Welp, Devolver won E3 again

That’s it, folks. E3 is done. No more glossy 4K trailers and Andrew W.K. concerts. Let’s pack it in.

For the second year running, indie publisher Devolver Digital has skillfully and without remorse taken the entire piss out of the E3 press conference cycle: the staged “live” gameplay, the tone-deaf gratuitous violence, the bombastic proclamations mashing together of fads and buzzwords into word salad gibberish. E3 pressers are so formulaic and their big reveals are by now so easily leaked that it’s possible for journalists to “prewrite” most of their coverage, leaving spaces only for names, dates, and the bullet-pointed takeaways du jour: character customization, open world, survival, online co-op, battle royale, cryptocurrency, post-apocalypse, DLC, preorder, blockchain, zombies, season pass.

The fact that Devolver capped off its press conference with an actual game announcement for FromSoftware’s cult classic Metal Wolf Chaos — while specifically calling out the exact attention-deficit, explosions-obsessed, militaristic hypernationalism it depicts and how that mirrors our current political moment — was just the devastating cherry on top. Amidst a crowded landscape of commercialized punk aesthetics and American survivalist wet dreams about civilization held together at gunpoint, telling the internet you’re publishing this self-aware parody of fetishistic patriotism via a Japanese genre lense is punk as fuck.

The message here is a straight-forward one: the problem isn’t the games we make, but the way we treat them with all the solemnity of Great Art, all while abdicating responsibility for any serious interpretation of their contents. The problem isn’t that we have an annual festival of marketing materials foisted on us for a solid week in June; the problem is their rote and uncritical nature, the preordained narrative the press is able to tell while barely even looking at their screens. The problem is that pointing this out — “spoiling the fun” — is deemed worse than the thing it’s criticizing.

Devolver publishes violent games. It isn’t out here calling for an end to them with its “spoilsport” press briefings. It’s saying that this ritual, this polite song and dance of regurgitated marketing sizzle and audience reaction shots, this Zeno’s Monetization games-as-service industry finding ever-smaller chunks of gameplay to stick a price tag on, is excessive and self-aggrandizing in a way that doesn’t help games one bit. It’s saying that Microsoft bleeping curse words while showcasing blood-soaked M-rated games is a pointless exercise at best, delusional at worst.

Also Metal Wolf Chaos is a game where you’re the deposed president of the United States piloting a giant robot, and that’s just rad as hell.