Allow Me To Apologize For E3 2012S

Allow me to apologize, on the behalf of all game developers, for the 2012 Electronic Entertainment Expo.

I don't have time to read every piece of periodical published on the subject. The few articles I have scanned, however, point to a general consensus that this year's E3 was a sort of bloodbath Roman Carnival of depraved screaming, screeching, and shrieking.

I find this assessment not immediately off the mark. The loudest moment of E3 2012—louder than the dubstep on the show floor, louder than the hip-hop at the NOS booth outside, louder even than the amplifier of the microphone-wielding man spouting The Word of Jesus in direct competition with the hip-hop at the NOS booth—were, yes, the orgasmic shrieks of press-conference attendees viewing moving imagery of a virtual bodybuilder lobotomizing an elephant with a jagged dagger.

A man held a sign high outside E3 for all days of the show: "ALL HAVE SINNED", it said, and then some Bible verse coordinates. Say what you will about the Bible—this man was on to something. His printed words chilled, and not only because we're all a little guilty about something. This man appeared to us during a week fraught with images of simulated violence, in a crucible of humanity wherein "to decapitate with a shotgun blast" inches day by day toward worthiness of its own single-syllable verb. We are not murderers; we aren't even "virtual" murderers, since that distinction means nothing. We are not exactly "champions" of violence, either, unless we endeavor to destroy every game not about headshots and neckshots and bleed-outs.

Allow Me To Apologize For E3 2012S

Many colleagues—journalists and game developers alike—who I spoke to at this year's E3 seemed bereft of their ancient wonder regarding electronic entertainment. As my friend Brandon Sheffield said, "I miss when games weren't a multi-billion-dollar industry". That just about sums up the way everyone I talked to in Los Angeles last week felt about this whole video game thing.

Now that games are a multi-billion-dollar industry, they've gotten ahead of themselves. It feels to me that the games industry's growing pains are going to outlast its relaxing times, as here we are with another year packed full of virtual murder, now more visceral and grotesque than ever.

THE NUN-GARROTE HEARD ROUND THE WORLD

Square-Enix kicked off the gaming community's disillusioned response to this year's E3 with a quick and brutal pre-show teaser trailer for Hitman: Absolution.

As we all know, "colon, noun ending in ‘ion'" is game publisher code language for "it would probably hurt sales if we let people know how many games we've made in this series before this one".

In some cases, they want you to think they've made fewer entries; in others, they want you to think they've made more.

Hitman has always been a series which prides itself in semi-real violence. You play the role of a super-tough guy who is bald and has a barcode tattooed on the back of his head.

The outcry regarding this trailer was monumental, and thus probably exactly what the publisher wanted. The consensus was that here was proof games are horrible schlock and can never be art if this sort of thing keeps up.

Many sectors despised the trailer on sight for its portrayal of women.

Here's how women are portrayed in the new Hitman trailer: all women in the trailer are also nuns who are riding a school bus. They step out of the bus and shuffle toward the sleazy motel inside of which Agent 47 is cleaning and dressing wounds from an unseen battle.

The nuns throw off their habits. Under those robes, the nuns are all wearing fishnet stockings and outfits resembling the collision between a bikini and a blender. One of the nuns produces a rocket launcher from . . . somewhere.

Around here is where Jerry "Tycho" Holkins of Penny Arcade decided that, "once a nun produces an RPG from her habit, we have passed through a kind of ‘veil' critically speaking". I agree with many of the points Holkins makes, though for me, the trailer transformed into something ignorable several seconds earlier, with the image of a bandage over Agent 47's signature barcode tattoo.

The bandage is oriented horizontally. We can see it soaking up blood. We recognize that someone—probably Agent 47 himself—has slashed the barcode horizontally with a sharp object.

Let's pretend we've never played a Hitman game—for many of you, this won't be a difficult exercise (epic burn (actually I'm not sure who I just burned)). So we have no idea what the barcode is for. We'll presume, because someone has cut it with a blade, that it's for identification purposes, and the bearer of the tattoo no longer wants his previous identifiers to identify him.

So in an instant we decide that this man took the blade to his own tattoo.

Except he cut it horizontally—slashing through each bar of the code.

Anyone who's worked at a supermarket for more than a day realizes that in order to render a barcode unreadable, you must violate it with a single vertical mark which extends from a hair above the barcode to a hair below it.

So here we have deduced that someone producing the Hitman: Absolution trailer had possibly, in another life, been fired from a supermarket after less than a day's work.

So this phantom writer's ignorance of the larger points of supermarket standards renders the story's protagonist something of a stupid-person.

What happens after this expensive computer-animated wound-dressing with a gaping logic hole is thus painted the color of idiotic. Our titular Hitman's credibility is thus brained with a bowling pin, flopping like a fish on the floor; immediately I consider anyone who falls to this "professional" assassin lacking the common sense to operate a cash register to be dumber than dumb.

To help this impression along, the Battle Nuns attempting to assassinate Agent 47 are complete morons. I'm sure the groaning critics were most upset with the gruesome nature of the manner in which Agent 47 kills his targets; I'd like everyone to take a step back and look at just how stupid his targets were. Let's not forget to be offended by that, as well.

  1. They're dressed as nuns and riding a bus.
  2. Why were they dressed like nuns?
  3. Are they dressed like nuns so as to appear inconspicuous to the bus driver?
  4. Do bus drivers, as a rule, never chat up nuns?
  5. How not-confident in their skills of spying and assassinating were these nuns, that they had to adopt "inconspicuous" disguises in order to avoid having a simple lowly bus driver who probably didn't even finish elementary school blow their cover?
  6. Why don't they have their own bus?
  7. If it is their own bus, why are they disguised on their own bus? Why can't they dress like normal women?
  8. If the nun disguise is intended to maintain an inconspicuous aura while these females travel in a large group, why do they take the habits off immediately after exiting the bus?
  9. Seriously, isn't the inconspicuous disguise more important when their full bodies are exposed? What eagle-eyed schoolchild is peering from a rooftop with binoculars into the windows of a passing bus, the FBI's number dialed, finger hovering over the "send" key, deciding at last to "Wait — it's just a group of nuns"?

Now the nuns throw off their clothes, and they're all sexy and breasty. They walk toward the motel in a stupidly showoffy "V" formation, point a rocket launcher, and let one rip.

Okay—now our hero appears and kills every one of them. We get to see their skin warp, their eyeballs widen, their boobs flop, their tongues loll, exit-wound bullet-holes appear in their foreheads as they go limp, spurt blood, fall over, and die.

Meanwhile, some Really Sweet Rain Effects and Really Sweet Fire Effects dance about, the heartbeat of a new generation of computer graphics.

Elsewhere, in the real world: So there's some guy in this room—it's a really big room. In this room is a big, elliptical table. I bet this guy has a pound of B-vitamins in his bloodstream. He's talking about how "Grindhouse" was popular a couple of years ago, so let's go with that aesthetic. He's got a slideshow, and one of the slides is the scene from "Kill Bill" where a group of assassins converges on a small church and blows it away with machine guns.

"Kill Bill", however, is an intelligent, self-aware thing, put together without even a cursory glance at What's Hot With The Kids. "Kill Bill"'s iPhone address book doesn't have a single focus group's contact information in it. It's—like it or not—a work of some genuine human being's taste, an intelligently-assembled collage of copies of Things An Existing Person Genuinely Likes.

Hitman: Absolution isn't this. It's a copy of copies of copies. It's turtles half of the way down, and copies of turtles the rest of the way down.

Now, here I am, not being fair: we're judging a book by its cover. We're judging a nun by her face. Let's talk about the game design: a quick tour on the E3 show floor left me with the impression that Hitman: Absolution is a neat little game with some nice ideas. Square-Enix is a large corporation, rich with the money of teenagers who love cartoon hair and J-pop, and so they are willing to share some of this money by salarying some talented people at the tops of the fields of computer graphics, software engineering, and game design.

Hitman: Absolution is a Nice-Enough Video Game.

Just because the marketing is choppy, sleazy, and ugly doesn't mean that everyone working on the game is a jerk. In fact, many of the people working on the game are probably fantastic human beings.

For example, I often justify my work like so: A dollar a housewife spends on FarmVille items is a dollar her child doesn't spend on high-fructose corn syrup.

Behind me in line for the bathroom at the Microsoft conference was a kid who must have been nineteen. He asked me if I knew where ‘the Ubisoft thing' was, and I said I think it's downtown, and then he asked me if I thought it was ‘gonna be sweet'. I think he might have been one of the screaming people.

I'm sure many people on the Hitman: Absolution development team tell themselves something similar when they go to bed at night. "At least I'm not stationed at a 7-Eleven dumpster, handing packs of cigarettes to preschoolers", et cetera. Stabbing a virtual nun in the back of the skull is rancid and stupid, and though it will give you a metaphorical cancer, it sure as heck won't give you or your children a literal cancer.

So Hitman: Absolution isn't "Citizen Kane". Heck, it's not even "The Third Man". It's just some nonsense about a bald guy gutting professional assassins who probably couldn't even tie their shoes. That doesn't mean it doesn't have some snap and pep to its craft.

Look: no one gets into game design not wanting to make games like Braid or Journey. Everyone who's ever owned a pack of Crayons and Super Mario Bros. wants to make a game just like Journey. It's just—it's just, it's like this, man: if I can play the bass and my friend can play the guitar, we can't have a band unless we have a drummer. And if our drummer sucks, even if my friend is a genius at the guitar, our band sucks. It's a miracle that groups of people like Thatgamecompany find one another. The rest of us get to sit in meeting rooms watching an Electronic Arts producer walk us through the "Vertical Slice" of Dead Space, commenting on how many times and in how many ways the game tells the player to shoot the aliens' limbs: "This is crucial", he keeps saying. Then, a couple years later, we might be rewriting formulas and applying calculus to a spreadsheet to make sure items in a game are unfairly priced, though not too unfairly priced.

Some of us just aren't cool enough or hot enough to make games entirely by ourselves. Some of us try, and fail, and exit the experience with Job Skills, and maybe by then we're pretty tired and hungry and in need of health insurance.

So here we are, in a city where sex sells, and death sells, and sex and death sell incredibly well together.

MORE DEATH THAN SEX

More death than sex: at this year's E3 I saw a bald virtual bodybuilder lobotomize an elephant man in God of War: Ascension, I saw a bald virtual assassin garotte a faux nun; I saw an elite military sniper decapitate a man through a truck. I heard press conference attendees shriek as though their hair were on fire when a haggard survivor of an apocalyptic event performed shotgun-assisted face-removal surgery to a cowering psycho-bandit in The Last of Us. When skinny little Lara Croft's body slammed again and again into rocks and trees and cliffs and boulders in a live demonstration of Tomb Raider, the scream-bellows approached Just-Won-The-High-School-Football-Game intensity, their sonic texture identical to a race of alien lion-people's word for "Heck yeah bro".

"Who the heck is screaming at all these things?" a journalist friend asked me.

Lucky for him, I had an answer: "Behind me in line for the bathroom at the Microsoft conference was a kid who must have been nineteen. He asked me if I knew where ‘the Ubisoft thing' was, and I said I think it's downtown, and then he asked me if I thought it was ‘gonna be sweet'. I think he might have been one of the screaming people."

So here's where I realized that I was literally fourteen years old when Mortal Kombat came out. I was The Target Audience. Entertainment Software's most trusted thriving point is "disruption": if the thing is new, the thing is successful. It's that simple. Mortal Kombat was exciting because its realistic digitized combatants gushed blood in cartoonish volumes. Every collision of grainy real-like fist on grainy real-like face resulted in a snap-freeze and frictive shake of the screen. Here was a game with cheap, showy grotesquery—and also with a nuanced parade of friction. The blood was The Big Step—the one that got the kids' arcade money—and the friction was The Little Step, a group of game designers and developers acting on their suspicion that they could make These Things as well as or better than the guys they admired.

A little quick math tells me that the chorus of screamers at this year's E3 press conferences were roughly four years old when Mortal Kombat appeared. To them, Mortal Kombat wasn't "new"—it was "normal". It was not the expectation-shatterer—it was the expectation itself.

When I was the age they were when they first played Mortal Kombat, I was still playing Grand Prix on the Atari 2600.

Have mainstream games innovated much since the time of Mortal Kombat? It'd be flame-baiting to say they haven't. So I won't say that. They've evolved a whole lot: it's just that they could use a whole lot more.

Meanwhile, the techniques by which developers innovate have remained constant: We take Big Steps, like more violence, more grotesquely, bigger cut-scenes, more polygons, more gore, more particle effects, more muscles, balder protagonists, lusher environments, Better Water Effects, neckshots which are more satisfying than headshots. Then we take Small Steps, such as refining the micro-length of a good strong-melee-attack freeze-frame, developing more concise, thoughtful, bold new geometrical level design archetypes (carrying the Pac-Man torch, we call it (actually we don't)), or giving the protagonists of meathead shootfest brodowns wives who are in danger ("deeper drama").

So, that "‘Citizen Kane' of games" is probably still a ways off. Let's not worry about it just yet. As Jerry Holkins said, in some different words, every time Agent 47 garrotes a nun, an indie darling developer does not literally have a stroke. Bad Art is not antimatter. As any personal trainer will tell you, you can decrease your body fat percentage without burning fat! How do you do this—alchemy? No, you do it by increasing your muscle mass. In other words—in the words of Jerry "Tycho" Holkins: "More art is always the answer".

So we won't have a "Citizen Kane" anytime soon, though hey—maybe, just maybe, if we're lucky, we'll get a "The Dark Knight" of videogames: something made by well-meaning, diligent fanboys of the lore of the medium, solid all around, bursting with concepts, confident in execution, offering something for everyone in the audience.

Artlessness be darned, the myriad techniques of game development have grown up, and are continuing to grow up. The Triple-A sphere squeezes out big ideas by the steaming handful, and the indies do so, too. Little ideas are there in the woodwork all the while. We've got big ideas flying at us from all directions, and whether we stop to process it or not, whether we're young enough to enjoy press conferences or not, even when a glance reveals only graphic violence and dude-shooter games, on the most molecular level of the craft, Video Games Are Getting Undeniably More Interesting, and they'll keep getting more interesting.

MY GAMES OF THE SHOW: THE LAST OF US and NINTENDO LAND

This year's E3 show-owner might have been The Last of Us, or it might have been Nintendo Land. Both of these are completely different things from their most nuclear levels, though both of them come from the same place: the memory of the moment we realized video games were awesome, and, in a time older than this one, the moment we realized fun was great.

The Last of Us seems to be an answer to a few criticisms of Naughty Dog's own Uncharted series: that the wise-cracking treasure-hunting T-shirt-wearing protagonist is also coincidentally a mass murderer. The Last of Us is swollen heavy with context, in that each combat skirmish sees the heroes facing psychopaths resembling the sort of person we'd imagine the typical person would become if they'd survive a cataclysm that claims 98% of life on earth. These are desperate, terrified, terrifying people. The emotional impact of each firefight is dreadful, slow, and fascinating. The demonstrations I saw were of a game whose every situation is so thoughtfully designed that I wanted to figuratively put my hands on my hips and say "I told you so": I told people, for years, since before Ken Levine was preaching about "the world is the best narrator", that you can tell powerful stories in games using just the visual language of level-design situations. This is something Out of this World sure as heck knew, and The Last of Us seems to know it as well. It's pregnant with twin children: story and mechanics. This is the exact sort of video game I want to play.

This year's E3 show-owner might have been The Last of Us, or it might have been Nintendo Land. Both of these are completely different things from their most nuclear levels, though both of them come from the same place: the memory of the moment we realized video games were awesome, and, in a time older than this one, the moment we realized fun was great.

Nintendo Land, on the other hand, is as un-pregnant a game as you can possibly make. I'm fine with that. I don't mind games that aren't pregnant.

Nintendo Land is a virtual theme park. It's like Disneyland, except with Nintendo. Its rides are based on Nintendo franchises. And they're not rides—they're video games. Remember Wii Sports? Of course you don't—that was 2006. Well, Wii Sports (I've just checked Wikipedia) seems to be some sort of game where you flailed your arms and stuff happened. It was a collection of games based loosely on sports, with no context connecting them. You just chose one, and played it.

Well, Nintendo Land has some context. You walk around a park. It's all very shiny—it's just too magical to actually be real, and that's just the way I like it.

I wish I could honeymoon in Nintendo Land.

Nintendo Land is "World of iPhone Games: With Friends: On Your Television: Starring Nintendo". And I mean that in the nicest way.

Every one of the Nintendo Land mini-games Nintendo showed on the convention floor were sparkling in their simplicity. They all reminded me just enough of The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures for the Nintendo Gamecube. To play that game, I needed to convince three friends to buy expensive cables to connect their Gameboy Advances to the Gamecube. Then I had to get them all in the same room at the same time. It was brutally difficult, to a point where actually playing through the game was simple in comparison.

I feel like Four Swords Adventures was a shining beacon of game design that failed to become the entirety of the mainstream only because the cost of entry was so high. I've been vaguely convinced for years now that Nintendo's kept a whole galaxy of similar game design concepts on the shelf since then, waiting for a time where it was possible to hit it out of the park. And now, with smartphones and tablets tiptoeing into game console manufacturers' territory, the perfect opportunity exists to hammer out dozens of these ideas. So, here are the Nintendo Land minigames, each of them the sort of game my friends and I would design while sitting around at a pizza place at just before midnight on a Saturday. Each one of these games is a reason in itself to throw a party. Each one is a spark that ignites the imagination part of the brain. Each of them is Wii Sports and Wii Sports Resort to the twenty-fifth power. It's like a higher-up went to the Mario Party team and said to pick just 12 mini-games and spend a whole year on each one. I want to play all of these games. I want to eat them.

I couldn't care less about Batman on the Wii U. I couldn't care less about a game where you shoot zombies in the face. I want to control obstacles in a Donkey Kong mine-cart scenario as my friends scream like hyenas on helium.

So that's Nintendo: I have always loved and hated them. I love them because they are nearly always Small Steps, though this is sometimes frustrating because they could be a bit more radical with, say, games like Zelda. And when they do Something Big—who the heck knows what's going through their heads? A tablet inside the game controller? That's not . . . that big of an idea, is it? Tweeted a games journalist after the Wii U controller reveal last year: "This means they can make a Four Swords sequel." Of course it does, I agreed: though is that enough?

Then there's Nintendo Land, and I think, "I guess Nintendo is pretty cool".

It's obvious that Nintendo went to third parties, and asked, "Hey, can you make something neat for our Wii U thing?" And the developers sort of scoffed: if the Wii U is at least equal in power to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, then a straight port of a successful game is easy enough. What are they going to add to the game, and how? They have to use that big controller. They're not just going to make a new game from scratch specifically for that controller—then they couldn't port it easily to the other consoles. So we get remote-controlled first-person Batarangs shoehorned into Batman.

Nintendo is going to have to try hard—with Nintendo Land—to teach developers why the Wii U is a great idea. And here's me getting a little sentimental: maybe they'll pull it off. Maybe people are really going to love this thing. Wouldn't that be fantastic? Maybe we'll have a whole wave of friendly games where fun is at the core.

Either way, The Last of Us is endlessly interesting. Here in 2012, we see evidence that Uncharted has finally infected big-time triple-A studios. The new Tomb Raider obviously owes a thing or two-dozen to Uncharted. Heck, it's almost like Uncharted Turbo Hyperfighting. And as the Uncharted series grew and continued, it learned little tricks from Gears of War, et cetera, et cetera: the craft of designing and polishing situations is yet evolving, and a game like The Last of Us points to a healthy coagulation of concept and execution. We're almost at that point where the road map present at the start of a triple-A project is going to be so god darn clear and concise that we won't need to market our games with elephant lobotomies or nun-tracheotomies.

Also, hopefully, in five more years or so, Kim Swift, a game designer behind Portal and this E3's mind-blower Quantum Conundrum, will have a team 10 times the size of her current team, so she'll be able to direct 10 things a year. That'd go a long way toward fixing a couple of things.

Until then, a metaphor for getting older: this year marked the 10th anniversary of my first coming to E3. I can't say I enjoyed it. Maybe I'll enjoy it more next year. Two years ago, my friend Bob and I stormed into E3 and drank five free cans of NOS energy drink in less than two hours. My blood sugar plummeted at terminal velocity. I threw up a couple times. I had to drink a Mexican Coca-Cola to regain my metabolism. Since then, NOS has been a huge joke among my friends and I. "Can't wait for E3 this year," we'll say. "How else are we going to get to drink NOS?" Of course, they sell NOS in the convenient stores, though we'd never buy it. So last year I drank some NOS, and laughed about it, and played some games, and laughed about them. This year, I drank two cans of NOS on the first day, groaned a couple of times, drank two liters of water, and didn't approach the NOS booth for the rest of the show. One time, while looking in its direction, I asked my friend: "Why can't it be a Coca-Cola booth?" I guess this means I'm finally an adult.

IN WHICH I SAY NICE STUFF ABOUT SOME OTHER GAMES I SAW AT E3

Call of Duty: Black Ops 2: Wow! That big, long exclusive trailer they played on that 140-foot wide screen showed me that some actual creativity and imagination went into the art direction of the "2025" segments. It reminds me of Perfect Dark, in a good way. "Hyper-real near-future" is a sadly underutilized setting in games. Good job, CODBLOPS 2: CODBLOPSER! I will take credit for this, because I did once tell a friend at Infinity Ward, way back during the Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare times, that "y'all should make the next one about riot cops in the future". (I am joking, sort of (by which I mean I really did say that).)

Halo 4: Well! Alongside CODBLOPS 2: BLOP HARDER and Splinter Cell: Blacklist, Halo 4 looks something like a Disney film. And you know what? That's pretty great. Yay for Disney films! Sometimes, after a hard three days of snuff films and reality TV, kicking back with a root beer float and The Lion King is all you really need.

Also, the peach triangles at the Halo 4 industry party were fantastic. Imagine a McDonald's hot apple pie, bite-size, grown up, with peaches inside instead of apples, and raspberry syrup drizzled all over. I ate about two dozen of them. I threw up later, though that doesn't mean they weren't delicious (it means I wasn't feeling well).

My friend Vito Gesualdi, luckily, was a Real Trooper and ate even more than I did.

New Super Mario Bros. 2: Hey! It's for the 3DS and it's More 2D Super Mario, which is great. I will play it because I am basically a child who stretched vertically without aging. The hook of the game is that it has "More Coins", and the trailer footage showed that coins are Literally Everywhere in this game. It looks like the game has extensive leaderboards and social friend-challenging and some sort of in-game store for coins, which means . . . well, it means that Nintendo has obtained some sort of honorary PhD in social media. So maybe Zynga won't have to buy them, after all! This means that maybe they'll stay afloat financially, and give me a Super Mario 3D Land 2 and a 1080p Zelda with voice acting (which you can turn off from the options menu if you so wish (I won't turn it off (you can, if you want))).

Sleeping Dogs: Oh man! Though the idiom has it that sleeping dogs are something we should let lie, and that a game about ignoring someone or something would have an audience limited to girls I've dated in the past, I'm 9,000% sure the trailer involved punching and shooting—in other words, that this game is about a guy whose failure to take sage advice leads to stylish hard action. I watched someone play the game for a few minutes, and it sure does look about as much fun as having a nail removed from the bottom of your foot, though enough of that. I will be positive: why the heck not set a sandboxy action-adventure game in an Asian metropolis? Why do games always have to be set in New York or a Middle-Eastern battlefield? I applaud the setting as a stylistic choice. We really don't have enough of that.

Watch Dogs: Another game about dogs! Actually, that's all I've got in the way of snippy comments. This game looks great. Ubisoft really have got the game development process figured all the heck of the way out. They've also seemingly figured out how to force the player to shoot an unarmed man in the face and not make it the focal point of the experience. Remember when Assassin's Creed came out, and some people were disappointed that the game wasn't exactly like Metal Gear Solid? They sure have taught those people how to like something else, haven't they? Good on them for not ever giving up hope. And now here's Watch Dogs: it looks like Assassin's Creed in postmodern Chicago. I hope the penultimate scene is in Wrigley Field and the final encounter involves hacking a pizza.

Assassin's Creed III: Whoa! That certainly is the most graphically impressive pirate-shipping I've ever seen in an electronic entertainment.

Far Cry 3: Wow! It's got four-player co-op. Left 4 Cry.

Splinter Cell: Blacklist: Alright! Another game with "Black" in the title. Black ops, black lists. SCBLIST. I remember when the first Splinter Cell came out, and some people cried about it being "too linear". I sort of loved it for that—then again, Stuntman: Ignition is one of my favorite games of all-time: a game that presents you delicately orchestrated Rube-Goldberg situations and asks you to poke all the right places in the right order with the right amount of force. Splinter Cell has carried its own torch and beat its own drum decently well enough for many years, though it's always been in the tricky position of having fans expect things that they haven't any conceivable reason to expect. For example: sprawling non-linearity. What elite government agent devises an adaptable plan? Doesn't the whole idea of having a "plan" hinge on the plan being perfect and the intel being reliable? For whatever it's worth, the new Splinter Cell is exciting to me. It has huge graphics and it proudly wears its emphasis on precision and mindfulness. In an ocean of games about Americans shooting dudes up in foreign lands, at least here's one that isn't messy and shamelessly gory.

DmC: Hey haters: Dante's haircut is pretty cool. Also, have you considered that maybe the game is an origin story and that, late in the narrative, his hair will turn white? Remember when you all shrieked and cried tears of blood because the hero of Devil May Cry 4 was a guy who looked exactly like Dante yet wasn't Dante? Remember how Dante was the hero of the game, anyway? Calm down: this is a Japanese publisher. They're not going to do anything different.

Wreckateer: Yeah! When I told people (repeatedly) to play this, they kept asking if "Rocketeer" was still a relevant license. This is because E3 is stupidly loud. Developer Iron Galaxy demoed this game at the Microsoft press event, and the Twittersphere was alive with snippy tweets re: it being "Angry Birds Kinect". First of all, Angry Birds is 2D, so it's more like Angry Birds 3D Kinect. Second of all: it's great. I have owned a Kinect for a year and used it only to show friends and colleagues how stupidly ill-suited it is to navigating menus. Well, here's a game for it, and it's actually fun. My living room is ready.

Tomb Raider: Yay! How many times have they rebooted Tomb Raider, now? It's nice to see that someone involved played Uncharted and was like, "Let's do that—only faster." I'm sure that the demo levels prepared for expos are jam-packed with Exciting Moments in such a density as would never appear in any natural game-playing outside those two or three minutes. I can forgive the demo for being so shamelessly rollercoastery. It had some neat hooks, and I bet they made a neat game out of those hooks. Notice how I am avoiding the whole city-bus-sized "hyper-sexed torture-porn" angle of this game: that's intentional. I don't want to start down that slippery slope with some sticky patches. We'd be here for the rest of the summer.

Alternate comment re: Tomb Raider: across the street from the Los Angeles Convention Center is a building that houses both a Hooters and an Excalibur. Hooters is a restaurant where the waitresses wear halter tops and short-shorts and prance around with cleavage and midriff on display. Excalibur is a medieval-themed restaurant. Neither of these places serves good food, which doesn't matter, because the food at the Los Angeles Convention Center will literally kill you. The problem lies in choosing between Hooters and Excalibur. Many a former GameStop employee (who just a month ago learned how to legally establish his own game company) stood in this parking lot with brain slashed vertically in half, a little tornado in his stomach, indecisive, dying between those two restaurants like a donkey between two bales of hay: how can you possibly choose one over the other? My friends, I tell you the solution: eat a low-sugar "protein plus" Power Bar while playing Tomb Raider. It looks to satisfy all those needs. And with only two grams of sugar!

tim rogers is a video game developer who sometimes accidentally writes things. you can follow him on twitter

If you'd like to watch some psychedelic E3-related live-streaming starring tim rogers and Game Developer Magazine editor-in-chief Brandon Sheffield, please be clicking here.