Two weeks ago, a majority of The Escapist crew trucked off to Los Angeles for E3. We spent three days traipsing about the LA Convention Center and three nights popping about Downtown LA and West Hollywood … networking. And for those of you who may have missed it, we wrote all about it at .
But really, what is E3? From the official site: “E3 is the world’s premiere trade show for computer and video games and related products.” Hmmm. So, what is a trade show, exactly? According to the good people at [A href=”http://www.investorworlds.com”]investorwords.com[/a], a trade show is “an event at which goods and services in a specific industry are exhibited and demonstrated.”
This sounds pretty cool. One might glean from this that at the videogame and related products trade show, attendees would be able to get a clear idea of what the next wave of games, consoles and peripherals will be like. But then, we cannot forget the implication of two very important words in the definition of trade show: exhibited and demonstrated. These two words mean that the viewers (aka attendees) are by proxy passive participants in the whole event. Any stories we went there to find, scoops we hoped to get were closely guarded by the powers that be, while they showed us and told us exactly what they wanted us to see and hear.
This came home to me this year when I went to an invite only party with a demonstration of a game. An interstellar war was started in the demonstration of the game. It was fun. I was invited back by a member of the company’s PR team to see more of the game. Of course I went. An interstellar war was started in the same spot by a different demonstrator. Even though the whole process seemed to be rather spontaneous, the entire demonstration was scripted. I was speechless.
Later I thought back on the tidy little package presented at E3 by many (certainly not all companies). The one that’s scripted; the one about which you ask a question, and if it’s outside the parameters of what’s accepted, a side-step answer to dizzy even a politician is issued. Why is this? What has built this solid wall, manned by PR gurus, between gaming press and the developers/publishers of games and consoles?
I don’t think it’s the developers – have you ever asked a developer about the game they’ve been pouring their heart, soul and bank account into for months, even years? There’s this little smile that creeps up, you know, that one that makes you do the same. And that smile travels up into their eyes, tinged with just a bit of mischievousness. No, it’s not because they want to be limited.
So, I look at the other part of the equation, the press. With one ten minute presentation, developers must show what it has cost millions of dollars and years of people’s lives to create. And with one hastily written 300 word preview/review, the press can help make or break a game. It doesn’t seem fair.
This is not to say that we, as press, should not give our true impressions of a game, even if negative; we have a responsibility to our audience for that. But we also owe the developers fair and unbiased/bias disclosed coverage. And if we don’t give that, the package with which we are presented will likely be very controlled and scripted with the purpose of minimizing our biases, as they are now.
Hopefully this can change. Hopefully we can establish trusting relations wherein we can talk to developers about their games instead of doing the carefully choreographed song and dance which just makes everyone feel tired and just a little awkward.