I return from E3 2013 week
without the same kind of grossness that I felt last year. And it has me thinking a lot about why
I feel not just slime-free, but also pleasantly invigorated and perhaps more optimistic than ever about the future of video games.
Here are three "things" that aren't takeaways or tips or trends. These are just strings of thought that have to do with my experience at E3 2013 as editor-in-chief of Gamasutra.
"I hate cynicism. There's nothing that I hate more."
Over drinks and hors d'oeuvres, I spoke to game makers throughout the week, those from the upper echelons of the biggest publishers to small independent developers, and a certain theme came up over and over: They're tired of the cynicism about video games, particularly the cynicism from people who supposedly love video games.
As a journalist, an outsider standing there both partaking in and also listening in on these conversations, I sensed that some of this contempt for cynicism was aimed not only at the joyless snark from random game playing Twitter-ites, but also at the people in my profession who are outspoken in their criticism about the future of video games. Possibly even me personally, as I stood there with my Jack and Diet.
The conversation about cynicism came repeatedly, including once again near the end of the week, when a developer friend of mine said, "I hate cynicism. There's nothing I hate more."
These recurring conversations got me thinking about being highly critical versus being cynical. I hope that everyone understands the difference here: Ideally, when you're critical of something, you desire, expect -- hope -- that a certain situation improves. There's a certain underlying optimism acting as the foundation for even the most damning criticism.
Be critical -- eviscerate the topic at hand if that's what it takes. Be the curmudgeon or the grump or the thorn in the side of the target of your criticism. Do it through writing, through a drawing, through video game design. But do it because you expect, or hope, that what you're conveying will make things better. Otherwise, your words and actions just amount to some weird, often narcissistic thing
that exists only as your admission into the well-populated contest for The One Who Hates the Most Things. (Sign up now on www.twitter.com -- don't miss your chance to win!)
The succinctness of social media, and the way RTs and Likes and Shares act as the currency by which snark and negativity are valued, has sometimes made the entire world appear as though it just hates everything
. When one sees how everyone hates everything, how could that not grind into a pulp even the most optimistic people, transforming them into cynical pessimists who are inevitably ingested into the thoughtlessly negative internet hive mind?
Part of the reason I am writing this now is because I've felt at times that I was gliding down the sometimes slippery slope from criticism to cynicism. I think my editorial from last year's E3
showed me at that tipping point. I was hesitant in putting those words out there, because I felt that in a way it was me publicly divorcing myself from something whose future I cared about. But when I put myself out there, it resonated with a lot of people, both inside and outside of the industry. I had feared that it was a manifestation of some kind of irreversible cynicism in me, but in the end, I realized that my bluntly-communicated frustration exploded forth because I really do love video games. Maybe I was frustrated with myself because I couldn't give up on games. A lot of people seemed to feel the same way.
I know people who make video games who might, at times, self-categorize themselves as cynics. Perhaps they are in certain aspects of their lives. But creating video games gives them something that they can control and create. Creating a video game is the only respite from a world that they otherwise see as lost and hopeless. To the so-called cynics out there making video games -- sorry to spoil it for you, but you hold onto a chunk of hope; a hope that you can make something that makes the world a better place. And as long as you make video games that are honest and meaningful, you are making the world a better place for someone. Your games are the ones that help people through dire bouts of cynicism.
(And don't take this as a statement that I or anyone else on Gamasutra will avoid running highly-critical pieces. All kinds of stuff is still horrible and wrong! But I assure you, we are not cynics.)
A game developer does what [insert game platform] don't
My latent inner fanboy likes to see big corporate entities butt heads, but this "fight" narrative can obscure the stuff that really matters: namely the games and the talent behind them.
I know a guy who basically curated all of the most interesting games that appeared at the Xbox One conference. Talking to him a few times this week, did "always online" or "used games" ever naturally come up? Did he and I talk about Wii U's lagging sales, Microsoft's poor Xbox One messaging or PlayStation's PR victory? Nope -- while there's a time and place for that discussion, we didn't talk about platforms, but about video games. Mainly because they're just more interesting than shooting the shit about console wars. This Microsoft guy loves video games. Our conversations weren't about Microsoft, or franchises or genres or "indies" or "triple-A." This was the same as with pretty much every developer I spoke with in casual settings. The conversation was about video games and the people who make them. That's the way it should be.
, and the games the talent
makes are what serve as the foundation of a game platform. That theme seemed a bit more prominent this year, even with the big companies, both on the show floor and at the press conferences. Whether it was the ring of independent developers highlighted at the Sony conference, or "SWERY65" emblazoned on a trailer at Microsoft's conference, or the prominent indie space in Sony's massive booth, there seemed to be more more personality. The marketing behind many of the games felt less disingenuous than in years past.
Running alongside E3 was the wonderful Horizon
event at the Museum of Contemporary Art in L.A., which specialized in showcasing unique video games and their creators. It was a very back-to-roots event that was billed as an alternative to E3, but it ended up complementing it nicely. Some of the key developers at that showcase, like Media Molecule, Double Fine and Capy, were also present at E3 proper.
Of course, we've
known since the beginning that video games are only as interesting as the talent behind them. But it was nice to see on a world stage, companies large and small advocating more for the individual creators this year, and that resonated through the tedious din of product messaging. It's in the industry's best interest (and the media's) to let that continue.
A tiny guide to enjoying E3 2014 and beyond
Let go of your clique, loosen your deathgrip on your own tastes, just for a week. Talk to other creators who you usually don't talk to -- learn where their enthusiasm comes from, and what inspires them. Let down your guard, and allow their enthusiasm to infect you; let your enthusiasm infect them.