Other Ten Percent 6/11/14

Jun 11 2014

Today we continue with our unofficial “nerds are awful” week by discussing this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo or “E3” the industry’s premiere convention for both watching CGI trailers that tell you what genre new video games are going to be in and being ushered into back rooms to watch somebody else play a game for 5 minutes while somebody explains how cool it will be when you get to play it yourself.
The part where people announce the video games that nobody’s going to wait in line to actually play at the actual convention center is winding down so I think it’s pretty safe to call what the big story of E3 is this year and it’s this Polygon story that has a really crazy web trick going on at the top of it. What is that, video? No it follows your cursor around. Jesus let me pull up the source here. This is some A+ Javascript bullshit. Somebody’s got a centerpiece for their portfolio now.
What? Video games? Oh sure I can break that part down for you.
Do you have a video game that you enjoy? They are making a sequel to it. Of course they are. Did they say that they wouldn’t for a long time? Don’t worry, they were lying. They were always going to make a new one because you will buy that video game. That thing you liked about the last game? There will be more of it in the new game. Development is still ongoing but they’re estimating there will be 2 to 3 times as much of that thing you like in the new version of the game that you enjoy.
Literally the only exception to this is Zelda which has just been doing that thing you like over again for so long that people don’t like it anymore, or, well, they still like it but they write long articles about how people shouldn’t like it anymore because it is the same thing. To combat that criticism Zelda will now do the thing you liked from another game in the same genre. This will work.
I don’t mean to say there’s nothing worthwhile at E3. I am not actually at E3. I have actually never attended E3. There was a year when I was a kid when it was in Atlanta and I thought about it but that was the year they stopped selling passes and you could only get in with press credentials and that wasn’t going to happen. I’m trying to say that what E3 is obsessed with is just about the least interesting part of video games if you ask anybody but 15 year old boys. So it’s a real shame the industry still thinks that’s the entire industry.

I’ve been to the Game Developers Conference a few times and it’s much more my speed. There’s still a lot of people trying to convince you to tell people to buy their video game but that stuff’s kinda pushed off to the sidelines. It’s all under NDA or a chance to play a cool update to a game people didn’t give enough of a chance. It’s all weird compared to E3 demos and it’s not even the center of the show. Most of GDC is centered around long talks and debates around the best ways to make video games technologically, philosophically, and, increasingly, morally.
What I’m trying to say is that at E3 that all gets reversed. Those discussions still go on but they go on off the show floor after all the CGI trailers and press releases that take up most of your day. When you and your buddies and their buddies who quit games journalism and now work at whatever game developer get together and have drinks you talk about all that same stuff to avoid thinking about all the work that you’re not doing that’ll keep you up all night. This week though all of that is off the record. You can’t talk about it in a news story if you want to still have buddies at the end of the conference.
And since the only thing you’re actually allowed to talk about is the trailer you linked to in the first paragraph if you know what your doing (or hid behind 5 paragraphs of bullshit and a “read more” link if you’re a jerk) what you actually talk about is subtext. This isn’t great for reporting since nobody likes writing up 800 words on something that MIGHT be happening but its even worse for the games industry because they’re really really bad at subtext. They’re bad at subtext about women. They’re bad at subtext about violence. They’re REALLY bad at subtext about violence against women. REALLY BAD.
The result is that even when I’m excited about the new games coming out (and I mean I’m buying the shit out of that open world Zelda game. I’m not made of stone.) E3 always leaves me feeling exhausted because it’s a week long celebration of the games industry’s complete disdain for its audience on every level. The strategy is always to show as little as possible (because games journalists can’t be trusted to know how development is actually going) of content that’s as generic as possible (because consumers can’t be trusted to buy new, scary things) and then by and large that plan works and I really need a drink.
Christ, maybe I should have gone to E3. The people there seem to have the right idea on how to react at least.

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