E3 2014: Video game industry hopes to dazzle average consumers

June 10, 2014 | 6:00 a.m.
The E3 flag flies over the Los Angeles Convention Center where the E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) will get underway in Los Angeles,  (Michael Nelson / EPA)

The E3 flag flies over the Los Angeles Convention Center where the E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) will get underway in Los Angeles, (Michael Nelson / EPA)

The Los Angeles Kings may have vacated Staples Center for New York’s Madison Square Garden this week, but the blocks surrounding the arena have been replaced with a level of testosterone that not even the NHL can muster.

Cloaked assassins, military tough guys and a fantasy knight have taken control of the neighboring Los Angeles Convention Center and beyond.

All that aggressive advertising can herald only one thing: The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) has once again landed in Los Angeles. North America’s largest video game trade show, one that pumps $45 million into the local economy, never makes a modest entrance.

“The future begins,” is E3′s slogan for 2014, and the 45,000 registrants will ensure at least that the future is hyped.

Less than eight months after Sony and Microsoft each released new consoles, this year’s E3 will step away from heralding the lofty ambitions of next-generation consoles.

"Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain," due out Jun. 9, 2013. (Xbox)

“Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain,” due out Jun. 9, 2013. (Xbox)

The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are off to a fast start, having collectively sold more than 8 million consoles globally by early 2014, according to data from PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Now, the attention is shifting from dazzling core gamers to reaching a broader consumer, and the video game industry will do that the way it knows best — with lots of explosions.

Coming games such as “Battlefield: Hardline” will pit cops and robbers in an all out war on the streets of downtown Los Angeles. “Batman: Arkham Knight” will spark the boyhood dreams of many by putting players behind the wheel of the Batmobile. “Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain” is teasing war at its most melodramatic, and the makers of “Star Wars: Battlefront” took field trips to the original film locations for inspiration.

Even Nintendo has come out swinging; we recently learned that the company’s bumbling Italian sidekick has a mean streak. The latest Internet meme, the Luigi death stare, comes courtesy of the just-released “Mario Kart 8.”

But out of the gate, what E3 dubs “the future” looks and sounds an awful lot like the present and recent past.

Early Monday, when Microsoft took over USC’s Galen Center as a sort of pre-E3 event, the arena screens were showcasing soldiers being pulverized by the futuristic weapons of the latest entry in the “Call of Duty” franchise. The clip ended with the phrase “power changes everything,” reinforcing the old video game industry standby that bigger worlds, faster hard drives and stronger graphics equal a better game.

This is blockbuster video gaming, and E3 in its 20th year knows that subtlety isn’t the best way to stun. E3 attempts to wow with effects, or, in the unfortunate case of a new “Assassin’s Creed,” high-definition beheadings. While Microsoft’s Phil Spencer dubbed video games “the fastest growing form of entertainment in the world,” E3 often adheres closely to the idea of the game as perfectly chiseled technological product — worlds that get taken out for a test drive and then shot up with precision.

Artwork from the new game "Rise of the Tomb Raider," due out Jun. 9, 2014. (XBox One)

Artwork from the new game “Rise of the Tomb Raider,” due out Jun. 9, 2014. (XBox One)

This E3 will give us recognizable characters in new settings. Lara Croft, for instance, was shown in the office of a psychiatrist in the teaser for the new “Tomb Raider.” It was a welcome change of pace, but lest anyone think it’s a complete reinvention, Croft before too long was shooting an arrow into the back of a man’s skull.

Self-reflection makes for a good set-up, but E3 doesn’t stray too far from the ol’ familiar tropes of death and destruction.

Perhaps that’s for the best, as anyone who’s been around the conference more than twice knows that the next big thing at E3 can quickly become the opposite.

Last spring, Microsoft introduced its Xbox One with a tethered Kinect, a revamped edition of motion sensor that could better understand voice commands and was said to be so precision-correct that it could read a heartbeat.

Aspects of the Kinect were treated as revolutionary. Say, for instance, the word “snap,” and voilà, like a techie Harry Potter, you could suddenly conjure a picture-in-picture.

New console wars began with the releases of the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One.  (Sony; Microsoft)

New console wars began with the releases of the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One. (Sony; Microsoft)

But as impressive as the Kinect may be, there’s yet to be a game that showcases why it’s vital, and Microsoft recently slashed the price of the Xbox One by $100 and made the Kinect an optional add-on.

There will be some highly touted tech offerings this year as well. Nintendo this week will reveal details on how its “Skylanders”-influenced figurines will interact with its Wii U console, and Sony is showcasing its virtual reality headset dubbed “Project Morpheus.” Another immersive piece of headgear, the Oculus Rift, recently acquired by Facebook, has its own vision for a virtual reality-enhanced future.

As for the future? Perhaps E3 should stick to championing more attainable goals in its slogan. Here’s a start: Ensure that female characters are generally more clothed than not.

Microsoft’s 343 Industries will release a new “Halo” game in 2015, and when last we saw the franchise, the woman in the lead supporting role — a hologram, essentially — appeared largely in the bare.

“I know, I know,” said 343 Industries’ general manager, Bonnie Ross, who cringed just a little when asked about the portrayal at a recent press event. “She is wearing a digital pant suit. I look at it that way.”

She then added, “We can probably add some more digits there.”

– Todd Martens | @toddmartens | @LATHeroComplex

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Comments


8 Responses to E3 2014: Video game industry hopes to dazzle average consumers

  1. Scott says:

    People who talk like video games are second rate entertainment baffle me. It is the fastest growing entertainment form in the world and it will continue to grow. Some of the biggest blockbusters are all about explosions and destruction but I don't see you referencing that in this article at all. There are all genres of video games, just like with movies and they all take you on a fantastic journey. Trying to say these things about the video game industry in the LA Times, with Hollywood as your main staple, is really the pot calling the kettle black.

  2. Michael says:

    "As for the future? Perhaps E3 should stick to championing more attainable goals in its slogan. Here’s a start: Ensure that female characters are generally more clothed than not."

    "E3 attempts to wow with effects, or, in the unfortunate case of a new “Assassin’s Creed,” high-definition beheadings."

    SERIOUSLY? Maybe her body suit was tight, maybe they are graphic, but what are you 5? These games aren't for 5 year olds anymore. I do not see 5 year olds spending $400 on a console. If parents are letting kids play these games then thats their own fault. Maybe you should suggest that parents follow the ratings code on the game instead.

    Grow up.

  3. Chris C says:

    Tell your children to go outside and get some exercise. Video games are breeding a legion of obese diabetics.

    • @dei_hime says:

      Sure they are, until someone introduces them to parkour/free running, the local swordplay academy, or the new gym with trampolines and climbing walls. Not to mention all the martial arts dojos in the area. What demographics do you think are keeping all them running? Heck, most of the fittest people I know also happen to be gamers: it's all a matter of balance, like in any healthy lifestyle.

      You really wanna know what's breeding obese diabetics? It's the so-called "parents" these days who'd rather stick their kids in front of TV and gaming console than go outside to play because it's too "dangerous" out there. It's the idiots who STOP kids from going outside and keeping fit. Think I'm wrong? Look harder. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/swimming-ar

    • Joe says:

      Not our fault if your children are ill.

  4. mike says:

    square is bastardizing tomb raider even worse than they already have and i can tell konami is gonna get sued by the makers of gundam seed destiny because of the use of the phantom pain

    • on the contrary – tomb raider is better than ever, I've NEVER been interested in the game until recently because of the hypersexualization. Now, she is a real woman. not a sex object.

  5. exboomer says:

    I don't see anything wrong with the way Cortana has been portrayed in all the Halo games. I am tired of all the nanny state Liberals trying to tell everyone how they should act and live. As long as any future portrayal of her (if there ever is one) doesn't portray her as totally naked then the way she was shown in the last game is perfectly fine.

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