E3 is over! The madness relents! The real journos are crawling bleary eyed to their plane seats, strapping themselves in for fifteen hours chained to the inside of a sweat tube, before stumbling straight to their desks to be beaten at 8 minute intervals by the spiked baseball bat of jetlag and general existential dysphoria. Probably. I still want to go one day though. It sounds fun.
Each year E3 cannonballs its way onto our screens and into our lives, pummeling us with non-stop gaming updates for a showerless three day stint, as each developer and publisher frantically tries to elbow the other’s ribs into non-existence. 2018, friends, is no departure, and as in previous years we’ve seen surprises, fads, disappointments and delights. But one thing occurred to me a little more obstinately than in previous years. Is this industry, could this industry be… growing up?
It’s a difficult thing to measure, especially when our exposure to ‘it’ is limited to the occasional breaking scandal, and intermittent glimmers buried in hard-rehearsed keynote speeches at a variety of conferences throughout the year. And maybe it’s just how often the few remaining people of sanity among our number feel utterly overwhelmed by the bile and the hatred and madness (especially if you’ve spent longer than 12 seconds browsing Twitter in any given 24 hour period), and as a result, any slight comments, even from big corporations, that drift vaguely in the direction of progression and empathy and inclusivity, seem like colossal gulps of fresh air.
Modern game devs have a tough line to tow, especially if they have any sort of moral compass themselves. These days if you accidentally show that you’re not a racist bigot in your new game, the community will tear your fucking limbs off in anger. If you actively try to pursue the angle of not being ancient, screaming, backwards vermin in your latest release, well, you’ve ‘ruined gaming by inserting your sjw politics’ into it. I type this now ruminating on whether being sick in the nearest bucket will finally rid me of these incessant industry aspirations I have.
Anyway. In almost every keynote this year, we saw some declaration of defiance toward those right wing ideals, and for the most part, it was heart warming and comforting and unduly surprising.
It’s always important to take these things with a pinch of salt, and perhaps you could say there’s an increased pressure on developers and publishers to come out and speak against the will of a (very vocal) subsection of their audience, because they are so wrong. Either way, cynicism aside, there were some special moments during E3 2018 that really spoke to my pre-2014/pre-GamerGate preconception of the gaming community. Progressive, inclusive, welcoming, and creative. I was such a sweet summer child back then.
During the EA Play event that took place on the Saturday, the first of the big keynotes, Electronic Arts CEO Andrew Wilson announced, with slightly undignifying gravitas, that EA would donate $1 million dollars to anti-bullying groups United Nations HeForShe, PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Centerm, and Ditch the Label.
EA also dished out access to a load of their games for free until 18th June (yes, yesterday) as a thank you to the audience who played during their charity focused events. It feels almost wrong to say it but, hey, good work EA. For a company plagued just this past 12 months with immoral monetisation techniques, and of course the most downvoted comment in Reddit history, this is something of a positive movement. Let’s just inject it right into the core philosophy of the games themselves as well eh.
Sony’s headline for their keynote was of course the astonishing looking The Last Of Us II, and they kicked the whole thing off with a wonderfully cinematic, emotional tussle that saw Ellie’s sexuality brought thundering into the spotlight. It’s something that was heavily alluded to in the standalone DLC Left Behind, that explored Ellie’s relationship with her friend Riley, and when that kiss happens in the TLOU II trail, it’s a soaring, poignant moment packed full of emphasis.
Naughty Dog’s considered, thought-provoking approach to handling and exploring the human and interpersonal aspect of an world and a small society torn apart by an apocalypse, that more than once gnawed on our heart strings in the first game, will undoubtedly be the driving force of The Last Of Us II, and it’s a beautiful thing to see them lead with diversity and representation on gaming’s premier stage this year.
You know when publishers make the effort to bring their E3 presser a little closer to home; a touch of comedy, a subversive reveal presentation, an air of light-hearted playfulness, one of these ‘gamers’ they have now on stage demonstrating the new IP? And, you know how it’s always absolute cringe-inducing skin-raking garbage that makes you want to put all your consoles, games and yourself in the bin? Yeah? Well Bethesda finally worked the formula out this year.
Employing the services of new comedy duo Key and Howard; Keegan Michael Key lead the proceedings with a five-star skit on an Alexa-based version of Skyrim, while The Director himself Todd Howard covered off every Bethesda trope the internet could come up with over the last few years, in what was quite possibly the most self-aware keynote I have ever seen.
It was Wolfenstein’s show and tell that really helped Bethesda up onto that platform of defiant integrity. Not only did they announce Youngblood, a new co-op centric game that stars the main character’s two daughters, they also wheeled out Wolfenstein Cyberpilot, a VR experience, and a release date for Wolfenstein II on Switch, invigorating their mission to, and I quote, ‘bring the message of ‘fuck Nazis’ to every platform possible’.
Reading the Twitter replies to most Wolfenstein posts is a depressing sort of affair that typically has me plugging the toaster in just in reach of the nearest bathtub, so it is glorious to see the developers refusing to fold to the outrageous accusations and demands of actual genuine Nazi sympathizers. In 2018. Who come out loud and proud response to a video game…
It’s been a weird few years hasn’t it.
I started writing this out a couple of days ago, and since then this beautiful sentiment has been brought to my attention. I need not bother with introductions as they are all taken of:
The most cringeworthy aspect of all this shit is the ridiculous narrative that game developers are all held to ransom by the oppressive choke hold of the “SJW agenda”.
Truth: We actually WANT to make good games, inclusive games, games that disregard your toxic gamerbro bullshit.
— Boon Cotter (@booncotter) June 16, 2018
Well said Boon, and there was a general, refreshing air of shaking off that very chokehold at E3 this year, albeit in the minutae way it can really, meaningfully manage.
It’s tiring, enduring the ceaseless tirade of, as Boon puts it, the gamerbros. SJW this, and feminazi that… If you seriously use the term ‘SJW’, and expect to be take seriously as a serious person, may I heartily recommend you instead grab a mirror and take a good long gaze at what absolute basic scum looks like. And then boot yourself into the sun. You’ve absolutely binned it, this whole being a good person thing. You’ve had a mare. And above all, you’re black and white on the wrong side of this petulant, cowardly argument.
So there it is.
Has the industry matured? Was the industry ever really not mature, but merely trying to adapt to what seems like an overwhelmingly right wing consumer base? Or has nothing really changed, and E3 is just a capitalist parade with only one message: ‘BUY OUR STUFF!’. Drop a comment here or over on the Respawn Facebook and let me know!