A Summary of E3 Press Conferences, Or How I’m Not That Excited About Anything

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Perhaps it’s age getting to me, or perhaps something else entirely, but I am entirely un-phased by the majority of new game announcements. I think this functions specifically in the case of new system announcements, which always make me angry, bored, and not that happy that I need to spend additional money in the future.

For context: last system generation, my first “next gen” purchase came from Microsoft’s camp with the Xbox 360. I wanted desperately to play Gears of War (and maybe Halo 3, but I didn’t even buy that one for my household), and did I ever get my money’s worth…in 2007. So yes, you could call me one of those people who wait and see. I am not an early adopter by nature, simply as a smart consumer decision. Examine what games come out first, and plan accordingly. It shouldn’t surprise you, then, that I got my hands on a Wii in early 2008, followed by a PS3 (the shiny 40GB model without backwards compatibility, unfortunately) within a few months.

A lot of money? Maybe. But I got a price drop on all of them, so I ended up incredibly lucky. Since then, I’ve rarely spent full price on a game (translation: anything by PlatinumGames), and even found myself with huge game lots on my hands. Many games fall into my lap for single digits, and even some obscure finds that I’ve had tons of fun just playing for a bit. I’m no longer a “triple AAA” game guy, as I recently discovered. Most of my games come from Japanese developers, and I find very little interest in Western FPS #3937. Brown, grey, and green turned into tired colors long ago, circa 2009 or so.

Color me surprised when most of the games in E3’s press conferences followed one of two patterns: 1. The aforementioned FPS games or 2. Established/proven franchise/formula propped up for yet another sequel to allay the concerns of the masses. You throw a few realistic racing games (another Project Gotham, another Gran Turismo) and this sounds INCREDIBLY similar to the E3s of the mid 00s’. It’s almost uncanny at times, and although developer switched around and we spot a new developer here and there, it’s all mostly the same. Even David Cage’s game Heavy Rain emerged as a tech demo about the realism of games (like movies, you see!), and Beyond: Two Souls looks to hold to the trend. These companies should record themselves every once and a while.

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Hey, it’s Destiny! Bungie’s revolutionary new “shooting things and people” game!

However, and here’s the real rub of it, video gamers suddenly transform into rabid animals over the whole affair. Information trickles to the masses through livestreams, live tweetings, recorded messages, typed summaries or whatever. Videos crop up all over the Internet, people get HYPE, and what seemed a rational analysis of the upcoming video game release schedule turns into a frenzy of narcissists complaining that something didn’t get announced. They also start declaring system loyalties almost immediately; I never quite understood the concept of system wars, but I’ll be darned if I start now with this foolishness.

A lot of THAT came from Xbox One’s newly discovered “oppressive DRM” and inability to freely share games. Yes, a company wants to make money off you and make sure you’re not pirating their products. Copying Blizzard and Valve’s business model sounds like a dumb idea until you see it in practice. Microsoft will make money through a diversity of properties. Sony took their marketing campaign directly against them become this, in fact, is exactly what they can sell. They’re not lacking for killer software, but portraying their competitor as evil (who, again, is trying to make money) struck me as a brilliantly blow.

But Sony’s got their own issues, not withstanding a required Playstation Plus subscription for online play; for God’s sake, they just gave you what you already had, and you’re cheering because of comparisons to something worse? This makes little sense to me! This isn’t enough to make one plop down four hundred USD or more on a console propped up by pre-rendered trailers. That’s not a smart investment by any stretch, unless I MUST HAVE NOW and your insatiable desire suddenly takes precedence. “It’s OK, this is my hobby”, says the unaware. That doesn’t make it smart. You took a side without knowing the game behind the games.

Nintendo, on the other hand, played it mostly straight as if their competitors didn’t even exist. They already burst into the market, killed Sony’s burgeoning Vita at retail (after a price drop, but an effective one), and they’re raring to drop the price this holiday season to sweep the rug from their competition. Nintendo stuck to their guns and continues to speak directly to their consumers like – gasp – they own the products. Nintendo’s marketing and nostalgic grip produces a relationship from producer to consumer that endears them to anyone; Nintendo Direct works as a next step to that end. I imagine Nintendo, whatever place it ends up, will win by cheaper hardware costs alone. Seriously, it’s half the price of the Xbox One, and anyone could get behind that for an HD enabled online console, right? I’ll probably get one, even.

Not that I placed any dogs into this particular race or anything, but I made a calculation and, for now, that appears the best bet. Not that Bayonetta 2 isn’t swaying my decision, but I will buy what I will use, and not the promises of false hopes, well-wishers, and marketers who tell me what to want. I know what I want; I’ve played those games, and narrowing your tastes down to the essentials made this clear for me. Humble Bundles and Steam Sales also contribute heavily in such decisions.

So, the point of all this rambling is to make one definitive point: in all cases, the game makers want your money. They want to make your decision seem like a sort of ultimatum, a declaration of allegiance, and possibly a life-changing decision for the next however-many-years until the next console generation – if there IS one. All this disguises the root of the problem: us. We love stuff, quite frankly, and stuff is awesome, but stuff in moderation and in quantities that normal people could, in their lifetimes, consume seems a much finer alternative. We’re constantly bombarded with this information about NEW things; take a step back and moderate. Game companies want to pit you against each other, have you debate about it on the Internet, and generally TALK about E3 stuff constantly to make money. It’s intentionally causing strife, after all, that brings out the most reactions and the most money. ! Timothy shows us that this even happens in churches:

3 If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, 4 he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions,5 and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. 6 But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. 7 For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. 8 If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. 9 But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

Keep vigilant watch, and don’t let your own desires get in the way and so focused on the future. Focus on the here and the now: will this be worth a purchase? Am I buying just to buy? Early adopters or beta tests, it’s almost the same thing. I do not want that experience.

About Zachery Oliver

Zachery Oliver, MTS, is the lead writer for Theology Gaming, a blog focused on the integration of games and theological issues. He can be reached at viewtifulzfo at gmail dot com or on Theology Gaming’s Facebook Page.