Never in my life has it been made so starkly clear than this year’s E3 that the video game industry needs to come up with some new ideas. The first day’s rapid fire of press conferences, followed by four days of touring the show floor, solidified the fact that our industry has become perfectly complacent with churning out the same product year in and year out.
Specifically, the gaming industry seems obsessed with the “shoot, shoot, death” variety of gaming.
Major publishers like Microsoft, Sony, EA and, to a extent, Ubisoft are fine continuing the tradition of catering this industry to the dude-bros in all of us. Nearly every title shown off during E3 featured some form of loaded guns punching holes through human/alien fresh. By the time E3 was over, I was numb to the act of violence; not in an “it’s so grotesque and terrible” way, but more so in an “I’ve seen this countless times before” way.
I think it is high time publishers invest in some new ideas, maybe even ones that fall on the “fun” side of the coin. Take, for example, Rayman Legends. At its core, that game is a simple 2D platformer; yet, because it provides a whimsical, fun experience, I nearly lost my shit for it during Ubisoft’s press conference. I’m not alone, either. When stacked against a multitude of shooters at E3, Rayman Legends stuck out and looked like some sort of messiah attempting to return gaming to a bygone era where fun experiences mattered more than mature ones.
We need more of that, and stat!
Our industry’s focus on extreme violence is not helping our case when it comes to outsiders looking in, either. Most fans of video games know full well that the gaming industry is currently treated as the whipping boy for corrupting our world’s youth. I’m sure E3 2012 didn’t help. When you have thousands of attendees shouting and hollering as God of War’s Kratos rips apart an Elephant Man from head to asshole, it paints a bad picture. While that might have been the conference’s most extreme case of fetishizing violence, it sadly wasn’t the only one.
As I write this, GamesIndustry.biz has gone live with an interview with Epic Mickey producer Warren Spector, where he basically says the same thing. So if you don't believe me, believe him. “The ultraviolence has to stop," said Spector. "We have to stop loving it. I just don't believe in the effects argument at all, but I do believe that we are fetishizing violence, and now in some cases actually combining it with an adolescent approach to sexuality. I just think it's in bad taste. Ultimately I think it will cause us trouble."
So what better way to make that happen than investing in more titles like Rayman Legends? Obviously, games like Rayman aren’t the reason the industry has ballooned into the multi-billion-dollar empire it is now. We can thank Call of Duty for that. But a larger push for a return to the days when gaming was about producing fun experiences that provided hours of escapism without putting the horrors of the world front and center would be appreciated.
Maybe it’s just me getting older. As the years go by and I’m stuck playing new iterations of the same violent video games, I start to fantasize about playing games that make me smile, not grit my teeth and curse at digital terrorists on a television screen. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like we’ll be living that dream in the foreseeable future. But there’s always hope for next year’s E3. Right?