By now, unless you’ve been cooped up in a far off Travelodge receiving all manner of carnal acts from an exquisitely talented Russian prostitute, you’ll have been aware of E3 and all it’s colourful drapery. You’ll have watched former basement dwellers and sleazy 80’s business types shuffle onto the stage in ill-fitting suits and deliver their wares to a crowd, pregnant with anticipation. You’ll have seen a lot of flashing images, some of which you could’ve controlled at a later date using your trembling digits. You’ll have even seen porn from the future.
Then you all went home, posted a few social media updates, and went “Meh”.
Now, my wrath for the term “meh” notwithstanding, it is an unfortunate but nonetheless high-fidelity descriptor of the general responses given by the gaming “elite” to what E3 had to offer. This troubled me for a few reasons.
I remember sprinting into Toys R’ Us one Good Friday in 1999 to play the latest Legend Of Zelda game. I remember the fervour leading up to its release, and the pure liquid joy I got from actually playing it. In more recent memory I remember just how excited I became when I got my hands on Arkham Origins. How, even three games in, I was transfixed for a solid 3 days straight, much to the chagrin of my ex-girlfriend’s housemates (whose console I was playing it on). I’ve mentioned on another site how that game made me cry and how in general games still elicit an emotional response from me; I’m pumped as all hell over that Spiderman trailer, for sure. The point is I remember the hype, and the fulfilment of said hype in the run up to a game and its release. What I see now happening, however, is the opposite.
It has been posited that we as a generation are the most sophisticated media consumers the market has ever experienced (my hometown being the bumbling hick exception to the rule). This has concordantly lead to a smarter method of advertising (look! Boobs!), programming (look! People in a house!), and online content (look! People with their boobs out in a house!) . We are a generation that allegedly understands the common tropes and signifiers of modern media, meaning that we quickly become bored or confused when these tropes aren’t being messed around with. Unless of course it’s about women, but that’s an article for another time.
This has never been more obvious than in the gaming world. Even your archetypal Redbull Chugging, Cheeky Nando’s Dude McBro will comment on the latest COD’s graphical output. Hell, I even heard a chav on a bus discuss lag and framerate drop out the other day. Granted, it was about FIFA, but I nearly spat coffee all over an unsuspecting toddler. But I digress.What this means is we have a generation of people between the ages of 14 to 40-ish that feel as though they’ve seen it all. That The Simpsons did it first, as it were. This has led to a worrying apathy amongst videogame players and commenters alike. For example a lovely trailer from Ubisoft enters the fray and all we do now is demand a look at the gift horse’s proverbial because it’s known behaviour that Ubisoft’s games in relation to their trailers are sort of like your first handjob/fingerblast; Great to look at initially, but painful and potentially bloody upon execution.
In addition to the fact that it’s cool to be apathetic in 2016 or be utterly obsessed with how outraged you are, videogames are being dissected at an almost molecular level, right down to who’s making them, where they’re making them, the type of engines being used and what content doesn’t make the initial release. And the outcry of “Meh” is the one that’s being heard the loudest, usually preceding or shadowing a one sentence explanation utterly vapid in its conviction:
“They’re pushing back release cos’ it’s buggy as fuck.”
“They’re developing the VR for it too much.”
“They can’t even get it to run 4k.”
I’m not saying that the dev teams and production houses are completely blameless here. With shoddy releases that are unfinished, mountains of paid DLC, and unimaginative sequels it is totally justifiable on some level as to why the current generation would be jaded. I deliberately missed EA’s conference coverage because of their bullshittery of the past- yes, I am part of the problem… Occasionally. It’s totally justifiable to be wary of teams that have performed misdemeanours in the past. And I completely understand why you’d be annoyed of the endless remastering trend, or the pay-to-win model, or anything to do with League of Fucking Legends, but at some point we have to take a moment to ask two important questions:
“Who is this for?”
“What is this for?”
What we seem to have forgotten is that we as an audience, whatever particular demographic we belong to, aren’t the be-all and end-all of the industry. Anything to do with videogames outside of your mate Dean’s JRPG made on Flash has an end goal of making money for the person or people who put time into making the game. This is initially due to their petty desire to not starve whilst making the sequel. This means that a game, regardless of its PEGI rating, will be made with usually multiple demographics in mind. It’s good to have this ambition and typically it drives the creators to make engaging and entertaining content. We as consumers don’t have to take this into account, but have of late focused on any behind the scenes negativity to shitcan a game before it’s even come out. It’s one of the many reasons Noobgrind was plucked from the Ether and given form; we wanted to try and give an unbiased look at videogames and the culture surrounding it. S’why I’m calling all you nerds out today. Videogames are literally for everyone, despite how that makes you feel.
The second thing we have forgotten is the reason Videogames exist in the first place. We’re so busy deconstructing (ironically or otherwise) trailers, gameplay, and camera angles that there leaves little room for joy. And let’s be honest, looking at anything under the electron microscope of over-critical analysis means we get so caught up in the finer details that we have completely lost sight of what videogames are for. What’s your best gaming moment? What’s your favourite game? What were you doing, outside of playing the game, during that moment? You don’t remember, do you. What Videogames are is simply this: Escapism.
That’s the point. Yes they’re art. Yes, we absolutely as a community must continue to call out bullshit and establish an ever-present dialogue about every aspect of the industry. But what we categorically cannot forget is that gaming gives you control. Sometimes in situations fantastic in origin, sometimes more realistically (again, there’s VR porn, guys, for reals!), but we get to forget about whatever the fuck is going on in our lives for a few hours, and become someone, or something else, doing incredible things, in beautiful settings, across entire universes.
Next time you’re in Skyrim, stop and take in the view. When you’re killstreaking in COD, remember how angry you were before you picked up the controller and hold onto that elation you’re feeling now. Remember how happy you were the first time you got an extra life in Mario or Sonic. And most importantly, instead of shitcanning a game before its inception, remember that gaming in its myriad forms will always be there for when life gets a little bit rough. It’s a door to not feeling like a minority, or an outcast. It probably brought you in contact with the people you’re moaning about games to in the first place. Just think about what gaming has gifted you over X amount of years next time you feel like joining the horde, and maybe leave the pitchfork at home this time.
And for god sake, give your SNES a hug. It misses you.
You can find Mike patiently waiting for No Man’s Sky on Twitter @The_Dark_Mike, or follow NoobGrind at @Noobgrind.