E3 Is Exhausting

By Gus Mastrapa in Pretension +1
Friday, June 10, 2011 at 9:00 am
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I write this on my final day of E3 as I hit the last of my appointments and try to bully my way through closed doors I haven't yet ventured behind. My mind is only operating at about 60%. Even yesterday I was working on limited capacity. Already shellshocked by the barrage of sounds and images on the show floor it took all my willpower to focus. 

I feel for the people running the game demos. They have to watch us learn a new control scheme while the controller layout of the game we just played five minutes ago is still in our head. We probably seem incredibly incompetent to them.  It feels like a blessing when you stumble upon a game you already no how to play. Touching Battlefield 3 felt like a fifteen minute break from the new and unfamiliar. Run and gun were exactly where I expected them to be on the keyboard.

My reaction to the Wii U is one of impatience. I feel world-weary when I look at the PlayStation Vita. Ten years ago when I came to my first E3 I was filled with endless enthusiasm -- I got to see new games for the Xbox and GameCube and talk to the people who made them. But the initial thrill wears off and the familiarity of attending year after year breeds the inevitable contempt.

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Talking to some of my more jaded peers I sense similar feelings -- impatience with overly long and ponderous press conferences, disappointment at all the safe bets and opportunistic cash-ins and a general malaise. Going to E3 is like being addicted to a drug that doesn't make you feel good. You need to take more, but at this point your resistance is so huge that you need to take an overdose just to keep from feeling sick.

That makes us desperate to find something, anything that doesn't feel crass and soulless. We grasp onto anything that contains a scrap of joy. That means a property we remember from the past, like Aliens: Colonial Marines or, in my case, Gamma World, can bring a reluctant smile to your face. 

My favorite moment today was sitting down on a couch with Attract Mode's Adam Robezzoli to play Journey. Exploring that gorgeous desert world reminded me why I love writing about games. Because no matter how exhausted I become by the perpetual dog and pony show there's always a little gem that refreshes my faith. And frequently there's an expertly executed show-stopper to re-invigorate my enthusiasm for the blockbuster. I can't say which big, loud game it'll be this year. It could be Aliens: Colonial Marines or Bioshock Infinite, which I have an appointment to check out just before the show closes.

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There were a couple of years when the fate of E3 was in doubt. The economy was in the crapper. And game companies were pulling out of the event, balking at the massive cost of promoting games in this way. One year E3 moved to Santa Monica and was held in luxury hotel rooms -- moving from appointment to appointment was a nightmare. But the peace and quiet was welcome.

Tonight, when the doors of the South and West hall are closed I'll make my way to Little Tokyo to eat, drink and commiserate with other games journalists. It will be a good opportunity to begin processing all the data I've uploaded -- to try to make sense of the Nintendo's crazy stab at Apple or to simply solidify my disinterest in Kinect. But mostly, I look forward to curling up with A Storm of Swords followed by a good, long night of sleep.

I know they say you'll sleep plenty when you're dead. But I'm starting to feel like I'm just about there.

Pretension +1 is a weekly column by Gus Mastrapa that proves just how spoiled video games journalists really are.


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