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In the old days, people used to huddle together in the corners of the Internet, in forums and on mailing lists, to talk about videogames. We know this because we were there. We even had our own discussion board, before some genius from our parent company’s Men Who Wear Aftershave division decided that there was no value in it and shut it down. This was social media before the term had been invented, but only social in the context of others who were interested in videogames enough to hunt us down and join in. To everyone else, we might as well have been invisible. But then everything changed. User contributions are the beating heart of today’s Internet, from Facebook and Twitter to Kickstarter and Instagram, and everyone is paying attention. To understand the extent of the shift, you only had to watch E3’s media briefings unfold this year.
It used to be a Very Funny Industry Joke to prepare E3 conference bingo cards, setting out a grid of sights and sayings to tick off as they played out on stage in LA. But then, partway through Sony’s E3 event, the company’s VP of publisher and developer relations Adam Boyes literally pulled out his own version, on which he had written ‘ The Last Guardian’, ‘ FFVII remake’ and ‘ Shenmue III Kickstarter’. Somehow, Sony had put a tick against each item. ‘We listen to our fans’ was the message, though it could hardly be heard through the noise of an audience offering a hitherto-unrivalled demonstration of the famous American custom known as ‘losing its shit’.
That these games don’t have firm release dates – or even a start date in the case of Shenmue III – wasn’t allowed to get in the way of a tidal wave of fuzzy feelings. This is E3 now: even louder than before, and to order.
In this environment, and as fun as it is to see such things play out, a meeting with the man behind Dark Souls feels like a sobering slap on the cheek. Hidetaka Miyazaki is returning to the director’s chair for the series’ third instalment, and he’s continuing to walk his own path. In our cover story, we embark on the tough quest of finding out where he’s headed.