E3 2012 and the Video Game Industry’s Immediate Future

For about six years I’ve followed the Electronic Entertainment Expo, tuning into the big conferences for Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo, as well as watching footage and reading demo descriptions for new and upcoming video games.

This year really made it painfully obvious that there are very few people in the industry actually producing content that I consider at all interesting. Microsoft’s conference kicked things off and was, not to put too fine a point on it, an embarrassment. They talked about sports games and their idiotic Kinect while showing off some sequels to their established franchises that did nothing to raise the bar beyond the kind of shooters we’ve all come to expect, which I no longer have patience for. I was hopeful for Tomb Raider, but it just looked like a lesser version of Uncharted. I’ve played Uncharted, thanks. Nothing, though, was more upsetting than Resident Evil 6, wherein you will apparently play as a powerhouse and kill endless hordes of the undead with minimal effort. Not exactly the direction I want the series to take. They ended on the third party Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, which was sad. Microsoft has nothing left this generation.

EA is more openly insidious than most entertainment corporations, and sure enough, in their conference they really pushed the idea of games as a thing you subscribe to, paying premiums for more content. You can taste the art. What little was shown of Dead Space 3 was horribly disappointing. The first two are great, and though I understand there’s an expectation for sequels to up the ante, the series has to stay somewhat in the realm of survival horror. Now you have a co-op partner, with whom you fight giant monsters on an ice planet. My, how atmospheric and terrifying. Like Microsoft, they also had games with shooting and guns.

Ubisoft was the big winner. Though their conference presentation itself was juvenile and insipid, their content was unquestionably the strongest, from Assassin’s Creed III actually getting me interested in a franchise after I’ve passed up all the previous installments (a reversal of the trend I was experiencing so far), to their Rayman game beating out everything else revealed for the Wii U. And no game at the entire show laid a finger on Watch Dogs, an original game (and a genuinely surprising reveal) about a master hacker in a world just a little bit into the future that, if it lives up to the mind-blowing demo, is a real step forward. It’s one of two games at the show that appears even remotely interested in exploring themes related to society. It might actually be about something.

Then Sony was easily the best of the big three, which is insane considering they spent about fifteen minutes on the idiotic Wonderbook. Other than that, most of their games hit the mark. Assassin’s Creed III continued to impress. The new God of War looks like more God of War, which I admit I’m still a fan of.Smash Bros. but with Playstation Characters might be a pretty fun party game. A lot of people went a little wild over Beyond, but I’m wary of David Cage. He seems like he’d much rather be making films than games, which is fine, except he’s making games. I recommend healthy skepticism as to whether he can back up his pretensions. Especially since we’ve seen about ten minutes of his new game, and no gameplay. Yeah…but hey, I like Ellen Page. I’m much more confident in The Last of Us, a post-apocalypse with some real bite. Uncharted with brutal seriousness. Count me in.

Then Nintendo came out and basically yelled to everyone, “WE DO NOT CARE ABOUT YOU. YOU ARE NO LONGER OUR TARGET AUDIENCE” as loudly as they could while still keeping up the charade.

Besides that, Star Wars 1313 has a ton of potential, I’m sure Ni No Kuni will be amazing, and there are a few other titles on the horizon I’m interested in, but all in all it doesn’t look like I’ll have reason to play more than the handful of games I find time for every year.

This medium is still in its infancy. The gems are few and far between, but they exist. As much as I rolled my eyes this past week (oh, so very much) I still have boundless faith in what games can achieve, and maintain excitement for the industry’s awkward, painful evolution.

 

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