E3 2012 Part Two
I had a bad habit at E3. It was walking repeatedly from the South and West Halls. I kind of used the fact that you could do the trek outside across a platform that consisted of an eating area, which should be far more popular than it is, and food trucks as an excuse to do the back and forth. It was a brief enjoyment of fresh air. Sunshine. The bane of every nerd. There was so much white-sheen off of pasty skin I had to pull my sunglasses out of my backpack and put them on to shield from the glare. There was also the smell of delicious, overpriced food from the food trucks everywhere. I was hungry, but I wasn't paying four dollars for a hot dog that looked like it just taken out of a cold pool.
There was a quietness to the West Hall. Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo were rather casual and laid back in their booth presentations. The same could not be said for the larger South Hall where a majority of the third parties resided and often considered themselves far larger and important than they actually were. They loved to force lines on you. Everywhere, there were lines. Sure, they could have simply put out a bunch of kiosks and have people come up and play, but one look at the "private" Bethesda, Disney, Capcom and 2K game booths, and the lines that weaved around the hall like disassembled yarn-balls by a schizophrenic blind cat, I realized I wasn't having it. I wasn't going to succumb to their fascist principles. These are just video games...plus I already played most of these games in the other Hall by now.
In fact, I played very, very little in the West Hall for that reason, but also for the fact that almost everything was "showy." There was a ton to see and do, but not a whole lot to play. I was first greeted by 2K Games' / Take-Two booth and their oversized Borderlands 2 character statue. That's something this Hall had a lot of: big statues.
These are but two big statues, one for Borderlands 2 and the other for the upcoming movie Wreck-It Ralph, really the first time I've seen the character direct. Behind his pixel-building is a fake Wreck-It Ralph arcade machine, but it's intentionally made to look broken (and intentionally made to look like Donkey Kong).
Anyways, despite the line, there wasn't a lot I was interested from that company. Bioshock Infinite was at last year's E3, yet oddly put on the back burner this time around. There was one line that was oddly short for X-Com, I thought it was a bigger game I guess, however I wasn't interested that much in the game. They had a big "look at me" for their NBA game, but again I had no interest.
Remember, I'm not a journalist (then again, most gaming journalists are...but I've talked about that enough in the past) so I didn't feel obligated to stop in and, from what I had heard, I wasn't missing a whole lot anyways.
I headed North a bit and found myself at a long standing staple of the videogame industry: Konami. I grew up with Konami, and have been a fan of theirs for years, but unfortunately I soon found myself confronted by a spectacled man with a bad haircut wearing a red Konami T-Shirt who waved his hands in front of my camera-phone and said "Sorry, sir, no pictures."
Ha, score one for me.
I wasn't in the mood to argue. I wasn't special so didn't expect an exception. But this "no-picture" philosophy made no sense to me. This is a trade show. You want your stuff out there to show people. Why no pictures? Now it's going to backfire and some self-righteous asshole is going to write about you on his blog and say how awful your company is.
I wouldn't do that, though. Truth is Konami didn't have a whole lot to show. The photo I wanted to take was of the Zone of Enders HD Collection and a few people were playing it. It looked good on HD, far better than some other HD-remade games. The graphics transitioned well and it plays exactly as I remembered. The Castlevania game for the next-gen consoles was there in video format only though the handheld was getting some good play. They also had another HD Collection of the Metal Gear games for Vita to play.
Konami's biggest push was Metal Gear Revengeance which, last I checked, wasn't an actual word. It was in a little self-contained booth about the size of a jail cell and you could play a brief demo for about 15 minutes, give or take. True, you had to stand in line again, but I found it odd this line was surprisingly short. Maybe I caught it on the downswing, but either way I was game. It's certainly a much more action-oriented Metal Gear game, and the controls intuitive, but I have to be honest I wasn't wowed by it despite the fact there was something wonderfully cathartic about slowing down time and cutting up enemies into little pieces.
Won't you come into my windowless shack? It'll only take 15 minutes.
I left Konami and went on to the Gree booth because there were pretty girls there and I had to know what the Hell Gree was. Apparently, it's a mobile network-thing. That's the best I can detail about it. It was a large booth with a lot of mobile (as in iOS and Android) gaming with a slick, Apple-store like style to it. For something I never heard of, they certainly had a big presence.
In fact, there was a lot of that: mobile gaming was big this year. Right next to Gree were a series of smaller booths and vendors showcasing mobile gaming as well.
I headed back towards Konami, apparently skipping right bast the Tecmo/Koei booth, and found myself an old friend.
No, not that one: this one
Not pictured: a replica of the yellow loader-mech on the other side of the booth you could get in and take a picture of. Also not pictured: waiting in line to do just that.
That's the original Queen Alien from the film Aliens. Sega has become just an awful company, but their final "big" game before we see them dissolve into the mobile market exclusively is Aliens: Colonial Marines. It's another First Person Shooter, so I didn't see a whole lot of points in playing the demo, because what I wanted answered was answered last year and, again, this year: does it get the atmosphere down? The answer to that is "yes" and I'm looking forward to the title.
Though I will be foregoing the collectors edition junk and probably wait for the first price-drop.
Sega, as expected, really had nothing else going on despite their large booth-area. It was like a high-school cheerleader who has nothing outside the fact that she can cheer and jump really high.
After a brief stop at the Star Trek section, where you could wait in another line to sit in the Captain Chair, which, I'm sorry, is only the Captain's Chair if it's from the original show because nobody knows what the others are, I went north to one of the biggest companies that impacted my childhood, and one of the biggest I now look at with utter disdain.
Square-Enix had a vast improved booth, and actual games people wanted to play unlike last year. But they also had some questionable looking games as well. There is, apparently, a Final Fantasy "music" game for mobile devices, in fact their booth had a lot of mobile games which didn't surprise me in the slightest and another Kingdom Hearts. I mentioned Hitman earlier, which was also present, but their big game was Sleeping Dogs - an open-world game that played a bit like Grand Theft Auto meets Yakuza (which plays like Shenmue if you've ever played that game). It seemed unpolished, but it also isn't out yet. Tomb Raider was also there, but I kind of got all the impressions I needed just from watching it, and the downloadable game Quantum Conundrum looked surprisingly fun in that Portal kind of way and, even more surprisingly, had a good crowd around watching others play. It might be a sleeper hit, we'll see.
And, as expected, no Final Fantasy Versus XIII. We shall consider that game dead from this point on. Though nobody will. They'll continue to enjoy being strung along about a game that's now six years in development and nothing new to show. It's a wonderful poster-child for what Square-Enix has become.
There were two major companies next door to Square-Enix along the back of the Hall. Neither were worth stopping in at. Activision was in the far corner. As usual with Activison, they were big and loud and had a giant screen full of video magic of games I couldn't care less about. A lot of noise made by a child with no toys to play with. For Capcom, I already played the two games there were showcasing and forcing people to stand in line for: Devil May Cry and Resident Evil 6.
Both booths were large and with big screens high above, but also things you could easily just walk by.
Speaking of Resident Evil 6, and sorry to backtrack here, one of my walks back to the West Hall allowed me to run into a crazy man handing out purple fliers. He wore a big sign that said "No Hope Left" and gave out Resident Evil 6 material. He looked the part, and it was a great piece of marketing strategy. Sure, I may not be entirely interested in Resident Evil 6, but this was the first time in a while where it seemed Capcom was pushing the franchise.
Note: I can not tell you what he smelled like, sorry to disappoint.
Anyways, it was on to Ubisoft, who had a vastly improved booth this year. It was open and free and you felt as though it was its own little world. It seems they took cues from the EA and Nintendo Booths this time around. Ubisoft was also loud and vibrant, but unlike Activision actually had things to show and do.
They also had a blacklight dance party with a center-stage and people dancing to game on a big screen.
Lots of screens of lots of games.
And zombie guards.
With the lights and the loud noise, I wondered if I actually saw the zombie guard or if he was just a figment of my imagination - something my brain conjured up due to the weariness of my mind. Maybe that's why I took a picture of him. In my head, maybe I figured it would be some sort of tangible proof of the madness. It wasn't, it was just a man dressed up. After a quick look around and realizing I had already played everything earlier, such as Farcry 3, and the much-hyped Watch_Dogs wasn't showing a whole lot that I hadn't already seen, I had to step out.
By this point I had already succumbed to sensory overload fatigue. All the colors and lights and noises, the hundreds of video screens and random conversations briefly overheard as I walked by, the deafening music or neon-glow of blacklight dancers demonstrating some dance game who's name I can't remember. I'm handed things, lots of things, and there's an odor of staleness and body sweat that made me yearn for the smell of those delicious food trucks from outside. Or a cigarette. This was a hell of a time to stop smoking. The exhaustion wasn't the walking, or the standing, but in the constant bombardment on every sense my human body was capable of.
On my way out and over to the Namco booth, I was briefly high-fived by a man wearing an inflatable mask. I have no idea who he was or why he high-fived me, but he was apparently having a great time. Or on drugs. Probably both. Was this another Zombie-guard incident? Did I imagine that random high-five? Either way, it felt good, even though high-fives are usually administered by douche-bags in popped collars.
To the left of the fancy car that has nothing to do with the fighting game, pretty booth girls. To the right of the fancy car that has nothing to do with the fighting ame, the fighting game.
At Namco, or Namco/Bandai as it's officially named, my first impression was this: they finally have a booth. The past few years Namco's booths felt old and out of date. There wasn't anything interesting about them and they weren't designed particularly well. This year, it had a great presence. A big stage. Games to play. Shiny cars. Hot "booth babes."
And later in the day, Snoop Dogg would show up. Enjoy this blurry photo of him on the jumbo screen.
It was an impressive showing...because Namco/Bandai really only had one game to show: Tekken Tag Tournament 2, which also included Snoop Dogg.I could have played it, but I really didn't need to. I've played Tekken games in the past, so unless they changed every aspect, I'm pretty sure it plays just like a Tekken game.
I later found out the Star Trek game was technically Namco/Bandai as well. Star Trek had a nice "separate but equal" booth going for it with the Tekken stuff getting all the attention. Too bad the game looked rather generic.
Only a handful left in this area and they're usually two of the biggest showers at E3: Disney Interactive and Electronic Arts.
Disney was pushing Epic Mickey 2, and rightfully so. The first game was a surprise hit, and overall a good title, and this one is going to be even Mickier, I'm sure, despite the fact you're not playing as Mickey, but as Oswald. They had a large, museum-like area with dozens of Disney artifacts related to Oswald...but it was all ruined by the same thing that ruins every E3 booth: being forced to stand in line.
You see, there's no reason for this. If you put up a dozen kiosks or so, such as what was seen at countless other booths, but, again, it's all hype. By forcing people to stay in line for your game, you keep them from checking out the competition. At least they let me take pictures.
Disney had a lot of museum-quality things in glass cases as well as lot of fake trees.
Matters were made worse by the fact that Disney was also giving away Oswald hats, which are like those Mickey Mouse-ear hats only with longer ears. People at E3 want free shit and they will stand in line for hours if there's a slight promise of something they can have and not pay for it. So nobody was really there for Oswald and Epic Mickey 2, they just wanted free hats.
Disney also had a nice Brave area, the tie-in game for the Pixar movie, which was made to look like a glen of some sort. It was at this moment I realized that Disney really didn't have a lot to show. In fact, their entire booth seemed to have been a step back from previous years, both in size and ambition.
The same could not be said for EA. Yet again the might over-sized corporate entity was boisterous and loud, and yet again they had more "theater experiences" than actual games to play. Dead Space 3 and Crysis 3 were the trends there, and I really have nothing to report you probably don't already know. They're sequels, and like movie studios, game studios love their sequels. They love doing that. All show, all flash, little worth my time. Especially by this moment. I had just seen a zombie and got a high-five from a random guy in an inflatable mask. I don't have time to deal with over-hyped bullshit.
Welcome to EA, the booth full of lots of video things. Give us your money.
As much as I would like to say I played anything at these booths, I didn't. I watched a lot of screens and a lot of people looking dissapointed and bored. Except the ones that wore those Oswald hats. The minute they put one on they smiled. Maybe one would do the same for me, but it's not worth waiting 45 minutes for.
Maybe it was all this forced line-waiting for meaningless shit that made me apathetic. I was still trying to figure all that out.
I was also trying to figure out where Lucasarts was, alas Vader used a Jedi mind trick and made me remember that, despite how good Star Wars 1313 looks, Lucasarts hasn't done anything worthwhile in years.
There were a lot of other random things happening in this South Hall as well. The far corner was full of small publishers and some I've never even heard of. One was called Wargaming.net. It must be a European company because the booth was huge, there were a lot of people in it, yet I didn't recognize a single game or why there was a "hype man" in the middle of it all. The "hype man" seemed really enthusiastic.
This is something that permeated both Halls, though. Lots of booths of companies that have obviously spent money on their showiness, but I haven't heard of either. Like this one for Trion Worlds:
Whatever it is, it's big and neat looking.
I couldn't tell you what games they had, only that it was a lot of mech-stuff. They also had a big war-themed game and show called End of Nations. Keep in mind, I'm not saying these are bad games or anything of that nature, only that it's odd to see something so familiar set right next to something that's so unknown and its the unknown with the better showing.
Smack in the middle of all these smaller companies was Bethesda, and though I love Bethesda and they have some games I'd love to check out, it's press-only. I suppose they feel they're the girl at the party everybody wants to sleep with so limit how many people enter their orifices. They do this every year, but you know what? At least they are pandering and forcing people to stand in lines for things they don't need and will probably throw away at some point.
Another small series of areas around this space was G4 - the channel that has a few shows about technology and games and a lot of shows about white trash being arrested by police officers at 3:45 in the morning. G4 is big at E3 every year due to the former few shows and I still can't seem to figure out why that is. It's amazing to me that the channel is a punching-bag for internet message boards and off-color insults, yet at E3 there is always a crowd and people who can't wait to see them and hear what they have to say. Maybe it's the hopeful, fleeting dream to touch a hot girl who likes games. Those are rare, indeed. Afterall, most of the other "hot girls" in these booths are just hired hands.
Well, I passed by quickly because I knew Adam Sessler wasn't in the room - though it had nothing to do with his "hotness" though, if I were a gay man, I'm sure I would find him very appealing. The Sess is from a breed of gaming press that is smart, intelligent and well-spoken/written yet maintains a fun and enthusiastic mentality to it all. He loves his job. He loves games. Not having him spearhead G4's coverage was like having to watch a sequel film not directed by the same director. I didn't even bother, and looked to leave and head back outside and over to the other Hall. I look forward to seeing where he lands. For E3, he was given some spots at Gametrailers, but I think that's just temporary.
Walking by Natsume's cow, Natsume really having little this year, I ran smack dab into a line (right)...turns out this was for that damn Disney hat giveaway. It's growing like a cancer.
Alright, time to go, right? Ah, but I forgot one booth. After all the weaving and back and forth and punching my way through those unraveled yarn-balls of people lined up, I apparently missed Warner Bros Interactive. I was about out the door when I saw it. I stood. Looked. And realized it's not going back to investigate further. The Lord of the Rings game looks tired, and Injustice not really a presence outside of all the banners and artwork throughout the convention center. I would have snagged a picture of the girl showcasing Lollipop Chainsaw, but she was busy being flirted with. That being said, that's one game that actually looked interesting, though I didn't get a chance to play it.
-Insert Warner Brothers Picture here...wait, there's nothing to show. Nevermind. -
The rest of the day consisted of a few more back and forths, but it ended on a note of contemplation. Back in the West Hall I stumbled upon a booth that I thought wasn't going to be at E3 this year. It was in a corner a bit by its lonesome and spinning some great tunes from the DJ on hand. Along one of the walls was about a dozen classic arcade games, such as Galaga and Centipede.
In the center was the old floor-set television from last year with an even uglier couch playing Atari.
Around the front were series of tables with classic console games and glass cases showing relics of gaming's past.
They even had Rob.
Welcome to the Videogame History Museum - the place I finally felt at home. The purpose of the booth is to recapture the era that I remember: when games were simple and not worried about budget crunches and marketing ploys that made people stand in lines for hours. As I bellied up to a mint-condition arcade cabinet of 1943, a vertical-scrolling top-down shooter where you only have two buttons and joystick to utilize, and when the DJ began to play some mid-1980s Duran Duran as though he just bought the record for the first time, I, for just a moment, felt as though I had traveled back in time. I didn't feel younger, but I felt as though I was in the era of innocence. A time when gaming itself wasn't necessarily better, but when the people around gaming were.
It was at this moment it all occurred to me. My apathy wasn't over the fact I was older, or worried I was getting older or anything about aging really. It wasn't because I felt "out of the loop" of sorts as the games that appeal to most really don't appeal that much to me or that I'm being left behind as some ancient relic of a bygone era of gaming. There are, after all, some games that I do feel appealing if I just look hard enough - and in the world of excessive sequels due to rising costs and lack of originality, that's easier said than done.
I suppose my apathy actually stems from this fact: the culture of videogamers is not the culture I once knew.
The Sega Channel, 3D Glasses and the Virtual Boy all in one place!?
As I wandered around the Video Game Museum, I realized there was a certain group of people here. People who had a television like that, or an ugly couch in the living room, or hung out at arcades. They were kids, teens and even adults during the early years of videogames. They grew, and watched the business and industry grow exponentially around them - probably surpassing what we could ever presume it might be one day.
But now, it's one of the most popular things in the world. Gaming is as big as it ever will be. Top of the world. And with that came, not a new breed of fan or even a younger generation, but a completely different mindset by those that created those games in the first place. From that mindset, they began to influence how the gamer acts. Those days of hanging out with friends, having fun, playing games...believe it or not those are gone. Now we have people playing with each other across the world, never really knowing each other outside of online statistics.
Gamers now have become impatient. Quickly bored. Easily angered. It's amazing to me that when my generation of gamers were eleven or twelve, hanging out at the local arcade or with friends at a home, we laughed and had fun where now some teenager or twenty-something only cares how much blood he can get out of a headshot or rage-quit when he dies in a deathmatch. It's all about "me" "me" "me" never about "us." That sense of community is gone. It's just a word now. A marketing hype machine rather than a collective, emotive activity. It's something the company tells you will "bring people together to play" on a box and doesn't really have any meaning anymore. Now it's just expected as a piece of downloadable content - and today's gamer is happy to do it if there's a good price and it is somehow "intuitive" so they don't have to go too far out of their way to acquire it.
Now it's all serious as well. Almost too serious. Now it's a billion dollar industry and maybe that escalation in money and power trickled down to the gamers themselves. The personal attachment is gone, but you can probably buy some personal attachment for a monthly fee. The companies that make games aren't looking at just making something enjoyable, they're trying to find ways to monetize every facet of the game as well as the gamer. Next thing you know we'll be paying a dollar for each achievement unlocked so we can somehow prove to our friends online that we never met that we're really good at something that will have no bearing on anything in a few years.
Those times I spent at a friend's house or at an arcade, or just hanging around talking about games, were the best I had. Now, if there's not some sort of "achievement" falsely applied to your experience, it apparently means nothing. It's cold. Distant. As much meaning and depth as a beer commercial. It's not the kind of gaming and the kind of gamer I want to be. The Videogame History Museum booth, so far removed from the loud and insincerity around the rest of the convention center, made me realize that.
I took a deep breath. I had enough. The day was coming to an end. My feet hurt. I felt dehydrated despite the fact I had been drinking water most of the day. I left with that sense of apathy I've been exploring the past two articles about E3 2012, and now I have an understanding of it. Does this mean I'll not attend again? No. At least for now. I still enjoy going even if there's a strong, almost burden-like dose of easy annoyance and biting pessimism rolling around my mind. I'm even glad I went this year, it brought about a realization for me. Sure, I like games. I like being around games. Playing games. Talking about games.
I just hate the people that play them and the makers for pandering to them. To me, it all ends up in one big cesspool of blandness and conformity that I'm happy to close the blinds on for this year.