Late Night Ponderings: E3 Hype Train Fractured Brain

Late Night Ponderings: E3 Hype Train Fractured Brain

(Intro Tune) Greetings one and all, and welcome to another
episode of Late Night Ponderings, my series of mini-editorials that covers a wide range
of subjects. Today’s subject: E3 Hype Train, Fractured
Brain. During E3, gamers flock to their computer
screens, phones or what have you, waiting with bated breath to find out what’s coming
out next on their favorite gaming machines. It is talked up to death, with the anticiPATion
for the event radiating off of it like the rays of the sun, beating down upon the gaming
populus so intensely that it’s hard not to get caught in its warm, “welcoming”
embrace. (Heavy sarcasm) For me on the other hand, let’s just say
I’m the kind of person that’d much rather stay underneath the safety of my umbrella. It’s not a lack of love for the world of
gaming that influences this apathetic behavior. I will always look at countless articles post-E3
to see what’s coming out and hypothesize how the general gaming landscape has changed
over the years. This of course goes for any gaming convention
with large scale hype in my eyes, but E3 is the easiest target for me due to its bombast
and budget. I care about how the demographics
are constantly shifting, and how the language we use when talking about video games is evolving
with the times. I do not care for the community turning into
an oozing cesspool the more we are hyped up about something. E3 and the swamp of presenters in
the slithering sludge that is the upchucked entrails of the gaming community is the crux
of my problem with the concept of hype as a whole. It’s a brilliant, yet devious marketing strategy
to build up this little thing called hype. Hype isn’t inherently bad, not in the slightest. However, the issue lies in what it does to
the gaming community as a result. There are people who are going to pick the
game’s teasers apart like a couple of starving buzzards, and others will praise it like the
greatest gift coming from on high even before they can play it. This is normal for hyped material, and you
can absolutely be excited about something coming out; in fact, I encourage it. Suppressing your emotions in an attempt to
be objective about something does nothing but hurt you in the long run. While I try to remain neutral, seeing Banjo-Kazooie
in Smash, Animal Crossing: New Horizons and of course Yamper gave me cautious optimism
about the remaining announcements I’d force myself through. I even added a few of the upcoming games to
my never-ending wish-list. Better yet, I practically had to hold my teenage
self’s glee inside when I heard about the announcement of Beyond Good and Evil 2 in
2017. No matter how the final product turns out,
Beyond Good and Evil needed a follow up. No ifs, no ands and no buts about it. Despite how I wanted to remain unbiased, my
heart did a small leap in my chest when I heard the news. But that’s not what I’m talking about. What I mean is the hype that makes gamers
and nerds in general seem like wild animals, ready to attack anything that moves… including
the thing that we were initially excited for. The issue with these big conventions is that
they show us a staggering variety of games at once in rapid succession, so we don’t have
time to think clearly. As a result, if the game releases and we aren’t
satisfied with the final product, the backlash will be swift and fierce no matter who is
involved. If there’s one thing that gamers hate, it’s
being lied to – even if they think of being lied to it can trigger an aggressive reaction. And Nobody is more notorious for his deceitful
tactics than the silver-tongued serpent head of the now inactive Lionhead Studios, Peter
Molyneux. (Time to dunk on an easy target) Or at least, that’s how the gaming community
perceives him now. Whenever anyone talks about the first Fable’s
hype, we are often treated to the story about watching the acorn grow for the first time. (Oh boy here we go) That’s the one thing that our supervillain
du jour Peter Molyneux lied about that gets repeated endlessly on message boards and forums. While there’s more than just that single
feature brought up, it’s the acorn that gets discussed the most because it was used
as a demonstration for how it shows the passing of time. It stuck in people’s minds, and it glued itself
onto the family crest of those poor gamers who were lied to about Fable. Of course, people tend to forget that Molenuyx
himself apologized for the over-promising on the Lionhead website. The site has long since been deleted, but
it’s luckily forever archived on various forums. The statement read as follows:
There is something I have to say. There is something I have to say. And I have to say it because I love making
games. When a game is in development, myself and
the development teams I work with constantly encourage each other to think of the best
features and the most ground-breaking design possible. However, what happens is that we strive to
include absolutely everything we’ve ever dreamt of and, in my enthusiasm, I talk about it
to anyone who’ll listen, mainly in press interviews. When I tell people about what we’re planning,
I’m telling the truth, and people, of course, expect to see all the features I’ve mentioned. And when some of the most ambitious ideas
get altered, redesigned or even dropped, people rightly want to know what happened to them. If I have mentioned any feature in the past
which, for whatever reason, didn’t make it as I described into Fable, I apologise. Every feature I have ever talked about WAS
in development, but not all made it. Often the reason is that the feature did not
make sense. Not only this, but Molyneux also had this
to say about the development of Fable: “If I’m honest, on Fable we just burnt people’s
lives; we destroyed the team. Week after week, month after month, they worked
50, 60, 70, 80-hour weeks. It destroyed their lives and destroyed their
marriages.” -Peter Molyneux, Develop, March 2009
While the backlash against The Fable games was a bit on the extreme side, I don’t think
Molyneux should have kept making promises for the series based on an idealized version,
rather he needed to look at the reality of his games’ capabilities. This remains a lesson that modern developers
haven’t exactly learned yet – especially if No Man’s Sky is brought in for questioning – but I also think there’s a lot more
to it than just broken promises. The relationship gamers have with developers
is peculiar. It’s almost as if we place them on a pedestal
and view them SO far above us that no matter what the circumstances are, we still trust them. What ends up arising is that when these sacred
almost deity like figures fall from grace, they fall HARD in our eyes because oftentimes
it’s viewed as a personal slight. But in reality, developers are just normal
people like you and me. For them it’s just a 9 to 5 job which they
leave at the door at the end of the day. Sure, some truly love what they do and put
great passion in it, but it is still just a job. Or….it should be, but that’s a whole other
can of worms. (Or FISH) It’s not just developers or publishers we
do this with; any sort of celebrity figure That we perceive money or power
that they lord over us, even though they are just a normal person, walking amongst us. (Parasocial Relationships) They are still human. The prevalence of personal social media accounts
that game developers use to talk directly to their fans has done little to diminish
this. Games journalists tend to take the brunt of
this, to the point that even reporting on things that they physically have is called
into question. Even before the announcement of the PS4 Slim
Laura Kate Dale got her hands on the console that had only been speculated upon by the
internet thus far. After making a video of it on YouTube, she
was bombarded with a torrent of people convinced that the console shown was in FACT a 3D-printed
hoax. “So many things got nitpicked,” said Dale. “People got upset that I didn’t show the
underside of the box. They thought there was something to hide…” Things escalated to attacks made on Laura’s
person, criticizing the way she looked or that her office was messy; clearly a valid
reason to not believe that this hyped up console wasn’t real, of course. (Biting Sarcasm) Dale shook this off by simply stating the
most obvious flaw in the logic of her detractors. “I clearly am trying to do this for a living,”
she explained. “Why would I knowingly throw away my credibility
for a week of some good views on a site that doesn’t claim any ad revenue? What would I have to gain from doing that?” It’s incidents like this that make me question
where exactly these hype train riders would like to receive their news from? PR reps are often taken more seriously, even
though their job is specifically to sell to as many people as possible on the product
they’re promoting, while game journalists are there to inform the reader or viewer. That is, unless they’re doing a PR piece. In that case they were told to promote the
title by their boss, or they’re just delivering a press release that was given to them by
a PR person; both of which are required parts of the job, and I’m speaking from experience here.(Send help) No, I haven’t worked for massive media conglomerates
like IGN or Kotaku, but my smaller scale experiences on sites like the Examiner, Gameskinny and
Noobfeed has given me a valuable perspective on the occupation. I can tell you one thing for certain: part
of the job is to full-body tackle any hints of hype dead-on and to report on it as fast
as you can. If your story breaks before everyone else,
your site gets hits, and that’s often the difference between getting paid or not. Hype is a quintessential part of determining
whether some freelance writers get a paycheck or go broke; why do you think clickbait culture
is so prevalent, especially around E3, PAX, Comic Con and other large scale culturally
relevant geek events?! During conventions, there’s so much hype
going on it’s sickening. For example, Aliens: Colonial Marines was
easily one of the most hyped games around for quite a while. What’s interesting is that it had a demo which
differed drastically from the final product in terms of graphical fidelity, atmosphere
and AI intelligence. The final product ended up far more laughable
than anything else. By the event’s conclusion there’s a distinctive
sludge that oozes out of conventions like E3 that’s hard for me to wade through. To be frank, I’ve developed a certain detachment
and lassitude to events like this. It’s why I don’t do live reaction videos
on it, or why my normally calm voice has a distinct air of listlessness to it if I join
people on streams to discuss the event. It is as though I’m not there mentally
and…I’m not. With all the talk about companies that “win”
or “lose” E3, there’s very little talk about what that actually means. Is it the flashiest performance? Perhaps it’s the number of titles? The enthusiasm of the speakers, or the promise
of new IPs in the works? E3 is meant to sell you products; it’s a
competition for your hard earned money, and you deserve more than just trailer footage
or a demo that’s not representative of what you’ll be getting. However, you also need to keep in mind that
even if the game doesn’t match the hype or what was promised, that doesn’t give
you the right to attack the creators. Criticize, definitely, but we have no right
to harass them or those who report on it. We are all here because we love games, many
of the developers and the press included. While hype itself isn’t a bad thing, the
culture around it can be. It’s fun to get excited about a new game
with your friends, but you want to know what’s not exciting? Someone getting blasted for what they’re
hyped about on social media, or a developer getting crucified about how their game didn’t
deliver upon the hype. It’s a vicious cycle that we as a community
should be actively trying to avoid. The gaming community likes to prides itself
in accepting all the freaks, geeks and nerds that the world can offer. Yet in the same breath of saying this I know we don’t always deliver on that promise. Let’s be 100 percent clear here, when
it comes to hype, our thoughts can become hazed over in a berserker like frenzy, wanting
to see what was promised rather than What the reality of what is right in front of us and who we
are hurting in the process. What I’m saying is: keep your cool and keep
your head. I’m Red Angel and I’ll see you next time.

10 thoughts on “Late Night Ponderings: E3 Hype Train Fractured Brain

  1. Hurr durr first!

    But seriously. I'm pretty much in the same boat here, yeah. Going to E3 used to be like a dream, but nowadays I just… don't care. I'll watch what Nintendo has because nostalgia, but for the other presentations I just read the cliff notes. Having gotten a glimpse of what goes on under the hood of the marketing machine, the hype just leaves a particularly bad taste in my mouth these days.

  2. this is a really good video! it's a well-done look at a rather major problem the gaming community has that a lot of us don't want to engage with. the general point feels maybe a bit obvious to me, but i have to take into account the fact that i'm rather disconnected from the larger community and have managed to carve myself out a nicer little corner. i'm glad to see you mention laura in this, since that seems like a pretty big example of how hype can fuck people up. also glad to see you mention that this is a problem larger than just games, as i was thinking about how that's just what celebrity does a few seconds before you said so yourself.

  3. Killin it once again!

    I appreciate the nuance of not condemning hype itself as a concept, but rather how the gaming community carries itself because of it, which is the real problem.

  4. Touching on a topic that I've got so many thoughts on. I do love me things like E3, Gamescom, and Tokyo Game Show, even if companies are starting to spread these things out more and more so that E3 is kind of "the appetizer" for the rest of the season. People often complain that E3 "isn't what it used to be", and they're not wrong. I still remember being in high school, downloading low-res videos of Area 51 for Xbox to view in Real Media Player. The idea of streaming a whole press conference wasn't even a thing, and then when common consumers were allowed, we collectively left our snores commented in bold print on every forum possible regarding sales numbers. "Nobody cares!" we ignorantly exclaimed, assuming the event was strictly for us and not for the actual business men and women involved that such numbers were relevant for.

    The hype is habitual if only because there was once a time when seeing the actual footage was so uncommon. Peter Molyneux having to be careful with what he said was all just part of that transition. Now we get a lot of pre-rendered trailers featuring no gameplay because companies are desperate to get the name out there before starting a slow process of reveals leading up to release. I just watched a Game Informer video today of Jedi: Fallen Order where the hosts themselves mentioned coming away less than impressed at E3, but feeling hyped up now that they're playing later content. EA and Respawn weren't counting on JUST that E3 video, though. It was part of a strategy, slowly rolling the bits and pieces out over time so that you'd always have the game in the back of your head.

    But E3 still has that stigma, much like the original Xbox continued to be known for "only having Halo" by the end of its life-cycle despite having plenty of other good games, or the optimal versions of select multi-platform titles. Even if companies are expanding their marketing to include Gamescom, Paris Games Week, Tokyo Games Show, the multiple PAXes, and the Video Game Awards, the multitudes still gather around E3 because they remember it being THE big name in town.

    Everything else is just tribalism, and the difficulties that arise when you have such a diverse and broad category of "gamer" that it is, really, a useless demographic. Just as people made an event of watching Game of Thrones upon airing just to be part of the "water cooler" discussion, gamers congregate on the Internet to be a part of a greater thing. To feel like a part of a community. Unfortunately, the diversity of this larger communal mass generates conflict by nature of too many smaller, more distinct tribes intermingling. "No one cares about Animal Crossing!" shouts the Metroid fans hungry for a Prime Trilogy announcement during Nintendo's Direct. "ZOMG SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!" shout the Animal Crossing die hards feeling slightly spurned by the WiiU title. "WHOO YEAH BETHESDA YES PRE-RENDERED CUT-SCENES!" shouts that one guy from the Bethesda Press Conference. "BOO-URNS!" shouts people that haven't even played Fallout 76 but feel the need to let their distaste of it according to others' opinions be known (which, frankly, includes myself if I'm honest, but like with Gearbox Software and the disaster of Aliens: Colonial Marines, I'm just reacting out of a slowly developing grudge).

    I've already wrote a long enough "comment" that the very label has become questionable. Just two aspects of E3 that I feel fuel into a lot of the behaviors you've discussed here in this video. Habits, desire for communal space, tribalism, etc. Thanks for the video, it was a good watch, and I appreciate anything that gets me thinking about things and eager to vomit my opinions forth whether they're desired or not.

  5. HA! Forgot about when Laura had a PS4 early and some people didn't believed her. That was a weird time. Feels quaint compared to now I guess, but right then it was a weird event.
    Also, you can't really pick a better example of why not to fully "buy the hype" than Colonial Marines. As I recall, Laura's friend Jim Sterling said that was the game that ruined E3 for him cause he loves the Aliens franchise, and had Randy Pitchford himself lie right to his face about the game at E3.

    It can be fun to ride the hype train, but it is good to be sure to wear your skepticism seat-belt. Anyway, thanks for the show, Red Angel. =w= b

  6. Greetings everyone, hope you enjoyed my latest Late Night Ponderings! A little later than I'd like but when real life drop kicks you, what can you do? If you want to continue the discussion, check out my discord several and feel free to chat it up in my various chats. Let your voice be heard.

  7. Honestly, E3 I used to be hyped up a lotabout E3 back in my teenage years really looking forward to the next game, but now, I notice it more and more with each passing year but it feels like AAA companies are making less stuff now when compared to the 5th, 6th and 7th gen. I just mostly lost enthusiasm for modern AAA gaming in general. Like, it could be me growing up or it's just that E3 seems to be losing it's luster since Sony and Nintendo have their own announcement shows now.

    And I really hate how toxic hype culture can be. Like people whine and whine about how disappointing something is, but have their ever fucking wondered what caused them to feel that way to begin with? Like shit, stop overly hyping and just play other games in the meantime.

    And I don't know man, watching gameplay vids to me is just a waste of time, I would much rather watch/read/play stuff then to fawn over upcoming shit that might not even be good. This is the problem with hype culture, I feel. Like maybe instead of spending time getting overly hyped, just do something else.

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