There is still a bit more to go on the spectacle of gaming that is E3. A place where the biggest companies and titles compete in a dance to the death with the flashiest effects and unimaginable inane buzz words. I always get excited for these events drawing close. I’m as cynical as most, maybe even more but it’s hard not to get wrapped up in the excitement of new games; new characters and stories, new experiences and new advances in whatever is in vogue.
Unfortunately after watching the main conferences of the big four I get an overwhelming feeling of disappointment. The same bullshit as the year before, and before … and before that. But no, I think it’s actually getting worse as with each consecutive year they seem to try and top the stuff they did the year before, and this means excelling further at the same pandering bullshit. DUDE BRO games, perfectly rendered mutilations and a wealth of smarmy douchebag male protagonists.
DUDE BRO market
A wealth of silly shooters once more, trying to outdo themselves in terms of explosions. Shoot and stab with a new coat of paint and maybe a new mechanic if your lucky. They still look like the same blockbusters you would expect. A new Call of duty franchise, scripted shooter with big giant cgi effects. A cross between Payday and battlefield, far cry dude bros, supernatural fighting dude bros (moustached guy in the order was actually pretty cool), and the seminal dude bros Nathan drake and Solid snake… hmm, I’m sensing a naming policy now too.
Then to make it worst most of these guys are just such insufferable prats. The hyper masculine stereotype took a wrong turn back there at the ego trip aisle and now it’s usually someone I’d rather punch than play. Its a trend that’s been going for a while now but I really don’t understand it’s prevalence. Is that really what characters people want to play or is this just the easier way to write personal pain as some sort of plot device to spurn on action.
Of course, as usual there was a distinct lack of female characters in most of the presentations. A few roles here and there to get excited about like SPLATOOOOOOOOOOOON and returning series like Mass Effect and Dragon Age but I want more options. It’s expected unfortunately but nothing you really get upset over… that was until a slip up by a creative director for Assassins Creed about why it would not have a playable female character for the multiplayer function. A function that contains customisable characters. There are many different areas to the issue now across multiple sites but Rock Paper Shotgun has a good link collection and recap.
I am a bit disappointed in this as well. I have always really enjoyed the Assassins creed franchise and having that playground to explore within. The story was average, the controls a bit frustrating at times but they were a lot of fun to play. I’ve always thought it would do really well with having a female character, or a more fleshed out one or even the option of playing either because… would it really even matter to the story. And then this is a multiplayer mode where the series has typical had a selection of female characters. I just wish this was no longer a “feature”, just part of development instead.
Gorging on Gore
Another theme that seems to get consistently worse with each passing game conference is the focus and attention to detail on gore. It sometimes seems like the main way they sell the next generation of graphics is by depicting the most realistic possible mutilation they can. Last year people roared with applause while a head was blown apart with a shotgun, this year it seems we are supposed to cheer at severed heads. Seriously, bring me more awesomeness like the CATZILLA benchmark tests rather than this silliness.
There were so many more occasions of this with a variety of body parts to google over and it all just makes me rather… hmm, not nauseous, more disgusted. Disgusted really that this is what our industry stoops to in order to get some sort of shock factor into their games to sell more titles to.. I don’t know. Who is the market for realistically portrayed corpses? Personally I like my murdering to have more artistic flair to it, something that’s been thought over and works with the flow, gameplay and general aesthetic. This just seems to be there because the Man children the industry is composed of think it’s “cool”. You know what has a better shock factor… actual emotional connection to characters but first we need these companies to move beyond the hyper masculine and seeing character development and the emotional as something effeminate.
Sure have your ridiculously mortal combat finishers, that has always been the trademark of the franchise but when it is a standard practice to realistically depict such things the shock factor is diminished. You ruin a factor of games that could create a more emotionally engaging moments and instead create many that depicts our whole industry unfairly in the eyes of popular media. Not all of our games are gore filled murder-houses, and that doesn’t even come close to the more interesting elements so lets stop presenting them as such.
At least the good thing with this same old bullshit though is that the titles out there trying something new; the ones that try to create and imagine, to broaden the horizons of what gaming is and could be and those attempting to provide new experiences. The ones that are actually innovating instead of using a buzz word while refurbishing the old, or stolen ideas from the past are beginning to get noticed for the amazing experiences they can provide.
We’ve seen the same for so long now that it seems people are becoming satiated and after a greater variety of games to play. This year, even the big conferences had a great collection of indie titles with a wide variety of gameplay styles. No man’s sky had to be my game of the show, the idea there is just magnificent. I said it before but it really is a sign of the times that an indie studio is producing something far beyond the scope and imagination of what the others even think is possible and many higher up, those producing and investing are taking notice.
To me, looking at the increased visibility of what many of these studios that are outside of the larger corporate beast are doing gives me hope; hope for the industry and the future of gaming. There is a definable trickle down effect to the industry and it takes a while for them to incorporate what the smaller games are doing. With this increased focus on them and further incorporation into consoles and as part of the big game line-ups maybe this trickle down effect will lessen. The time between changes and cycles shorter and we can get a richer more diverse gaming industry.
Maybe… but not until those idiots grow up.