Coin-OpEd: E3, or Electronic Entertainment Exasperation

The 2011 Electronic Entertainment Expo has come and gone, and I can't help but feel that none of the big players wanted to be there.

by

One week ago today, I staggered onto a Southwest flight headed to Oakland, having just spent a grueling week in LA covering the 2011 Electronic Entertainment Expo. I took a seat near the back, along the aisle, because I was sick and hung over and felt a star-flecked stumble to the bathroom could be in my future.

As the time until takeoff approached zero, the seat between me and a taciturn old man remained empty, and I thought to myself, "Wow, I'm actually going to catch a break. Please, 47 sweet sweet airborne minutes of serenity, come to me!" Serenity is an uncooperative jerk, as we all know, and what came instead was a 20-year-old socialite, who plunked down next to me, managing in the process to splay her bag across my lap.

As the few final minutes before takeoff ticked away, she phoned a friend, and I listened in as she explained how infuriating it was to be heading up to Napa Valley for the weekend with a friend. Just one friend, I should emphasize. Others who had promised to also come up had unexpectedly backed out, leaving her and this mysterious loathsome creature alone to share a big empty house in Napa. If she'd known in advance, she wouldn't have bothered with Napa…

A flight attendant walked by and asked the socialite to power down her phone. She smiled her reply, "Of course I will, dear."

…she'd have just gone to New York or Chicago. In the end, though, it was probably for the best, because it would have ruined her diet to hang out with a certain gentleman caller who doubled as an excellent chef. At 5' 5" and what the hell do I know, say, 120 pounds, she was on a diet. I'm not making this up; these words actually came out of her mouth.

My aeroplane looked a bit like this.

As the plane began to roll, she ended her call and noticed for the first time that her gaudy-yet-somehow-fashionable sack of a purse covered basically all of my left leg. Another plaintive smile. "Sorry, of course I'm sorry," she said, and indicated that an "Oh, no big deal" wouldn't be necessary on my part by flipping open a copy of US Weekly.

As I sat and brooded and thought to myself, "Holy Jesus, this chick needs to live life for a day on a journalist's salary," I realized that her affluence and condescending politeness reminded me of E3 and the neurotically narcissistic gaming companies that populated it.

Truth be told, my E3 experience consisted of little more than sitting in a Plexiglas cage, being photographed like an animal while pouring over press releases and media briefing videos. I played, literally, a single game while down there: Dynasty Warriors on the PlayStation Vita. My exclusive hands-on impressions: Arthritics need not apply. Kind of fun. 7 point 0.

Toward the end of the show, when my options were to either write about Konami's BurgerTime World Tour or take a stand against muscular atrophy, I chose the latter. (Fine, I technically did both. Now would you please just be quiet and listen to my story?)

I won't attempt to describe what I saw from within the booths when you all would be better served by watching our video team's extensive booth-tour coverage. However, I will talk about the spaces in between the booths. Corridors, I should say. Canyons, perhaps. Vast and mighty crevices. No, no, crevasses! OK, I'll stop. (Coulees!!)

As you all may have noticed, publishers erected massive structures to house the games they brought to E3, and winding through the LA Convention Center's West and South halls made me feel more than anything else like a rat after cheese. Uncurdled cheese, at that, because while these games were largely in an advanced stage of development, they were anything but done.

But we wouldn't understand that an in-development product isn't the same as a shipped and purchased product. Of course we wouldn't. How could we? We are but silly, silly peons.

The LACC is itself a walled garden against the unwashed masses.

So we have these walled gardens, where the assembled media and various industry persons are funneled into highly controlled environments. Play sessions are closely monitored by a PR representative or member of the development team, who offers useful tips such as, "The X button attacks." They assure us that the eight minutes of available play time is but a segment of the full game.

Or, for the particularly apprehensive, we're offered a chair so as to watch a professional play the game, a professional who evidently can't stop oohing and aahing at scenes he's already demoed 100 times in two days.

Also, we are repeatedly informed that all instances of jank will be unjanked by the ship date. It's all quite exhausting, which is probably why I opted to play one of the few games that are beautifully unapologetic about their jank. That, and it was the only way to touch a PS Vita without having to queue up in a turnstile.

I've come to see E3 not so much as a proving ground for the year's latest and greatest, but more as an obligatory and unwanted parting of the curtain. The show lays bear the fear and anxiety that rules the industry's business-minded sect, and their reaction is to throw up a front of superficial perfection, in vain, instead of embracing the deliciously ugly creative process.

However, publishers realize that they'll raise more eyebrows by not showing up. There is an expectation for them to be there, and they can't just flee to some other city, to carouse on safer streets. So to regain some semblance of control, they resort to monolithic structures, glossy smiles, and questionably helpful guidance.

Last week being my fifth E3, it seems entirely possible that I'm just jaded on the whole experience. But perhaps it isn't entirely unreasonable to want a genuine look at how a game is progressing instead of being saturated by what E3 has largely become: a deer-in-the-headlights marketing bonanza.

Discussion

33 comments
drokmore
drokmore

The video game industry is no longer a fledgling. Its a serious industry worth a ton of money. So you bet theyre throwing money at PR and presentation. Why do you think this year there were so many "booth babes" this year. But if you look past the media blitz there is exciting gaming going on and as a bigger industry, bigger potential.

endorbr
endorbr

Damn Magrino. Why don't you tell us how you really feel? I guess you can be jaded but you got paid to be there. I quite enjoyed most of the Gamespot's coverage of E3 this year and it only made me (as a non-industry person) wish I could go just that much more. I hate industry BS too and I would prefer to have them be a bit more real about the creative process rather than trying to sugar coat and pretend like everything was just awesome from day one. Some companies are really good about showcasing that. Naughty Dog comes to mind as an excellent example. Others would have you believe they just had this brilliant idea that was perfectly executed and the final product looks exactly as originally imagined, which is of course total bunk. Either way it seems like you typed this up while on your 47 minute flight, still sick and annoyed at your fellow passenger.

NoR4Me
NoR4Me

Wow, I think I'm more impressed by the comments than I am with the article itself. Good job folks, most of you have proven that the human race still has a worthy mind. As for the article itself... I think the editor let his own misconceptions get in the way of his job. As many others have said, if your job is getting to be a boring and taxing endeavour, then go find a new one. Plenty of people are out there who would love to take your place...

Jbul
Jbul

Great, great article. This kind of personal writing is something Gamespot has been lacking since, well.... forever.

Liliroots
Liliroots

The showings of in-development products are a way the elites try to control the masses in this industry. Works really well as a lot of the masses are anticipating and buying just like the elites wanted them to.

Cubano7649
Cubano7649

Think they should open E3 to the public then major players might show off more of their stuff after all games is all about word of mouth, a game that get little press can actually grab fans if people talk enough about it, thats how I discovered Crackdown 1, Dead Space (before the DS2 hype), and Tales of Vesperia whic to me stands as the BEST RPG EVER MADE!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I'd have gone if I was allowed.

dean0null
dean0null

The rambling flow that was used as well as introducing the thesis in the last paragraph was fanciful and alluring. Sure, it wasn't exactly a profound article, but it didn't feel like it was meant to be. Instead, it seemed to offer a view into the workings of a show that us consumers have grown to love. It was, however, wholly invigorating to notice each reply's originality spark and sizzle as each pounced on the author's credibility and nuanced perception into the obligatory nature of the affair known as E3 and took a people one step closer to a world that accompanied literary ecstasy to an orgasm of thoughtful dialog. It's as if the audience believed that the goal of the writing was to fulfill the empty hole that irked within the tattered loin cloths of their dreadful interiors. Grab some balls and type about the point for chrissake.

keech
keech

I'm wondering if Tom wrote this article while hung over on the flight. The first 2/3rd's and just aimless rambling that at worst have no baring on the point, and at best is a flimsy lead-in to the real article. Everything mentioned in the article points to him having a generally negative experience at E3, but comes across as him just being a cynic, and really suggests nothing inherently wrong with E3 itself. E3 has always been a circus, you go there for the spectacle and big reveals. You don't go to the circus expecting a museum exhibit tour.

Echofoxz
Echofoxz

You were hung over at E3!?

Tomdogg
Tomdogg

This article was wholly useless. The only thing you needed to put in was that last paragraph. That was the only even marginally useful thing that was said in this myspace esque blog post. Also, if you don't like the way things are in the industry (Which I don't either) then get another job. That's what I've done numerous times already.

kb8618
kb8618

soooo im assuming you threw up all over her or didn't make it all the way to the restroom since you didn't mention the actual flight

kirkonacid
kirkonacid

Sounds like those PR reps should have come equipped with a cattle prod.

Skullcandy
Skullcandy

If the industry is getting to you that much then maybe it's time to find another job.

alexLmx6
alexLmx6

I don't think there's a trade show on Earth that isn't a marketing bonanza.. And unfortunately, games is an industry, nothing can be done without some guy in a suit showing people a spreadsheet. That flight could have been worse though.. Tip for Canadians, never bring up the fact that you're Canadian on an American flight, unless you want to spend 5 hours explaining that NO there aren't death panels and that parliament doesn't take a break every 2 hours for coffee and timbits, but that yes we consume the most donuts per capita and that's why we rock. Sorry!

amaan4ever
amaan4ever

gamespot please give an E3 2012 pass :)

cachinscythe
cachinscythe

@AltoShadow13 That's a good point sir. Here's a similar one: Endless editorials get written about how the industry is loaded with developers that don't care about products and only care about money. The evidence? Well...the editor isn't enjoying games as much as he used to. No first hand knowledge watching the people develop the game and seeing there is genuinely no passion in it; the game is just boring to him so the developers obviously didn't care. Are you going to call those editors on THEIR lack of first-hand knowledge and presumptions that "boring" equals "no effort and passion"? This is not about what did or didn't happen at E3. At least, not entirely. In fact, it's not even really about his opinion of it. What it's about is his ATTITUDE. And it's not just this op-ed that demonstrates this cynicism; it's pretty much the last three or four he's written. Talking about how publishers should just find a better business model--when I'm guessing he has no actual experience working as a publisher or knowledge of business models at all--to justify the second-hand gaming market that is--arguably--bankrupting the industry. Talking about how he wants the next-gen consoles to be "Sexy Please" when that very attitude is part of what wrecks so many games today. Calling the new controllers being produced "gimmicks" when "innovation" and "gimmicks" are actually very synonymous. I respect his opinion, but I don't agree with it. So I'm going to poke holes in it.

cachinscythe
cachinscythe

@jimrhurst "IIf you weren't [entertained], then don't read the op-eds. To each his own." If you don't enjoy going to E3 then don't go to it! Oh wait...the rules have suddenly changed here? Okay, that's kind of a jerk thing to say. This guy is entitled to his opinion as is the rest of the gaming population. But complaining about an event being a market fiasco when it's BEEN a market fiasco since its inception is ridiculous. And his opinion is once again loaded with all kinds of presumptions that he can't prove and probably--if he's like most gamers--will not ever consider to be incorrect in the slightest. What I object to, sir, is the cynicism that pervades the gaming populace as a whole. When do we ever give the industry credit for doing something right? Has anyone said, "Thank you for moving away from platformers?" No, we're too busy complaining about the abundance of shooters. Have we given any credit to EA for reforming itself over the last few years? Except for Game Informer, not really. And now we've got people pissing and moaning about E3 being E3. 'Sigh' Maybe the reason he didn't enjoy it is because there's something wrong with HIM. Do gamers ever consider that when they play games, or do they blame all their woes on the industry? How long before we start blaming Capcom for the F's on our report cards?

SadPSPAddict
SadPSPAddict

@AltoShadow13 - here here my friend. Well said!!

SadPSPAddict
SadPSPAddict

Well personally I thought this was a well written and entertaining piece of journalism - nice one Tom!!

AltoShadow13
AltoShadow13

People on this post really like to talk crap like they where there in person, hey guess what? When you really go there in person then you can talk in the 1st person. Until then respect the rant, and yes game development is grueling work, and no why would they watch it on TV when they have to be there? Once again humans prove why hell is more crowded than Heaven, for I’m sure as hell not spending it with all the a$$holes on Gamespot.

Rhino53
Rhino53

Well, I thought the article was entertaining. Maybe some of you guys need to listen to an episode of the HotSpot with Magrino in it to understand what's going on here.

jimrhurst
jimrhurst

Definition of op-ed: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Op-ed Basically, its this guy's opinion on the show. I appreciate that he wrote about the experience, and I was entertained. If you weren't, then don't read the op-eds. To each his own.

pooyanh
pooyanh

Pretty much every single site has an article on how disappointing E3 has been for them. Why? I kinda liked it. Not the best E3 ever, but it wasn't THAT bad either. This particular article was not really informative, but it was a pleasure to read anyway, which is better than reading stuff you already know AND getting bored. Personally, I think E3 should be open to public like TGS, Gamescom, etc. Press conferences should remain just that, PRESS conferences but everything else, should be available to everyone.

raptures330
raptures330

I don't know what I have just read. Was it a story? An editorial? A journal entry? What I got: 1. You had a wicked time before your flight and wanted the bathroom close in case you had to hurl. Apparently that airline does not give you a numbered seat. 2. Some socialite's plans got ruined. She had a bag. And complained. 3. You only got to play one game. Something about the Vita. 4. Jank? O_o 5. Showing unfinished games to media is as painful for the ones showing as for the ones being shown. X attacks. 6. They are all Minecraft fans and build stuff. Big stuff. 7. Profit? E3 is fun to watch man. Watch it online away from all that noise and what not. With a can of liquid and a happy cake.

cachinscythe
cachinscythe

????? I'm sorry Mr. Magrino. What exactly did you just say? That E3 sucked? That the game companies are condescending jerks? That virtually nobody attended? (Hence the big empty corridors) That you find it insulting that developers tell you what buttons do what on a controller? (Seriously, gamers nowadays give up after 5 seconds if they can't adjust to the controls. What's wrong with saying what buttons do what?) That you have a problem with big business refusing to embrace the "deliciously ugly creative process" that you apparently haven't? (Hence why you work for Gamespot instead of developing your OWN games) Mr. Magrino, if you find the way the industry operates is bothersome, either do something about it or find another job. When you do that, I'll be happy to have your ticket for E3 2012. It sounds like it'd be better than wasting it on someone who doesn't want to go in the first place.

hallgren
hallgren

You really took the time to write this dribble, WOW!

LokiHero
LokiHero

An industry trade show open to the public is ultimately an overglossed marketing blitz? Inconceivable!

vivalatour
vivalatour

it seems that the waiting all was looking for never really happened almost like doctors w/o any patients ? or visa-versa ? background was like dueling banjos jam ! most things take are big deals turn out to be a media puncture wound anyway !

JediKnight66
JediKnight66

Editorial sites like GameSpot and IGN should give their editors a day or at least a half day to roam the show floor for themselves and do what ever they want.

Buck_Hotep
Buck_Hotep

There's a perfect way to solve Tom Magrino's problem. Stop attending E3 and let others willing to do the job minus the ennui take a crack at it.

g1rldraco7
g1rldraco7

Wow. That is an amazing insight. You have a stressful job and I feel bad watching you from my computer in a plexiglass cage talk about games.

mariostar0001
mariostar0001

This was almost like reading a blog. Not too informative (though that might just be because I mostly knew it already), but highly entertaining. Not bad. ;)