Let me tell you a little something about E3. You may be reading about all the awesome, big games. Mass Effect 3. Arkham City. Gears 3. BioShock Infinite. Modern Warfare 3. Uncharted 3. Skyrim. Old Republic. Maybe you’re reading about the hidden treasures – like Bastion or Prey 2. These are the games and the experiences that E3 dreams are made of.
Today, I saw a number of big games. I elbowed my way into the Mass Effect 3 demo, where Casey Hudson featured action and a somewhat contrived emotional moment (I simply can’t get into anything featuring Male Shep, so maybe that’s just me). I checked out the Activision booth and saw Prototype 2, X-Men Destiny, and the very charming new Spyro game. I checked out two of the coolest games of the show at Paramount’s booth (but I can’t tell you anything about them until early next week).
But what I’d really like to tell you about is the surreality of playing Blackwater – a Kinect shooter based on the rather controversial ex-military outfit – in the 505 games booth. Sitting just beside the Top Gun game (which is in itself hilarious), and right by the even more unfortunate Michael Phelps: Push the Limit swimming game, was this curious creation. Demoed by the very nice, enthusiastic producer from Zombie Games and an actual Blackwater officer, I’ve never felt so bizarrely torn whilst watching – and subsequently playing – a game.
On one hand, this is a very simplistic shooter, though, like most Kinect games, it does afford a dumb kind of fun – ducking and shooting and kicking like a spaz is entertaining, and the controls were actually reasonably responsive. Plus, our demo folks were genuinely nice – and nothing feels worse than bagging on someone’s hard work when they so clearly care about it. The producer came off as a knowledgeable guy, and Mr. Blackwater was incredibly polite and earnest.
But holy crap, this is a game about Blackwater. If you don’t know what that means, I’ll say only this – they’re an outfit run without the kind of constraints we ostensibly place on the official US military – and some rather unsavory things have allegedly happened thanks to that arrangement.
If you listen to last night’s Jumping The Shark, you’ll hear all of the weirdo twists and turns that our story took (war in Syria! War in Libya too!), but suffice it to say, this was an odd moment at E3.
The Michael Phelps game, by the way, feels like playing a full-on spaz simulator. I won’t be unkind, but I will say this – that a sport as exciting as the team-based, violent, kinetic lacrosse has not gotten a videogame adaptation while a crappy swimming pool simulator has gotten the full boxed game treatment is just not right, celebrity endorsement or no.