It's once again the most videogamingest time of year, and the big pre-show press conferences have concluded. We saw new games and already-announced games, we saw an awkward white guy in sandals play a flute for what felt like an hour, and most importantly, one intrepid field journalist embarked on a mission to make E3 the gayest gaming show of all time.
It was a journey for that most elusive of beasts: gay, on stage. You might almost say it was #GayOnStage.
Square Enix and EA drop the ball
The gaming world has taken its first tentative steps into the hazy twilight realm between consoles, when developers start pushing projects that started life on the current generation out to the next one. This time can be a boon for players, as veteran developers who are intimately familiar with the hardware push it to its limits and take more creative risks with a large install base--the end of a console's life-cycle often hosts its most impressive, memorable titles--but it also leads to an inescapable drought.
The biggest sign of this phenomenon came in the form of EA and Square Enix's press conferences. EA, simply put, didn't announce a whole lot new, which is surprising given that they're the largest publisher in the industry. The games they did highlight featured a large amount of awkward, rambling talking and not nearly enough gameplay; even some flashy CG trailers would have been welcome.
Meanwhile Square Enix had such a poor conference--their first in three years--that I wondered why they bothered. It was a 28 minute video that repeated a Kingdom Hearts trailer from a previous conference and once again didn't announce a whole lot, except for a fourth entry in the Just Cause franchise and a strange live-action/game hybrid where you play as a deaf teenager who beats up drug dealers (or something; the video wasn't very informative).
On the other hand, EA's conference was where the possibility of #GayOnStage first reared its head, as the trailer for Battlefield V's single player campaign featured a Norwegian woman telling another Norwegian woman that she loves her, then pushing her off a bridge. Now, I may not now anything about romance or how human relationships work, but I'm pretty sure that this is the behaviour of two people in love.
Unfortunately, the exact nature of the relationship between the bridge pusher and the bridge pushee has not been clarified, and so EA can't truly claim to have pioneered #GayOnStage at E3 2018.
Ubisoft pushes the definition of "plausible deniability" to its breaking point
Announcing a game where you fight through an anarchic Washington DC to prevent a second American Civil War--including a showcase firefight around a downed Air Force One--and then insisting with a straight face that it's not meant as commentary on current events is a galaxy brain level marketing plan, whether or not it was intentional.
As well as joining the Hashtag Resistance, Ubisoft brought one of the stronger lineups of the show...but even here the lack of new announcements was obvious, as the "one more thing" big game reveal that they've ended their last five conferences with was conspicuously missing. To be fair, the reveal of the next Assassin's Creed was spoiled by a leak several days ago, but we're talking about a publisher that's garnered a reputation for bringing brand new franchises to every E3, and the absence of that was sorely felt.
Speaking of Assassin's Creed, the Greek-set Odyssey walked tantalizingly close to #GayOnStage by highlighting a same-sex romance option, but since the video didn't show that option being selected, it ultimately only flirted (literally) with the concept of #GayOnStage instead of truly embracing it.
Sony knocks it out of the park
Easily winning this year's prize for best conference, Sony once again demonstrated that their first-party lineup beats out everyone else's by showcasing four very impressive-looking upcoming games: The Last of Us Part 2, Ghost of Tsushima, Death Stranding and Spider Man.
Ghost of Tsushima is an open world samurai/ninja game about the historical Mongol invasion of Tsushima island, and it looks very nice. I don't have any particular interest in samurai fiction as a genre, but I'm hoping the game surprises me the same way that Read Dead Redemption surprised me by overcoming my latent dislike of cowboys.
Spider Man is a spiderman game, where you spin a web of any size and swing around and all that. It almost looks too good in terms of graphics and animation quality, but apparently the video we saw was actually gameplay. I'm not the biggest fan of the Spidermans, but I'll check this out if it plays as good as it looks.
Death Stranding is...
So this is Hideo Kojima's post-Konami, post-Metal Gear project, and even after seeing what appears to be gameplay, we still don't have a good idea of what the hell it is. Norman Reedus wanders around a desolate landscape that looks like Iceland and avoids invisible umbilical cord ghosts, and there's a lady in a ferromagnetic jacket who eats a flesh-coloured feetus-worm thing, and the characters talk about absolute nonsense like "extinction factors." Yeah, I don't know. Reedus takes out a gun at one point, so you will apparently be shooting things.
Sony started the conference by herding irate journalists into a haunted attic to watch the latest trailer for The Last Of US Part II. And at last, the floodgates opened as pure, unadulterated Gay covered the gaming world. It's finally happened. We have gay... #OnStage.
If you're not familiar with the series, the main character of The Last Of Us was revealed to be gay in an expansion to the first game. A lot of people went into a weirdly vehement amount of denial about this, even though she literally kisses another girl on the lips after begging her not to leave their home city to join a rebel faction. This new trailer, along with being very well written and directed and all that jazz, almost seems like a response to those people, as though they're saying "no, seriously, she's into women, that wasn't platonic."
(This isn't stopping some people from pulling the same thing again).
Nintendoesn't show much of anything
And closing out the conferences with the energy of a puppy falling asleep very slowly, we have Nintendo, who talked about the newest Super Smash Bros game in exhaustive detail for close to half an hour. If you don't care about Super Smash Bros (and I don't) then about the only big announcement was a new Fire Emblem that isn't due until 2019.
This is particularly disappointing because the very exciting Metroid Prime 4 was announced with a title and nothing else exactly a year ago, and given Nintendo's usual E3 cadence many people--myself included--were confidently expecting a proper unveiling at this year's show. But, no.
A bunch of other stuff
In no order at all, here's some other stuff announced at E3 or in the days leading up to it that looks cool:
An open world multiplayer shooter, inspired to a bordering-on-plagiarism degree by the work of Simon Stahlenhag. "There are killer robots, shoot them" are just about the least interesting way to piggyback off of his work (I would have been far more interested in a game taking inspiration from his usual subject of kids interacting with mechanical beings whose nature and intentions are left deliberately vague), but it still seems atmospheric and potentially interesting.
Apparently someone played Inside and said "what if this was a fast-paced action shooter with telekinesis?" Since Inside is one of the best games ever made, I'm down for anything that even vaguely resembles it.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
A while back, From Software, the creators of Dark Souls and more importantly Bloodborne, teased something that a lot of people took to be Bloodborne 2. It turns out it wasn't, but that's kind of okay because instead it's a samurai action game where you swing around with a grappling hook and fight a giant snake.
Speaking of From, they also announced a strange VR project. Apparently you play as some sort of spirit interacting with the students of a twee whimsical boarding school infused with fairytale imagery. This is all Extremely My Aesthetic, so I am on board for whatever it is.
This one's been in development for a while. Apparently it's a Dark Souls-like action RPG, and it looks very stylin'.
Resident Evil 2
After Resident Evil 7, Capcom continues its bold experiment in making horror game that are actually scary, this time by remaking the fan-favourite second entry in the series. It looks gorgeous and terrifying, and I will play it in full daylight with my eyes closed.