I knew my hands-on with Dead Island: Riptide at PAX was in trouble the moments a pair of nine-year-olds lined up at the stations next to me, with a single ineffectual parent at the other end of the row. They each went for the same controller, fought briefly over it, then settled down and put on their headphones. Suddenly, mine were filled with exactly the kind of nonstop falsetto cursing and shit-talking that I spend most of my multiplayer life trying to avoid.
On the plus side, it’s not often you get to preview a game under the dreariest real-world conditions imaginable. In some ways it’s a good thing: just as bad games can help put good ones in perspective, interacting with bad players challenged what I thought I knew about the audience for games like Riptide. You see, Riptide isn’t a game for children, but a pair of little kids loved it all the same. And that’s a problem.