A year off the 20th celebration of the Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3, and it is truly staggering the amount of media that we have collectively consumed, first mentioned, and then showcased at this once humble event. Now a premier place for gaming goings on, it’s had quite a life (including a near death!) so far. So, with this years extravaganza on the near horizon, let’s have a peak at some of the incredible things we first heard of at E3.
It Begins! – It was 1995, and though I’m getting mixed numbers in my research, something like 40,000 + people attended, and that’s nothing to shake a stick at, even by today’s standards. Way back in ’95 it probably felt like everyone who was into the sort of media E3 was all about. The highlight, that dear old console gamers of a certain age remember wistfully, was the Sega Saturn. But it was the start of something big, and we’ve gotten a lot of goodies out of the Electronic Entertainment Expo over the years. There’s no way I can do all of the best announcements justice (there’s been rather a few). So in no particular order (though rounding out towards the end) here’s a list of some of the groundbreakers, earth-shakers, and heartbreakers that we’ve first stumbled across at E3.
PlayStation -1995 – One can make an awful lot of arguments about ‘best/most groundbreaking/ most important console’ releases. The original NES, the SNES, Genesis, heck, the Dreamcast, compelling arguments can be made for all of the above, and frankly, you aren’t wrong no matter which you pick. All of that being said, the original PlayStation was a major game changer. If the original expansion of gaming was a level, PlayStation was the boss. After that, things start getting bigger and more complicated exponentially, PlayStation is directly responsible for the creation of the Xbox (I’m speculating, but Im pretty sure), and onwards and upwards ’til today.
Gears of War – 2006 – Though, in present day, I think most of us have had our momentary fill of jacked up soldiers of awesome with awesome weapons saving the day awesomely in huge shiny awesome armor. Back then though? Man, Gears of War was a beast, and some folks might like to snicker behind their hands at the agro shooter and their ilk, but Gears (and Unreal) have left their mark, and if you get past the super soldiers and hoorah, Marcus, Dom & Co left gameplay legacy in their wake – not to mention a few really strong moments and a tugged heart string or two.
GTA 4 E3 -2006 – I think ‘changing the game’ is going to be an ongoing trend here, and apologies for unintentional pun, but Grand Theft Auto 4 was a shift in the water level. With the ever impressive skill that Rockstar North brings to bear, Liberty City was mind boggling, stretching for what seemed forever, and filled with a bonanza of things to do. My oh my, I dumped a significant amount of a year into GTA IV. It seems a lot more typical of scope in this day and age, but it was a staggering jump forward in what we saw as possible (and that’s not mentioning releasing on XBox 360).
1996 – This was a banner year, and a deserves a few notable mentions. Tomb Raider’s reveal, the first version of Unreal, The Nintendo 64, and Mario 64 a game that was a big one for me personally (the first game I actually beat), Resident Evil’s inception, Naughty Dog (for Crash Bandicoot, but, come on, big things to come) FFVII and a little thing called Starcraft… woof, what a magic time that must have seemed.
Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time – 1998– Though some will point to Link to the Past for the SNES, Ocarina was, in my opinion, the perfect distillation of what Zelda is all about. One of the ‘Old Ones’ of our gaming history, that is, the legendary figures from the past, Ocarina of Time still reverberates through gaming, an essential thread (I’m convinced that without Zelda, there’s no Dark Souls).
GameCube/Xbox -2001 – Another one that explains itself, how many incredible experiences were had on these? And how many game designers currently blowing our minds with their creations first caught a glimpse of their future after something they’d slid into one of these machines?
Project Natal – 2009 – Hindsight being what it is, this wasn’t as terribly exciting as the hype, but OH the HYPE! That kid scanned a skateboard and rode it! It became the Kinect, and that wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, but its descendants might actually be onto something: In particular, the face recognition abilities that have begun to resemble significant technology.
Halo – 2001 – I’m not sure I actually need to say anything here, just another herald of major growth and change from inside the gaming industry, it’s Halo, seriously… pretty sure you can fill this one in yourself.
Last Guardian – 2007 – File this one under ‘heartbreaker’, Team Ico have held our hearts in their hands with a mere two games in the last 13 years, and they led us on for a long time with a beautiful third, announced way back in 07. It’s been long enough now since our last taste that even the most optimistic fires have burned down to a low flame. Hope is not lost though, not until they put the nail in it, but nonetheless. Perhaps the most anticipated game ever to be left caught in Limbo (with the possible exception going to Duke Nukem, but I like to think the folks in charge of Last Guardian would let it die more gracefully than that).
The Dark Years – 2007-2008 – A weird transition that, well, I suppose there are folks who could properly articulate what happened here but let’s just sum it up as ‘things got borked’. Shrunk to a fraction of its former self, E3 tried on something ‘well mannered’ and ‘professional’ that suited it not at all. Though there were some highlights in terms of what was revealed to the world, it was a lot of sequels and talking about stuff people already new, and an overall ‘redundant’ vibe that had a lot of people lamenting the passing of E3.
2009-Beyond, the Renaissance – That dark time in E3 was echoed in the world of gaming, things got bleak, but as ever, they also continue to adapt and expand. Since then, with a great shift of the landscape and the death of a great many companies, things have exploded with a progression running parallel to the rest of technology, the internet, etc. It is bordering on eerie that such a ‘death event’ should have surfaced in something like E3, but I suppose eco systems are eco systems for a reason. It’s hard to do justice to the great expansion that has followed. With the Rise of the Indie Game we have had an ever increasing palette of concept games doing wonderful things in smaller spaces, which then pervaded our bigger games. This brought artfulness and inventive design to our more mainstream titles, which just helped lead the way for what came after. We got our share of ‘annual sequels’, but we also got games like the Dark Souls franchise, the Skylanders / Disney Infinity explosion, Bioshock Infinite, Watch Dogs, The Last of Us, we got our first look at the Wii U, and all this is but a sliver of some truly incredible experiences.
So what’s to come? Well, that is a very interesting question isn’t it? With E3 around the corner, we have a few sniffs and hints but the magic is the stuff we weren’t expecting. Keep your eye on Best Buy’s E3 Hub for E3 2014 news and community discussion, and let’s find out together.
You can find all of the latest information about E3 and the latest discussion topics on gaming at Best Buy’s E3 page.