fillet steak as they’d run out, but that the rib-eye was just as awesome and so I decided on that, but with the rosemary potatoes instead of chips.

So anyway, the grill platter appeared along with a huge salad, at which point the other four turned up their noses at the thought of “all the healthy” and my rib-eye was put in front of me, devoid of any rosemary potatoes and was instead covered with chips.  C’est la vie, as they say in Germany.  I tucked into my cow, and quickly wished that I’d just gone to Burger King instead.  At least I’m only spending €4 on an entire meal at BK rather than €18 for the same quality of meat albeit in a slightly different shape.  After waiting more than thirty minutes for the bill, someone went inside to ask where it was and came back out with it because, wouldn’t you know it, they don’t actually bring the bill to you in this particular restaurant.

Hmmm tasty burger or utterly shit steak... I know which I'd rather have. In hindsight.

Suitably disgusted by the service, the quality of the food, the €2.80 for a thimble’s worth of Coke and the fact that nobody actually got what they ordered, we divided the bill right down to the last cent and made sure there was no tip on offer.  I get that serving staff survive on tips, but if you can’t do your job properly then fuck off and get a different job rather than subjecting us to your inferiority, you twat.  I wish I could remember the name of the restaurant, so I could set up my own “Don’t ever eat here” website, but I have too much to do anyway.

I’m quite sure I could go on about all the negatives of this year’s Gamescom and so, rather than have you think that it was devoid of any pleasure or positivity, I’ll just say this… we got to see some fantastic games, meet some great people, successfully avoided the swag where possible, got a shitload of content for anyone who is interested, and learned that 7ft 50in South Africans will replace trash compactors in the future as they only need to get a sniff of unwanted food and it’s all gone, moments later.

I love Cologne, while I find Los Angeles to be a soul-less void, and I adore the business area of Gamescom as it makes appointment booking so much easier as there’s no ten-minute sprint from one hall to another, but E3 just seems to be a better experience overall.  Perhaps it’s because we rent a house rather than resort to a hotel, or because LA is full of places that are proud of how well they can cook a steak, but there’s just something to be said about the E3 experience that the Gamescom one doesn’t have.  Having said that, I’m already looking forward to next August and spending some time in Cologne again… except this time I’m sleeping in a cold bath, and not listening to any waiter recommendations.

Oh, by the way… if you’re ever tempted to try currywurst (I tried it in Berlin, and it was actually okay) whenever you’re in Cologne, I’d recommend against it.  Not entirely, though.  I mean, if you enjoy ketchup to the point where you could perhaps spoon it straight into your mouth (yeah, I could do that) then you’ll probably adore it but if you want your pork sausages to actually taste of meat rather than condiment then I’d advise against it.  I believe the recipe for currywurst in Köln Hauptbahnhof is one bratwurst, one industrial-sized barrel of ketchup and a mere dusting of curry powder.  Thankfully, I stuck with the roast chicken!




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5 Comments

  1. Chris-Toffer says:

    Brilliant.

  2. MarkuzR says:

    Brilliant?! You think that being stung by a mile-wide swarm of African killer bees, inhaling methane for four days, and having to spend TEN EUROS on shit deodorant is brilliant? You’re a sick, sick man Mr Hartnup.

  3. UselessJack says:

    Alright, that’s it. Next year I’ll come with you guys, you won’t survive another year in Cologne without a local guy like me. I won’t take a “no” for an answer :P

    Seriously, that restaurant? I bet that was a Maredo’s. You never, EVER eat at that fucking hellhole. And about the Hotel, book NOW or in the next few weeks since germans are always overly punctual, that way you have a chance to get a good one for a fair price.

    But still, great article, I really enjoyed reading it. Even if I feel bad for you and ashamed for my country.

  4. MarkuzR says:

    germans are always overly punctual

    The number of towels that go on loungers at around midnight in a Benidorm hotel will attest to that one :D I have honestly no idea the name of that restaurant… “Shiteys” or something, I think. You should’ve been there this year, damn your friends for going without you!

  5. Edward says:

    Hey, if you thought that methane was bad, you should have smelt my house after that currywurst.

    It wasn’t great.

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