Post E3 Thoughts: Get Off Of My Lawn
There are times that I’ve started to feel old lately. Last week I yawned and pulled a muscle, something I don’t remember ever doing when I was in my teens and twenties. At least I don’t remember ever injuring myself while in the act of yawning before. My eyesight is also going to hell, thanks to staring at screens and monitors for years, and I got my first gray testicle hair. I’m telling you, once I saw that silver colored bastard, I could feel the Grim Reaper breathing on the back of my neck. Talking to family and friends older than myself, it sounds like these are only the first stages of the terminal condition that is life.
Still, aside from noticing the occasional physical change, I don’t feel any older mentally than I did five or ten years ago. I think pop music now sucks, but I thought pop music back then sucked too. My interests lie in books, movies and video games, and those first two hobbies don’t typically change all that much over time, aside from the medium they’re delivered in. Video games have adapted to constantly changing technology, and I’ve mostly welcomed those changes, as they’ve provided more opportunities for developers to enhance the scope and ideas of the games they create.
But man, E3 this year made me feel old. Hearing the constant repetition of PR terms like Free-To-Play, episodic, the cloud, social features, video sharing, etc. Both Sony and MS showed me games where I can create my own games, which I don’t want to do. Of course, one of the biggest bombshells was Microsoft stating that they’ll require a 24 hour online check, and all the nonsense behind used games behind that. Plus that the Kinect camera is now mandatory.
Different forums on the internet blew up with the news coming out of E3, some in righteous anger at Microsoft for moving some of the past usage and First Sale rights consumers have had previously into the currently gray area of digital distribution. Some applauded Sony’s efforts at maintaining the status quo, though it’s unknown what the publishers may decide to do on the system. I didn’t feel angry like many others, I just felt old. Marketing of video games used to be directed at a demographic I was a part of, and this was the first time it really hit me that I’m no longer part of that demographic.
I don’t just mean the marketing messages from Sony and Microsoft, I mean from nearly every company at E3. Capcom is removing time restrictions from Dead Rising 3, making it more serious and aiming it at a wider audience. Killer Instinct, a game I played in arcades when I was a kid (and when arcades were a thing) is now going to be a Free-To-Play game with one character unlocked from the start. Metal Gear V will be an open world sandbox game (okay that does sound kind of cool). RYSE is going to focus on Quick Time Events. The Division and The Crew are persistent world games, meaning that there’s no real single player element in the traditional sense.
I don’t mean to say that there’s anything wrong with the direction of these games, only that aside from curiosity about how Metal Gear would work in an open world, I’m just not sure how any of what’s mentioned is supposed to make the games more enjoyable to play. Thing is, my opinion doesn’t matter. While I remember 56k modems, WebCrawler and Netscape Navigator, the teen to early twenty audiences, with more disposable income than your average 30 year old with a mortgage, doesn’t remember those dark, early world wide web days or the days of no internet. They’ve been using the internet for a significant portion of their lives, and instead of spending time in an arcade they’ve had access and exposure to hundreds of Free-To-Play games (both are kind of scams to get you to keep spending more money). This E3 was marketing towards that demographic, and it was the first time it was very obvious to me that I’m not a part of their target market anymore. Because I’m old, and I’ve got the gray ball hair to prove it.
It wasn’t until Nintendo did their Nintendo Direct broadcast that I felt like I was being courted by a company to buy their products. Big N didn’t do anything fancy, they just showed game after game of popular franchises that I’m familiar with and enjoy. They didn’t say Mario Kart 8 would be Free-To-Play, or that Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD would be episodic, or that the next Donkey Kong Country would be cinematic and filled with QTEs. They just announced a line up of excellent sounding games that would work by just placing the disk or cartridge in the system and starting the game up. No complex usage structure, DLC plans or otherwise. The fact that their E3 video wasn’t filled with buzzwords or bullshit that was filling the halls of E3 last week put a smile on my face.
In other years, I would’ve criticized Nintendo for playing it safe, lacking 3rd party exclusives, or not doing enough to advance their franchises. This year, I’m just satisfied that there was one company making and releasing games that didn’t care about connecting to my social media or wanting to find a sneaky way of wringing an extra dollar out of my pocket.
That’s what I got out of E3 this year. Maybe Nintendo will change and start following their competitors footsteps in the direction they’re heading in. It’s possible that I’m in the minority of people who purchase video games, who would rather developers focus on new mechanics that aren’t dependent on social or online interactions, world building and better storytelling. Hell, I might just be too old for this shit anymore.
For the time being, I’m going to just be pickier about what electronic entertainment choices to spend my disposable income on, and if one of the video game companies send me an email telling me about their latest visceral cinematic shooter that’s free* (with microtransactions), I’ll just hit reply and tell them to get the fuck off of my lawn.