Video game excitement doesn’t happen at conferences anymore, or at show floors. Conglomerate announcements were what we waited on E3 for back when, and a 24/7, 365 news cycle doesn’t accommodate that as much. For the viewers, E3 has been years of promise of “this will happen, this game will come out, and it’ll be good.” Every game is supposed to be good, and we should be excited for everything. Watch more than one E3, however, and we’re more likely than not have at least one broken promise to carry around with us. What’s big at the show, the biggest new trailer, the most dazzling conference presentation, we eventually learn, isn’t at all a predictor of what will actually excite us. So unless the announcement of a game itself is exciting, it’s harder and harder every year to muster excitement.
But I suppose I shouldn’t speak for everyone. For press the show is still exciting because they leave with impressions on how the games touted in trailers actually work, whether they’re fun or not. If the show weren’t exciting anymore, message boards wouldn’t have to go down during conferences. And I’d be lying if I didn’t say there wasn’t anything at the show I didn’t want to play: The Dead Rising 3 DLC, the The Witcher 3, and The sequel to Kirby Canvas Curse all come to mind as games that I want to play. But nothing screams “I can’t wait to play this” anymore, because nothing is a guaranteed. Everything becomes “that could be cool.”
I still have games I dismiss, games that I root for, and I don’t think I’ve lost a sense of wonder or I’ve become jaded or anything like that. Instead, I’ve reallocated my excitement to the surprise of finding out that something is good. Not to belabor the point, but Dota 2, a current all-time favorite, came out of nowhere for me. Most of the time, my favorite games are those that surprise me as I play them, not those that fulfill an excitement quota I set out the first time I saw it. I’m much happier when I’m surprised by A Link Between Worlds, the new DMC (which I admit I’d written off), Dishonored, or Fez when I didn’t have much of an idea what they’d end up being. That’s where my excitement comes from. Not from the umpteenth trailer shows me nothing of what the game actually is, or wants us to pretend that roller coaster of a scripted sequence counts for much outside of spectacle. I guess that last part does read as cynical.
The reason I say this is because it’s easy and fun to write off the state of video games from a lackluster showing, or something that may not leave us in a tizzy. But we should remember that shows like E3 are not representative of what video games are from a number of angles, and that every year megashows like this become less and less relevant.