Like most people, I have a hard time compartmentalizing nostalgia for the things I loved in my childhood -- I mean hell, who among us hasn't had fond memories of an old game, only to replay it years later and find out it kinda stinks? (Vice City, forgive me, but you are literally hot garbage)
As time goes on, one area I seem to struggle less and less with is my memories of E3.
Anyone who grew up before the ubiquity of social media knows just how special the Electronic Entertainment Expo once was. Even if you never attended a show -- and I never did -- the "E3 Issue" of your favorite gaming magazine was a can't miss. Every summer I'd tear through those pages, soaking in the coverage of every new preview and game announcement.
Things started to change in the early '00s as broadband adoption gave rise to sites like GameTrailers. No longer were we limited to glossy screenshots of our most anticipated games -- now we actually got to see them in action. An event that was once filtered through the selective coverage of journalists now had a direct line to the consumers who'd be buying these products.
In its first incarnations, E3 was simply a way for the rapidly growing games industry to get out from the shadow of CES, the more broadly focused Consumer Electronics Show, and give retailers, investors, and journalists better access to what they were hoping would fly off store shelves come Christmas. The internet shifted E3 to a more consumer focused show, with all the theatrics that came with it.
In no place was this more clear than the E3 press conferences. I'll never forget coming home from school to watch GameSpot's uploads of the Sony and Microsoft pressers, or a couple years later trying to explain to my then girlfriend why I needed to sit on the couch for 3 hours to watch this broadcast of some guy playing a video game in an auditorium.
And that was easily the best part -- when they actually played the games. Live! On a broadcast being watched by hundreds of thousands of people. What a concept!
Yes, back before Nintendo poisoned the well with its sterilized, pre-recorded Nintendo Directs -- a change that its competitors would soon follow -- publishers would regularly run an actual build of their games live for people to see. Just as they were expected to prove to investors and retailers why these games would sell, they had to prove the same to the fans who had to put their money down to buy them.
To this day, the first ever live demo of The Last of Us remains one of the all time great moments in the cultural celebration of this art medium. It's the closest we ever got -- and will ever get -- to the likes of Cannes and Sundance.
So here I sit, more than a decade later, writing this blog on the day of Microsoft's not-actually-E3 "Games Showcase", a pre-recorded video containing one hour of stitched together cinematic trailers and another 45 minutes of carefully selected Starfield gameplay clips interspersed with developer interviews. A video that comes a few weeks after Sony's competing showing which -- notwithstanding a pre-recorded gameplay demo of the next Spider-Man -- consisted almost exclusively of its own batch of cinematic trailers.
And I can't help but mourn the death of what a truly incredible, exciting time of year this used to be for the games industry.