In that strange time period nestled between 9/11 and the Obama administration, the video game industry—specifically the console market—thrived in previously unimaginable ways. With Microsoft and Sony raking in numbers worthy of massive Hollywood production companies and global theater chains, and the mobile gaming boom of the teens waiting in the shadows for phones to catch up, the aughts were the era of Xbox and PlayStation, of launch parties attended by massive celebrities, of blue and green carpets instead of red ones. It was the golden age of gaming, or at least, the time period when the industry tried hardest to ape Hollywood.
I recently stumbled across a TikTok in which a person longs to experience the historical moment that was the PlayStation 3 launch party, which took place on October 8, 2006. There, wrapped in a variety of satin and high-sheen fabrics, their eyes rimmed with black liner, the It Girls of the aughts posed for the camera, shimmied on the dancefloor, and maybe probably did coke in the bathroom. “All of the girls were there,” the TikToker says. “Textbooks will write about it, why lie,” the caption reads. Lindsay Lohan, just a month before she famously called Paris Hilton (who was also at this party along with The Simple Life co-star Nicole Richie) a “cunt” in a paparazzi video, can be seen rubbing shoulders with Kim and Kourtney Kardashian, who were not yet the media moguls we know today.
But this wasn’t the only gaming event sparkling with star power. Almost every launch party—whether it was for consoles like the PS3 and Xbox 360 or games like Halo: Reach and Gears of War—was full of celebrities holding up physical copies of games, walking out with swag bags, or grinning next to someone in Master Chief cosplay (Paris was at most of them). Whether they were there because they were paid to be, or just because they wanted some free drinks, every celebrity worth a damn during that time period was at game industry events.
Times have changed. The games industry is struggling to reckon with its massive growth during the pandemic years; a deluge of layoffs mark this struggle. The Xbox Series X/S and PS5 didn’t launch with brand-safe carpets and the hottest Disney stars. But I will always remember the heyday, when the girlies gamed—or at least, showed up to the game parties. In memory of that time, we’ve gathered the best celeb sightings from aughts-era game events. Click through to see just how wild that time period really was.
Just a month after the debut of Breaking Bad season one, star Aaron Paul attended a party for the launch of Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock. They made him pose with the game box, and also a copy of Tony Hawk’s Proving Grounds, because why not. I’d like to imagine Jesse Pinkman plays both games.
Very few things scream “2000s” more than pop-punk, and the All-American Rejects were pop-punk. Frontman Tyson Ritter was even in The House Bunny, for Christ’s sake! For some reason, they went to the Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim launch!
It’s the launch of the PS3 and since blink-182 went on hiatus the year before, Sony had to settle for Tom DeLonge’s “aliens are real” band.
Remember when Chris Pratt was just a dude on TV and not, well, awful?
He’s looking into my soul and asking, “Xbox or PlayStation?”
One of the more iconic photos from this time, here’s a Lord of the Rings-era Elijah Wood being a goofball.
“I’m walking to grab a coffee and the next thing I know I’m being ushered onto this carpet, surrounded by smelly teenagers and very pale adult men, and they’re handing me this piece of plastic and asking me to use it to play a game—I just went along with it, Jerry, but I’ve got no idea what I was doing there. No idea!”
The fact that Britney Spears’ ex-husband Kevin Federline used the Gears of War launch party to promote his solo album absolutely sends me.
From the Hollywood Hills to Velothi Mountain.
I wondered why Wonder Woman herself would be at a Skyrim event, and then Kotaku’s Carolyn Petit reminded me that she was married to the late Robert A. Altman, ZeniMax co-founder and CEO.
This is the party mentioned earlier.
Lindsay was booked and blessed in the early aughts, and all of her game events were during her dark, broody phase. We live.
Two guys I would absolutely expect to be at a PS2 launch party.
Answer the phone, Harry, you’re no good playing Guitar Hero 3 alone.
Rodriguez, also a consistent figure in the games space, showed up to the PS2 launch party in a head-to-toe leather cowboy outfit and for that, we’re grateful.
Does Christian Slater know what Halo is? It looks like he walked into this premiere by mistake.
Nicole Richie, most likely absolutely blathered at this event.
And so begins the impressive spree of Paris Hilton attending game events.
This look would absolutely eat the Gen Z TikTok girlies up.
I’m loving that she consistently wore little fur-collared outfits. Is she cold? Will she play that Xbox 360 or did she use it as like, a shoe stand? I don’t care, this is iconic.
Now this, this is good stuff. I’ve written before about how Pete Wentz, bassist and frontman for emo band Fall Out Boy, was the epicenter of all things cultural in the aughts. I’m happy to say that this picture lends itself to my thesis, and his eyes look lovely here.
This Master Chief looks like the off-brand mascots stalking Times Square and has me in absolute bits.
Handsome boys of the 2000s unite and get on the blue carpet!
I like to just pretend Wilmer isn’t here, and you can, too.
Carmen was also a regular games event attendee. Here she is embodying the Guitar Hero spirit by wearing a single cut-off leather glove.
We heard you liked PlayStation, so we turned your car into a PlayStation and put a PlayStation where your engine should be.
Christina’s extensions are glued, her elbows are padded, she’s ready to definitely not play Skyrim.
Do you think he knows he’s going to be in The Iron Claw here?
There you have it, an exhaustive slideshow of all the wild celeb sightings at aughts-era video game events. Which one is your fave? I’m a Fall Out Boy fan, so you know what I’m gonna say. Let us know in the comments below.