Boothbabes, the biggest game companies in the world, over 80,000 developers, and legions of journalists flocked to Los Angeles from June 6-8, 2011 for the Electronic Entertainment Exposition, or E3 for short. E3 is the most important event for gamers across the world because it’s a chance for studios to showcase new technology and titles on a global platform. With this year’s E3 quickly approaching, this is a look back on what made last year’s event so special.
There were a couple factors. A brand new game system was announced by Nintendo called the Wii-U vaunting unprecedented interactivity. Likewise for Sony PlayStation’s portable system called the Vita. An unmistakable energy permeated every corner. Videogames, historically speaking in the division of the arts, could be called in their infancy. E3 2011 showed the industry was maturing, evolving into its teens. And like most kids who hit puberty, experimentation and exploration were the order of the day.
According to a survey last year by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), 72% of family members played some form of videogames, 82% of gamers were over 37-years old, and 42% were women. The last fact is not a big surprise, especially with the abundance of games targeted at casual audiences that are so much fun; fire an ‘angry bird,’ swing a light saber in Star Wars Kinect, and slice up fruits like a ninja. Especially impressive was Double Fine’s Once Upon a Monster, based on the world of Sesame Street, a game designed to literally bring joy to players. The animation was superb, the world was vibrant, and a message of friendship was woven through its immersive gameplay. Once upon a time, gamers could only wish their childhood games played like this.
Story-telling had taken huge strides in games like Witcher 2 and Dragon Age with real moral repercussions in a virtual choose-your-own-adventure. Historical context and intrigue fueled games such as Assassins Creed and Metal Gear Solid that could boast scripts more intricate than most TV series. While these games had their niche, if one considers that booth sizes at E3 usually corresponded to popularity, the majority were devoted to a plethora of super violent games that helped gaming overtake the movies as the most profitable form of entertainment in the world. These titles appealed primarily to a public fascinated with experiencing the brutalities of a virtual war (the Call of Duty and Battlefield series) or the threat of an undead apocalypse (Dead Island, Resident Evil, Left 4 Dead). Creativity had been funneled into a dozen permutations of zombie games on the floor. On top of that, the implementation of 3D into the games via the special TV and glasses added a level of immersion that was unthinkable as a child.
The show floor itself was a cocoon of scintillating casino lights, tightly choreographed demo sessions, and grandiose monuments to marketing. Random moments colored E3. A popular series called Minecraft inspired ‘box-heads’ as advertisements, people wearing cardboards boxes around the convention center. This reached an odd climax in a dance performance as a group of them ‘striked a pose’ with their empty Minecraft faces gazing out into camera-frenzied audiences. Promotional models, AKA boothbabes, were ubiquitous in a variety of different forms. There were the usual throngs of tight t-shirts and bikini’s pursued by eager photographers. ‘Boothdudes’ in the form of buff space marines wandered about and storm troopers marched through the halls.
Stashed away in the corners were the independent gaming companies, developers from all around the world. Innovation was less corporatized here. The art aesthetics were bolder and the risks took on a quirkier disposition. They had no stockholders to seek approval from, no execs to suck up to, only their own curious natures to please. That and a desire to recreate the meandering imagination of an errant childhood.
There’ve been some amazing gaming experiences throughout the years; taking flight as a flower petal and bringing color to a monochrome world (Flower); an identity crisis as a clone fraught with questions about existentialism (Final Fantasy 7). Historically, games have been around as long as humans could imagine symbols. The Chinese played Xiangqi (Chinese Chess) centuries ago and Victorian Europeans played whist, while even the old Roman emperors loved dice.
Neverdead was a story/game worthy of Roman folklore. It was about an immortal demon hunter who could rip off his limbs and hurtle them as weapons. The controls were intuitive and the animations were disturbingly hilarious, especially with the different body parts splotched together. Taking a step back, it was a fitting analogy for the gaming industry, a mishmash of strange ideas and chaotic inspiration rolled together, getting parts decimated, growing like crazy— all striving forward, assembled as a celebration of the gaming community at E3 2011.
Special thanks to OE for his help in this article.