Introduction: E3 2021 Mostly Sucked
There was a time where E3 was the biggest, most anticipated video game expo. Gamers who attended the conferences or watched them online would eagerly wait for the bombshell announcements and new gameplay footage. Unfortunately, that is not what E3 has been over the past few years. What used to be a de facto holiday in celebration of video games transformed into an empty husk of commercialism.
This year's E3 is the worst I've ever seen and I totally regret wasting my time watching some of the publishers' conferences. Long story short, E3 basically pulled an Oscars (more on that event here). Not only did the vast majority of publishers forgo catering to their audiences, but some even just straight out not focus on video games. And for the cherry on top, some of the mainstream gaming media shamed the consumers for the backlash.
One thing that really stood out to me was either how super-corporate or cringey the showcases were. Ubisoft's conference landed in the former. Its show came off as if the company was trying to fill up a quota. Don't get me wrong. Some of the games like Rainbow Six Siege: Outbreak and Mario + Rabbids Spark of Hope looked really good (mainly because they showed actual gameplay). However, other games like the Avatar video game fell flat. For Avatar, it was because it was just a CG trailer. For Far Cry 6, if you've played any of the previous games, you've played them all. And where is Splinter Cell? Where is Rayman?
And then, we have the cringey moments. For instance, Square Enix spent way too much time on the Guardians of the Galaxy video game and the humor came off too try-hard. Gearbox's showcase was even worse. How do you spend an entire conference without announcing anything new? On top of that, the beginning focused on hyping up the Borderlands movie. Sorry, but a movie adaptation of a video game series doesn't belong in E3.
"Let's Focus on Non-Video Game Topics in a Video Game Event!"
To give the other publishers credit, at least they (somewhat) focused on video games. Take Two Interactive, on the other hand, had other ideas:
Look at the like-to-dislike ratio at 1:21.
I can already hear the "So you're saying you're against diversity" and "So you don't want video games to be inclusive?" strawmen. For those folks, here's something mindblowing: a video game event should showcase video games. Stuff like "inclusion", "equity", and "diversity" (which mean little nowadays) have little to do with them.
The video game industry is meritocratic. When consumers watch E3 or any other major gaming event, they think "What new games will be announced?" or "Did [insert publisher] show enough to justify buying [insert title]?". Gamers care whether the games will be good or not. If a game is fantastic and happens to be developed by a diverse group, then more power to that studio. However, at the end of the day, quality is what will drive sales whereas "inclusion" and "diversity" will not.
Oh, and there was also this...
What do drag queens have to do with video games...?
The Mainstream Gaming Media Blames the Gamers
In the aftermath of the E3 showcases, some of the mainstream gaming media decided to chastise the consumers rather than criticizing the publishers. Take "journalist" Nathan Grayson wrote a piece on Kotaku criticizing the respondents on livechats.
The first thing that jumps off his article is the obvious slant (here's my writeup on an example of slant), only referencing perspectives of one side of the conversation. After that, the author makes a mountain out of a molehill from the internet trolling. Undoubtedly, there were some comments that were mean-spirited or over-the-line. However, Grayson does not once ponder on why many of the E3 showcases received a lot of negative feedback.
Internet trolling and mean comments are inevitable. Not saying it is okay, but it comes with the territory. You can, however, affect the frequency of the trolling and mean comments. How you do that? Well, how about... you know... talk about video games and show kickass gameplay? Is that so much to ask? Lastly, despite Grayson's disdain against gamers, those "-ists" and "-phobes" are the ones who will ultimately open or close their wallets.
Not All Hope Was Lost: Microsoft and Nintendo Save the Day(s)
While much of E3 was a disappointment, publishers like Microsoft and Nintendo stepped up and delivered.
I came out very impressed with Microsoft's showcase. Dating way back to the early Xbox One days, its past E3 conferences have been disappointing. A few of them ended up aging poorly with games like the Phantom Dust reboot and Scalebound eventually getting cancelled, and Crackdown 3 getting repeatedly delayed only to release in a poor state. However, this time, I did not see a Microsoft that over-promised and over-hyped.
For the most part, Microsoft did a good job showing off gameplay instead of airing hype-bait CG trailers. The latest gameplay footage of Halo Infinite looks leaps and bounds better than the infamous "Craig" footage from last year. Forza Horizon 5 looks incredibly stunning and a whole lot of fun.
Nintendo's Direct was not too shabby either. While it was far from being the best Direct, there were plenty of new announcements. Monkey Super Ball Banana Mania was a pleasant surprise as I had a bunch of fun with the series back in the Gamecube days. The Advance Wars games were really good back in the day and now, we're getting a reboot of the first two games. The new announcement that hyped me up the most, however, was Metroid Dread (thumbnail). From the brief gameplay footage, the animations and framerate looked very fluid and the level design look pretty well-structured, too.
Nintendo also showed some gameplay of Shin Megami Tensei V and a new trailer for Breath of the Wild 2.
Closing Thoughts: Video Game Events Should Focus on Video Games
The subtitle above should be self-explanatory. E3 (and other major events) is supposed to be about new game announcements, new developments of already-announced games, and release dates. Show more gameplay and avoid just showing CG trailers that are not representative of the final product. Any non-video game related stuff should be left out. Plus, publishers can just upload separate videos about "diversity" and "inclusion" on their own YouTube channels.