Last week I got an email I’m sure every gamer would love to get: Do you want to go to the Spike Video Game Awards Show in LA? Oh, by the way, it’s being hosted by Neil Patrick Harris. Being the professional that I am, I tried to answer with the most reserved ‘Hell yes,” I could manage. It was…not so reserved. I was to be sent to the show courtesy of Jeep and Spike, who had partnered to promote the Call of Duty: Black Ops edition Wrangler. We would stay at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills, hit a Maxim party on Friday before the show, and sit on the floor for the show. Again, hell yes.
As you might guess, Spike knows how to host a party, and though I’m sure I slept at some point, the weekend remains an endless blur of bright lights and free drinks. Staying at the Four Seasons is like staying in another world, a world that is completely unlike and seemingly infinitely better than my own. I was greeted in the hotel lobby by an enormous bouquet of live lillies. There was marble, quite literally, everywhere. My room was spacious and well-equipped and I had a great view of the hotel garden below from my private balcony. The bathroom followed the hotel’s upscale, modern decor and featured amenities by Bulgari.
Spike wasn’t content to leave me in that room for long. Shortly after my arrival, my host and I made our way to the tenth floor, where Spike had arranged a gaming lounge for its weekend guests. The suite was packed to the walls with food and drink and each room hosted a different game system. Black Ops was on hand (of course), and I got to spend a little time with Microsoft’s Kinect. As I mentioned in a post on our gaming blog, I’m not typically a shy person, but jumping around like a fool in front of a room full of people I had just met was an odd experience. Still, it was great to have access to some games to get into the mood for the weekend.
For dinner we headed to The Bazaar by José Andrés at the SLS Hotel, also in Beverly Hills. The Bazaar features Spanish tapas, both traditional and modern, as well as some classic dishes with a culinary twist. Andrés was named GQ’s 2009 Chef of the Year, an accolade I can now appreciate after several hours with his food. Our server was kind enough to let us order roughly forty dishes and bring out enough for the table to taste. We went through baby Japanese peaches with burrata, hazelnuts, and arugula, a tuna ceviche in an avocado roll, jicama wraps with mint and basil, and refined versions of homestyle cooking. Cod fritters with a honey aioli replaced your average battered fish. Air bread filled with aged cheddar and topped with rare Wagyu beef took the place of a Philly cheesesteak. Oh, and I can’t forget to mention my cotton candy foie gras. It was decadent.
We left The Bazaar and made our way to Hollywood Blvd for the Maximum Warrior party at LA’s Supperclub, hosted by Maxim. It was everything you would expect from a Maxim party: girls on trapezes soaring over the dance floor, bottle service in private booths, bunkers with skimpily-clad models playing Call of Duty: Black Ops, a photo booth with weapons and costumes to celebrate the Maxim competition, and a DJ that rocked the house as late as people would stay. I had a chance to meet Mark Salling from Glee, chat with Cedric Yarbrough of Reno 911 fame and said a quick hello to Masi Oka from Heroes. All of this, and we hadn’t even made it to the awards yet.
After a late night, both at the Supperclub and in various rooms of the Four Seasons after, I was glad for a slow start Saturday morning. My host and I hit breakfast at the Four Seasons café and then split for a few hours – him to the spa, me back to the room for some writing. We reconvened for the Spike Video Game Awards just before two, and enjoyed lunch on the way to the convention center. The red carpet seemed to fly by, and before long we were in our seats on the right side of the main stage. I’ve never been to awards show, so it was interesting to see how the live show went off. Neil Patrick Harris came on just before things got started to give us a little pep talk about the proceedings and get the room fired up for the awards.
The show itself was pretty cool – NPH is always fun to watch and there were some very cool appearances. My favorite part of the evening was listening to Jose Gonzalez perform his theme for Spike’s Game of the Year, Red Dead Redemption. If you haven’t played the game, it’s hard to appreciate how much atmosphere ‘Far Away’ gives to Rockstar’s vision of a wild west, but you could feel the eerie tension as he played. As part of the show, we also got to see trailers for Mass Effect 3, Guillermo Del Toro’s Insane, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and Uncharted 3, all on an enormous screen. The show staff came around periodically to deliver typical gamer food, with a bit of a twist. We had pizza bites made with gorgonzola, sliders and tater tots, and classic hostess snacks.
After the awards show it was off to Katsuya at LA LIVE, the entertainment mall that hosts Staples Center. Katsuya is probably best described as a modern sushi bar for the American palate. The dishes are simple but delicious. I ate chef Katsuya Uechi’s Crispy Rice with Spicy Tuna in quantities typically reserved for buffet trays (at one point, our server actually asked if she should just leave the tray – my answer: yes). Katsuya was laid back, quiet enough that I could enjoy the company of some fellow Midwesterners from Jeep’s Detroit media office. Once I had finished the last bit of spicy tuna in the place, we went back to the Four Seasons lounge for drinks before bed.
It would be tough to say enough good about the experience. Both Jeep and Spike are excellent entertainers, and the Spike VGAs were the perfect place to integrate the Call of Duty: Black Ops edition Wrangler. If you ever have the chance to get to LA for a weekend, seize it and don’t look back. You’ll never be short on things to do, and if you’re over near the Staples Center, be sure to get yourself some Crispy Rice with Spicy Tuna.
For more about the Spike Video Game Awards, be sure to check out our gaming blog, Fearless Gamer. I’ll be covering several of the announcements in more detail and discussing the atmosphere of critical awards in gaming culture over the next few days.