E3 isn’t built for people like me, but perhaps it never was. It’s designed to sell the big games, when increasingly I play the small ones. Then it deliberately picks the loud bits of those big games, when I prefer the quiet.
I’ve never felt such a strong disconnect with the show. I think that it’s because it no longer reflects the way I feel about games, or the way I play them.
We’re at the tail-end of a console cycle that has effectively prolapsed. The magical boxes in our living room have been stretched longer than is natural. From this, I can understand why we’re being so roughly treated with constant sequels and existing franchises being reskinned with Uncharted. Gaming isn’t broken (well, not super broken at least) so no-one in a suit will run in to fix it.
Even those diamonds in the rough revealed at the E3 conferences, the Watch Dogs of this world, will likely be dual releases on this generation and the consoles-to-be. We are waiting for the electronic entertainment Godot, so Sony and Microsoft are having to come up with ever more different (if somehow familiar) ways of explaining how their shoes are too tight.
While they surge relentlessly onwards, however, I’m left feeling unconvinced that they’re shilling the way I’ve started to feel about games. I’m a sucker for a blockbuster, for sure, and I’m willing to strap myself to my chosen entertainment machine too. My mouth sits agape on the Call of Duty DLC conveyor belt, for example, doing tongues with a mechanised Bobby Kotick Bertha.
My everyday gaming joys, however, increasingly come from new things. It’s an iPhone game with a hook so simple and music so hypnotic that I can’t put it down. It’s finding myself on a Minecraft server where a friend’s creation blows my mind. It’s piling rude words into Scribblenauts, sending cartoon spacemen into the black beyond in Epic Astro Story and powering myself up the leagues in New Star Soccer.
Every day I can wake up and (although normally I will just lie there and swear to myself for a while) I can expect to have a gaming epiphany out of nowhere during the course of the day. I don’t have to wait until Q4, and I can often download it for free. My gaming life is what the French would call a sequence of ‘little deaths’, you see. I’m a permanent customer of Christian Donlan’s proverbial gaming sweet shop.
So what about us, E3? What are you going to do about the people you’re leaving behind? Yes, your publishers and platform-holders often do wonders with smaller and more intricate download games but their conspicuous absence from the fanfare and the bluster of E3, replaced with the cementing of existing franchises as DLC platforms, shows that you don’t quite understand.
I recognise that you need to go in with the big-hitters. I understand that your audience doesn’t know what’s best for them, and that you clearly do. I also know where the money is, and the best ways for you to leech it out of people. We’re agreed on all that stuff. It’s okay: I understand what manner of beast you have become.
It’s just that this cannot go on forever. You are making your audience cynical and jaded, because you have shown yourself as cynical and jaded. Where’s the joy? Where’s the last time anyone said that simple word ‘fun’ in one of your publisher’s meetings? Or could no-one hear it because a fifty year old marketing executive with a tie wrapped around his head like Rambo kept on shouting the word ‘visceral’ at a whiteboard?
I am falling away from the way that E3 expects me to consume games. In one year’s time I’ll no doubt be reinvigorated by new technology, but I will still have fallen further. In two years time I’m expecting that my gaming experience will be like the close of 2001: A Space Odyssey – finding a new beginning as a giant gameplay foetus floating around Planet Earth and not giving two shits about what has gone before, or what is going on beneath me.
Stop the rot please, and watch the following promotional video. It’s not me doing the asking, it’s Michael Jackson.