E3 2012 Part One
I knew days before that I wouldn't be spending much time wandering around the Los Angeles Convention Center for E3 2012 - the time of year when all fans of videogames, and the entertainment world, wait in hushed breath for the next "big thing." Maybe it was the apathy towards the whole world of videogames. I'm older. I don't even play videogames all that much anymore. Too busy. No time. Now it's all just fancy lights and flashy colors like the Vegas strip where everyone is vying for your attention.
Perhaps it's more the idea of videogames I like. I grew up with them. Owned many going back decades and still own the latest, greatest big-box-thing we hook our televisions to and interact with as we become sucked into make believe worlds and space to escape reality. Like I said, though, I don't play them all that much...but I like that idea of escapism. Maybe that's why I prefer film - shorter and probably less likely of me throwing a controller across the room and breaking something. So, because of my fondness of the idea and the plethora of creativity on display, I slogged to downtown LA once more and threw myself into the fire of awful smells, many of which I can still smell and find myself in bad need of a shower as I write this, an inadequate air conditioning system in the South Hall and lots of people handing me things I don't need nor care about.
Well, the one that gave me this token at least was on the right track. Too bad it wasn't for something alcoholic.
By the time I got that, it was too little too late. I had already made my decision to call it day. It felt like a long day, maybe it was because Venus was passing in front of the sun and it messed with my ability to determine the passage of time, but it really wasn't. Four hours. That's it. That's all I needed.
That's when I realized it wasn't so much me...it was just E3. So let's begin.
First let me make one thing clear. I'm not a journalist. I studied journalism but I was in no way in a jouralastic capacity as I entered the convention center. I desginated myself an observer - somethign I do often in my spare time where I simply watch, maybe chat a little and intereact when the time arises, but I'm a person who can stop and understand the picture a little beyond all those flashy lights and loud noises, which I concluded wasn't noise at all but dubstep music, and maybe give you insight into the scene and atmosphere.
The day started like any other E3. You wait for the doors to open:
South Hall lobby on the left, West Hall lobby on the right. Lines in both.
Adam Sessler calls it the Running of the Nerds. He's right. It is. What's annoying is that it shouldn't be. Some idiots up front kept shouting out the time. "Thirty minutes!" then "twenty minutes!" and so on. That makes me think of a few things. 1) Those aren't professionals, they're fans. They're probably new to E3 too, because I don't recall that in the past. 2) Does anyone really need a countdown? We're adults. In fact there's a big sign outside the Convention Center that says no kids allowed. Counting down something just makes it worse and is insulting to the fact that everybody has a watch or a phone or something. We're not idiots, the people shouting that are idiots.
The doors open. The nerds take off. I'm in there somewhere but I really just got in the line out of happenstance. I kind of just wandered around and didn't have anything else to do after I checked in, so I found that area a nice spot to read a few of the free magazines they have around. Then people started to gather around me. Then I realized I was in a line of some sort. Then it started moving.
This was the West Hall. The West Hall consisted of mainly Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft - the three big console corporations. As we herded ourselves in like cattle to the slaughter, the first major thing to aggravate me happened: someone ok'd the press to stop right in front of the entrance and to film/photograph people entering. They all wanted that picture, I guess, of all these nerds running in as though those games are going to disappear if they don't get there quick enough. It's just frustrating because you finally get to the doors then have to cram yourself through a defensive line of photographers as though you're breaking tackles trying to reach the endzone.
This was the first pic from the Hall...I forgot the game. Just "Rawr Dragon!"
Somehow, there were already lines. I don't know how, I and everyone else just entered, but there are already lines. All the big games and big booths seemed to have people waiting when we were coming in. Maybe it's priority demoing, kind of like priority boarding on an airline. Maybe they just really wanted free T-shirts.
My first stop was Nintendo. It usually is because, hey, I and everyone else of my generation grew up with them. We don't know a world without Nintendo. The Big N. Mario. Link. Mushrooms and jumping around like idiots.
Well, there were people jumping around like idiots, but it had nothing to do with Mario.
Dance puppets! Dance!
Nintendo was to show their big new console. I was underwhelmed. I was far more impressed with the fact they finally changed up their booth after a few years of the same thing. It was spacious and there were well enough demo kiosks for everyone.
Nintendo's booth was open and colorful...just not much to really do there.
Oh, and as usual, Nintendo wins the heralded "booth babe" competition again. They know how to hire them. Friendly. Sweet. Not dressed up as sluts and know what they're talking about. Either they're all hot gamers or they're just hot girls trained well. Probably the latter, but my fantasy won't admit to that.
There was a big line for the Nintendo Land game, easily the biggest thing Nintendo was pushing to correspond with the release of their new console, the WiiU. I wasn't impressed, though I admired the niftiness of their "Nintendo Land" section of their booth. In fact, there wasn't a thing in Nintendo's booth I was remotely interested in. Sure, I like Pikmin, it's Pikmin. I didn't even really play it. Nobody was really playing ZombieU, so I have no idea what that game is about. I played some of the new WiiU Mario game. It's Mario. No difference. I played it more for the controller experience to see what the WiiU's controller was like. It was nice, not too heavy or bulky and far better and "put together" than last year's concept controller which resembled something I would buy in Chinatown for 9.99.
I watched a few others play some things. But all in all, I was bored.
On my way out I stopped by a surprisingly busy Atlus booth. It was small, their booth usually was, but it had a line around the block. Turns out they were giving away T-shirts.
Persona 4 T-Shirts. Neat. It's a shirt a hipster would wear because most people have never heard of that game. Unfortunately to get said shirt you had to stand in line (already a turn off, as I mentioned) and then put it on and model with the cute models.
Now you might think this is good. Free T-shirt. Cute girls to take a picture with. Free games to play. Well it's not, because it felt awkward and for some reason I felt like I should be paid for the endeavor. I couldn't help but think about the cute girls. They have to feign a smile every time some Cheetos-encrusted, heavy-breathing slob gets a free t-shirt. I figured I would also be feigning a smile...then I realized it's best if we just avoid feigning the whole thing entirely because, truth is, Atlus had nothing to show game-wise. A fighting game and some Sherlock Holmes thing.
Next it was on to Sony. First thing I noticed, just like last year, nobody cared about the Vita. Rows of Vitas sat unplayed.
Ok, in fairness more like half of them unplayed.
The next thing I noticed, and this is something I realized last year, was that there were few lines for some big AAA third-party titles. Pro tip: go to the console booths and play the big games there, the demo kiosks as the publishers have lines ten-times as long sometimes. In a span of half an hour, I played the latest Devil May Cry, a little bit of the newest Hitman, Farcry 3 and a little gem of a game called Ni no Kuni.
Now, those other games are big titles. They're going to sell a ton. But truth is, Devil May Cry played like any other Devil May Cry game, only much more stylish (if that's possible), Hitman played like a really good version of Hitman and Farcry 3 was, to me, just another first person shooter - a genre I burned out on probably four years ago or so. I think it was six years. When did that first Modern Warfare game come out? Yeah, that's when.
Sony's booth was similar to last year's, but with kiosks put in better places for gaming.
But let me tell you about Ni no Kuni. It's a Japanese RPG, the JRPG a dying genre, about as traditional as you can get and it's made by Level 5, who did the remarkable Dragon Quest VIII (and arguably lifted that series to heights) and is written and designed by Studio Ghibli, the animation studio that gave us Sprited Away, Princess Mononoke and My Neighbor Totoro. It only had a few snippits to play, but I already felt as though I was transported to a world of wonder and beauty. I looked at those other three games and saw material that I've seen dozens of times before. They're the same thing. This game was something fresh. New. Unique...and barely anybody was playing it. If it doesn't have blood splatter and gruesome death, nobody cares anymore.
Yeah...it wasn't me being an apathetic dick, it was the fact that the highway of videogame creativity are all just heading in the same direction and apparently everyone is on board.
The same could be said for another game at Sony's booth. Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time. Again, nobody was playing, but right behind them was God of War and people couldn't wait. I didn't bother with God of War (again, lines) but I don't think I'm missing anything. Honestly, you can look at it and see it plays like you would expect a God of War game to play. What's the point in waiting in a line to experience something you can figure out by simply watching. It's the fourth game in the series, it's a good bet you push Triangle to rip out someones pancreas or something.
Seriously....nobody playing. This made me sad. Notice the guy's back in the frame...he's watching people play God of War 4.
Sony backed off on the Move promotion this time around. It was pretty apparent. They still had those little booth/room things where you could jump around like an idiot and wave your glowsticks like its a rave, but there was only a few of them and nobody really in them either.
But Sony was pushing their Super Smash Sony Brawl Whatever Thing hard. Real hard. It'd say half of their booth was all about that game. It just didn't interest me, not even the when the actual characters showed up.
People cheered, but more in the "oh, hey it's...that guy" kind of way. This pic was taken later, I'm just going Hall by Hall at this point.
I stopped by and played Ni no Kuni one more time. There wasn't any other game really to play or even watch in some cases (no Last of Us from what I saw, which was disappointing) This time the other demo which actually had fighting in it. It was fun, as expected. Then it was off to the third big booth in this Hall, Microsoft.
One quick pic of the space-out booth on the left, but you get the idea. On the right, notice how easy it is to get to a big game like Resident Evil 6 at a console's booth rather than directly at Capcom (which had a ticketed event).
The first thing I noticed is how much better this booth was in comparison to the last few years. It was larger, definitely, but also more open and easier to walk around in. Like Sony's booth, there were a lot more third-party games with short lines and here I played Resident Evil 6, which pretty much played like Gears of War. Seriously, couldn't have been more unimpressed. I will say it's nice it's back in an urban city setting and has zombies, but the cover system and all that made me think some line-backer looking guy was going to run in and yell "Come get some!"
Everything else in the booth, in terms of games to play, was pretty forgettable. I mean, they were apparently more focused on Live Arcade games and downloadable things you can waste money on. Sony had this to, but not to the degree that screamed "Shit, we have nothing to show, put out some Live Arcade games quick, man!" They were still pushing Kinect pretty hard, and from the looks of everyone involved, nobody could have cared less.
I mean, this girl's expression at this Kinect Fable title says it all.
As for the rest of Microsoft's booth. Well, I looked for South Park, it was nowhere to be found and I could only stand for so long and watch their video wall. Maybe it was there. I suppose it might be best, it seems like a game that's hard to just make a demo on. I liked the video online, though. That's all I need, really. It looks and sounds like South Park and has the show's creators behind it. What else do I need to know. Just take my money, I may not play games that much anymore but I'll shell out some bucks for that even if I don't play it.
Now you're probably wondering about Halo 4. Or maybe Gears of War Judgment or whatever the Hell it was called. You know, why don't they just put a number on it? Really, if it's a new game put a number on it. Same goes for movies. Nobody cares about your cute elongated title, just put a number.
Oh, that's right, it's a prequel. Want to know when you're out of ideas? When you start backtracking in only a year since your last game. That series has kind of wore out its welcome, I think.
Anyways, Halo 4 was just a "theater experience." I've been to those before, and believe me you're not going to see anything you haven't seen or heard already. Yet, the line was massive. Huge. Giant. You would think they were giving away handjobs inside. You go in, sit for a bit and watch someone play something you already saw. It was a big presence there, I mean you had the giant theater box thing and a car and everything, but it's all hype, folks.
On the left, a Halo 4 line of people wasting their life. On the right, a Halo 4 vehicle I wish worked so I could shoot them and put them out of their misery.
Maybe that's why I'm so apathetic to E3 and gaming these days. It's all hype, no substance. Disingenuous at best. That's how each of the "Big 3s" booths made me feel: empty and occasionally bored. It's at this point I wish I had gotten that Free Drink ticket earlier, but I didn't get that until the South Hall, and I'll be covering that Hall in Part 2.
Before I close up writing about the West Hall, let me cover a few things that I experienced later in the day. I find just grouping it via hall if simpler and easier. There's a lot of back-and-forth between the South and West Hall.
First things first, IGN and Gamespot are right next to each other, and Gamespot just owned them, I thought. I'm not a huge fan of either of these websites, but Gamespot had an open booth where people could watch and see them at work, much like the G4 booth has been in the past few years in the South Hall. (I'll save my G4 comments until Part 2).
There's also a lot of booths nobody cares about. Just people showing accessories and trying to get you to buy stuff you don't need to use it with stuff you don't need but probably already own. They try and get you to come in and play with a cute smile or something free. I've also never understood why they don't promote the food area in the West Hall more. It's a wide open place to sit and eat, but instead people want to cram into the Compass Cafe or whatever it was called:
Everybody find a chair when the music stops!
These three were just lackluster across the board for these three. Nintendo has itself a brand new piece of hardware but not a single game worth noting on it. Nothing looked impressive, original, fresh and screamed "yes!" It was underwhelming as something could be. They had the best booth, however. I just walked around it with very little to do other than ogle the usual Nintendo booth girls.
Microsoft's booth, much like their press conference, felt desperate though design-wise it was better than I've seen from them in the past (maybe they thought spreading out the few games in a larger area would hide their weakness). If it wasn't for Halo 4, nobody would have cared, but like I said, Halo 4 was all hype. I'm waiting in line just for a theater experience in a room that reeks of nerd sweat.
Sony had games, but their biggest games on the floor were a Smash Brothers knock off and a God of War sequel. Like Microsoft, everything else was third-party, though they had some really nice third party games there (and exclusive ones to that). I have to assume that The Last of Us was elsewhere, maybe where all the Sly Cooper players were hiding.
As is usual in our culture-defining internet world, my feelings can best be summed up in a meme.