This week on Extra Punctuation, Yahtzee admits that he actually misses E3, compared to what we have as an alternative at least.
Extra Punctuation Transcript
So no E3 this year. Just as there was no E3 last year or the year before that because of that millions-strong deadly global pandemic thing that people got weird about for some reason. There might be one next year apparently but who knows what form it’ll take. Could end up being digital only or just end up as a get together in a Holiday Inn. And this is going to sound weird coming from me, but I miss it. I miss E3. Or at the very least I think I preferred it to the ramshackle not-E3 thing we seem to have now when the big boys just put out livestreams of all the trailers for new games you’ll be able to play this year, and by this year we mean after four or five years of delays.
It’s easy to talk shit about E3. I know, because I’ve done it so much over the years. I think most people didn’t see much difference between E3 times then and the pseudo-E3 times of our present hell, for the people at home it was always nothing more than a new raft of trailers on Youtube and lots of nerds getting overexcited. That was certainly my perception of it before 2019. Whenever it was time to do my E3 ZP I’d just look for a nice dry itemised list of everything that was announced and go watch all the trailers back to back. I couldn’t stomach watching any of the presentations to hear a load of wiffle from nervous developers, out of place celebrities and suits with the beaming confidence of total psychopaths. It felt like it was all just a big shower cam session for the big publishers to come on and soap up their genitals right in our faces.
But my attitude changed in 2019. For the simple reason that that was the first time I attended E3 in person. And I was expecting the worst. Knowing I would finally be at ground zero of the usual hype blast-a-thon, I assumed it was going to be an exhausting pain in the arse. I was warned ahead of time by my colleagues that it was probably going to be an exhausting pain in the arse. And when the first day came and I met up with the rest of the crew on the ground we all commiserated each other on what an exhausting pain in the arse we were in for. And you know what, viewers? It was an exhausting pain in the arse.
You were probably expecting the word “but” there, weren’t you. No, no buts. Except in the sense that “butt” is another word for “arse,” which it was a pain in. We all had to get up early and then spend the whole day running from one scheduled demo or interview to the next. Then we’d get back to the two bedroom AirBnB that about six of us were sharing and edit footage long into the night. Well, the other guys did. I was the talent, so I got a room to myself and I’d just go to bed after dinner. But I was the one who had to be on camera the next day adlibbing reports on all the shit we looked at while looking vaguely alert, so it balances out, really.
Here’s the thing, though: it was an exhausting pain in the arse for us, but it was an exhausting pain in the arse for everyone else, too. I’d always thought of E3 as something that existed solely for the publishers’ benefit. Where Sony and Microsoft and EA and Ubisoft and all the rest come out, lather up their gonads, gleefully mislead the public about their impending cum spurts and giggle at all us media types being forced to take an interest in their bullshit. But as we drifted through the numerous hands-off demonstrations where some poor bugger acted out the same exhaustively tweaked sequence of actions that he’d done two hundred times already that day and tormented them with asshole questions about why everything needs to be so magenta these days, I realised this was as much an obligation for them as it was for us.
In fact, the publishers probably thought of E3 as something that existed for our, the media’s, benefit. We’d sit there on our spotty behinds and command them to come out and cavort for our pleasure. Bitching about them if their efforts don’t sufficiently amuse. There’s a reason why Nintendo stopped showing up to do an on stage presentation and Sony seemed to be following suit in 2019 – they would much prefer to stay home and just do the prerecorded announcement stream thing, because then they have all the power. They can broadcast carefully edited footage from their home turf at their own leisure and don’t have to risk heckles from smarmy twats.
E3 was an equalizer. All the publishers had to come out to neutral ground at this specific place and this specific time and they’d bloody well better have something to show for themselves or everyone will think they’re dicks. That meant relinquishing a certain amount of control. Their tech might fuck up at their live presentation. All the journalists will be there playing the demos they’re trying to hype up and might realize they’re a load of old tosh. Plus they had to do it alongside all the other big lads. It was a competition. The media were going to unofficially declare one of them the winner, so infighting could be stoked. You’d get those wonderful moments like when Microsoft showcased the Xbox One and how it would only work if you kept it online 24-7 and let it send pictures of your family to the FBI and how you could swap games with your friends with all the ease with which one emigrates to the US from a middle Eastern country, and then Sony came out and dunked all over their big fat consumer hate machine. It wasn’t just big nobs announcing stuff – it was a conversation. A big melting pot of obligation and resentment.
So if it was a pain in the arse for journalists and exhibitors alike, why do I miss E3? Well, put it like this: do you still go to Thanksgiving dinner with your family? Even though you’ll have to drive all that way and having to bring a dish means extra work and you’ll have to listen to racist aunt Dottie explain why the coloured person behind the meat counter at Whole Foods embodies everything that is wrong with modern society, and absolutely everyone would much rather stay home and order in pizza but assume they have to go to appease everyone else who are all thinking the exact same thing? That’s what E3 was. It was a tradition. And traditions are what bring us together as a community. A time for all of us, asshole journalists and asshole publishers alike, to get together and bond over the shared experience of enduring a huge pain in the arse.
I mean, at our last appointment on our last day at E3 2019, we didn’t even talk about the game much. We just sat down with the exhibitors and chatted about how relieved we all were that it was finally over. And that’s why I look back on my one E3 attendance with nostalgia, exhausting pain in the arse though it was at the time. And that’s my admittedly very selfish reason for wanting it to come back. Because I want to hang out with some pals again and be in a social situation where I can talk in depth about the one subject I know a lot about and not get shunned as a weirdo.
Still, there’s one mystery around E3 that I couldn’t find an answer to in 2019, and that’s why the fuck anyone would want to go there if it wasn’t their job to go there. ‘Cos the experience for non-media attendees as far as I could tell largely consisted of accumulating a lot of branded plastic bags and waiting in line for four hours to play ten minutes of the new Resident Evil. You might very justifiably call someone who wants to do that a weirdo. Personally I call them “late for the bus.”