I sat down to watch all of E3 live for the first time, and I left it with a bad taste in my mouth. I’m really glad I saw it all front to back, believe me: it was all worth watching. I learned a lot in the process, both about the gaming industry and how to report on them. I felt very informed.
But I also felt let down most of the time. And not just because I thought a lot of the game presentations were lukewarm. What I saw at E3 made me think that the industry as a whole was in a place it should not be.
Looking back on it all, there was a lot I liked.
Sony brought The Last Guardian back from the dead, made the room explode with their FF7 Remake announcement, and finished strong with a killer Uncharted 4 gameplay trailer. Microsoft renewed much of my respect for them by adding free backwards compatibility and blew my mind with their Microsoft Hololens demo. And Bethesda’s presentations for Doom and Fallout 4 alone made me love their conference best.
But the rest of it was pretty bad.
Admitting that this is heavily influenced by my own level of interest in franchises I like, the rest of the presentations were mostly abysmal, to the point of only having one or two decent games announced.
Square Enix had an amazing Kingdom Hearts III trailer, a decent Just Cause 3 trailer, and nothing else worth talking about. EA had Battlefront and a heap of sports games. PC had a lot of moderately interesting games, but no amazing ones (save for the No Man’s Sky game that Sony already covered). And Nintendo broke my heart by starting with a promising Star Fox Zero trailer and then a torrent of outright insulting spinoffs. You know it was bad when Satoro Iwata essentially apologized for it:
.@Nintendo Thank you for watching. We take opinions of this year’s Digital Event seriously and will work to better meet your expectations.
— Cheesemeister (@Cheesemeister3k) June 16, 2015
As a newcomer to E3 coverage, I have to ask: is that it?
I got the image in my head of an old snakeoil merchant who announces his mysterious and expensive cure-all, then takes people’s money while muttering “suckers”.
Is this all I can expect from E3? A few good trailers in a sea of “meh”? Because I expected E3 to be the biggest expo in gaming all year, and I also expected these titans of the industry to give us an effort befitting an event of that significance.
To be sure, we got huge screens, million-dollar ads, and grand promises by celebrities and men in suits. Great expense was obviously made in all of these presentations. But there was something important missing from all the bombast and spectacle of it all: a soul.
Not even creepy muppets could make it better.
There was something very heartless and corporate about how those well-dressed stepford-smilers gracefully stepped out on stage and all said the same things.
That “games are who we are”, that theye’re out to make “innovative” and “groundbreaking” games, and they want to “constantly evolve”. We were told time after time that what we’re about to see a game “like nothing you’ve ever played”. Over and over again I would be hopeful that their next trailer would be something that could live up to their pretty words, and over and over again I was fooled. It wore on me after a while, and I wished it would end. I got the image in my head of an old snakeoil merchant who announces his mysterious and expensive cure-all, then takes people’s money while muttering “suckers”.
I had cynically believed before the E3 that gaming had become a bloated, bloodsucking industry that only wanted to con us out of our money and run. But I never felt it more personally than while watching E3 2015. It was like a loss of innocence all over again.
Is this really all I can expect?
I’d do it all again in a heartbeat, but I can’t help but enjoy it a little less if my job during these events is to dig through heaps of shoddy sequels and overblown garbage to find the tiny nuggets of news worth treasuring.
If there are any veterans of E3 reading this, I’d like to hear your opinions on this in the comments below.