Overthinking E3: Thoughts and Photo Gallery

Part 2 of our E3 2009 coverage from our LA correspondent Mike.

This is the (very belated) follow up to Part 1 of our E3 coverage from special correspondent Mike from LA. Thanks Mike, and sorry about the delay.

From my perspective, the video game industry seems to have become everything that I wish that the film industry was. There is a very good chance that sequels will be at least as good as originals, and there is no fear of innovation and creativity. I think it is obvious from the 2009 game list that creative people are responding quite well to this. The games look much more interesting than the summer movie list ever looked.

Video games have always been defined by the user effort required to fully enjoy them. The evolution of games has moved towards greater efforts for greater rewards in the form of better visuals and better stories. Rather than simple “The End” screens after defeating final guardians, video games now tell the devoted elaborate stories about grand mythologies (If you want to know what the next Lord of the Rings or Star Wars is going to be, believe me that it will be neither book nor film: tomorrow’s Tolkiens and Lucases [Lucii?] will be in video games).

On the other hand, the evolution of cinema in roughly the same period of time has been in the opposite direction. Though as always there are exceptions, the intellectual challenge and reward of cinema have been traded in in favor of popcorn whose user effort tends to amount to staying awake in a dark room.

So the sort of individual who would be naturally drawn to video games, who would like the idea of spending months of their spare change and time taking on the Hordes of Hell more than watching someone else do it, would naturally be also more open to big new ideas and adventures. The potential for a more passive enjoyment found in much of modern cinema, however, is designed to attract the Swing Cinephiles whose dollars differentiate a blockbuster success from a failure and who are eager to exchange the intellectual rewards of thoughtful escapism for the easier to come by pleasure of familiarity. The trend in video games may even be a reaction to this trend in cinema.

But back to E3. Photo gallery and gametrailers after the jump.

[Ed. Note: Game Tailers has taken down these videos, so these shorthand embed codes don’t work. Sorry!]

[gametrailers 47764]

This game was actually in 3-D, but you need to buy a special television and wear 3-D glasses to get the full effect. When you have these things, it looks pretty awesome. James Cameron is also developing Avatar: The Game in 3-D, but you had to be a VIP like Steven Spielberg who bounced in with eight bodyguards (thus foiling my assassination plot which only had a seven bodyguard contingency) in order to get a look, so I have no idea whether it uses similar technology.

[gametrailers 50519]

This was just a way cool idea, even more than Guitar Hero, in my opinion.

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This game was described as The Legend of Zelda… in Hell. When I talk about big new mythologies, this is what I’m talking about.

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Speaking of Hell, this seemed a little insane to me. Is the fact that it is based on the Inferno really going to push more copies than had it been about a man just going to hell to battle monsters? I wonder what Dante would have thought.

[gametrailers 50275]

Looked fun. Not exactly Overthinking this one.

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The series of Lego games continues to baffle me. What is the point of the Legos? Are more people interested in this game than would be a non-Lego Harry Potter game? Why are there glasses on a baby? Having never played a Lego game, my theory is that Lego wants to be in video games, but they know that they will push more games if they are attached to a property like Batman or Indiana Jones. Those franchises get licensed out because it must be pretty cheap to develop and render Lego worlds compared to the textures and physics of a world like in Batman: Arkham Asylum, so they turn mostly profit for little effort and money. But that’s purely a theory.

[gametrailers 50198]

Once again, it just looked cool. They’re remastering the entire Beatles catalog in conjunction. If part of the goal, as it presumably is, is to reach the Guitar Hero crowd with Beatles music, they had better put it on iTunes.

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This is actually a reboot of sorts, considering there is a whole series of these games. As with previous entries, you can be alien, human, or predator. I watched a British suit-wearing spokesman jump from tree to tree as a predator, lure humans away from their posts with sounds, impale them on the above-demonstrated wrist knives and rip their spine-dangling heads off.

[gametrailers 50619]

This game looked awesome. I fought a turtle monster that was probably the best-looking thing I have ever seen in a video game.

[gametrailers 50835]

I only saw the first Saw and am no fan of “torture porn” unless you count Japanese game shows. But this game is actually a pretty interesting idea: it is a puzzle game where you are one of the Jigsaw killer’s victims, trying to escape. I only got to play it for a little bit, but I would say there is potential that it could be better than the movies as it is less about the uncomfortable sadist voyeurism of the film series and more about the clever twists which may not bring me to the theater but I have at least read about on Wikipedia. Of course, it could suck, too.

[gametrailers 50141]

Looked badass.

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I love me some Jables. Jack Black’s rock star schtick and its appeal could be the subject of an Overthinking It blog in and of itself.

That’s about it from me. I’m going to Comic Con in July so maybe I’ll have more for you then. [Ed. Note: Yes, please.]

9 Comments on “Overthinking E3: Thoughts and Photo Gallery”

  1. Sillyweasel #

    Oh wow, DJ Hero, while at first made my brain hurt, I’ll admit I watched the entire clip and and genuinely interested in this now. Granted, the remix of those two songs was also just,… really weirdly intriguing and I couldn’t STOP listening to it, especially with the “instructions” scrolling by on the game screen.

    I’m almost thankful I don’t have money for video games at the moment, or I’m fairly sure I’d be completely lost in my bedroom playing them in the months to come, ignoring social things entirely lol.

    As a side note, this website is like crack. I’ve been reading it for roughly 10 hours. You bastards. I’m nearly all the way back through 2008,… how far does this site go?… cause I already know I’ll end up reading ALL of it anyhow, sans the few articles/selections/submissions/whatever that would spoil me on things I’ve yet to see (And will be going back to read them after I’ve seen them, obviously,…).


  2. Pianodan #

    If they can sort out the lawsuits and get Brutal Legend released, it is well worth checking out. Tim Schaefer, the creator, was involved in two of the most original games ever produced: Grim Fandango and Psychonauts.


  3. mlawski OTI Staff #

    You said: “If you want to know what the next Lord of the Rings or Star Wars is going to be, believe me that it will be neither book nor film: tomorrow’s Tolkiens and Lucases [Lucii?] will be in video games.”

    Is this true? Recently, I haven’t been playing any American video games except for Team Fortress 2 and Fallout, because their stories were either pitifully bad or non-existent. As far as I’m aware, Western video game companies do not hire writers. They hire “game designers,” which usually means people who know how to code. If they can write also, great, but that’s not the focus. Moreover, recently the focus has been more on developing diverse types of gameplay (think of Loco Roco, the Wii games, Rock Band, Little Big World, Spore, and so on) rather than complex storylines and mythology.

    But maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about, since I’ve been out of the video game loop for quite a while. If so, what games have come out lately with Lord of the Rings caliber stories? (The latest Metal Gear game doesn’t count, since those games, while fun, have always been far too confusing for me to count as good art.)

    Also, @Pianodan: My heart just fluttered at your mention of Grim Fandango. How I love that game. So, so excited about the new Monkey Island series coming out next week. Le sigh.


  4. Gab #

    @Mlkwaski: Well, I think the “mythology” thing varies from game to game and person to person. Take the _Resident Evil_ genre, for example. The franchise transitioned from game to film, and when the first film came out, there was somewhat of an uproar with some of the fans about how it wasn’t “canon.” Survival horror video game “canon” being violated in a film? Really? My point is some people take the stories of their games very, very seriously, just as seriously as a LotR, Star Trek, etc. fan. And then you also get people that don’t really care and just play or watch to have fun. They may say, “Oh, that’s kinda different,” but they won’t get in a tizzy about it (“No! Lickers don’t show up until the second game, they shouldn’t be around yet!”). Plus, let’s not forget the epic RPG games out there. Even if not all of them are necessarily spectacular (_Parasite Eve_), you still do get some amazing ones (a number of the _Final Fantasy_ series) with compelling characters, twists, and real *stories* being told. I wouldn’t attempt to argue that every game is being made with the intent of storytelling, since you’re right, some aren’t. I mean, I really doubt the folks at Capcom were going for epic storytelling in making up Umbrella and its evildoings. But I do think some games are made and developed to tell stories, and that others are also taken as such, even if this wasn’t, in fact, the original concept. And I do think this has the potential to if not replace film, at least give it a run for its money, since gaming gets people directly involved in the story- they have a stake in it, since they’re sitting there with the control (or mouse, or keypad) at their fingertips. But I do concede that sometimes we just want to sit back and be entertained, which is why I’m not sure games will necessarily overthrow theater.


  5. DaveW #

    @Mlawski: If you’re looking for a good story, I’d highly recommend pretty much anything by Bioware (their lineup includes Badur’s Gate, Neverwinter Nights, Jade Empire, Knights of the Old Republic, Mass Effect, and the upcoming Dragon Age, as well as their new Star Wars MMO, The Old Republic). Just about anything Bioware touches turns to gold, as far as I’m concerned. Heck, I rather wish their daddy company of EA would buy Lucasarts and declare that henceforth, only Bioware would be allowed to tell a Star Wars story.

    It’s also certainly not new anymore, but Bioshock managed to tell a very good story as well. You may recall John Perich’s article from a few months ago about its ties to Atlas Shrugged. I’m still amused by the amount of Rand Institute ads that flooded the site as a result :)

    Also a bit dated, but The Longest Journey and its sequel Dreamfall make for a pretty good story, and if you enjoy 80s-90s style point-and-click puzzle adventures, TLJ is one of the best.


  6. Megan from Lombard #

    I don’t play video games at all but the DJ Hero made me almost want to go out and buy it when it comes out. I’ve always been interesting in DJing and I think that the game will actually help by exposing the industry to a group of people who may not go out on a weekend night to the club. However at the same time, like Guitar Hero, it won’t be like you’re actually DJing; it’s just a simulator to show what it would be like. But it still looks cool.


  7. mlawski OTI Staff #

    @DaveW: The Longest Journey is sweet sweet! I do love my old-school adventure games. Thanks for the recommendations. I do notice, however, that most of the games on your list are on the oldish side, which continues to support my point that American video games have become less reliant on story lately, not more.


  8. Pianodan #

    Recent games with decent stories? Mass Effect is the only one that really springs to mind, although Grand Theft Auto 4 wasn’t bad. All time good stories? (that I’ve actually played)

    1. Grim Fandango has to be number one.
    2. Planescape Torment
    3. The Longest Journey
    4. Deus Ex
    5. System Shock 2

    These are the ones that spring immediately to mind.


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