I want to talk about E3, but not about specific games. I want to bring up other events of that week, but not get into an argument. And I want to make a very important plea.
But first. Ever see Tomorrowland?
If not, I think you should. I found it to be a fantastic movie, though I am partial to Brad Bird's work. But anyway, without delving too much into spoilers, the main theme of the movie boils down to a choice for the future; hope or despair. Optimism or pessimism. Fighting for light versus accepting the dark.
Sure, a great deal of media concerns this dichotomy. It is a near-universal theme. And while Tomorrowland isn't the first or best representation of this struggle, I watched it directly after this year's E3 so it is the freshest in my mind. And it does a great job of encapsulating the roller-coaster ride of the few days around E3.
As a kid, E3 was the embodiment of excitement and of hope for the future. Barely a whiff of cynicism entered my mind any given year as the Super Nintendo, Sega CD, PlayStation, N64, PlayStation 2, Dreamcast, and others were previewed. Granted, back then we only had magazines, word of mouth, and occasional TV programming for glimpses of the awesomeness the year had in store. But my friends and I would dog-ear page after page of EGM, Game Players, and GamePro, pouring over each screenshot and picture. We would imagine the virtual worlds that felt just outside our fingertips. Each game seemed tantalizingly close, even the ones we knew were a year or more away. More importantly, the possibilities were endless, imagination filled the gaps, and our daily lives were fueled by the excited hope of what the future could bring.
Did the rest of each year live up to the hype? I think most would say no. I also think that I'm not the only one who would say, sometimes, yes! Many foundational and positive memories of my life are rooted back then, and are a positive part of who I am now. Sure, there were disappointments. There were games and entire technologies that never came close to their given promises, but the net gain of good, of positive, of optimism about what awaited around the corner, has never been lost. It has waned at times, sure, but it has always there, even today.
A lot of these feelings can be ascribed to being a kid and growing up with an emerging new media. And there have always been the cynics, the pessimists, and nay-sayers. I would like to assume that the negativity and disinterest, even the doom-and-gloom forecasts of today, only represent jaded adults who lost the child-like ability to enjoy, hope, and believe. But, I also hear kids repeat the same negativity. Kids that were the age I was when I first became entranced and engaged with the future of interactive entertainment. Honestly, a bad hour of unfiltered mic chat with Xbox Live or PSN's FPS crowd can be enough to drain anyone's faith in humanity.
I could see myself going there. Picking apart every game, the lack of overall innovation, the riskiness of new tech, the unnecessary problems these big companies make for themselves, the constant upgrade cycle, the unnecessary pageantry, etc.....but I choose not to! Aw, man, so many cool, even amazing-looking things this year! Game after game piqued my interest, and there were even a few "Day-One Buys" in there. My Beloved even started writing down game titles in a notebook so she could keep up with the ones she really wanted to follow. The potential for VR finally feels as close-to-home as when we first saw Jurassic Park scientists groping in the air to, we didn't know, recombine DNA or something.
That second or so of "VR" at the end never left my imagination. Neither did Samuel L's detached arm.
As with every year of E3, there are folks who come away completely unimpressed, and have nothing positive to say. We all have different interests, and perhaps current gaming trends are just not featuring anything some folks can get into. (Though with the sheer and unprecedented spectrum of different things going on in video games, it would be very unlikely that absolutely nothing would be noteworthy unless gaming itself has lost all interest.) Pessimists and cynics are important, even vital to the health of the gaming industry, but I'm careful about the weight my thoughts give them. It's the same every year. Then this year something different happened around the timing of E3.
How could we get into a whole series of conferences concerning luxury entertainment after that? How could wonder, excitement, even interest be generated after such an unmitigated tragedy? How could we not feel despair, hurt, and a deep unease, while then surrounding ourselves with electronic toys?
I found an important part of the answer packaged neatly in a quote in Tomorrowland between the heroine, Casey Newton, and her father. She remarks, "There are two wolves and they are always fighting. One is darkness and despair. The other is light and hope. Which wolf wins? " Her father replies, "Which ever one you feed."
And that, my friends, is why I knew I needed to write this. It's not as if video games will "save" us. But one thing they can do, and do very well if allowed (as I know from experience,) is to inspire, to instill awe of what the future may be, this year or in twenty. Humanity's hope, or even our personal hope, is obviously not in entertainment. But if used healthily, it can embolden and drive us to believe, to have faith, to connect and grow. It can also be used to separate, divide, and numb. It all depends on what we feed.
I was inspired by this year's E3, and not just by some neat games coming out. Presenters, commentators, and gamers showed respect and solidarity to the victims and community, even as they gushed and raved about new entertainment products. Sometimes their struggle for optimism was palpable; the same as it was for many of us. This year's E3 wasn't a fight between a new Call of Duty against a new Battlefield, or some three-way slugfest of Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo. It was a battle of optimism against despair, of inspiration versus despondency. It wasn't between the real world and game fantasy, but still a form of darkness versus light, hope versus despair, the ability to enjoy against a crushing pain. It wasn't everywhere or everyone, but it was there for many of us.
My favorite moment of any E3 spoke of unity. It's certainly silly, but importantly not sardonic. Within it is sort of my manifesto of not only E3, but video games in general. If you saw it back then, you'll likely remember:
If you laugh at this because you view the PlayStation Move as a failure, you've obviously never stayed up late at our place co-oping Deadstorm Pirates, the Time Crisis games, or almost every House of the Dead game with the Move strapped into light guns.
Now I'm not saying that if you didn't like E3, "the terrorists won". Nor am I comparing a video game convention to a horrific real-world event. I can't say I'm an eternal optimist, or that having hope always comes natural. But in the wake of incredible discouragement, bright lights can come from all sorts of places. What I am saying is that on a daily basis, life changes depending on which wolf we feed.
This week, I know which one was needed, and E3 did its little part to help. Here's to next year.
Yeah, I agree here. Somewhere along the line some people forgot to have fun and enjoy themselves. Yes, video games is serious business...for the companies making the games, but for gamers it should just be fun.
Great article Jess. I think that in this new world of technology, it's often easier to be negative considering we have the ability to hide behind an avatar and let's face it, only negativity gets attention. Watched a TV news cast lately?
Over the past three years, I've shared a texting app with the guys from the Collectorcast and more recently, some of our site staff. As a primarily retro collector, E3 was something I could have cared less about in the past. In the first year of texting back and forth with the guys, I was probably more annoyed than anything in seeing that I had like 200+ texts to weed through after not checking my phone for an hour or so. Then, I started watching some of the pressers on YouTube, and I got hooked. It's really cool seeing the direction of video games and where they are going, and checking out what new titles these developers have to offer. Sure, there's quite a few games/systems that I have no interest in, but I realize that for every "me," there's an other who will really appreciate and be excited for it. Tastes differ for sure, and it's a shame that instead of harshly bashing these games, we can't offer critiques in a more constructive way, or merely just move along without feeling the need to comment.
Personally, E3 was an especially exciting event this year, so much so that I contacted my fellow Playcast members and asked if they wanted to record a special podcast about it. Expect that to come out next month.
@singlebanana:Thanks! I can definitely understand how E3 is not nearly as interesting to primarily retro enthusiasts, although there are now so many 'callbacks' to older games and game design it seems there is a little something for everyone. My main concern isn't a lack of interest so much as the palpable negativity and dismissiveness that perpetuates these events. Like you mentioned, if a gamer has no interest in a game or system, that's absolutely fine, until instead of ignoring it they begin mocking and actively ranting against something simply not made for them. Let everyone enjoy their preferences!*
*Except Hello Kitty, of course. Never trust a Hello Kitty fan.
@Addicted:Cheers! I'm quite interested in the PSVR. Vib Ribbon VR FTW!
Great article. I know I've become somewhat jaded in recent years, and I (sadly) look at an event like Orlando and think, "There's nothing new under the sun." Tragedy is all around us, every day, and it can be easy to let it consume you and bring you down. As you say, our hope is not in video games, but as a part of our world today, they can certainly provide a measure of hope, as they demonstrate the realization of people's hopes and dreams, long hours of labor and effort on the part of development teams, and the payoff when you play the game and it makes you smile, laugh, jump out of your seat, or just sit in thought as you consider a puzzle. It's that child-like wonder that we should never lose, and the fulfillment of many a childhood dream, as we explore fantastic worlds and have all sorts of experiences that we would otherwise have missed out on. And while this year's E3 was barely on my radar, the excitement was still there for many gamers, and the Breath of the Wild reveal certainly didn't hurt in bringing in some of that child-like awe and wonder again.
@MetalFRO:Well said and agreed. And I for one am also really looking forward to the new Zelda. Few series seem to capture that child-like awe in as many people as certain Zelda games for some folks.
Login or register to comment
It appears as though you are not a member of our site, or are not logged in.
It appears as though you can not comment currently. Becoming able to comment though is easy! All you need to do is register for the site! Not only will you be able to access any other site features including the forum and collection tools. If you are a registered user and just need to login then you can do so here.
Comment! It's easy, thoughtful, and who knows you might just enjoy it!