E3 is changing for the better

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Like a gaming Christmas in June, yet another Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3, has passed. Thousands of people huddled around their computers in anticipation of the new games they would get to play over the next year and beyond. As someone who&rsquo;s followed E3 since I learned about it from a <em>Nintendo Power</em> magazine, this was one of the most distinctive expos ever.</p>

Truthfully, E3 is one large advertisement, formally for investors, but increasingly catered towards the gamers eagerly awaiting the announcement of yet-to-be-released games. But while we got the same sales pitch, I noticed a shift — developers showing off their work with pride, rather than one big ad.

Bethesda’s press conference really understood what gamers want. Developers proud of their products, cutting the fat and sticking to showing us gameplay trailer after trailer, letting us see exactly what they’ve been making for us.

Nintendo’s conference, while light on actual games announcements, had some fun moments showing the methods behind their games. Who knew that Star Fox was inspired by a shinto fox shrine? While certainly a business, the games that were shown at E3 also embraced the artistic qualities of the people who make them.

Electronic Arts’ conference was filled with the shooting and action that big budget games can provide, yet also took time to showcase the independent game Unravel. An earnest solo developer — hands shaking from nervousness, talking about a game inspired by whimsical pictures he made of a doll made of yarn — exists in the same space as blockbusters such as Star Wars Battlefront.

The independent scene is becoming more relevant, and often, more visionary than anything the bigger developers have available. From Cuphead, a game that looks indistinguishable from a Steamboat Willie-era cartoon, to No Man’s Sky, that procedurally generates galaxies worth of worlds to explore.

It was an E3 that proved that even the wildest rumours and possibilities could come true. For years, gamers have been waiting to see the long-in-development The Last Guardian, a kickstarter for the long awaited Shenmue III, and the reveal of the remake that we were told would never happen for Final Fantasy VII. The impossible seems possible this year.

We’re starting to reach the future of gaming. I was struck by just how pretty the games were looking this year: the next-gen systems are finally able to show us graphics not available last generation.

Technological leaps were not limited to graphics. Virtual reality is becoming an actual reality. Kickstarter darling Oculus Rift finally has a finalized design, as well as prototype motion controllers promising to track the position of your hands in the virtual environment. Microsoft’s augmented reality glasses HoloLens had one of the best demos of the show: an entire interactive 3D Minecraft world lying on a table.

I haven’t been this hyped for a new technology since the Wii Remote. We can only hope this turns out to be more substantial.

Still, even with the encouraging changes, there are moments of tone-deafness. Nintendo had a fairly poor showing.  As a fan of the exploration and isolation that Metroid Prime can bring, I was disappointed to see that franchise slapped onto a frankly lame looking  shooter. Between this and some Animal Crossing spinoffs, I worry Nintendo is in danger of using their brands for cheap spinoffs rather than furthering those franchises or providing the next new fun experience.

Overall, its a fun time to be a gamer watching E3. I remember when it was rare to see anything made outside of the major developers shown, and the shooters and Grand Theft Auto clones dominated the scene. These days, while trends come and go, there is more variety out there for gamers of all kinds, and while I may be cynical about the industry, with this embarrassment of riches, I’m happy E3 remains the hypest time of the year.

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