The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) for 2015 is officially in the books and is being lauded as one of the best E3’s is recent memory by a healthy majority of the attendees. After spending the weekend looking over my notes and all of the announcements from the show I have to agree with them. This E3 was full of amazing moments, but was not free from concerns. (But, is anything ever free from concerns?)
With all that said, there were peaks and valleys that are worth mentioning because the “good stuff” is so good that it will have a lasting effect on the games industry for years to come!
The Highest of Highs!
Inclusion and Diversity
The video game industry, and especially E3, has long been a boys club. Each press conference has been a crew of (largely white) men lining up to share news about their games with the world. It was rare that you would see a woman who was more than eye candy on the stage. This year changed that in a big way.
At one point during the Ubisoft press event Aisha Tyler was standing on stage with the legendary actress Angela Bassett talking about her role in Rainbow Six Siege. This by itself was awesome enough, but it only got better when they passed the mic to another woman to introduce and narrate the live gameplay demo. It was amazing to watch considering nothing like that had ever happened before. And for it to happen with such a stereo-typical masculine game was jaw dropping. This wasn’t some art house game. This was Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege! That is a very big deal!
The harsh reality in video games is that, at least in the past, it was tough to find a strong female protagonist in games. There were some. Don’t get me wrong. But, they were the exception. This year featured a veritable explosion of strong female characters. Even better – they were women designed with an aesthetic that wasn’t built to attract the male gaze. Read: They weren’t distorted Barbie dolls like the characters in Dead or Alive.
Sadly, most of the characters showcased are in games that will surely be rated M like Rise of the Tomb Raider, Fallout 4, and Dishonored 2. There is one ray of light though. Sony showed us a game called Horizon: Zero Dawn that featured a young woman named Aloy. The game has not, so far, shown much in the way of blood or gore so we can hope that it will be fine for older kids to play and/or watch.
The good news here is that when things succeed in mature games there is often a trickle down in the family market. Here’s hoping that happens quickly!
This year was awash with the return of fan favorite titles that have waited for a VERY long time since their last iteration. Shenmue is getting a sequel. The Last Guardian, long thought to be dead in the water, was shown again. Star Fox Zero is FINALLY bringing space combat back to Nintendo’s arsenal. Even Final Fantasy 7 is confirmed to be getting a fully remade version. Bethesda even brought back the venerable DOOM for a coming out party.
This was a week of long lost games coming home and I could not be more excited!
The Unavoidable Lows
People Cheering Horrific Violence
Ok. I want to get this out of the way here. I do NOT believe that violent media causes people to be violent. There have been countless studies proving that there is no causal link between violence in media and violent behavior.
We clear? Good.
The Bethesda Press conference was held on the Sunday night before E3 and it was, admittedly, amazing. They showed off Fallout 4, They released a brand new iOS game called Fallout Shelter (which is amazing). And, they finally showed us Doom 4 after teasing everyone with an ever-so-brief snippet of game footage.
Doom has always been a game built around extremes. It was violent to the extreme when it first came out to the point where there were petitions to ban it. The designers have taken that design aesthetic and carried it into the modern setting and used the power of modern consoles to deliver some seriously over the top violence. The attendees ate it up. There were cheers throughout the presentation and I have to say that it was unsettling.
Don’t get me wrong here. It looked great. It wasn’t good for kids, but it was never intended to be. But, it was just difficult to watch and listen to the cheers from the audience. It felt the same way a few years ago when people stood up and cheered when a man was shot at point blank range with a shot gun at the close of a demo for the Last of Us.
Samus Aran Was, Conspicuously, Absent
In a year where female protagonists seemed to be taking over the show it was odd that Nintendo, once again, made it through another E3 without bringing us another true Metroid game. They did show another game set in the Metroid universe in the form of Metroid Prime: Federation Force and while that was a fine appetizer, it did little to satiate fans that have been hungry for Samus’s return.
I admit that I was disappointed as well, but I have long since accepted that the next true Metroid game will likely be coming out alongside Nintendo’s next console in a few years.