Prepare yourselves, an exceptionally long recap is afoot.
This year, I had the pleasure of covering the primary E3 conferences personally and professionally. Although E3 has been an annual treasure for me, I’ve always had something related to either school or work, a lack of access, or some other obscure intrusion that prevented me from getting really in depth with the event. This year I was well prepared, with a legal pad and coffee at my disposal, ready for all the goodies.
The past few years at E3 have been pretty anticlimactic, as many of us can agree. I can’t stand most PreShow hosts, I’m bored with irrelevant celebrity guests, and the speakers spend too much time babbling and not showing actual content. EA was present (that’s about it), Microsoft and Ubisoft were okay if not meh, and Bethesda was predictable. Sony, though, managed to remain professional while also quietly pummeling it’s unspoken competition into oblivion by bringing a full pit orchestra that remained intact for the whole show.
Believe it or not based on those prior comments, I have no pledged loyalties to whichever company. I can’t afford to pick and choose as a writer just barely breaking into the industry as of late, but there are some sturdy observations to make about the climate based on how well each company preformed over the past 48 hours. For starters, Microsoft introduced their new Xbox One S, but failed to introduce any titles that made me want to put money on a new console. Sadly, Microsoft’s conference was almost as unmemorable as EA’s, which was completely reliant on what little was shown of Mass Effect: Andromeda and Titanfall 2. Bethesda really needed some sort of wow factor, but I was a little disappointed to hear that they’re already wrapping up work on DLC for Fallout 4 — not to mention the Skyrim Remaster, isn’t 300+ hours per person of gameplay enough? Ubisoft was surprisingly tame, besides that colorful ensemble they called an introduction. Thankfully, Sony did a good job.
Ultimately, no single company left me numb in the knees. There were no real surprises, since almost every major title had been previously mentioned in passing. That isn’t to say we didn’t end the press conference portion of the expo without a sturdy list of releases, and I’ve added a couple to my radar that I’m pretty stoked to learn more about:
I’m pretty sure simply mentioning his name is enough, but seeing Kojima’s dorky smile as he presented his first title with Sony was probably the biggest head turner of E3 thus far. They didn’t give up a lot of detail, and I didn’t expect them to as the game is probably in heavy development, but watching Norman Reedus cradle a fetus (rhyme not intended) was very Lovecraft meets Hitchcock with a hint of Neil Gaiman. Anyone familiar enough with my work would know that this sort of genre is very up my alley. Although there’s not much to report quite yet, I’m excited to see more.
It’s a little sad that I have to be skeptical of female protagonists in video games simply because they are female. Sure, I want to play more games with leading ladies because I am a woman, but I don’t want studios to force women into stories to meet a diversity quota, or simply to appease a demographic because they feel obligated or pressured to. This will almost always lead to failure. The gender of the character should always be decided by the story that they’re trying to tell, not by demand. If they simply inject a diverse cast for the sake of having one, then it turns into a pity party and is just as offense as purposefully leaving out characters of color or women (especially if done poorly or rushed).*
Having Emily Kaldwin star as our hero in the latest Dishonored game is an example of a female protagonist done right, based on the information we have on the game thus far. Arkane spent a whole game building up to this moment, and I was totally thrilled to hear about the new mechanics and different perspectives that she and Corvo Attano will introduce to the player. I’m curious to learn more about her relationship with Corvo as she grew older, and the events that occurred between the first and second games. One thing’s for sure, and that’s that Arkane has put some real consideration and thought into giving us something that’s both visually stunning and equally well written.
*Don’t take this assessment too explicitly, I have a hearty opinion about women in gaming and want to see more of it. As a woman and as a gamer, I want more representation in the industry, but I also want it to be done correctly. I became a writer because I love to tell stories. I’ve written work with both male and female protagonists, and it fluctuates based on the idea that I’m trying to portray. I’ve also decided to pursue a career in gaming because I simply love video games, it’s a dream come true to be able to interact with your work, and for that reason alone I will only provide constructive criticism. The industry is definitely still male-centric, but the answer to solving the problem of representation isn’t to pressure studios into making specific kinds of content. Instead, we need to focus on introducing more opinions into the field (cough, writers and designers) that have the ability to create even more compelling stories that can appeal to more than one demographic.
Detroit: Become Human
I’ve been interested in this one since it was first introduced as a PS3 tech demo by Quantic Dream, and I was thrilled last year when the game was teased during Sony’s 2015 conference. Detroit not only looks stunning, but is a much needed breath of fresh air. They’ve spent a lot of time ramping up for this, and I was excited to see the new trailer and footage. I was a big fan of Heavy Rain, so I have high hopes for their improved and more dense “butterfly effect” model.
I like war shooters, but I don’t love war shooters. It may be because I was surrounded by actual war growing up as the daughter of a Navy lawyer, but war games are getting boring. Sure, they’re not meant to be exceptionally thought provoking and were created to entertain a broader demographic, but why not use the opportunity to tell a half decent story. I don’t need an Oscar winner, but I want the studio to want me to actually care and think about their game.
Although it was implicit, the footage from the new Battlefield One trailer had a couple little hints at what’s to come. At the end of the most recent trailer, there are a handful of men on horseback attacking a train. Even though it’s barely seven seconds of footage, can anyone say Lawrence of Arabia? Vintage wars make for visually pretty and aesthetic games, but DICE is potentially bringing the Arab Revolt to Battlefield. Some of the most gruesome battles during World War I took place in on the Hejaz Railway, and the academic in me is thrilled that they decided to include this in the game. Details like this make me really excited to learn about what else they have in store.
Horizon Zero Dawn
I’m not excited for Horizon simply because it hosts a sultry female lead, didn’t you read my mini rant during the Dishonored discussion? No, that doesn’t give this one enough credit. Horizon is by far the most unique up-and-coming title on the modern market. Independently thinking, animal-like animatronics living in a tribal dystopia, forcing humanity to question their intelligence and the digression of society? Read it and weep. The premise stands out against it’s competition, and the gameplay continues to impress each time they release new footage.
It’s almost nerve wracking to watch Aloy hunt, because the robots are just so darn big. When I watched the original demo, it was hard to understand how the mechanics would eventually work due to that sheer scale and magnitude of the fight sequences. Guerrilla has done a great job at slowly introducing enough content in small portions that build upon each other piece by piece, gradually explaining new and different parts of how gameplay will work. It went from being impossible, almost scary, to something clever and sensible. We’ve got a bit of a wait until release, but I have nothing except high hopes.
The Last Guardian
The game looks beautiful, it’s as simple as that. This takes me back to the first time I played Shadow of the Colossus and how engrossed I became in that world. Although Fumito Uedo has kept the story at large, which I appreciate, the dynamic movements of our little hero and Trico (the puppy-like, winged companion) are filled with emotion, and I’m almost certain it’s going to totally grind my feelings into a fine dust. Trico’s facial expressions could easily trigger a full on sob if I were upset enough. He just looks so sad.
Even though the larger press conferences are over, I’m excited to see what everyone else has to show in the days to come. I’m sure that I’ll be gushing about Zelda, depending on how much Nintendo delivers during their Treehouse event. It is, after all, one of my all time favorites.