Funny To A Point – The First Annual Dubious E3 Awards
Forget your typical genre categories and "Best In Show" – these are the awards that really matter. See which developers and games earned themselves an illustrious/infamous Duby at E3 2017.
E3 is always a magical time for gamers, and that goes double for those of us who are lucky enough to cover the show. Seeing all the new games, smelling the unforgettable smells (God, if only they could be forgotten), and trying to stomach cab rides in L.A. are just some of the experiences that define the show year in and year out. The biggest tradition of them all, however, doesn't start until the show ends: coming up with G.I.'s Hot 50 list and the accompanying Best of E3 Awards.
While fighting over arbitrary game rankings is always fun, over the years I've become disillusioned with the typical awards that outlets hand to publishers and developers. Genres are becoming less and less relevant as gaming experiences change and evolve, and exclusives simply don't hold the same weight they once did (not to mention handheld awards, which are pretty much a gimme for Nintendo at this point).
Rather than just complain about awards like every other yahoo on the Internet, I decided to do something about it. Introducing Funny To A Point's First Annual Dubious E3 Awards! Not only did I single-handedly pick every winner for these soon-to-be renowned awards (so you know they're good), I also made up every category! And unlike the usual generic E3 award categories, these awards are designed to encapsulate everything that was good, bad, and just plain weird about this year's show specifically. So without further ado, here are the award winners:
Worst Reveal Award: Some Dumb Car, Microsoft
With second-place hardware sales and a lack of console exclusives, Microsoft knew it had a lot to prove going into this year's E3. That's why the company came out swinging during its press conference with the world exclusive reveal of... a new car.
Look, racing games are a hard-enough sell during press conferences when you're blasting gamers with high-speed car chases and massive explosions – no one wants to see an actual car slowly rotate on stage like you're at the opening of your least-favorite uncle's used car dealership. I'm sure someone gives a crap about the Porsche 911 GT2 RSPPXLMAOSMH, but for the rest of us it was about as riveting as the year EA made Pelé read the phone book on stage for an hour.*
Making Good On A Gaffe Award: Battlefront II, Electronic Arts
I don't know if you heard this, but gamers think Battlefront didn't launch with enough content. Oh, who am I kidding? Of course you heard it! Even Finn from The Force Awakens unwittingly served up a big bowl of crap soup to EA when he called for a dedicated story mode after launch, in the politest, Finn-iest way imaginable.
But you've got to give EA credit: Not only did they acknowledge the criticisms of the first game on stage at E3, they ladled themselves a second serving by getting John Boyega himself to talk up the game. While Finn's endorsement doesn't hold a lot of weight for me (now BB-8 on the other hand...), I'm encouraged by the single-player campaign and EA's vow to launch the game with three times more content than Battlefront I, and provide multiple seasons of free DLC afterward. In fact, it almost sounds too good... what's the catch? Will all the free DLC star Jar-Jar Binks? I'm still waiting for Lucy to pull the football out from under Charlie Brown on this one, but either way, EA did a solid job of turning one of last year's biggest gaffes around to work in its favor.
I'll Believe It When I Play It Award: Anthem, BioWare
Everyone knew BioWare's new game was going to be at E3, but I don't think anyone expected it to look so good. The totally not-live demo showed your typical space marines jetpacking around a lush alien world (though their sluggish top speed made them look more flying squirrels than Iron Men) and engaging with alien lifeforms in the only way we know how: by blasting the crap out of them.**
Seeing Anthem really put Mass Effect Andromeda's woes in perspective. Who wants to keep working on a 10-year-old franchise when you've got a brand-new sci-fi series on fire in the next room over? I imagine that one by one Andromeda dev team members strolled past the Anthem crew, did a double-take at what they were working on, and then silently scooted their desks over when no one was looking.
All that said, Anthem needs more than a flashy reveal video to overcome Andromeda's stumbles, and the lack of a hands-on demo (or even live hands-off demo) relegates it to wait-and-see purgatory. The fact that everyone wants to see more, however, is a very good sign.
Best Dramatic Performance Award: Terry Crews In Crackdown 3 Trailer, Microsoft
Few thespians have ever exhibited the range and emotional depth that Sir Terry Crews brought to his moving portrayal of Commander Jaxon in Microsoft's Crackdown 3 trailer. From screaming to maniacal laughter to jumping off a building, Crews' subtle performance turned Commander Jaxon into a living, breathing human being right before our very eyes. I feel sorry for whoever is up against Crews in the Oscars this year, because his performance was one for the ages.
Could've Uploaded That To YouTube Award: Bethesda Press Conference, Bethesda
People gave Nintendo a lot of crap when it first started forgoing big live E3 press conferences for pre-recorded Nintendo Direct livestreams (philosophical side note: if something is pre-recorded can it really be livestreamed?). It must have been a brilliant idea, however, because practically all the other publishers followed suit this year. Sure, they still hired out giant auditoriums and had the occasional talking head on stage to grovel for applause – but most of the demos were just videos, with varying levels of bullshottery.
As such this was a crowded category, but I'm giving the award to Bethesda; not only did they wrap all their demos into a single over-produced video, they lacked any kind of announcement from Bethesda Game Studios proper – i.e., the one thing Bethesda fans were really hoping to see. All that adds up to one heck of a "I stayed up for this?!"
Not Holding My Breath Award: Cuphead, Studio MDHR
Let's be clear: Cuphead looks amazing, and I can't wait to play it – probably more than the industry's "game changers," who aren't even old enough to know what cartoons actually used to look like before Flash was invented. This award is purely to keep my expectations in check, because I DON'T THINK I COULD TAKE ANOTHER DELAY!
Didn't See That Coming Award: Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle, Ubisoft
A Mario/Rabbids crossover isn't actually that surprising – Mario has been branching out to other platforms lately, so other IPs seem fair game as well. And if Nintendo really wants Ubisoft to actually support its new console, leveraging its biggest star makes sense.
What I didn't see coming, however, was that said Mario/Rabbids crossover would PLAY LIKE XCOM?!?! You'd have a hard time coming up with two mascots that are more focused toward kids – so naturally a tactical, turn-based strategy game is the best fit for gameplay. In case all this sounds super negative, I am TOTALLY on board with the premise – I just didn't see it coming.
Too Many Caveats Award: "Console Launch Exclusive," Microsoft
Look, Microsoft, we get it: You don't particularly care about exclusives anymore. Most of your first-party series have gone dormant or weren't great to begin with, you don't want to pay for third-party exclusives, and your Play Anywhere initiative ensures that any good game Xbox lands can also be played on PC. And that's okay! Hell, it's probably good for the gaming community as a whole, not to mention your company's bottom line.
So stop trying to sell the Xbox One as some kind of exclusives wonderland. Most of the games during Microsoft's press conference were labeled as "console launch exclusive," which means it can only be played on Xbox One...or PC...or other consoles as soon as the undisclosed time exclusivity expires. You're only pointing out how NOT exclusive the game is to your console. It's like getting a shirt from your kid that says "#1 Dad in Macksburg, Iowa, Whose Last Name Begins With A 'J' And Isn't Mr. Johnson." Gee, thanks son.
Didn't Even Know I Wanted That Award: Shadow Of The Colossus Remake, Sony
Fun fact: I never played Shadow of the Colossus. I also have a copy of the Ico and Shadow of the Colossus Collection sitting on my shelf, which I have also never played. Neither of those facts stopped me from thinking that the Shadow of the Colossus Remake looks awesome. I can't wait to buy and not play that one as well! (I have problems, okay?)
Best Gobbledygook Worthy Of A Silicon Valley Exec Award: Reggie Fils-Aime, Nintendo
Seriously, what was with the opening segment of Nintendo's E3 livestream? You know, the part where Reggie wandered around a virtual living room that deconstructed itself while he spouted complete nonsense for two minutes? He kept talking about "The Game®," which I assume is some kind of weird cult he's running out of the Nintendo Treehouse. It sounded like Reggie wrote his speech using the last few words left in his Magnetic Poetry For Video Game CEOs kit. Seriously, here's an excerpt:
"The Game® is fun. The Game® is a battle. If it's not fun, why bother? If it's not a battle, where's the fun?...Close your focus, and open your mind."
Riiiiiight...more like close your bong and open a thesaurus.
Same Sh-- Different Name Award: Creation Club, Bethesda
Remember when Valve and Bethesda teamed up to sell mods on Steam Workshop? You don't? That's probably because the initiative lasted less than a day before both companies frantically pulled the plug. But forget about the catastrophe that was paid mods – how about you check out the shiny new Creation Club, where players can purchase mods game content made by modders content-creating enthusiasts!
Bethesda has gone on to explain that Creation Club content will be different from mods in that it will be curated, localized, and playtested by Bethesda, and that current mods can't be brought into the system. I'm not ready to write if off just yet – talented modders ultimately deserve to get paid for their hard work, and it presumably opens the door to bringing bigger projects to consoles. Just as long as it doesn't devolve into paying 99 cents for every new sword and Friendship Is Magic pony you want to download... which is kind of exactly what Bethesda's video and the above screenshot makes it look like. Hoo boy...
World's Worst Dad Award: Kratos in God of War, Sony Santa Monica
Kratos' last attempt at family life didn't go so hot, and the god slayer doesn't seem to have improved much during his long hiatus. Sure, he's got the baby-making part down – just rattle a few vases and boom, you're a dad. But Kratos still doesn't understand what to do after that. Most of Kratos' parenting pitfalls come down to his inability to identify appropriate activities for father-son bonding. And he's almost there! He just flubs it on the nuance, which is kind of understandable.
Going on a hike in the woods? Good! Battling a legion of undead warriors in said woods? Not so good. Canoe ride? Perfect! Canoe ride to meet a humongous sea monster that you're invariably also going to battle? Come on!
Don't get me wrong; I'm glad Kratos is back to crossing gods off his hit list, but leave the impressionable young kid at home!
Lowest Expectations Award: Nintendo Fans
Nintendo had a really solid E3 this year – but it also reminded us just how low the bar is set for the House of Mario. Take the big Pokémon reveal for instance, which consisted of a Pokémon Company exec sitting at his desk and basically saying, "Yeah, we're working on it, now get out of my office." Or the big Metroid Prime 4 reveal, which consisted of a "4" slowly floating in over some blue smoke. If those aren't enough to get you psyched out of your mind, wait until next year's big reveal of the color palette HAL Laboratory will be using in the next Box Boy sequel!
Close Enough! Award: Metroid: Samus Returns, Nintendo
Alright, credit where credit is due – after countless years of fans pleading, demanding, and petitioning for a new 2D Metroid game, Nintendo finally listened! Sort of! Granted it's not the new 2D Metroid game we want, it doesn't have a kick-ass retro 16-bit art style, and it's coming to the 3DS instead of the company's new portable console that could totally use more games. But hey, it's still a 2D Metroid, and that's awesome! Now, if every stinkin' Nintendo fan doesn't go out and buy this game, there's going to be hell to pay...
Worst Acronym Award: Xbox One X, Microsoft
There was a lot of speculation about what Microsoft's half-gen step console would be called, and in the end they discarded the pretty-cool "Scorpio" for "Xbox One X." That makes the acronym "XOX," which looks like you either lost a game of tic-tac-toe, or are signing a letter to your grandma. Some have suggested including the "B" in Xbox to make the acronym "XBOX," but unfortunately that's NOT HOW ACRONYMS WORK. It's bad enough that Xbox One owners have had to contend with "Xbone" – having an "X" at the front and the end of the name makes the console look like one of those annoying Gamertags you'd auto-mute. I can't wait for the Microsoft's next console – I hear the xXPWNED_DAWG69Xx is really going to push next-gen visuals to the next level!
Everybody's Doing It Award: Giant Monsters, literally everybody
Sometimes video game developers inexplicably coalesce on the same idea, like cavemen or sharks or machine guns that make farting noises when you shoot them (apparently that still isn't a thing somehow). It wasn't too long into this year's E3 that it became evident 2017 would be the Year of the Giant Monster. Seriously, I wrote a whole feature on it. There's no joke here, just a lot of really big monsters. Hey, speaking of giant monsters...
Nightmare Fuel Award: Captive Bride Peach, Nintendo
E3 2017 featured several new horror games that aim to terrify players, including The Evil Within 2 and Metro Exodus. However, the biggest full-body shudder came from the trailer for Super Mario Odyssey.
It was all utterly charming at first – Mario runs around a bunch of colorful planets, turning into creatures with the help of his sentient hat that has apparently been sucking on his sweaty Italian head this whole time. Then we saw that not only has Bowser kidnapped Princess Peach again, he's forced her into a wedding dress for some kind of sham wedding. As if that's not bad enough, she's even got a bouquet of piranha plants snapping at her boobs – that's H.R. Giger-levels of twisted. I don't know who dreamed up this pervert fantasy, but there's no way I'm closing my focus and opening my mind to this one. I can't wait to have my eyes burned out by the inevitable DeviantArt it inspires.
The Awwww-ward: Crying Ubisoft Guy, Ubisoft
At the risk of coming off like a total sap, let's shelve the jokes and end the first annual Dubious E3 Awards on a high note. E3 2017's most heartwarming moment is worthy of the countless memes it has produced. Seeing Ubisoft creative director Davide Soliani tear up at having his hard work acknowledged by Shigeru Miyamoto wasn't just touching – it's also what was missing from the most of the expo.
Sure, this year's polished trailers and pre-recorded gameplay videos were less awkward than the stage demos and canned banter of previous E3s. But shoving the developers out of the spotlight made it all too easy to forget that even the goofiest games are made by real human beings, who spend years working their butts off to create something that they hope players will enjoy. That's true of every game, whether it's a one-man indie project or the biggest "by-the-numbers" sequel – they're all passion projects to the people who work on them.
Stage presenters routinely say that "E3 is all about the games," but it's also about getting to meet and hear from the people who make them, and appreciating their contribution to the industry. They're the ones who are responsible for the great gaming experiences we're going to have in 2017 and beyond, and when they get a chance to share their projects and enthusiasm, E3 never disappoints.