I wasn’t at E3 this year, and I only watched one of the many live streams. That doesn’t mean I’m ignorant of all the relevant goings on, though I kind of wish I was; the internet is of course currently choked with E3 coverage. Most of it is dull and uninspired but, by picking over some of the best and sifting through my Twitter stream, I’ve had confirmed what I strongly suspected – very few surprises, games that could be renamed and presented at any E3 of the last five to ten years, and cringe-inducingly unprofessional behaviour from videogame – ahem – “journalists”. For these people I have just one simple yet important question:
What the hell is wrong with you?
This year, as with a depressing number of previous years, E3 conferences and presentations have been conducted in front of a herd of complete morons. Every time something vaguely interesting is presented by the corporation previewing its wares (and sometimes seemingly at random) the crowd cheers and whoops as though they just watched Batman rescue Nelson Mandela from a burning building full of vampires. Remember, these are the people we’re relying on for our intelligent, objective, on-the-spot reports from the world’s biggest videogames expo.
I suppose now would be a good time to point out that I don’t actually believe literally every attendee is a sycophantic waste of space, whose IQ would be at least doubled if you sellotaped a potato to their forehead. Just 99% of them or so. The main reason I know that this soul-crushing behaviour has repeated itself yet again, after all, is by seeing the dismay expressed by journos of varying experience on Twitter (most of whom aren’t actually at the event). I’m confident that there are some people reporting from E3 with wit, skill and journalistic integrity. I’m also confident that they’re in a clear minority.
As a journalist or blogger, you should first and foremost consider your presence at E3 as work; as part of your job. That’s certainly the attitude to take if you want what you write to be worth reading. That doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun; but it does mean that you should try to avoid acting like a chimpanzee on acid.
I know first-hand how easy it is to get into E3. It’s the industry’s dirty little secret, you see; virtually anybody can get an E3 pass so long as they have access to a little nook or, indeed, cranny in the internet. I’m not even saying that’s a bad thing. The idea that small blogs can rub shoulders with websites and magazines with decades of experience at the most important expo of the year is fantastic, and exactly the kind of democratising of journalism that (in theory) ensures a free and varied press.
A few years ago I got to meet, interview, and shake the hand of none other than Yuji Naka (and I swear to god I’ll corner Shigeru Miyamoto one day). As we sat outside the interview room waiting for our turn to meet Yuji Naka, I admit it – I was excited. Sonic the Hedgehog’s daddy. I was in the same building as him, soon I would be in the same room, and he would be briefly aware of my existence! Digging into the bag I’d brought along, I showed the game I’d taken for him to sign to my comrades. Clearly amused by my excitement, a fellow journalist (this a ‘proper’ one, with talent and decades of experience in print and everything) turned to me and said:
“He’s just some guy.”
Now, it was clear that he didn’t mean any disrespect to Yuji Naka, and (I think) he didn’t mean any disrespect to me either. It was obvious to him that I was idolising Naka to an extent and, yes, I can admit that now. Though I didn’t manage to chip away at the pedestal I’d put the developer up on much in the few minutes which remained before the meeting these words did, I think, help improve the interview.
The point is this. All of these kinds of shows are, ultimately, nothing more than businesses getting the word out about products that they’re selling or plan to sell in the near future. That fact doesn’t change just because they trot out a celebrity, or get their most famous developer/executive to lead the presentation. They’re the business, you’re the journalist, and you’re supposed to be giving intelligent, clear-headed opinions on products the folks back home are going to be expected to hand over their cash for. It doesn’t matter who’s doing the talking.
He’s just some guy.