Big Pic­ture Mode

In­dus­try is­sues given the widescreen treat­ment


Nathan Brown is just about done with be­ing swept up in E3 hype

There is a say­ing in this line of work: never read the com­ments. Ever since some bright spark re­alised you could boost traf­fic by let­ting read­ers weigh in be­low the line, writ­ers of all stripes have found them­selves mocked, threat­ened and dis­missed. Say what you like about 8chan, Twit­ter or Storm­front: news-site com­ment sec­tions are the In­ter­net’s true armpit.

Mer­ci­fully, my work doesn’t ap­pear on­line too of­ten, so I work in rel­a­tive iso­la­tion. In the old days, ac­tual phys­i­cal let­ters, writ­ten on pa­per – and not al­ways with green ink – would ar­rive in the Edge of­fice daily, but to­day there are so many other ways of shar­ing views that we deal with more of a trickle than a flood. (It cer­tainly makes the hand-writ­ten let­ters from peo­ple holed up within the United States prison sys­tem – yes, re­ally – stand out a bit more.) And I pre­fer it this way, I think.

Es­pe­cially around this time of year. To videogame fans, E3 is the most won­der­ful time; to com­ment-sec­tion mod­er­a­tors, it is a mag­net for cra­zies. As soon as the press-con­fer­ence re­ports ap­pear, the con­sole wars be­gin, but while the ma­jor­ity of fan­boy shut-ins are con­tent to trade in­sults and bul­let-pointed lists of forth­com­ing con­sole ex­clu­sives, some pre­fer to sim­ply line the writer up in their sights. “Your so bias.” “So-called videogame ‘jour­nal­ist’.” This is why you never read the com­ments.

Con­fes­sion: I al­ways read the com­ments. De­spite the in­fi­nite vir­tual reams of BTL ev­i­dence to the con­trary, I still believe in the fun­da­men­tal de­cency of strangers. Every so of­ten, in among the spit­tle and the bile, the bad puns and the knob gags, there is a flash of gen­uine in­sight, or some heart­felt ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the writer’s work. Dur­ing E3, though, there is only ag­gro. And one par­tic­u­lar com­plaint rings louder than any of the oth­ers.

They say we are jaded. They claim we’ve been do­ing this too long; that we get to at­tend the great­est videogame show on Earth and do noth­ing but moan the whole time. That we sub­sti­tute snark for in­sight, and sar­casm for anal­y­sis. We oc­cupy a po­si­tion that peo­ple around the world would kill for, and we have the cheek to call it a bur­den.

Guilty, your honour. I looked back through my E3 note­book this year, and dur­ing one par­tic­u­larly dreary press con­fer­ence I had writ­ten the word ‘bleh’ six times. But I prom­ise that it isn’t my fault.

En­ter­ing from far out­side, E3 does ev­ery­thing it can to turn you against it. The 11-hour flight from Lon­don to Los An­ge­les is fol­lowed by a leaden trudge through the planet’s worst im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem, which this year in­volved a near-crush that was only averted by a pan­icked se­cu­rity guard hit­ting the emer­gency stop but­ton on the el­e­va­tor. Now that he’s gone indie, you don’t even get the light re­lief of see­ing Peter Molyneux in the queue, craggy and fu­ri­ous, jonesing hard for a smoke. Then there’s the traf­fic, al­ready the worst in the western world, which some­how man­ages to get worse with every pass­ing year (a con­se­quence, I ex­pect, of the un­stop­pable growth of Uber, putting even more cars on a baf­flingly de­signed net­work of roads that can barely hold them). Fi­nally, you get to your ho­tel, ex­hausted and bro­ken. And you’ve got work in the morn­ing.

So, yes, per­haps that can come across in your work. But even the LA lo­cal who’s been to every E3 since time be­gan, lives within walk­ing dis­tance of the venue, and has their rou­tine down pat, be­comes harder to please with each pass­ing year. It is not a mat­ter of be­ing jaded; it is not even about be­ing fu­ri­ously hun­gover. In­stead it is the sim­ple fact that, as you be­come more ex­pe­ri­enced, you get bet­ter at main­tain­ing some es­sen­tial crit­i­cal dis­tance. At your first E3, you’re bounc­ing off the walls with the thrill of sim­ply be­ing there, but af­ter a few years, it takes a lit­tle more to im­press you. That, surely, is what read­ers need – now more than ever, in an era which sees pub­lish­ers and plat­form hold­ers use YouTube and Twitch to talk di­rectly to play­ers, the press fil­tered out, the hype un­damp­ened. Cyn­i­cism? I pre­fer to call it re­al­ism.

E3 is the most won­der­ful time of the year, sure, but it’s es­sen­tial that we don’t get swept up with the hype. Leave that to the folks be­low the line, with their knob gags, their bul­let points, their yeah-buts and fuck­y­ous. Some of us have got a job to do, and while it may not al­ways seem like it, we do take it se­ri­ously. Hav­ing said that: heard of any par­ties go­ing on tonight?

Nathan Brown is Edge’s deputy ed­i­tor. He would like to apol­o­gise for ev­ery­thing he was late for at this year’s E3

Dur­ing one par­tic­u­larly dreary E3 press con­fer­ence I had writ­ten in my note­book the word ‘bleh’ six times

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