So it’s that time of year again. The beginning of summer. Though the season is just starting, these early months have always been my favorite part because of one particular reason: an annual event that brings together a deeply passionate fanbase. An event eager to inspire uncontrollable excitement, but is also easy to generate disappointment. A convention that not only brings together a major entertainment industry, but also an international community that spans whole generations.
Of course, I’m talking about E3! Short for the Electronic Entertainment Expo, E3 is one of the biggest video game press shows of the year, and my personal favorite event. Ever since I was a little kid with just a Nintendo Wii, E3 has intrigued me, even though it is essentially one giant commercial. I remember the excitement I felt getting up early on the day that it began, then waiting for midday when the announcements began. It was like Christmas morning, but a bit more nontraditional given that it was an industry gathering that I wasn’t old enough to attend.
Sure, E3 and other video game events like it act as a hyper-glamorized commercial for electronic consumerism – a private showcase that was annually broadcasted online to hype up the newest releases that would be coming out in the next few years. Throughout the history of the video game industry, E3 has played an integral role in preparing companies for the holiday season and beyond, whether it be by promoting games and consoles or by giving a spotlight to the industry as a whole. However, when I was younger I could easily accept it as a celebration for the larger video game community. In between all the flashy trailers and overzealous personalities that would be thrown in front of a livestream there was something deeply special.
Maybe it was knowing that the games that made it to the event had passionate teams behind them that dedicated ridiculous amounts of time to their work. Or maybe it was seeing a favorite franchise get a new installment announced. Whatever it was, the world of gaming had this strong effect on me and even influenced the types of careers that I wanted to pursue. As I have written about before, there was a time that I wanted to be a professional game developer. The idea of having one of my games showcased at E3 one day was incomparable to any other dream. Or maybe my excitement came from seeing that there was a larger fanbase for something that I considered as a niche hobby. I never really had anyone to talk to about games when I was growing up. Even though I never attended E3, I felt like I could connect with other people who appreciated games just by seeing them gather together and celebrate online. Gaming was my first instance of partaking in an online community, which is how many of us connect with other people these days. Playing games online and joining in on friendly internet discussions ironically gave me a lot of the confidence that I have today.
Because of these things, E3 always excited me. Even when commentators would argue if the latest showcase deserved to be called the best one ever held, which companies won the imaginary competition of who had the best showing, or which game out of all the different genres and tastes should be crowned as the best game of them all, it was always a fun time to follow the world of gaming. In terms of name and presence, nothing could compete with E3 for the longest time. That is until the past few years.
If you’ve been following the world of video games lately, then you probably saw that there is no E3 this year. Nor was there one in 2020, when we all thought that the uncertain events around us would pass eventually. Even last year’s event, which did manage to be held, was relegated to an online-only event instead of its usual in-person format. I don’t need to go in-depth as to why this happened; we’ve all been through the last few years. When the whole world is changing, something as simple as a gaming convention has to change too.
Some even say that E3 has lost relevance over the years, which is a sentiment that I can agree with.. You see, E3 is essentially a series of different shows from different companies. The convention itself is just how all of those shows manage to gather together. Within the past few years, some companies have decided to move away from E3 to do their own events or none at all. The most popular of these are the Nintendo Direct and the Xbox Presentation. There’s even a direct competitor to E3 in the form of the Summer Game Fest. It’s just how the industry these days now that online shows and instant news feeds have become more viable than in-person conferences. Like any other industry, competition trumps cooperation at the end of the day. Actually marketing a game and trying to get it to sell is more important to developers than holding an annual show, so it could be argued E3’s future is uncertain.
Now, what does this mean for me? Sure, I liked watching E3 fanatically when I was younger. I can still watch plenty of video game showcases these days, but I feel that I have to keep an arm's distance from the spectacle of them due to adulthood cynicism. I guess I lost some of my childhood innocence that allowed me to ingest E3 without worrying about the real world implications surrounding the video game industry – without having to think about the abusive crunch that many leading studios have, the greed of countless CEOs, and the unstable careers that many developers end up having due to the current fight for workers’ rights. Realizing the truth about your idols, whether good or bad, is part of growing up. A younger me used to be able to idolize E3 and the larger industry with bright, starry eyes. Now, not so much.
Yet despite this, I still enjoy playing games and joining in the communities that they foster. As I grew up in the gaming space, my perspective on video games and online communities have been refreshed and reinvigorated, allowing me to gain a greater appreciation for something that I love.
One thing that I have learned is that there is a much larger and diverse landscape of games outside of the mainstream ones that shows like E3 prioritize. Even though I like to play bigger AAA games like Destiny 2 or Super Smash Bros, I love trying out independent projects from smaller developers. Some of my favorites are the brief but memorable Untitled Goose Game by House House, challenging action game Enter the Gungeon by Dodge Roll, and beloved titled Undertale lead by Toby Fox. (I highly recommend these titles if you haven’t tried them yet and want to expand your gaming horizons.) I think titles like these speak to the ingenuity of game developers where a small team can learn to work together, or even one person can ship a final product if they're lucky enough.
Another way that my view on games has changed is how they’ve helped me socialize and create my own online presence. The main reason that I liked E3 was not because of the new stuff showcased, but because of how it invigorated the video game community. No other time of the year brings so much excitement (who can forget Keanu Reeves’s “You’re Breathtaking” moment!), and it made me want to become more active in the gaming community. Nearly every weekend, I spend my nights staying up late with my friends going on our virtual adventures. Not only does it bring me closer to gaming, but it also helps me to connect with people like me who are also deeply interested in video games.
The most important way that E3 has influenced me, however, is that it has motivated my future writing career. Video games are a passion that I want to share with everyone else. Yet it can be intimidating for new people to engage with them. I know from personal experience of trying to find people to try the games that I liked. What I realized is that if you're passionate about something and want to share it, you have to make it your own. How do I share about my love of games? I write about it. I’ve already talked about my old dream of being a game dev and of how I used video game music to help with my writing work. I’m even writing about games now, in this very blog post! So, the big takeaway is that I learned how to use my interest to help me grow professionally and, in a way, personally.
E3, though it isn’t as prevalent today as it was before, gave me my love for video games, and I want to use that love to make myself better. What I got out of it was not the annual celebration of gaming, but rather the effect it had on my personal life. Of course, like many other video game fans I miss seeing a traditional E3 go on: it was absolute fun to watch. But I feel that by looking at the event as my current self, I get something more from it even when it doesn’t happen. I’ve learned to separate my real genuine passion for video games from the obvious hype to gain a refreshed excitement, one that shows me the magic of video games and how they can bring out the best in us.
About the Author
Leonard Brattoli is a sophomore Honors student majoring in English. He offers to the Foundation his writing skills as one of its newest Newsletter and Blog Writers. His background is varied, including experience in creative writing, academic papers, review work, and collaboration.