Mistakes and Regrets at Electronic Three

July 19, 2008 at 13:57 (Books, Horror, Hype, News, Rants, Reviews, Video Games) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

My apologies, dear uncertainites, for the downtime these past few days.  Excuses include: I’m nowhere near E3, but I’ve been covering the convention from afar on the Ace Gamez blog.  And I totally called itAnimal Crossing on the Wii; lots of Little Big Planet; downloadable Ratchet and Clank episodes; and more besides.  But the point isn’t to boast – I have no particular insight, yet the only real surprise of the electronic three was Final Fantasy XIII on the Xbox 360.  And that, in itself, makes perfect sense.  Squeenix have a history of platform loyalties that aren’t loyalties at all, but canny decisions.  This is just the next decision.

For all that could have been, then, a toast.

If there’s a conference next year – and sadly, it really is a case of if and not when – I think I might make the trip.  I’d get press credentials, but I’d need a laptop, airfare, commitment.  In the twilight years of E3, I’m certainly not alone in wondering: is it still worth it?

E3 was once the axis around which the games industry spun, the great stationary star at the centre of an elaborate mobile.  The publicity machines all began there, with an announcement at one press conference or another or a demo on the show-floor.  Games began their time in the media at E3 by necessity, though, not choice.  There was no better network to begin diffusing whatever information publishers opted to share.  There was no Kotaku; news was slow.  Broadband was just a binary glimmer in some techhead’s beady eyes; there were no streaming conferences, no game-video aggregators for fans to frequent.  Largely, it was E3 or nothing, and amid the craven crowd, so many brilliant little games simply didn’t show right.  There was no time for depth or complexity, subtlety or artistry of any sort.  At the end of the day, if a game didn’t sell itself in a two-minute trailer or a quarter-hour demo, it was dead on arrival.

It didn’t work, then.  But however negative an experience it may have been for publishers and developers, for those of us on the outside, E3 was a joyous spectacle.  And I don’t care how many massive LCDs Sony daisy-chained for their press conference – it’s lost that grandiosity.  Development budgets have blossomed into behemoths in every other sense but for the LA presentations that used to be so pivotal.  Enthusiasts are better equipped now to learn about a new game, no matter the season or the mainstream press coverage.  And there are other events: Leipzig, E for All, PAX, the Tokyo Game Show, to name just a few.

Gothcock Remembers E3

Industry yuppies Gamecock threw an attention-seeking funeral march for E3 last year, and I despised them for it.  In 2008, I wonder if, all their hateful, juvenile shenanigans aside, they mightn’t have been mistaken.  All that the conference serves to do these days is showcase the next few months of the gaming calendar, and there are easier, cheaper, more appropriate ways to do that; ways that don’t see tens of developers wasting precious time on imagined milestones; hundreds of perfectly worthwhile games slip through the cracks; thousands of journalists swept off their feet in all the madness; and millions of fans disappointed, time and again.

But don’t misunderstand me.  There were some absolutely brilliant games at the convention this year; more, I think, than in 2007.  The horror genre in particular looks to be seeing something of a renaissance, with Dead Space leading the charge:

For all the wonderful perversity of scoring your teaser with a terrifying rendition of Twinkle Twinkle Little Starl, however, there’s another, more traditional horror game on the way that has my (proverbial) panties well and truly twisted.  The newly christened Silent Hill: Homecoming is the fifth instalment proper in the franchise, and after the disappointment of the next-gen debut of Alone in the Dark, I couldn’t be more excited to see the genre’s best and darkest return to the fore:

I won’t get bogged down in the particulars of whether or not Pyramid Head has any place outside of Silent Hill 2.  I won’t mention that Pyramid Head, as the embodiment of James’ guilt over slaughtering Mary, shouldn’t exist now that the town has held him accountable for his hateful sins, because if I’m honest, my reaction to his promised appearance in Silent Hill: Homecoming was basically profuse pant-wetting.

There were, too, a few noticeable absences.  There was nothing to be seen of the 360 motion controller that’s had the interwebs all abuzz lately, and for that, I’m grateful to all that’s holy.  There was no New Super Mario Brothers 2 or Wii Zelda.  Neither were Level 5, the fan-favourite developers of Dark Cloud and Dragon Quest VIII, anywhere to be seen, and with Metal Gear Solid 4 come and gone and the next Final Fantasy no longer platform exclusive, their latest effort, White Knight Story, stands as Sony’s strongest trump card.  Excepting, perhaps, the absence I felt most profoundly: anything new from the Ico team.  Shadow of the Colossus is still the greatest game of all time – never have I been touched or played by a game in quite the same way – and it’s been too long since I wandered that masterful world.  Much too long.

I still miss Argo.

TGS and the inevitable reveal can’t come soon enough, then, but until then, the new Prince of Persia is an obvious homage, and so breathtaking I can hardly conjure the words to do it justice.  I’ve already tried once and lost a post amid my procrastinations, so.  Without further ado:

If you’re still hungry, there’s a few new articles over at Ace Gamez for your enjoyment.  In my Space Invaders Extreme review I suggest that even girl turrets stand a chance, while in the Ticket to Ride piece I talk a little about cock-blocking, which is always fun.

And there’s a bunch in the pipeline for All Things Uncertain over the next few weeks, including a review of the Blu-ray of There Will Be Blood, a look at Tana French’s forthcoming In the Woods follow-up, and something about Yoko Ogawa’s The Diving Pool, which the lovely folks at Harvil Secker sent along this morning to tide me over until galleys arrive for the next Murakami.  I’ll say this much already: it looks startlingly original.

For now, though – that’s all, folks.

***

Soundtrack to this entry: Filter – Title of Record

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