As useful as the Electronic Entertainment Expo is as a platform for exciting announcements and disseminating information about new games in progress, it can also be a bit frustrating.
I was exposed to more than 100 games and was able to chat with dozens of people who provided interesting perspectives on their products and the industry in general. Indeed, the posts I filed from the show were just the tip of the iceberg. In the weeks ahead I'll have stories about my interviews with people like Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime and 343 Industries' creative director Josh Holmes, as well as previews of games like Splinter Cell: Blacklist and The Elder Scrolls: Online.
But for every person I spoke with and game I saw, there were others I simply couldn't fit in due to the sheer size of the show and my finite time. E3 may not be the chaotic mess it was as recently as five years ago, but it's still imposing, overwhelming and impossible to observe in its entirety in the time allotted.
That said, based on what I saw I am excited about the future of games. Two titles in particular left me wishing I could take them home and begin playing them as soon as I step off the plane.
Ubisoft Montreal's Watch Dogs looks fiercely original. It's a combination of cinematic open-world action (its slow-motion gunfire barrel blazes are to die for) and fascinating near-future fear-mongering. Our protagonist is a man who can instantly hack any networked device he likes – phones, traffic signals, even bascule bridges – and access personal, private information – prison records, marital status, a man's propensity for violence – on anyone he encounters. It's endeavouring to be a compelling commentary on our constantly connected culture, and it looks like it might just be successful.
Even more exciting to me is The Last of Us, the latest from Uncharted creator Naughty Dog. Set in a post-pandemic world, it follows the story of a man and a 14-year-old girl trying to survive the end of civilization. Its wildly impressive A.I. – which is so complex that I won't do it the disservice of trying to describe it in a couple of lines here – makes for impressively dynamic missions in which player choices substantially alter how scenes play out.
But what really wowed me about this one was how its graphic and intense violence – imagine beating a man to death with a brick – serves a purpose beyond base, visceral thrills. It's meant to show players the terror, stress, and danger inherent in this world, thus strengthening the emotional bond between the game's two heroes. It makes us feel for them – a feat not easily accomplished in games. For this reason, among many others, it was my favourite game of E3 2012.
Getting an early look at a game like this is why E3, despite its frustrations and disappointments, remains an important event on my calendar.
Speaking of disappointments. Nothing stirs buzz at E3 like a new home console, and E3 2012 was supposed to be Nintendo's big coming out party for Wii U. It didn't quite turn out that way.
We were shown a handful of interesting games and learned a bit about the system's online and social features, but that was it. We were left wondering when it will hit stores, which games will be available, and, critically, how much the darned thing will cost.
After Nintendo's press conference I noted that virtually all of my colleagues shared feelings of bewilderment, pessimism, and even a bit of gloom. I even heard a couple of veteran journalists say it was the worst E3 press conference they'd ever seen.
I wouldn't go that far, but it was certainly a letdown. With so many questions left unanswered, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't concerned. One thing is sure: Nintendo now faces an uphill publicity battle in the months leading up to the Wii U's launch this fall.
Want to know what it's like to go E3? Here's a bullet-point version of my four days in L.A.
5 – Major press conferences attended
26 – Scheduled events in my calendar
2 – Appointments that fell through
3 – Sit-downs with game industry bigwigs/legends
1 – Times Nintendo U.S. chief Reggie Fils-Aime said one of my interview questions "chafed" him
80+ – Miis encountered via 3DS StreetPass
3 – Times refused opportunity for tasteless photos with booth babes
1 – Times accepted opportunity for awesome photo in front of life-sized Halo 4 Warthog
23 – Games played in hands-on demonstrations
100+ – Games viewed in press conferences, booth tours, breakout sessions, theatre presentations, and hands-off demonstrations
12 – Games I'd hoped to see, but either couldn't find on the floor or didn't have time to take in
Too many – Game demonstrations I sat through simply to be kind to an amiable PR contact
2 – Near-encounters with Shigeru Miyamoto
33 – Bloody bits I sliced some poor goon into in my Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance demo
250+ – Tweets posted
300+ – Pictures taken
3 – Times I was asked by random people why so many great games are coming from Canada these days
5135 – Score achieved playing as a Canadian Joint Task Force 2 heavy gunner in Medal of Honor: Warfighter (good for third place overall!)
310 – City blocks walked between the convention center, press conferences, hotel, and various events (a little over 30 kilometres)
18 – Fruit and bran bars consumed in lieu of regular meals