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My E3 Report, or the Excitement Ends Eventually

originalI’ll be the first to admit that I always rush home from work to live-stream the E3 announcements.

In fact, this year I had a dilemma; do I risk showering and miss the opening of the Xbox presentation or do I continue to sit in my own filth and shower at another more convenient time?

That’s right folks, I valued gaming over my own personal hygiene.

Not only that, but because of the time zone difference my husband and I watched the Ubisoft announcements in bed promising ourselves we would go to sleep straight away afterwards – naturally we didn’t, instead we discussed our thoughts, forgot it was 2am and I subsequently spent the next day in a zombified state at work.

This is no new phenomena for me, flashback to a few years ago; as a part of Cheesemint Productions, the four UK members (including yours truly) were attending an awards ceremony as one of our short films was nominated. A big deal for us, our first nomination in fact. However, the date and time of the ceremony clashed with some of the E3 announcements that year, so we had no other choice but to watch the live-stream, huddled round a laptop, dressed to the nines in one of our hotel rooms right up until the very last moment we had to leave. Priorities people, priorities – this girl knows how to do them right.

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Today, a week after this years E3 I find myself questioning whether or not the E3 media briefings have the impact they once did?

Perhaps I am disillusioned or unable to be swept up by the excitement because I’ve never attended? But that’s not accurate, you only have to look at my shower vs E3 dilemma to see that. I care about new releases and I do get excited about announcements at E3. I love gaming, I write about games and it’s a huge part of my life yet the last few years of E3 have proved to me that it doesn’t really matter any more; from a gamer’s perspective.

Why?

Well for starters, many games companies focus their announcements on social media and why wouldn’t they? It’s a guaranteed way to get news directly to the fans that are most interested, more like to be excited and genuinely supportive. It works both ways too, social media is more personable tool, fans can show their love or hate and put any concerns to games companies directly. On top of all that it directs the intended audience to a very controlled environment, rather than one littered with competition.

E3 is a big convention and showcases all games companies and consoles whereas individual companies can hone in on their fan base through their own events. I even witnessed this happening during the Microsoft live-stream. Mojang (the Minecraft people) made some huge announcements about their plans to become cross-platform but before finishing their presentations, the two representatives on stage anticlimactically stated that more would be revealed at the next MineCon in September. The information was ready to be shared but they wanted to keep something back in order to justify having something like MineCon (even though last year’s managed to attract 10,000+ people).

Mojang aren’t the only company to benefit from having their own convention, Zenimax host QuakeCon showcasing all id software games and then there’s Blizzard who run BlizzCon, celebrating their games Warcraft, StarCraft, Diablo, Heroes of the Storm and Overwatch. These events draw in tens of thousands of fans from all over the world and the only competition present, is effectively themselves; like going into a shopping mall and learning that every store is owned by the same company. As if it isn’t already! Wake up, Sheeple!

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Back to E3 and it’s waning relevance to me personally. One of the things that has been happening more and more each year are the awkward presenters that have traits ranging from lack of charisma to high on caffeine levels of energy. Ubisoft hiring Aisha Tyler as their host for her comic style and genuine love of games is an exception though – she is awesome!

Interviews with game creators or developers are great to see, those behind the scenes featurettes and making of videos are something I find interesting but I’d prefer to see these people talking passionately about their craft on stage. Without these interviews, presentations and hyperbole-spouting employees, E3 may as well just be a movie theatre showing us game footage and game trailers. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, a lot of people would prefer that but what’s the point when any footage or trailer usually goes live after its presentation?

That’s why I enjoyed it when Trey Parker and Matt Stone turned up to talk about their sequel to South Park: Stick Of Truth.

E3 6Or when voice-over artist Laura Bailey turned up to play Gears Of War 4 which was a nice touch, however she was playing as her character and after a few minutes listening to an in-game voice saying one thing and the exact same voice commenting on what she just said, felt a little like madness personified. But then Gears games, do that a lot. I seem to recall they brought Ice-T to the stage a few years ago. But I digress.

Another thing that exhibitors at E3 seem to be incorporating now is making us watch a group of people, not there, play a game to demonstrate it’s multiplayer or cooperative play – as if turning up at E3, shoving on what is essentially a Let’s Play video for their game and then leaving the stage will suffice. Prime example would be new title announcement Sea of Thieves. I’m neither pro or anti Let’s Plays but I couldn’t help but agree with several dissenting voices on Twitter who proclaimed, “I have no idea who these people are but I hate them all and they’re putting me off this genuinely fun looking game.”

Another reason I think E3 has been losing it’s relevance over the years is the increasing number of leaks that happen weeks, even days prior – there are tonnes of articles on gaming news sites about ‘The Best Pre-E3 Leaks’ and ‘What To Expect at This Year’s E3’ – these kinds of articles undermine what E3 is about. Sure, they’re exciting and we all rush to find out what juicy secrets have been leaked early (or who has been fired for leaking it) but we’re drilling holes in our own boat, as it were.

To explain, before the extensive rise of online journalism, information was controlled and released at a desired pace. Now we have so many sites desperate to be the first to announce a scoop, even if that said ‘scoop’ is no announcement at all: i.e. No Assassin’s Creed game announcement this year, could this be the end of the series?

It’s all speculative nonsense but you click the article anyway because they ‘may know something you don’t.’ So to stave off these rumours, publishers will release trailers showing them working on map design or the physics engine which, while interesting, isn’t sensational. Reporting on E3 seems to be “this year’s trailer for Mass Effect: Andromeda was an improvement over last year’s trailer for Mass Effect: Andromeda.”

If you cast your mind back to Fallout 4’s reveal, it was a monumental announcement in that they gave the public absolutely nothing until last year’s E3 then surprised us even further by confirming the release date as a few months away. It’s the difference between a parent telling you “you’re going to Disneyland in two years time” or surprising you by saying “we’re going next week.”

Eventually, I worry that we’ll all know what’s being announced before the official announcements, it makes games journalism dull and E3 not worth attending, let alone live-streaming. Think of the money that games journalists could save on travel!

I’m not solely blaming the faceless internet leakers because sometimes these leaks are orchestrated by the games companies themselves in an attempt to generate hype before their press conference. After all, isn’t that what E3 is all about? Hype is what advertisers dream of for their product because if you talk about what they’re selling, you are doing their job for them.

Speaking of hype (and now also hypocrisy!) here are some things that I admittedly got excited about this year in no particular order:

1. ReCore

A fun, Borderlands-y looking game with a robotic dog from the creators of Mega Man and developers of Metroid Prime!

2. South Park: The Fractured But Whole 

The games predecessor South Park: Stick of Truth was hilarious and one of the best games of 2014, I didn’t even know this was in the works and I’m suitably psyched it!

3. Skyrim Remastered

The game I didn’t think needed a remaster but looked too beautiful for me to possibly complain about it getting one. In fact, I’m now looking forward to it!

4. Star Trek: Bridge Crew

Admittedly, other VR titles have been announced that I would usually be more excited for – namely Fallout 4 in VR however, I imagine the Star Trek: Bridge Crew dynamic will work better at this early stage in VR gaming. It has nothing to do with the fact I’m a bit of a Trekkie!

5. Dishonored 2

I’ve been excited for this since it was first announced, I adored the first game and look forward to playing as Emily Kaldwin.

6. We Happy Few

The crowdfunded BioShock looking, Clockwork Orange-esque nightmare of a game set in strange dystopian future. This was actually my favourite thing at E3 this year.

7.  The Legend of Zelda: Breath Of The Wind

Because, The Legend of Zelda, duh!

8. Mass Effect Andromeda

I’m one of the few people who wasn’t angry at Mass Effect 3’s ending, as such I’ve been super hyped for this game and can’t wait to see it next year.

9. Death Stranding

I don’t understand what I saw but the trailer looked stunning and I feel as though I need this game in my life somehow (I call this the Hideo Kojima effect)

10. Inside

A puzzle platform from publishers Playdead, the creative team behind Limbo and it looks just as dark and beautiful.

So, do you agree that E3 is losing relevance for us on the receiving end? Or am I being a big ol’ hypocrite?

What were your favourite announcements? Let me know in the comments section.

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