“Mine Enemy is growing old —
I have at last Revenge —
The Palate of the Hate departs —
If any would avenge”
The biggest name in gaming is almost here! No, Super Mario Odyssey is still half a year away. I’m talking about E3, silly NPC.
With the Electronic Entertainment Expo soon arriving to a reality near you, many gaming writers and writing gamers are taking time out of their busy existence to express what they’re looking forward to most from the big event. There’s a reason E3 is the veritable epicenter of gaming interests. Expectations are high. Undoubtedly, many an opinioneer is penning their textual fantasy right now, whether that’s for the reveal of some new project, the return of a beloved IP, or the next announcement by their favorite developer. Will we see more of Kingdom Hearts III? Another Call of Duty? Finally a new Metroid game? Who will bring their best to the table: Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo or an as yet unknown?
I’m personally going to take the road less traveled. I’m going to make this post about E3 anticipation a conceptual fantasy.
Remember the 90’s? If not, you may be too young to read this article. The 90’s is a perpetually sepia-toned reverie of nostalgia. I belong to the nostalgia generation and that’s largely due to the explosion within 90’s entertainment and home console video games coming into their own. The 90’s saw one of the greatest eras in gaming: the 16-bit era.
Full disclosure, if you haven’t already figured it out, I am a Classics Gamer. That means I’m especially attuned to and interested in the development and history of gaming. Most of my favorite games lie in the past, many of them decades old. There’s little more titillating to my palate than the prospect of retro-gaming.
For me, that all comes back to the 90’s. The Super Nintendo. The Sega Genesis. Enter Sony with the PlayStation. Then the Nintendo 64. The Saturn. The Jaguar. Not to mention the Game Boy. Even the NES was still blasting on its legendary path up until 1995.
It was a time when healthy (and sometimes spiteful) competition gave us many of the greatest games ever made. These titles redefined and shaped a new direction for the industry after the flooding and cloning that crashed it in ’83. They took what was a gimmick and a novelty and made video games a piece of household furniture, as ubiquitous as the TV itself.
It’s the competitive nature of the free market that made things that way. We couldn’t have gaming without it. Competition like that gave us the icons that are still running things to this day. The 90’s began with an epic rivalry between red and blue, between the reigning champ and the underdog, between Super Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog: Nintendo, who resurrected the industry, versus Sega, who wanted a dramatic entrance and a bigger piece of the pie. Things only got
worse better once Sony jumped in the mix.
Everyone remembers the infamous Sega commercials, the character assassinations they perpetrated upon their rival: “Genesis does what Nintendon’t”. They attempted to portray “what Nintendon’t” as being edgy, stylish and mature. Nintendo was suddenly cast in this negative light. All of the magic they had crafted for years was threatened with being seen as baby-gaming kiddie stuff. The world was changing. Games had begun to reach out to an older audience.
How ultimately successful Sega was for their own interests compared to the direction of the industry at large is debatable, but it was the beginning of a major paradigm shift. Gaming would now be categorized by console exclusives. At the start of the 90’s, you could only play Sonic with Sega. Conversely, you could only play Mario, Zelda, Metroid, Pokémon, Star Fox, Donkey Kong, Earthbound, F-Zero, Final Fantasy, and Kirby with Nintendo. Yes, “Genesis does it all”, except for featuring a load of iconic franchises, I guess. Unless you count Ecco, that dolphin?
While Sega unleashed a heavy storm of targeted take-downs, raising up the blue blur to dethrone the Italian plumber, Nintendo opted for an “adult in the room” approach. By contrast with Sega, Nintendo seemed to largely dismiss their young rival, coming off as confidently ignoring Sega entirely. They did once throw Sega under the bus at the Senate hearings in ’93 on violence in video games. Their philosophy was trusting in their brand while Sega’s was in tearing down the opposition.
The rest is history. We now enjoy a gaming industry defined by polarizing, personality-driven, divisive, strategic console lineages with their own very dedicated fandoms. Surveying the PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo lines at a glance, it’s easy to see the boundaries. It’s easy to see where their separate focuses and emphases are. Whether you’re a Sonyite, a Microsoftian, or Nintendonese, odds are that you play a majority of your games with a dedicated system from one of the big three. You may even like it that way. Though I try to play across as many systems as possible, even I gravitate automatically to a choice selection.
So what does this ludological history lesson have to do with E3?
I want to see that spirit of competition again. I want to see competition in an unregulated free market churn even more life, variety, personality, and substance into gaming. I want to see indie developers become powerful and dangerous to those at the top. I want to see the disembodied ghost of 90’s Sega come back and fill each of the big three with fighting furor. I want to see some aggression. I want to see “Sony is what Nintendcan’t!” I want to see some dirt being thrown. I want to see ad hominems. I want to see character denouncements. I want to see Nintendo cast off the shackles of “playing it safe” and prostitute its franchises for cash. I want to see an on-edge Sony break into a cold sweat while they stuff the world’s first $1,000 console deeper in their pockets. I want to see Micro$oft drop out of the race altogether after being laughed off the stage when they one-up their own awkwardness in live presentations. That will bring things back to a 1v1 red vs. blue again, except now the rules are totally different.
I want the legends of the past to pale in comparison with the next stage in gaming evolution. I want to see burning stars exploding in a blaze of fey and final glory. I want to see Sony and Nintendo go head to head, the art-house powerhouse versus the IP-acclimation machine, burning through billions, redefining suppositions and ethics to develop exponentially impressive technology in this great and sore Utopian Cold War! Devs will be shaken from their standard of apathy and new roads will be paved through their blood and sweat and tears. That’s my dream expectation.
In the end, we the gamers will be the ones who win.
What am I looking forward to from E3 the most? Much more than just the next new title in a series. I’m looking for some healthy competition, some (friendly) rivalry to fan the flames.
As always, thanks for reading.
-The Well-Red Mage
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