Hit Points is a free newsletter from former Edge editor Nathan Brown, delivering insight and commentary on the games industry. If you want to read more, head over and subscribe.
Summer Game Fest, then. I think we can all agree on the most important takeaway from the evening’s sort-of-festivities: what in the ever-living fuck was going on with Geoff Keighley’s jacket? Was it polyester? Pleather? Had he fashioned it from the remnants of a broken gaming chair?
An hour in my wife appeared, having successfully got the youngest to sleep, and reckoned it was Duchess Satin, a fabric commonly used on the bridal scene. Was Geoff planning a live goth wedding to eternal bestie Hideo Kojima to close out the show? You wouldn’t put it past him, would you. Either way, yuck. Fuckedness Satin, more like.
After that I’m afraid I could barely concentrate on video games; this was now a deeply strange fashion show. Glen Schofield, on hand to show off The Callisto Protocol, should not wear a blazer, though I would of course never say that to his face. Despite his gruffly threatening voice and intimidating heft, Glen is in fact a sensitive soul and a true sweetheart.
A few years back I had dinner with him and his then COD brother in arms, Michael Condrey. I arrived early to find Glen was already there; he was sketching in a portfolio and he spent 20 minutes talking quietly and very precisely about his art while I sipped my gin and tonic.
So, yes, lovely man. The blazer looked terrible, but next to Geoff in his mismatched bridesmaid’s suit Glen just about got away with it — unlike Johanna Faries, the Call Of Duty general manager who, opening her wardrobe doors before going on a globally livestreamed stage show being watched by millions, let her eyes pass over the power suits and business-casual clobber typical of the executive set and thought, ‘Yep, dungarees’.
Later, NFT-loving voice actor Troy Baker looked like he’d spilled a drink backstage and had to borrow some trousers off a runner who was a foot shorter than him. Closing out the show was Neil Druckmann in a $125 henley that didn’t fit. It wasn’t until Geoff had left the stage and handed over to Day Of The Devs that we finally saw people who appeared to have got dressed with their eyes open.
If anything I was grateful for the distraction, given the calibre of game Geoff had to show us. As I pointed out earlier in the week, the Hype God’s move to lower expectations for the event was a worrying sign, but in hindsight I’m not sure he went far enough in preparing us for just how wet of a fart he had brewing.
It was not purely a question of quality — I am sure many of these games will turn out just fine. Rather, it was a matter of curation. There was far too much sci-fi, way too much horror, and also too much sci-fi horror. And violence was the dominant language of the day. No surprise with things like this, admittedly, but with so much genre-sharing going on, it seemed to stick out even more than usual.
Occasionally, during my old days on Edge, as we were putting the finishing touches to an issue I would suddenly realise the review section was full of 7s. I’d read them all again; maybe a couple were secretly 6s in disguise, and maybe one, on closer reading, deserved 8. Perhaps we could push one of the 7s to next month? Most of the time there was nothing I could do, but at least I tried. I’m sure Geoff did his best, too, but he ended up in much the same situation.
Just as I always had to fill a review section because the mag had a fixed pagecount, so Geoff has now committed to filling a 90-minute show three times a year with new, exciting, (mostly) triple-A videogames. And sometimes, as we saw last night, the industry just doesn’t have enough games to back it up — particularly at E3 time when every platform holder, publisher, media company and their dog are putting on their own show. There are only so many games to go around.
Geoff did his best to style it out — no mean feat in that jacket — and after Druckmann had followed his t-shirt off stage we got the only really big news of the night: an open declaration of war on E3. “Summer Game Fest will return in June 2023,” he said, “as a digital and in-person event to bring the gaming community together.”
This just days after the Entertainment Software Association pledged that E3 would return, as a digital and in-person event, in June 2023. Clearly, Keighley has calculated that E3 has been away for too long, and that he has done enough to claim the void for himself during its absence. E3 is dead; long live Keigh3.
I kind of respect that, if I’m honest — particularly from someone whose career really could have been over the moment the Doritopope meme was born — but he’s going to have to do a whole lot better than he did last night if he’s ever to succeed in consigning E3 to the lanyard-stuffed dustbin of history.
His gauntlet thrown firmly down, Geoff then handed over to Day Of The Devs, the Double Fine indie shindig which this year marked its 10th anniversary. I am not sure the creative divide between triple-A and indie games has ever felt so stark (and not just because of the outfits).
As Summer Game Fest’s Venn diagram of sci-fi and horror showed, triple-A bods tend to think in terms of genres — and verbs, as Troy Baker acknowledged in one of the show’s rare moments of insight — while indies trade in concepts. We went from ‘sci-fi horror third-person shooter’ to ‘you run a bed and breakfast in the woods, but you are a bear’ and honestly, it was no contest.
There was loads here to like but my pick was the opener, Time Flies. It’s a great idea, terrifically funny and was a true tonic after the ultraviolent, extravagantly raytraced, otherworldly oppression of the show that preceded it.
And then there was Devolver, the final act of the night but by no means its headline act. Quite the opposite, really. I have never bought into Devolver’s counter-cultural anarcho-punk shtick. It has always seemed contrived, too precise and refined, like the marketing copy on the back of a can of overpriced craft beer.
I thought last night was a new low in this regard, primarily because Devolver went public at the start of 2022, floating on the London Stock Exchange valued at almost a billion dollars. I do not think you get to take the piss out of industry consolidation when Sony and NetEase used said flotation to take a significant stake in your business.
I am not sure you still get to satirise the business and working practices of traditional videogame companies while, across the hall, the bean-counters are looking for possible efficiency savings in order to maximise value for shareholders. You have become what you purport to hate, Devolver, as if you weren’t already. Glass houses and all that. The clothes were okay, though, I suppose.