E3 2012 Didn’t Suck, Despite What You May Have Read

While I was at E3 this year I was too busy to pay much attention to the outside world.  Hanging out with friends, exploring the show floor, hitting post-E3 events, and collapsing in a heap ate all my time.  Now that I’m home and caught up on a few things, though, I’m taken aback at all the anti-E3 articles popping up all over the internet.  I have yet to determine if these articles are from people who were at the same show I was, or if they simply watched the press conferences online and called it bad.  What I do know is that this year’s show was one of the best I’ve seen in a while.  The show floor was loaded with games that were fun, clever, creative, or a fantastic combination of all three.

Hell Yeah!, Tokyo Jungle, Retro City Rampage, Sound Shapes, Project P-100, Final Fantasy Theatrythm, One Piece Pirate Warriors, Rock Band Blitz, Dyad, The Unfinished Swan, Quantum Conundrum, Gravity Angel, even a couple of casual Kinect games like Wreckateer and, god help me, Dragon Ball Z.  Although admitted, Avengers looks like a better game along the same lines as DBZ, but I didn’t get a chance to play it.  Or Papo & Yo, Pid, Rayman Legends, and a handful of titles in video-only form, such as Tomb Raider and Watch Dogs.  These are all titles to get excited about to varying degrees, ranging from mainstream to indie, and all availabe on the show floor.  E3 isn’t a collection of press conferences, those are just things that happen around it.  Complaining about sucky press conferences is right up there with bitching about the garnish on the plate.  It’s not a dog turd, which would ruin whatever it touched, it’s just parsley.  Ignore it.

At this point I’d like to address specifically a couple of complaints from a pair of articles.  Let’s start with this one from Gamasutra-

“If you witnessed E3 as an intelligent enthusiast of video games, you realized the sad truth: The joy is dead, delight is gone. Joy and delight just aren’t worth the monetary investment anymore for big-budget games.”

Yeah, duh.  What was the clue?  Years of AAA titles featuring a million shades of brown and grey selling in insane quantities?  It’s been like this for a very long time now, with the big military games, both semi-realistic and sci-fi, hogging the spotlight while the huge variety of genres and styles around them do what they can to get noticed.

Which leads us to article #2, also from Gamasutra, where Arkedo co-founder Camille Guermonprez says “This show is a little bit out of focus with reality, I think.  There’s never been so many indie successes, and people are still trying to do the same old thing with more money and more boobs.”  Putting aside for the moment bizarrely cute giant-boobed angel/nurses from his game Hell Yeah!, there’s a reason for this.  E3 is a press event, and these are the titles people want to know about.  When I worked at Gamestop, the games I was asked about most on my return home were the Halos, Call of Duties, whatever Blizzard was up to that year, etc.  When I mentioned E3 to the person I sat next to on the way home this year, he asked about Halo 4.  E3 isn’t out of touch with reality, it’s just that the awesome stuff both Guermonprez and I love appeals to a much smaller audience.

I was thrilled to finally get my hands on Retro City Rampage, so yay for me.  I even want to write about the game, and the hands-on may get a fair number of views.  If I wrote a preview of Star Wars 1313, however, the page views would easily blow RCR’s out of the water.  That’s just how things are, because people are going to want to hear about what interests them.  There’s a whole world of awesome stuff happening that is, unquestionably, worth following.  We just can’t expect the entire world to share our enthusiasm when all they really want to do is relax with a game at the end of the day instead of explore the wonderful, vibrant, crazed world of interactive play.  E3 2012 had an excellent load of games to go alongside the relentlessly safe AAA titles, but they needed to be looked for rather than served up on a 50 foot screen at a press conference streaming live to the world.  That doesn’t make it a bad show, it just means that, like every single year since E3 began, you just need to do a little digging to find what you’re looking for.