E3 2016: The PC Gaming Show

The PC Gaming Show is my first event of E3, taking place the Monday before the convention itself opens. Located a short ways away from the convention center, I chose to walk it, to immerse myself fully in the LA experience once more. I hate it. It’s a bad call. My judgment is not yet on point. A burly man with no shirt on passes me wordlessly, then shouts at me for being a homosexual. Homeless dot the streets in the same way I imagine trees dot suburban lanes. Down Hill Street, I see an altercation break out at a bus stop. One block over, a cop lounges in his squad car.

After wandering through this Milton-esque landscape, I find the Ace Hotel. There is a red carpet, for VIPs and press. On the other side of the entrance are ropes and an astonishingly long-looking line. I wonder who would come to this thing, and why.

Inside the gothic-styled Theatre at the Ace Hotel, red lights bathe everyone in a satanic glow. As Sean Plott (Day9, the host of the show itself) will later quip, it looks a bit like Diablo. In the small vestibule outside the theatre itself, machines are set up with prominent AMD logos, running games that will presumably be on display. Mages of Mystralia looks interesting, but the rest sort of fade in and out of existence.

He was alright but felt kinda like a cheapo Jimmy Kimmel at times. Like a Jimmy Plimmel, if you will.
Sean ‘Day9’ Plott helmed the PC Gaming Show for the second year running in 2016. (Photo courtesy of Kotaku AU)

It is in this area that I notice how the masses are divided. My pass reads Press, and many others read Industry. The majority of people milling about the lobby area, though, are either Staff or Gamer. Yes, Gamer. I would have went with CONSUMER, or perhaps SUCKER, but maybe that’s too on-the-nose for most.

Having toured the machines on display, I moved into the theater. Close to a hundred people were already seated when I got there, and it wouldn’t be until nearly halfway through the show that the theater got anything approximating full. The Microsoft Press Conference at the Galen Center – an easy 20 minute Uber trip to the south – overlapped with the beginning of the PC Gaming Show.

The show opens with darkness, the lights turned down, Sean Plott slipping behind his Late Late Night knockoff desk, and a person in a space marine suit tottering unsteadily onto the stage. He’s only able to make it with the assistance of two people, both on and off the stage.

Which makes sense, when you think about the fact that space marines are weighed down by the worst managed IP in the history of the world
Warhammer 40k Space Marine, two devs, and Day9. The Marine couldn’t really move without the help of two assistants.

When the lights come up, there are developers on the couch, again in the style of a late night talk show. Plott serves remarkably well in this sort of format, though some of his bits come across as telegraphed and hackneyed. It’s better than Jay Mohr at Blizzcon, though.

Thus begins the 90 minute hellscape of plodding interviews and pedestrian trailers. A gong sounds each time a WORLD PREMIERE is brought up onto the screen, but it becomes a bit of a game for me to rate these premieres on how bad they are, rather than how good.

Of particular note are just four games for me: Oxygen Not Included, Overland, Dual Universe, and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. Oxygen Not Included received the short trailer treatment and is the next game from Don’t Starve developer Klei Entertainment. Billed as a colony simulator, it seems it might satisfy my Rimworld itch.

Overland is a small squad, turn-based, survival game that has just a beautiful polygonal art style and a wonderfully minimalistic look. Later, I get to play it at IndieCade, but for now my interest is considerably piqued.

Dual Universe is, essentially, another attempt at the Holy Grail of Sci-fi games. A single-shard, persistent MMO in which players build literally everything – from spaceships to economies – Dual Universe looks like Space Engineers on crack. Unfortunately, it isn’t playable at E3 this year, but it does look tremendous and, for the sci-fi minded among us, filled with potential.

Finally, Eidos Montreal takes the stage to demo their newest stage of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided – Dubai. I’m not a huge Deus Ex guy, in fact I’ve only dabbled with the previous games for less than a few hours combined, but this game looks stunning and stealthy. The Dubai level may have prompted me to install a couple of the older Deus Ex games when I got home. Maybe.

Future Dubai doesn't look all that different from current Dubai, if we're honest
Eidos Montreal shows off a portion of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided’s Dubai

Then, the show was over – except wait, no, here comes Warren Spector to give the worst Ted Talk gaming ever seen. He recounted a bit of his 3 decade history in the industry, lamented the apparent death of the PC industry, then celebrated its return by convincing us all that ‘Facebook games’ matter, while also pointing towards advances in VR. All told, it was a strange way to end the show and would perhaps have been better as an edited, pre-produced video clip.

Each seat was covered in swag upon entry, and as Mr. Spector continued to speak, there was a rising level of rustling in the audience: people sifting through their goodies, repacking them into their bags. I, being smarter, had done this already, packing it away into my bag before the show even began. The allure of a little swag trumps my annoyance at the size of the Loot Crate box.

In front of me, a self-described Gamer Girl from Youtube is busy reaching around to check the size on all the shirts draped over seat backs (yes, lady, they are all XL) while next to me a crew of journalists, encamped about halfway through the show, mutter to themselves about getting something to eat. They landed in LAX earlier that day, went straight to the Microsoft Press Conference, then straight to the PC Gaming Show.

GAMERS, PRESS, and INDUSTRY alike tromp out of the theatre as Spector wraps up, a many-colored diaspora of Loot Crate wielding GAMERS let loose upon the real world. They fade as I make my way back to the convention center, disappearing into hotels and down thoroughfares, where the normal residents of this terrible, terrible city continue to struggle to live.

Every year the juxtaposition of the opulence inside E3 and the many small tragedies that play out on the street outside strike me as perfect symbols for many of the industry, and the world’s, ills. This year, though, I found my own history and games colliding in a stunning, emotional way when I sat down to play Killbox.