The sun has set. The cards have been laid out.
Finally, for the first time in a very…very long time, I’m giddy. Giddy with excitement. Sure, the last few years and E3’s past we’ve had bombshells dropped. Big news, cool games and incredible innovations. Controversies, confusion and flops have also rued the day many a time at E3, but not today. No, not today.
I sit here listening to an oldie – ‘Losing my Religion.’
Up until tonight, my belief in games was dwindling. Not in the sense of giving them up, or thinking consoles were dead, but in the realm of user experience, customer relations, groundbreaking stories and originality. It was dawning on me that maybe, just maybe, it was about the broad spectrum, not the gamer anymore. Not that it’s intrinsically bad to have new tech sold to the Mom and Dad who will never mow down aliens or slay dragons for 10 hours a day, but would they be taking precious processing power from my sweet gaming escapes to watch TV? How dare they!
My belief in games was dying. More sequels and prequels than one could count, while gorgeous and entertaining themselves, lacked heart and innovation. Where was the passion? The ingenuity? The audacity to say “this shit is gonna be awesome – let’s make it.” I couldn’t remember the last time I saw a game and said “Damn. Just…damn that looks amazing.” Sure there were plenty of “Oh, Cool!” moments in years past, but nothing that glued my eyes to the TV, made my jaw drop, and then kicked me in the balls, while still making me walk away wearing a smile.
Now it’s ‘Everybody Hurts.’ I guess R.E.M. shall rule the night.
It is undeniable that the economic spectrum of gaming is changing – huge AAA titles and re-hashes with enough financial backing will be thrown at us until the cows come home, and it’s unfair to say games like that aren’t great in their own right. Indies were of course still somewhat thriving, but were either platformers, side scrollers, or things that while incredibly original and special, didn’t have the polish, look, and feel to compete with even mildly successful AAA’s.
Maybe it was me? Maybe I was just getting tired of the same ole’ same ole’. Or maybe I remembered wrong? Did I feel like this right before the 360 and PS3 strolled into our lives like a knight in shining armor riding a unicorn outfitted with belly-mounted grenade launchers that shit taquitos? I couldn’t remember. Well, now all I can think about is that awesome fucking unicorn.
‘King Without a Crown’ really? Matisyahu fits in with classics? You know what? I’ll go with it.
Then the sun rose this morning, full of hope and promise. The back of my head was still populated with contingency plans in case I was right – I’d cry, maybe smash a controller or two as an “I told you so” to myself. Would gaming take the seemingly inevitable turn towards the masses? Would it no longer be just about gamers, but now be a shared interest for non gamers alike? Again, not a bad thing to involve cool tech and innovation to gaming consoles to sell more, more money for the corporation meant more awesomeness for us…right?
Turns out…I was wrong. Microsoft, although keeping controversial DRM and connectivity policies, threw down, hard. Exclusives unlike anything Xbox fans had seen since…well, ever. Games that had stories. Taking advantage of every last resource given by the console, developers were once again being invested in. Yes, the mega-studios still cast an unmistakable shadow of dominance over so many others, but it was no longer tinged with disrespect. Microsoft took a huge leap of faith with millions of dollars of investments in studios both known and unknown, and they delivered, ten-fold. Maybe Microsoft will once again place a large amount of trust in indie devs. Maybe this is the stepping stone to finally matching Sony on exclusives. Microsoft was once again predictably back on top…
Sony on the other hand, for the first time in a long time, delivered. Totally blew the roof-off actually is more like it. Learning from lame E3’s past, taking the silver linings and positives from almost every mistake the PS3 made, and running with them, in the face of Microsoft, and every doubting mind out there. Showing all their glorious cards in one of the most spectacular presentations for gaming in a very long time, they re-affirmed their trust in gamers, as gamers had so often had to re-affirm their trust in Sony in years past. It was jaw dropping moment, after drool-educing jaw dropping moment. They not only matched Microsoft, but surpassed them.
Here’s the awesome thing though, it wasn’t a mismatched fight under any circumstance. It was an even playing field, face to face, but neither party won.
As so many incredibly well-matched fights so often do, they delivered and made the spectator the winner. Between the games, the hardware and software, the attitude, it was a slugfest that awarded the spoils directly to the crowd.
‘Learn to Fly’ Ok Fighters of the Foo, I will.
My faith has been restored. Although I loved games before, I now believe in them more than ever. Their power to force innovation, the ideas that spin out from them as a creative medium, their power to bring people together from different parts of the world, just to capture a single flag that ultimately isn’t even real. The power that they had when I was young. Not to take from Microsoft, but games in general are again my water-cooler. How did you beat that boss, did you see the visuals on that demo, did the music make you cry when your companion died?
Games made crowds cheer like they haven’t in years, they again made my eyes wide with anticipation, made me forget about why I was afraid for them, and made me harken back to sitting on the floor in my living room as a kid, playing Syphon Filter until the wee hours of the morning.
This has just been day one at E3, and however childish it sounds, games have again shown that they have a certain mystique – a special power. Yes, sometimes that power is to teach much-too-young players areas of their vocabulary they probably shouldn’t know about yet, but every once in a while, they spark imagination, innovation, improvement and infinite insertion of alliteration.
Games have the power to turn us all into gawking 13 year-olds every once in a while, and for the last twelve hours, I’ve revisited memories that I haven’t had in a long time, leaving a smile on my face that will surely last into whatever Nintendo brings to the tabel tomorrow, and beyond.
My mind has been blown today, and whatever side of the green/blue/red fence you’re on, you can’t deny that with this new generation, nearly infinite possibilities rest at the hands of some of the most talented story tellers in the world, and dammit, I do love a good story.