E3: How It Sucks And Is Still Awesome
Posted on Monday, June 18 @ 07:38:16 Eastern by Heath_HindmanI don't always. I just don't. And I do it, always. I always don't. You might say, I never. But that wouldn't be true, because, I always. Wait, no I don't.
With E3 behind us, I started typing a bunch of thoughts on the whole show, in no particular order. I drank an ice cold Code Red Mountain Dew® by the Pepsi® Company as I did so, because its intense flavor makes me more productive and adventurous though occasionaly rambly and disorganized.
Did I Win?
My problem with E3 resembles my problem with politics in that it's not a problem with the show itself or the companies involved, but more a problem with how the media runs with things. Hey I love a good best-of list, and it's only natural for attendees to want to give some sort of special recognition to the games that stood out. That's great; I love that stuff. It's interesting to read and having written a few such pieces, it's the kind of thing that feels good to write. Some games leave you with an excited feeling that last long after the show is behind you, and expressing it just plain feels right. Rock on.
But then it evolves, or rather, devolves. Gamers and the journalists who write to them shift their focus from analysis of the games presented to dissections of the shows themselves, becoming a "winners and losers" discussion and e-penis measuring contest. Like political "debates", these pieces and the comments attached to them start as a type of point/counterpoint but somewhere along the line, inevitably takes a nosedive into bashing. Politicians express disdain for good ideas, simply because they originated on the other side of a party line; gamers and websites talk shit about ideas and exclusives because they're not on a system they own. It's stupid. I'm not saying that accounts for 100% of shittalkery, but a lot. Too much, that's for sure.
My favorite is when someone hopes that a game doesn't go multiplatform; that gets me every time. "Hopefully it stays exclusive to PS3", says some ass, as if he gets a fucking ribbon if it doesn't. I'm all for things going multiplatform -- let a game be enjoyed by as many people as possible. If that bothers some people, then hey, find out which platform it was developed for specifically and get that version instead of one of the ports. You gotta be a pretty big piece of shit to cheer for that. I'm aware of people's complaints like a game will be gimped for the sake of whichever the "inferior" system is. That's nice, but I'm gonna go ahead and not believe that. I hope Final Fantasy Versus XIII goes multiplatform, and I don't even own a 360.
Realizing What's Going On Makes it Less Fun
Why does Company X have a rapper come out and promote their product on a stage? Because they want to evoke in conference viewers the positive feelings associated with an exciting performance and then associate those same feelings with their products. It's the same reason pro athletes and movie stars are so often called upon as spokespeople for certain products like DirecTV, Gatorade, and the always delicious Code Red Mountain Dew® by the Pepsi® Company.
For some reason -- and I realize this is a personal thing -- I can hardly see any big stage show or display without taking note of specific parts and thinking up hypothetical board room talks that may have led to their inclusion.
"And then, to compete with the sex appeal elsewhere, we can have cute models dressed up all trashy handing out fliers and posing for photos!"
Why? Because the boobily pics will be the most viewed in magazines and on the internet. And when people have boners while looking "at" your logo, that's very good for business.
There Are Too Many of These
This isn't a problem with E3 so much as game conferences in general. I kind of miss the days when it was just E3 and TGS. Nowadays, to keep a game anywhere near the spotlight, a publisher not only has to buy an expensive E3 booth and TGS display, but also travel to PAX twice, perhaps even Gamescom all the way out in Germany. It all contributes to the high overall costs of making and selling a game and irritates crotchety old whiners like myself. E3 remains the biggest and generally most important of these events, but it feels like the game world is perpetually getting ready for the next big show. Right now, we're inside three months until Tokyo Game Show, and only two until Gamescom.
Wait, anything I could say about this, I already said above in the psychology/marketing/I can't unsee it paragraphs. Not gonna delete the entry though, because really, booth babes are their own brand of ridiculous. I understanding that having a physically attractive spokesmodel is important, but this shit more often boils down to women wearing practically nothing, luring people to the demo area with their titties and then passing out sales pitch fliers. My favorite part is seeing the dudes that pose for pictures with the girls and wanna like, put an arm around them. One of these two people is thinking:
"Hot, I'm gonna look at this and be like, 'Yeeeaaaaaahhh.'".
The other is thinking:
"And here's another one. How many more before I can clock out?"
Guess which is which?
(Forgive me, old friend! It just happened to be exactly what I needed!)
The fact that we as a species have not learned to figure out when our boners are being used for someone's financial gain is disappointing. I'm actually cheering for the end of the world this December. We need a fresh start.
The Fine Art of Making Total Crap Look Important
Toot toot! Here comes the hype train! E3 is a showcase for upcoming games and game-related technology, and both understandably need their stage time. How are we to understand the next wave of games if we can't understand how they're controlled? Though in recent times, I feel like developers are jumping the gun just a bit, stirring up the masses with ideas that are underdeveloped. The Wiimote, Kinect, and PS Move are all examples of things that sounded nice (for some people) at the start but never really went anywhere. I know someone's gonna name some killer game that uses motion controls, but that's not what I'm talking about so much as the controls themselves still feel the same as they did seven years ago when they were new (though less in the cases of Kinect and Move). After all this time and software, I feel far less connected (or "Kinected" oh ho!) to a game that uses motion controls than I do to one that uses a controller. Someone handed me one of those steering wheels that comes with Mario Kart Wii and I just laughed. Laughed and laughed. I didn't want to insult the man, and therefore hoped that I could laugh enough to make him forget he offered me that thing. (I didn't just knock stuff before trying it, but after making the rounds with the motion controls and other gimmicks of the generation, I remain unimpressed.)
Yet, here we are at this year's E3 with Wonderbook somehow taking up way more presentation time than the newly launched Vita. People like to throw fits about the Vita getting "negative press", and I see these complaints popping up even when a post simply contains the stats. Numbers are purely information, and those numbers are not the kind that keep a system from pulling out of Dreamcast territory. I was kinda hoping to see a Vita marketing turnaround. Any time I watch Sony talk about the Vita, I get the same vibe I get from walking in on a friend who's listening to a song that's embarrassing to like, as if the company doesn't even think its own product is cool. They talk about the trendy smartphone imitation BS, but not enough about what sets it apart. Anyway....
The Future of E3
I'm betting E3 will get scaled down little by little over the next decade or so.
Question: Why do journalists go to the show?
Answer 1: To see the conferences live.
How you can get that without going: They're all streamed online. You don't need to go in order to see it.
Answer 2: To get interviews with industry bigwigs.
How you can get that without going: A hell of a lot of interviews are done via email, conference calls, and Skype these days. Talk to the people, make the arrangements, and shazzam, you've got an interview.
Answer 3: To get press assets.
How you can get that without going: A lot of publishers are just putting their stuff on FTP or password protected sites instead of handing out discs like they used to. You can get passwords and FTP links via email. Most places hit everyone on their contact list with these links/attachments anyway.
Answer 4: To see the new trailers.
How you can get that without going: The trailers can be released by other means. I don't have to explain this, it's 2012.
Answer 5: To play demos of new or upcoming games.
OK, here's the apparent trump card, at least for now. But digital distribution is becoming more popular in modern times, and will usually be faster, easier, and cheaper for a publisher. Imagine this: instead of traveling to Los Angeles, booking a hotel, and playing a demo live, publishers instead send a self-deleting demo of a game to the PSN/XBLA accounts of press members. You give Sega your PSN ID, and bang, you can download a demo of Yakuza 5. It becomes available on June 10, your site's preview is embargoed until June 12, and it only works until June 17.
This idea would even be more appealing to certain publishers, because they could give you a lot bigger demo of a game. Playing at home, the journalist doesn't feel as much pressure to finish up and hurry to the next booth, and could therefore give more time and attention to an open-world game such as the aforementioned Yakuza. It's hard to fully grasp the strengths and weaknesses of certain types of games after only a 10-minute demo. This new system could lead to more satisfying plays by the writers and more accurate, detailed previews which would make the publishers happy (unless their game blows). I would be all over that if I were a game maker. I'd hook people up with a demo that had like three hours of gameplay. I would also give out free candy and puppies with purchase of game. Later, at the unemployment office, I would tell people what a generous businessman I was and I'd feel really good about it even though a lot of people waiting in line are probably my former employees.
Do I think E3 will completely die out? No, at least not any time soon. I do think, as with all things in our lives, it'll go through some gradual changes. There will probably always be a need for industry members to see each other face to face; for all the ways technology can remove the need for expensive travel and hotels, something about the sensory overload, face-to-face interviews, hanging with the staff of various game sites, watching Jake Alley eat a whole pizza, and actual handshaking feels somehow necessary and satisfying despite the above descriptions of how it might be more cost effective to trim a lot of fat.
I feel like this column could be formatted better, but right now we're bracing for a typhoon so I've gotta go act busy. If this ends up being the last thing I write ever (it won't), you'll know why.
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