As a young man, I was a big fan of the Electronic Entertainment Expo. I also ready The Da Vinci Code and thought that made me an expert in Biblical History who could own Christians, I wore a long black trench coat to school and I spelled Sony and Microsoft with dollar signs instead of the letter s. Basically, I hadn’t grown up yet.
Now, I am the very picture of maturity. I don’t pick the lettuce out of my McDonalds and if I’m applying for jobs I check that none of my recent tweets include the C word. As part of growing up, I’ve come to realise that E3 is crass, offensive and an enemy of the medium moving forwards.
By its very nature, E3 is a trade show. It is run by businesses for businesses. We live in a late-stage capitalist dystopia, all the most important aspects of our lives determined by uninformed gamblers with wealth in the stock market. The games industry is no less guilty of this than any other industry. Our gambling-centric world was even reflected in our games themselves when the lootbox controversy swept the internet a few months ago.
Art does not benefit from being run by profit-lead companies. Modern, stock-based, investor-focused capitalism is obsessed with explosive, cancerous growth. There’s no room for a modest profit from making quality games beloved by a small audience. Everything needs to be generic, lowest-common-denominator blockbuster entertainment crammed with monetisation opportunities.
The desire to create inoffensive, flashy products leads to the industry’s crippling fear of politicisation. Mouthpieces bend over backwards to insist their products are apolitical, even as they fetishize violence, racially stereotype and, despite a small number of excellent high-profile exceptions, still primarily star straight, white, cis-gendered males in authority positions.
Gaming is long overdue a proper critical examination of its overuse of violence. How many games were actually shown at this year’s E3 which provided a means of interacting with the world other than violence or competition? Even games like The Last of Us, which genuinely made a point about violence and went out of their way to induce disgust in the player at his actions, are met with whooping and hollering when they depict death in this colisseum of idiots.
As well as being artistically bankrupt and morally repugnant, the financial institutions which symbiotically, or more accurately parasitically, cling to the beating heart of the games industry are just plain stupid.
Producing a nice handful of exclusive, impressive and desirable games to a strict deadline every single year is nonsense. Should games companies concentrate on crowd-pleasing sequels or intriguing new projects? There are no right answers, and trying to force one every single year is harmful to the people making games and inevitably disappointing to players.
The solutions are obvious. Nintendo have been steadily moving away from the old E3 model for years now, adopting a longer-form, player-focused approach which is sustainable no matter how long games take to develop. Sony took baby steps in that direction, albeit steps which sent them falling flat on their faces.
I know people enjoy the hype of E3. I used to be the same. But it isn’t Christmas, the joyful season of goodwill and sharing. It’s Christmas, the artificial and arbitrary theatre of heartless corporations hiding behind a smiling mask. If you are betting your happiness on the outcome of a corporate presentation, you need to think about what that’s doing to your mental health. If your opinion of videogames and their developers is based on a week of trailers and lying speeches, you need to ask yourself whether you really like playing games at all.
Grow up. Stop worrying about sales figures and corporate jargon. Start playing computer games.
Of the common man, of the arts, of social justice and equaliy, capitalism is the enemy.
Press ESC to kill it.
By Luke Summerhayes