Hurricane Sandy’s Effects on the Gaming Scene: From Blacked-out Developers to a Guy Who Walked 3 Hours To Line-Wait for Wii U
Hurricane Sandy didn’t have an effect on the video game scene the way it would have if it had hit in a city like Montreal or San Francisco, where many of the most popular video games are made. But New York City and the surrounding region does have a vibrant indie gaming scene, millions of passionate gamers, a lot of game shops, the headquarters of the site you’re currently reading and at least one game development studio you’ve all heard of.
So, what did this storm do to us all?
Nothing too bad as far as gaming is concerned. Nothing that comes close to the destruction it did to lives and homes across the Eastern Seaboard. It was more of a nuisance.
Sandy shut down businesses in downtown Manhattan, which remain, four days after the hurricane, without power. Electricity is supposed to be restored today or tomorrow, according to ConEd, the utility whose 14th street power station exploded when Sandy hit.
Among those thousands of businesses was Rockstar Games, which went dark when the rest of downtown lost power and wasn’t going to raise a fuss about it. But word was getting out that a new trailer was supposed to hit this week, so they updated fans to let them know it wouldn’t be happening. Not yet. The second Grand Theft Auto V trailer (first in a year!) was delayed because of the storm. While most of the development of GTA V is likely happening in Edinburgh, Scotland, home of Rockstar North, trailers tend to come from HQ in downtown New York. So it makes sense.
Rockstar is pretty much across the street from NYU, which has a growing game design and game studies program called the Game Center, run by game designer Frank Lantz. He told me that they’re shut down until Monday but plans are still on track for the second annual “Practice” weekend games conference starting November 9. (Tickets still available.)
One of Lantz’s students told me the storm had him playing games, because, with no power, there just aren’t as many other things to do for fun. “My girlfriend and I are playing board games each night by candles in our dark apartment,” Game Center MFA candidate Shervin Ghazazani told me. He’s in Manhattan in the Chelsea neighborhood and has stuck around in the darkzone to feed his and his girlfriend’s two cats. “We are rediscovering the joy of classic board games such as Guess Who, Crazy Eights and Blockus,” he said. “Playing these games has helped us through this tough time. I don’t know what we would do each night when we get home for ~3hrs before we sleep.”
I noticed Spelltower game designer Zach Gage talking about having no power on Twitter and hit him up. Maybe he had a story about what he was going through? A photo? He e-mailed back last night: “I’ve got no power no water and only recently Internet/cell service in my new 11-floor walk-up :) I’ve just been reading comics, making food runs, and hanging out listening to my girlfriend play guitar and bbqing on the roof. Played a few board games, no photos though. Since there’s no power I’ve had to conserve my phone and keep it off. Trying to charge it off various laptops.” He told me he nearly designed a dice game, but it didn’t pan out.
The Nintendo World Store—the flagship store for all things Nintendo anywhere on the planet—is in Rockefeller Center, comfortably high up enough in midtown that it’s had power. They shut down for the storm but were open again on Wednesday. Back on Sunday, the super-gamer/super-self-promoter TriForce Johnson, who had started waiting outside the store a month early to ensure he’d be the first to get the new Wii U on November 18 decided to go home. He needed to be safe with a hurricane coming down and he was assured his spot would be held. He’s back now—walked for three hours from Brooklyn to get back there yesterday. He managed to step off the line to see Wreck-It Ralph, though; the wonders of having pals who will take your spot in the line for you, perhaps?
Sandy also delayed the release of CityVille 2, Zynga’s new city-building sequel, from early in the week to Thursday.
The offices for Kotaku parent company Gawker Media aren’t far from Rockstar’s, so we’ve been shut down as well. The regular New York team—me, Tina Amini, Evan Narcisse, Jason Schreier, and Chris Person—have been working from home, most of us with electricity and occasionally intermittent Internet, only one of us crazy enough to have shot a video of power lines on fire during the storm.
You may have noticed that our home website went down late Monday. We’ve been posting this Kotaku-ized Tumblr ever since. (And, yes, we know some of you prefer this layout… next year’s will look a bit more like it.) All of the Gawker sites were knocked out when the datacenter we use had its lower-Manhattan basement flooded with about 16 feet of water. We’re expecting to be back next week. For now, we’re here.
I took a walk last night from my dry home in a minimally-affected area of Brooklyn to the Brooklyn promenade. It was dark, and from the Promenade, lower Manhattan should look like this:
(Image via Shutterstock)
But, via my iPhone, it looked like this:
Here’s a little more of a view up toward midtown where there is power:
This video shows the sweep of the scene:
But, hey, at least the subways are free right now… as far as they’ll go. They still can’t run through flooded tunnels or into the blackout zone.
In the surrounding area, from New York to New Jersey to Maryland, many gamers are still without power and undoubtedly worrying about other things than when they’ll play a video game again. To our readers who were affected by Sandy, we hope you are en route to a full recovery.