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