It seems like too often today, we as gamers get caught up in the things that don’t really reflect why we love playing games. I can be as guilty of this as anyone. During E3, I’ll easily get caught up in the debate over who “won” the show, who had the best conference, and which console will have the best year going forward. I constantly catch myself looking at the NPD numbers to see which company sold the most consoles in the previous month. Of course, if I was a shareholder in any of the big three console companies, or if I worked on any of the teams that developed the systems, I’d have a reason to care about all of that. But I’m not, and neither are the overwhelming majority of fellow gamers out there.
Still, many of us do it. Be honest. We get caught up in talking about how many copies of a game sold, or how many Ps it has on our television screen, instead of talking about the awesome experience it gave us or how much fun it was. We debate other gamers on which system is better, why ours is great and theirs isn’t, and so on. Too often we focus more on the differences in simple preferences than the common similarities we all have. Look at almost any forum or comments section related to gaming and it can be downright depressing at times.
So the other evening when I turned on the Game Awards, I was given such a pleasant surprise. I was given a two hour reminder of why being a gamer is awesome, and why almost everyone involved in gaming does what they do: because games are fun and we love playing them. Games from every console got cheered because of the incredible time and sacrifice that is put into making these pieces of art that so many of us enjoy. Independent games shared the spotlight with AAA titles because they can both affect us strongly. There was no bias (aside from the clear yet unannounced partnership between the show and EA/DICE) – the show was a celebration of developers, game journalists, and gamers themselves.
Greg Miller (formerly of IGN and now CEO of Kinda Funny Games) gave a passionate speech that truly needed to be said on a public stage. It offered evidence that while there are many people who are negative and hateful in gaming, they are truly the loud minority. The vast majority of us love games, love talking about games, and love sharing the experiences games give us with friends or others close to us. Want proof? The monthly donation amount for Kinda Funny Games on Patreon increased by over $1500 after Miller’s speech. Overnight. Or take Phil Spencer’s tweet hours before the Game Awards:
“Creating something, putting it out to be judged is one of the most courageous things a team can do. Congrats to all @thegameawards nominees”.
-Phil Spencer (@xboxp3)
This type of shared respect for all people involved in the gaming industry made me not just happy, but proud to be a gamer. It made me reflect on why I love gaming, and why I believe most other gamers do too – because the shared experiences, connections, and memories we have from playing games have become part of who we are. I have made some great friends on Xbox Live. I have played games that have touched me, some that gave me an adrenaline rush, and some that were so powerful I sat there speechless after the game was completed. In each of those moments, the furthest thing from my mind was what the resolution of the game was, how many other people owned the console I do, or how good the E3 press conference was.
There were a couple of specific moments during the show that really hit me as a gamer and made me reflect. First was seeing games like Her Story and Rocket League win awards for various accomplishments. Both games provide evidence that games can be incredibly impactful on an audience without having a $500 million budget. The former proves that you do not need to have an epic, Michael Bay like story to resonate with the audience, while the latter reminds the sports genre of the number one rule in any sports game: make it fun and accessible to everyone. Many friends of mine have abandoned franchises like Madden, FIFA, and NHL because it has become too complicated to play the game. Take note, EA and 2k: a game where you use RC cars to put a ball in a net just won sports game of the year.
The second, and I’d feel remiss if I didn’t mention this, was the touching tribute to Saturo Iwata by both Geoff Keighley and Reggie Fils-Aime. It became clear in those few minutes that not only was this man an icon in the industry from a business perspective, but he had also touched the lives of many people in the industry through his character and love for the industry. It reminded me that even the people in the most powerful positions in the industry are there because at their core, they love gaming as much as those of us who line up waiting for the midnight release of the new console or AAA title.
Ultimately, the show was a love letter to ALL people in the industry – developers, journalists, and gamers. It reminded me that regardless of which of these roles we play, or which console we prefer, at our core we love games, and that makes us have much more in common than we might think. It served as a reminder to me that gaming is and should be fun. It should be about escaping from the stress of everyday life, about the friendships we make, and about the experiences we have. We can all take issue with who won the awards (I know I do in a couple of cases), but the real winners are we the gamers. Because in that moment where you experience something amazing in a game, nothing else matters. Not the score the game got. Not the E3 press conference. Not how many Ps the game has on your TV.
All that matters to us, like everyone else on every console, is one thing: that it’s really fun.