E3 Is All Just Smoke & Mirrors Designed To Dupe And Distract Us
E3 2012 was wrapped up over a week ago and while it’s always nice to see what developers and publishers alike have to show us, I couldn’t help shaking the notion that it was all just a bit too dressed up and glitzy for its own good. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the spectacle and the frenetic energy that the expo stirs up but it just doesn’t seem to do the industry any favours in terms of moving forward. As far as I’m concerned, E3 is the equivalent of a date-rape drug in making us forget the bad that what developers have done before and is part of the industry problem of overexposure of titles pre-release which serves to build hype to insurmountable levels.
Admittedly, I was surprised by how some of our readers were not easily swooned by all the shiny glitz and glamour of the expo and all that was on show because from my point of view, as someone who surrounds himself with games and gaming news, I can easily see past the candy coating and flashy costume dressing to see the games beneath all those E3 demos and I like to think I can fairly judge what the game actually has going on for it without getting swayed by the pomp and show of a nice demo or trailer or gameplay video. Then again, I also like to think that eGamer’s readers are of a higher calibre and certainly anything is better than YouTube commenters or the denizens who frequent the likes of IGN’s comments section.
This is the problem, most people are swayed by all the smoke and mirrors put up at E3 and will not see a shit game for what it is. The way I see it, there’s a cycle that the industry and its fans go through during the course of the year. We start with pre-E3 when all the big players get us hyped up for what they’ve got to show us and then E3 comes along with a lot of noise and bright lights and shiny videos and we’re fixated like sailors to Sirens. Then we spend the remainder of the year getting hyped up for this game and that game. It releases towards the end of the year and we play it and it’s not what we were told it would be or expected it to be so we spend the next few months being disappointed by that game or raging and frothing at the mouth. Then E3 comes along again and those bright lights wipe our memories clear again.
It’s a cycle that seems to be on an indefinite loop and while more and more people seem to be waking up to see things for what they truly are at E3, far too many are still easily drawn in by the spectacle. What you have to understand is that E3 is not just a collection of whatever various developers had lying around to show us. No, it is an event that is prepared for months in advance with demos, trailers and gameplay walkthroughs meticulously planned and prepped and polished so as to showcase the best that a game possibly has to offer whether it’s a true reflection of it or not.
To cite an example, I watched all of the Assassin’s Creed III gameplay to come out of this year’s E3 and while it looked good, I could tell that it was not exactly a major leap forward and certainly not on the scale that Ubisoft would have us believe. Thus post-E3 I am as I was pre-E3: sceptical that it can rise above or even match the pinnacle of the series which was Assassin’s Creed II. However, when chatting to a casual gamer friend about the game, it was a different story. He’s also a big AC fan such as myself and was sceptical about another game so soon after Revelations however, after seeing the E3 footage he suddenly felt that Ubisoft could really pull it off and produce something special in AC III. Yes, that’s just a personal example but it’s a good example of the broader gaming community because let’s face it, core gamers are the minority here and casuals do dictate the way the industry flows.
This is why E3 is the big reset button where developers can shove some very pretty product in our faces and show it to us from all the right angles and all the previous year’s rage and complaints are forgotten because we’re an ADD society so yes, we are distracted by shiny… oooh, a cute picture of a cat. Don’t hate me because I can publicly make bad attempts at humour and you can’t do a thing to stop me. Seriously though, developers wipe the slate and the general public spend the rest of the year eagerly anticipating these games while seemingly forgetting what screw-ups and lies the developer became synonymous with the previous year. Thus we often find games having the same pitfalls as previous games or not improving enough. There’s a lot more to it in terms of developers justifying sequels being virtual copies of their predecessors or being watered down and simplified but E3 definitely has a speaking role in this tragedy.
The other major problem that I see with E3 is that it allows each game’s individual hype machine to accelerate at a furious rate to the point where it sometimes gains too much momentum for the game’s own good. It often gets to a point where the marketing department just goes into overdrive and the game gets built up to such an extent that is doomed to crash the immovable object that is reality. What you’re left with is bunch of people who got a game that may or may not have been any good but that was definitely sub-their expectations. Most games are victim to this. Assassin’s Creed III, Tomb Raider and so many other still to be released titles. Now, it’s nearly impossible to keep away from news about a game when you’re in this line of work but there are some games that stay under the radar and benefit greatly from it.
Dishonored barely showed up at E3 and had nothing more than a little gameplay walkthrough but it showed us enough while still keeping a lot of mystery about the game and that makes it a much better experience when you play the game because you don’t know every detail there is to about it. An example I always like to cite is Singularity. I received the game for review knowing nothing about it and while it turned out to be an slightly better than average BioShock knock-off, I enjoyed it because everything was a complete surprise to me and I didn’t know what the game would be like at all. More often than not, we hype ourselves up for a game, reading every scrap of news and watching every trailer and ultimately we’re going to be a little disappointed it couldn’t live up to that hype as most games do.
To bring my two points together here, I’d like to cite another Assassin’s Creed example. Back in 2009, I watched the E3 cinematic trailer for AC II and it got me so amped for the game that I would’ve cut-off my ring finger to get the game right then and there. I was giddy with joy when I heard that the events in the cutscene was actually a mission in-game and got so excited to play through said mission. Then November 2009 came and I played the game and I couldn’t help but feel cheated and a little bit disappointed by how much that sequence had been changed. Not only had what I’d seen at E3 been a bit of a lie but I’d hyped myself up to play that missions for months and was a bit let down when I saw how different it actually was to what was shown in that cinematic.
E3 is a great way for developers to showcase new IP’s and it is not inherently bad but the pageantry that now dominates the expo is doing us as gamers no favours. Games are dressed up and made to shine for their 10min of demo fame and developers pour effort in to make sure that we see just what they want us to see of the game. It’s an elaborate ruse though not in its truest sense because we still see the games just not in their most honest and telling depictions. We are shown the games through viewfinder that is fixed exactly where it needs to be to sell us on them. After watching two trailers for Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch, I was sold on it and decided that this was definitely a movie to go see but only when you watch the movie do you see that all that seemed so epic and amazing in the trailer is so poorly executed and managed that it’s all a barely coherent patch-work of random ideas strapped together and by the time the credits roll you’re slowly mouthing, “What the fuck did I just watch?”
E3 is certainly not the root of all evil but it is where it is most Stepfordian – hidden beneath a heavy layer of glitz and painstakingly constructed videos/demos with which to wow us. Not only does it serve to make us forget all the wrong we accused the developer of in the previous, all the disappointment their last game left us with but it also sets so many games on a collision course with reality aboard their very own unstoppable hype machine.
So, who’s looking forward to E3 2013?