E3 2021 is right around the corner, and after a one year hiatus the gaming community is understandably abuzz that the biggest video game expo is back, even if in a digital-only form. The schedule has been announced, the (frankly awful) virtual lobby and avatar customizer has launched and been criticized, many of the reveals have leaked - oh yeah, it's E3 time.
Continuing a trend established in the past few years, several major publishers aren't attending actual E3, but are just also holding their own press conferences at the same time, usually literally next door. Let's be real - they're doing E3 without wanting to pay for E3.
We'd applaud their sense of individualism if they weren't immense corporations, and since their attempts to split from the hive mind merely make everyday conversation more difficult we choose to ignore it. We're going to keep saying "E3" instead of "E3, and EA Play, and Ubisoft Direct, and any other gaming press conference coincidentally being held during E3".
E3, ostensibly, is about the games. Every year, some statements to this effect will be stated several times, usually when the presenter has babbled on for minutes without actually showing any games. Viewers will moan about only wanting the games, and the game reveals are naturally the biggest attraction.
But is E3 about the games, really? Game reveals happen at other game shows, or just out of the blue all year, every year. No, E3 is a spectacle - we watch and love it because of a sense of grandeur, and involvement, and to buy into that hype. We also watch it because it routinely produces the best memes and gives us a chance to laugh at celebs who look like deer caught in headlights.
For better or worse, E3 has become a defining tradition of the gaming hobby. Let's take a look at some of the best and worst/funniest/cringiest returning clichés the show has to offer. One list is longer than the other for a reason.
Surprises, Despite Leaks
No, it isn't onion-related vegetables or a town in England that have hatched some insidious plot to spoil our fun - those would be leeks. We've covered our fair share of game leaks on this site because, let's be honest, you people love reading about leaks - but somehow something still manages to come as a surprise during E3, every year.
Of course, leakers try and make this more and more difficult every year, sometimes succeeding in leaking entire presentation schedules. Nonetheless, the indies usually scoot under the radar, and some major AAA announcements manage to stay a secret once in a blue moon - these are usually new IPs. Leakers do love their big sequels, as those are usually the games that garner the most attention.
We already know about a few things that won't come as a surprise during E3 2021, and in many cases publishers reveal or tease games ahead of E3, with first trailers or gameplay demos being the focus of the press conference instead.
Sure, leaks are an inevitable part of the industry, but a surprising reveal at a big show still hits different.
At Least 1 Exceedingly Wholesome Presenter
You know the type - earnest, energetic, legitimately passionate about the project they worked on, haven't had the life crushed out of them by the relentless grind of the corporate machine. Honest enthusiasm goes a million miles further than any catchy marketing buzzword, and these presenters always become one of the most memorable - or memeorable - part of the show.
We all know about the Peggle 2 guy. Really, who really cared about Peggle? John Vechey definitely cared about Peggle. When the sequel was announced at E3 2017, it was a show-capper. He did a little jump any a fist pump and everything. Some said it was embarrassing. The audience was silent. Fools - it was merely ahead of its time.
In 2019, it was without a doubt Ikumi Nakamura who stole the show. The Tango Gameworks Creative Director was showing off GhostWire Tokyo to the world, but more people ended up caring about her energy and positive vibes than the game itself.
Returning wholesome video game personality extraordinaire Reggie Fils-Aimé was the beloved face of Nintendo at many E3 shows before he moved on from the company, and the fans adored him. Having coined several memes and always staying pure and unproblematic, Reggie was a long-time favorite of the entire community.
We wonder which presenter will steal the show this time?
All The Memes
We're only just now speaking about memes, but we've already covered some. E3, every single year, becomes a goldmine of memes that resonate with the video game fandom and get used at least until the next expo, if not for years.
Iwata holding bananas, 'my body is ready', giant enemy crabs, Peter Moore's tattoo, every second Aaron Priceman was on stage - the list goes on, and we suspect it will be expanded by plenty more this year too as presenters wrangle an all-online expo.
Skyrim Released On Yet Another Platform
Anyone with any passing interest in gaming has likely in some form encountered the "everything can run DOOM" phenomenon. Clever modders keep figuring out ways to make the legendary shooter run on the most unusual pieces of technology, like calculators, fridge displays, inside Minecraft and more. We suspect Todd Howard has made it is personal mission to have Skyrim supplant DOOM - he sure loves releasing it on more and more platforms.
We can't really argue though - Skyrim is great, and maybe slaying dragons on my thermostat is exactly what my life needs.
Tons Of News
We all love news, right?
Right? No? Oh, you're just here for trailers. Maybe it's just me, because I get to write about it.
Confused, Frightened Celebs
We filed this in "worst" purely because of the crippling second hand embarrassment, but these are also some of the funniest moments E3 trots out in retrospect. The formula is well known - a big company pays a well known celeb who may or may not be involved with one of their games to help market their titles, and the celeb appears absolutely bewildered, or at the very least, out of their depth.
Sometimes it's just short and strange, like Yoko Ono appearing on stage for all of 2 seconds, or Drake wheeled out to promote a football game because he's, uh, been to Barcelona...?
Sometimes, it's over 20 minutes of the absolute worst kind of on-stage nonsense that Jamie Kennedy managed to pull.
Totally Real And Not Scripted Co-Op Banter
EA and Ubisoft are most notorious of this with their Anthem and various Ghost Recon presentations in recent years, but the phenomenon has appeared in other contexts as well. Many of us will have first hand experience of what it sounds like when you're actually connected with your mates via voice chat while playing a game and it's nothing like the poorly scripted stupidity appearing in these demos.
We doubt anyone actually unironically says crap like "tango down" or "high value target" when playing games with their friends, and there is about 100% more unrelated banter and inside jokes than what appear in these contrived pre-recorded segments.
You'd think that after the first or second use of "You see those mountains? You can climb them!" it would lose its luster, but publishers seem to think that open worlds with in-game topography just never get old.
This frequently used embellishment of render distances, game world sizes and the assurance that their title totally doesn't have skyboxes just keeps getting wheeled out year after year after year.
No Elden Ring
It's happened enough times to become a trope, and we're just not holding out hope at this point. Maybe it's the next Half-Life 3?
Please don't be the next Half-Life 3...
Usually, but not exclusively, related to yet another Just Dance game, for whatever reason publishers believe that random, often awkward dance routines are going to somehow resonate with the audience. Maybe the choreography has subliminal messages that make people buy more games?
More likely is that companies book the stage for a set amount of time, but some issue or other before the show means a game isn't ready for prime time and a few minutes need filling.
At least 60%, if not more, of E3 presentations consist of meaningless marketing buzzwords and phrases that basically all of us have learned to tune out. It's just filler.
Notable examples are starting the presentation by thanking the players, by insisting that this is the best year (every year), something about gaming bringing us all together, pushing boundaries, being revolutionary, something about new worlds, listening to feedback, showing us games like never before, and so forth.
By this time next week, we'll know how many of these tropes ended up ringing true for E3 2021, and what kind of new memes the expo has produced. Stay tuned for our coverage!