I Almost Went To E3 2013.
It was just about two months ago I wrote about my lack of interest in where the videogame industry was. My oh my, how things can change in two short months — or, more accurately, four days. Before I jump in to the convention itself, let me give you some context for just how big this E3 was for me.
About 3 weeks before the convention, I was offered the opportunity to attend the show (I know a guy who knows a guy). While I was initially interested in the idea, I ultimately turned it down, largely due to conflictions with work and class, but also because recent changes in my life led me to question whether I really cared about games all that much at all. I’ll spare you the details, but essentially my disinterest stemmed from a sense of stagnation in the industry, and a rather sinister notion that games were becoming a little too big — that gamers (and developers) were getting short shifted by console manufacturers in favor of publishers and retailers hitting their projections and bottom lines. As much as I was interested in Xbox One and PS4’s next steps, at the time I couldn’t muster enough enthusiasm to actually go to E3, despite the offer I was given.
It goes without saying but holy shit did I make a huge mistake.
A Shot In the Arm; A Shot To The Head
E3 2013 was without a doubt the best E3 I’ve seen since I began following the event about 10 years ago, and arguably the most impressive convention since its inception.
I’m going to go ahead and assume that, if you’re reading this, you saw the conferences, read the previews, and watched and re-watched trailers over the past week. You witnessed every moment I did, and are probably excited about many of the same games as me — no need to recap the news or highlights. But I’d like to take a moment and talk about the things that really mattered to me.
Sony and PlayStation 4
First and foremost, Sony. God damn, Sony. I was already interested in the PS4 after the February event (and even more so after the Xbox One reveal last month), but let’s be honest, Sony — no, ‘scuse me, Jack Tretton — slayed Monday night. I’ll admit, the always online and used game ‘controversy’ surrounding the Xbox One didn’t affect me, and in fact I found the entertainment-slant of the system to be far more offensive. Still, Sony’s showing of good faith towards gamers resonated with me. Sure, I’ll probably be mostly buying my games digitally from here on in, but the fact that Sony are keeping the option to buy and trade physical copies is a positive. Not to mention they’re launching at a whole $100 cheaper, despite being the more powerful system. I’ve heard some say that in those five minutes where the used games, PS+ cross over, no online restrictions, and price were all announced, that Sony won this new console war. Whether or not that’s how this all ultimately plays out, it was enough to completely change my feelings on console games, so much so that I preordered the PS4 the moment the press conference had concluded.
No matter how awesome any console is on its own, it’s nothing without games. And I’m sure I don’t have to tell you guys, but damn were there some amazing looking experiences on show this year. Here are the ones that really caught my eye.
The week started out strong, with Microsoft opening their conference with what was my personal favorite of the show, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Open world Metal Gear, featuring Keifer Sutherland as Big Boss, and some of the best graphics I’ve ever seen in a game? Yes. A thousand times yes. This is shaping up to be something of a reboot for the series as well; while it’s clear MGSV will maintain Kojima’s brand of goofiness and absurdity, the trailers shown at E3 also feature some of the darkest moments in the series by far, including torture, child soldiers, and a (literally) gut-wrenching scene in which a package is removed from Paz’s body cavity. Between the gameplay demoed and the the themes being explored in the story, MGSV is steadfastly affixed to the top of my anticipated games list.
Not only did Monday begin with a bang, it ended with one as well. Bungie’s gameplay reveal of Destiny was one of the first moments of the show where I started to really see the potential of this new console generation. Sure, it was a sci-fi FPS, but the scope of the world, the polish of the multiplayer gameplay, and the (again) the graphical fidelity on display really captured my imagination. Bungie has never let me down before, and I have high hopes for Destiny.
The third big surprise for me came in the form of Final Fantasy XV. I have always had an interest in the Final fantasy series, but the past half-decade for the RPG franchise have been rocky at best. After years in development hell, Final Fantasy Versus XIII has emerged as Final Fantasy XV. Yeah, it looked really Japanese — in a way that would usually turn me off from a game. But the speed of the gameplay, the design of the characters, and the setting the trailer took place in really grabbed me in a way few JRPGs (or, frankly, Square Enix games) have since the PlayStation 2. While at this point I am maintaining cautious optimism, I can see this becoming one of my most anticipated games.
Finally, in terms of “next-gen” games, The Witcher 3 sounds like it’s shaping up to be the fantasy RPG to play. It’s more than a year away, but early impressions from the show floor have been so overwhelmingly positive, with many stressing that the game is the best example of “next-gen” on display this year, my already-high expectations have only been bolstered. The previous games in the series are some of my favorite of the previous generation, and I look forward to closing out the trilogy with what sounds like will be a groundbreaking role playing experience.
But those four games weren’t everything; Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag secured itself a spot as my PS4 launch title of choice next to Infamous: Second Son. Sony’s support of indie developers was one of the PS4’s biggest selling points for me, and Super Giant’s Transistor was the highlight of their indie showcase; I’ve seen that trailer dozens of times, but it never fails to give me goosebumps. And, despite my tepid response to the Xbox One in general, Titanfall looks like an immensely fun multiplayer game, and I’m thankful I’ll be able to play it on PC as well. Finally, these will come as no surprise to those who know my taste in games, but Dark Souls II and Rayman Legends. That is all.
So many questions about the next gen were answered this week, and for me, the answers we got were beyond my expectations.
Of course, in light of all my excitement, this does bring up personal questions: will I start writing about games again? Does this invalidate many of the statements I made just a few short weeks ago? Well to be honest, no, not really. I was compelled enough to sit down and knock out these E3 reactions, but I’m only now beginning to feel excited about games again after almost a year of struggling to stay interested enough to even play them. A lot of that was caused by forcing myself to pay attention to aspects of the business I really dispised, and try to play or be interested in games I had no interest in. I think I need to just enjoy videogames as a hobby for a while. However, that said, this E3 has sparked my interest in an ENTIRELY NEW aspect of the industry and games press. I’ll expound more about that soon, but I guess it’s worth saying that I’m not quite ready to write off the gaming industry as a possible career path, certainly not like I was a couple months ago.
Ironically, about a week before my “epiphany” that maybe games weren’t for me anymore, I finally bought a Playstation 3 and PS+ membership. Tomorrow, I will purchase and play The Last of Us and finally put some real use into the system. For some, the game represents the swansong for this console generation (they forget Dark Souls II is still several months out), but for me it’s the first step into the next generation, and I can’t wait to experience it.
Guys, I’m really excited about videogames again. It feels awesome.