I recently attended the E3 convention at the Los Angeles Convention Center. You can get a taste of my visit at Bunk.e3

I expected to see more of this world of ludology and interactive narrative that I’ve grown so fond of. I expected to see the debate that never happened between gamers and storytellers. I expected to see the promise of interactive tales unleashed for next-generation game machines.

I did see first person (FP), but only in the context of FPS. I should have realized at some point that not only are most games shooters or other some other combat format, but also that most video games are the same games, same interface, same struture. I suppose when I study literature, I don’t study every book nor do I ever go out and look at every book. In fact, my whole perspective of literature is probably completely skewed.

My selective searches have limited my view of games to those with narrative innovation or even just a set of engaging novelties. Games that seem to pick up the ball from the Infocom salad days. Now that I think of it, my view of fiction is likewise skewed by too many literature classes, the New York Times, and my selective reading, usually based on the recommendations of close friends.

Now that I think of it, the few games that I tend to dally on, Katamari, GTA, and others, are clones or are soon-to-be-cloned.

But, as one of the directors of Jailed Games mentioned to me, it’s the academics’ job to innovate.

In my specific quest at E3 this time around, I did not see any chat games at all or interactive narratives. Granted interactive narratives with text input do not so easily lend themselves to 20-second tests, though I’m sure the talented “booth babes” can just as easily sell one of those as a high-adrenaline testosterone army-prep game.

Case in point: Poker Games.
I can remember a Poker game I played on my Apple 2E. I don’t see a lot of difference in the current versions. Perhaps if they designed Poker to be like football in the Madden series, so that people could play, or run the casino, or deal with the shattered remains of the family left fatherless or motherless by that scarlet lady luck. It’s interesting how many games have turned into the “multigame” variety. Nonetheless, Poker is poker and we continue to see more games that use Pentium processors to replace a deck of cards. At E3, tables of actual poker players gave demos. They seemed to be enjoying themselves. Now, I’ll just have to remember them while I enjoy the Poker Simulator.

My favorite part of the entire exhibit was a bit of nostalgia in the lowly Kentia exhibition hall. There, I found Colecovision, Ataris, and my treasured Odessy. As Tom Klein, a Flash game teacher put it, these games have aged more than they should have. It was as if they were covered in wood panelling. Definitely Star Wars episode 4-5 technology, you know the clunky industrial Soviet empire style space age, when they forgot how to make things curved and shiny. No doubt thanks to Ewok slave-labor. But I digress.

2 Responses to “E3”

  1. 1 Jeremy Douglass

    So, Mark, was E3 a total wash for text interactivity? Coming out of (dis)junctions, I was hearing all about the ubquity of chat in MMOGs, and hoped that someone would have done something innovative with tying it to gameplay… perhaps not.

    I was in a conversation with an in-house developer from Dreamworks yesterday who is also a gamer, and he asserted that most actions in Star Wars Galaxies (with the exception of navigation) can all be performed from the command line via scripting. Of course, these are all hooks into a predetermined interface (”FIRE BLASTER”) rather than guess the verb or guess the event (”CUT OPEN TONTON, PUT LUKE IN TONTON”)…

    As Tom Klein, a Flash game teacher put it, these games have aged more than they should have. It was as if they were covered in wood panelling.

    You know, I think there was fake wood paneling on my Atari 2600….

  2. 2 Mark Marino

    There wasn’t a lot of interactive story telling in the barage of games I saw. But here were some promising items:

    Here were some of the panels:
    Developing Better Characters, Better Stories
    Think Different and (still) Succeed: Finding Success with Games that Fall Outside the Familiar (not sure if this is an Apple dig or props?)
    Game Content Spreads its Wings (Christy would like this one) subtitle: A Conversation with the Leaders Behind Multi-Platform, Cross-Media Game Creation (though less creative than polymorphic or cross-media telling as she takes it)
    Genre Blending: Careening Beyond the Status Quo Toward New Levels of Innovation.

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