A Few Steps Forward, a Few Steps Back: E3 Stumbles at Reclaiming Connection with Non-Industry Audience

Rin: Maybe it’s something that comes with age, but going into E3 no longer has the hype it used to. In the years before, there was at least one game I was interested in hearing about. This year, though, I came in at a hard neutral: what I knew was going to be shown I wasn’t interested in, and I had no hope about the things I didn’t know about. Yet, maybe it was this neutral stance that led to me being pleasantly surprised in some cases, and saved me the disappointment in others.

As industry veterans struggled to remember what they should even do on the E3 stages, the year’s themes of inclusion and the importance of the gamer community were surprisingly not entirely off-base. I’d even hazard to say that companies may even be starting to care about diversity, likely in no small part due to the success of other diverse titles like Overwatch. And overall, the presence of non-male, non-white people on stage and in the games shown was much higher than I was anticipating. There’s a lot to cover, so thankfully this year I’m joined once again by BrothaDom. You ready to jump in?

Dom: Yep! I was feeling a little bored and jaded going into the conference, but it definitely had some pleasant surprises sprinkled in. Let’s do this.

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A Long, Slow Climb: E3’s Tentative Chips at Breaking the Mold

e3logoGoing into another year’s E3, a shared sentiment around the gaming community seemed to be one of disenchantment and exhaustion. The landscape of gaming is in a position where some things are trying to change, but other things are staying the same more than ever. People are tired of seeing the same old thing, yet there are so many complaints when new things are tried. It’s a game no one wins, and yet both sides keep trying. From the looks of things, the call for inclusion is starting to be heard. Nevertheless, the status quo is trying to hang on harder than ever, and it in turn produced some of the most lackluster entries in E3 that I’ve ever seen.

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Transformation and Stagnation: E3’s Claim on the Future of Games

e3logoRin: Honestly, this year I wasn’t sure what to expect from E3. Sure, we had the old stand-bys of another Call of Duty game and another Mario game to look forward to (if you’re into that), but for the most part, viewers were going in blind. In lots of ways, I was pleasantly surprised, and even in some cases I got to revisit the emotions that E3 should give its audience: whimsy and unmitigated excitement. In other cases… uh, not so much.

Since this was such a jam-packed year, I’m pleased to be joined by my fellow games enthusiast, BrothaDom!

Dom: Hi Rin! Yes, I’m in agreement with you there: this year definitely brought some enjoyable highs, and some disappointing lows.

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A Fresh Swing: Uncharted 4’s New Gameplay Trailer

via Kotaku

via Kotaku

I’ll get straight to it: just under a week ago, Sony released a new gameplay video for Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. It’s likely you’ve already seen it, but maybe you haven’t. In any case, it’s incredible. For the uninitiated, Naughty Dog’s Uncharted series follows the adventures and misadventures of one Nathan Drake, a treasure hunter armed with as much completely improbable upper body strength as he has truly unbelievable luck. Previous installments of the game have seen Drake chasing treasures in increasingly improbable situations all over the world, from the Rub-al-Khali desert to the fabled city of Shangri-La. I’m a big fan of the series, and I’ve written a couple of posts about it on this blog.

The first, second, and third games in the series, Drake’s Fortune, Among Thieves, and Drake’s Deception, respectively, have been lauded for their innovative combinations of platforming and combat gameplay, excellent voice acting, and engrossing story lines. Among Thieves, in particular, collected a number of Game of the Year awards. I’ve played through every one of the Uncharted games on every difficulty level at least twice. I’ve found the Strange Relic in every game, and picked up all the treasures. I’ve even taken a break or two from my usual heavy-breathing love of this series to critique its treatment of female characters. Watching the video from this past weekend’s Playstation Experience event in Las Vegas, what I was seeing felt fresh. The gameplay in Drake’s Deception really wasn’t that different from Among Thieves, but A Thief’s End feels exciting, just from the fifteen minutes of gameplay in the video.

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Devoting Their Conference to Games: E3 and How Microsoft Decided They Wanted to Play

e3logoIt seems so long ago that I was attentively staring at my Twitch stream, praying that it wouldn’t go offline so I could see all of the tasty tidbits this year’s E3 had to offer. While I didn’t leave this year feeling like I had gotten a full plate, the main five developers—Microsoft, EA, Ubisoft, Sony, and Nintendo, for those new to the scene—definitely served their audience a hefty appetizer. Here’s what I would go back for seconds of and what I’d scrape down the sink.

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The Good, The Bad, and Then There’s Sony: An E3 Summary

Just as soon as it started, E3 has come to an end, leaving us with fantastical highs and long side-glances of apprehension. But what was good and what was bad? Certainly I can’t speak for everyone, but I’ll give my opinion on the games that I think should be watched with much interest.

Unfortunately, my fears about Microsoft and the Xbox One were not alleviated, but neither were they exacerbated. It seemed like there was a general sense of hopelessness about the whole conference, and really, not too much stuck out to me. At least nothing that made me want to buy the damned Xbox One. Though the controversies I brought up last time weren’t exactly mentioned, they were more than content to make some new ones. During a play demo of the upcoming re-vamp of Mortal Kombat, one of the female developers, who was losing the match (playing a fighting game on a touch pad against someone using an arcade stick isn’t exactly a fair playing field), was told to “just let it happen” because “it [would] be over soon”. Something I absolutely do not watch game expos for is rapey side-comments about women losing games. It was gross, and it was clear that the developer wasn’t having any fun—which, when people already don’t like your system, is not the best way to go. All around, Microsoft came off as extremely unsupportive of their female playerbase. No one is amused.

However, Microsoft did have a couple good games at their showing. The ones I’m most excited for are Sunset Overdrive, a Borderlands-esque shooter which takes place in Titanfalla futuristic setting that almost reminds me of Jet Set Radio, and Titanfall. People are already getting excited over Titanfall for two reasons: it’s developed by a sect of people that left the Call of Duty camp (people who were the good part of that camp, some would argue) so it’s clear they already know their way around the genre—and it stars a non-sexualized female in a position of power. Unfortunately, from the gameplay it doesn’t seem as though she will be a playable character, but I’m happy that she’s there, at least. In such a male-dominated genre, baby steps are definitely the safe method to integration, but we’ll see if it’s more than just a novelty in the coming years.

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E3 Has Me Shivering With Antici……Pation

Those winds are blowing again, my friends. The winds of a new generation carrying with them the remnants of fanboy and fangirl tears alike as brave gamers prepare their wallets for the blow that they’ll inevitably receive. Tomorrow, once more the e3logodoors of E3, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, will metaphorically open to the public and we’ll see what these big name developers have been hiding up their sleeves.

Already this year things are a little bit different, and drama already arisen. First off, and most notable in my eyes, is that Nintendo isn’t going to be holding a conference in earnest. Certainly, they’re still going to have a presence with a Nintendo Direct panel—a more general panel encompassing more than just the new system—going on Tuesday and a panel dealing with the newest Pokémon games, X and Y, happening later on in the same day. However, I don’t know if it speaks more about Nintendo itself or its competitors that they don’t feel as though it would be worth it to hold a panel as normal.

If you’ve had your toes in the water of the gaming world at all in the past few weeks, you probably already know the other drama. Word’s out: no one is really overly impressed with the Xbox One. Especially with its lack of backwards compatibility, need to be hooked up to the internet more often than any gaming system, save for PC, should, and the seeming vendetta against used games and sharing games in general. The viral advertising against Microsoft concerning this, legitimate or not, hasn’t helped matters much either. Of course, words are cheap and for many, waiting until the One was shown at E3 would be Microsoft’s defining moment. However, it’s rumored that due to the widespread unfavorable opinion on the console (as well as an assumed inability to dispute said opinion) Microsoft has canceled their post-show media roundtable. As much as I’m side-eying the company right now, I sincerely hope that this isn’t true. Not only would this look poorly on the company and the system, it would also be confirming my worries that this system is not something worth investing in. And with titles like Banjo Kazooie: Grunty Land and Mirror’s Edge 2 tempting my spending, I’d really like there to be something redeeming about the One.

To the surprise of no one, I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for any news about Dragon Age III: Inquisition and The Last of Us, but more than that, I’ll be looking especially hard for how this new era of games is going to present their characters. Of course, there’s still going to be our Halo’s and other series that have long since overstayed their welcome, but with the current release of Remember Me—an action adventure game staring a (hopefully) un-sexualized female character—and even the past release of the new Tomb Raider, I maintain the hope that females will overcome their tropes and companies will create more and more diverse characters that do more than just look pretty. (Although other aspects of the industry are continuously still trying to ignore that half the gaming audience is, indeed, female, which is a little disheartening.) With games such as Bayonetta 2 being listed—despite there being no confirmation if the title will actually make it to the E3 showroom—I think this is a good sign for progress on that front. It’s impossible to know for sure, however.

For Once Can We Have Nice Things?

For Once Can We Have Nice Things?

If you’re interested in looking at the state of the union, so to speak, you can watch the IGN stream here or the YouTube stream here. E3 starts tomorrow, Monday the tenth, at 9AM PST (Noon EST), so to make sure you hit the video streams you want, make sure to check out the schedule. I’ll be liveblogging on my tumblr (tagged “E3pocalypse ’13), so feel free to drop me a message telling me your opinion, or simply leave me a comment here.