The chaos of last week’s Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles is behind us, but we still have a major duty to fulfill: the non-awards!
You see, while most publications will focus on mentioning the games with the best graphics or interesting gameplay, we like to give shout-outs for the sort of stuff that no one else is really bothering with. Some of our non-awards recognize cool moments, some focus on awkward gaffes, and some even complain about donuts.
Welcome to the GamesBeat E3 2014 Non-Award Awards!
The Oswald Cobblepot Award for Surprising Voice Actor: Far Cry 4
When we saw the opening five minutes of the upcoming installment of the open-world shooter franchise at developer Ubisoft’s press briefing, something struck me as odd about villain Pagan Min.
Was it his hair? Yes, that was definitely weird. How about his crazy magenta suit? Sure, that was also part of it. Oh, maybe it was the part where he stabs a guy to death and then hands you the murder weapon so you can hold it while he takes a selfie. That was straight-up nanners.
But the thing that I noticed most was Min’s voice. It was strange and sounded like it was coming from a lot of places at once. So to understand it a little better, I went to Google to see who provides it.
And damn if it isn’t increasingly ubiquitous voice actor Troy Baker, star of BioShock Infinite, The Last of Us, and Infamous: Second Son. He has a pretty distinctive voice, but Min’s doesn’t sound anything like it. And now I understand that guy even less than I did before. Thanks a lot, Google. — Evan Killham
The Greatest Light Show Outside of Disneyland Award: Microsoft’s press conference
Sure, Microsoft showed off some cool games at its pre-E3 media briefing, but you know what I really enjoyed? The lights! Specifically, Microsoft gave every attendee a wristband that could glow in various colors in sync with each other during the press conference. It was a cool effect, especially when the flashes of colors matched the gameplay or trailer shown on the giant screen. It reminded me of a nighttime spectacular I’d usually only see in a Disney theme park.
I also chuckled a bit when I saw that plenty of attendees were still wearing them at Sony’s press conference. — Mike Minotti
The Most Interesting Person I Met Who Wasn’t a Game Developer Award: Phil the costume guy
Meet Phil [below]. I wasn’t able to catch his last name, or even his good side with my camera, but he’s definitely the most fascinating person I met at E3 who wasn’t a developer. At this year’s show, Phil was Sony’s mascot handler at the PlayStation booth, where a bunch of folks were wearing professional-looking costumes based on upcoming games. I saw some of the quirky warriors from Vlambeer’s Nuclear Throne, one of the pilots from Galak-Z, and even the cute little robot from the PlayRoom app.
I was just killing time when I started talking to Phil, and he told me all sorts of stuff about how long he’s been doing this job. At E3 2013, he was Ratchet (from Ratchet & Clank), and he started doing bicep curls with the heavy wrench when he got bored. I learned about the challenges involved with wearing the hot suits 40 minutes at a time. He kept checking in with the mascots to see if they were fine or to adjust the costumes if they started bending a certain way.
I hope I see him again next year, with or without a costume on. — Giancarlo Valdes
The Shiny Things Award for Most Clever Logo: Evolve
Sometimes, I feel like I’m too easily impressed.
Like when I finally “got” the logo for the upcoming team-based monster shooter Evolve, and it blew my goddamned mind.
Do you see what they did there? The E,V,O, and L represent the four human players; the E is the giant monster they’re fighting; and the V is for “versus” as in “4-vs.-1.” And I just peed a little.
I’m exaggerating a little bit, but it’s not often you see a logo express so much of what a game is about with such basic and simple design, so I have to give it up for the people who made it.
Or I was just really tired. I’m not ruling anything out after that week. — Evan Killham
The ‘Nope!’ Award for Immediately Regretted Decisions: Alien: Isolation
I haven’t really been following Alien: Isolation, so I was pleased when I got to play it and discovered just how faithful it is to the spirit of the original movie. I was exploring a creepy space station while a deadly monster hunted me. At one point, I went inside a locker, mostly just for kicks. A second later, I saw the alien walk by through the little cracks inside. I was legitimately terrified.
After a while, I thought I was safe to make my escape. I left the locker, turned to my right, saw the alien standing 20 feet away from and looking the other way. I turned around and went right back in. This garnered a pretty big laugh from those watching behind me.
Of course, the alien soon walked by my locker again, heard me breathing, tore down the door, and ate me. And I loved every second of it. — Mike Minotti
The Most Disturbingly Catchy Song Award: Dead Island 2 announcement trailer
When the first Dead Island game arrived, it left a lot of people wondering what a game about running around in a bikini hitting zombies with planks of wood had to do with that amazing and moving trailer that everyone had been talking about.
We got another cinematic trailer when Dead Island 2 appeared during Sony’s briefing, and its creators seem to have anticipated the confusion. This was a funny, bright, and high-energy little movie that is probably closer in tone and content to what we’ll actually see than what we came to expect from the first game, and to cap it all off, it had a really cool song playing under it: “The Bomb” by Pigeon John.
It was almost too effective, though, because I can’t get that track out of my head now, and I can’t hear it without thinking of body parts falling from a man. It’s not the best association, even when you factor in that the song’s basically “Rockin’ Robin” with more bass.
The Biggest Affront to Schadenfreude Award: The press briefings
E3 just doesn’t feel the same without some untrained public speakers walking out onstage and delivering poorly scripted banter terribly to a largely mortified crowd. Hell, it was so common last year that we had to collect them all in one place. As I sat down to watch this year’s events, I prepared myself to cringe and be generally glad I work at home and not in front of people.
But then nothing happened.
This year’s briefings were ridiculously on-point, well-focused, and free of incidents that made me wish I could Eternal Sunshine them right out of my brain. It was kind of terrible for someone like me. Sure, people playing multiplayer don’t actually sound like the canned banter from the demos for Rainbow Six: Siege and The Division, but you can’t make an animated GIF out of that shit.
My hopes rose temporarily when Nintendo’s digital event started with an insane anime fight between chief Satoru Iwata and Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime, but unfortunately, that was entirely awesome.
Damn it. — Evan Killham
The ‘Nice Trick, Asshole’ Award: Fenix Rage
Just a few levels into the brutally tough and addictive 2D platformer, Fenix Rage (described as “Super Meat Boy meets Sonic” for the PS4, Xbox One, PC), I was stuck. The PR guy watching me had just a tiniest hint of a smirk on his face. “Want me to tell you the secret?” he asked. After a few more attempts to scale up a deep well lined with black globs of death, I gave up and asked for help.
“You don’t have to wall-jump,” said Anthony Chau, the director of PR for Reverb Communications (representing the developer, Green Lava Studio).
Turned out the game’s creator set that stage up to mess with gamers, knowing that most of us would instinctively leap off one wall to latch on to the other side and then bounce back and forth (and upward) until they could get out. After all, that’s what we’d do in Super Mario Bros., the aforementioned Super Meat Boy, and, well, just about every other modern platformer we’ve ever played — it’s a well-ingrained move by now. But that doesn’t work here (even though it feels like it should), and the solution is much, much simpler: Just fly right up the middle. Your main character doesn’t need to leap off any walls because he can “air jump” indefinitely.
It was the developer’s way of screwing with our preprogrammed gamer minds and teach us a new technique for his game at the same time. I’d say it’s rather clever — except I would probably still be at the demo station trying to figure it out if it weren’t for Chau’s help. — Dan “Shoe” Hsu
The Worst Press Conference Segment Theme Award: “Letters,” Sony Press Conference
Asking an audience to believe one of the biggest electronics corporations in the world sits their executives down in front of fan mail is an already ridiculous notion. But to then cherry-pick the most banal letters — or just down right fake them for effect — is cheap and reeks of a complete lack of inspiration. You were going to announce a Grim Fandango remaster, and your instinct was to bury a 10-second reveal in an overlong Tim Schafer joke?
It’s highly doubtful that Sony receives one-thousandth of the adorably misspelled letters it burped onto the screen this past Tuesday and to ask us to go along with this self-congratulatory fluff was asinine. — Gavin Greene
The James Cameron Award for Most Boring Guest Speaker: Brian Michael Bendis
The multimedia segment of any press conference is already dead water. But throw a comic book artist — even a pioneering one like Brian Michael Bendis — onstage with only a few concept art pieces to show for his five-minute droning about an animated show based on his Powers comic, and the Sony press conference suddenly needed life support. Even the teleprompter was urging this guy offstage, scrolling up and down the “EXIT STAGE” directions continuously during the last minute.
It’s a thankless job to go out there and break up the flow of game trailers, so you better do yourself and everyone a favor and just make it quick. Bendis apparently didn’t get the point. Or the teleprompter. — Gavin Greene
The Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days Memorial Award for Dumbest Name at the Square Enix booth: Final Fantasy VII: G-Bike
This annual award went to the Square Enix classic Bloodmasque last year. In 2014, the Japanese publisher returned with a strong lineup of software featuring nonsensical names. It also focused its “creativity” on the biggest products in its lineup, which saw the Square Enix booth hosting projects like Final Fantasy Agito and Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call. But this year’s winner is Final Fantasy VII: G-Bike. That name encompasses all of the hallmarks for a truly dumb title: It sullies a classic franchise, it highlights a silly minigame, and it has a consonant with a hyphen. — Jeffrey Grubb
The Foot-in-Mouth Award for Dumbest Statement Made by a Developer: “Designing Women is Hard,” Ubisoft
When speaking with Polygon on the utter lack of female assassins in the co-op-centric Assassin’s Creed: Unity, Ubisoft creative director Alex Amancio said that to add in a feminine design would be “a lot of extra production work.” Given the team’s admitted strategy of just copying the game’s main character Arno and then modifying him three times for the other assassins, the statement is technically accurate.
That didn’t stop what was perhaps the swiftest and loudest backlash of the show. The statement seemed to validate the point of view that the industry perceives women as “other.” And when many designers have proven that female characters and protagonists aren’t any more work-heavy an undertaking than their male counterparts, the statement reflects poorly on the Unity team’s top-down production style.
Amancio did more damage to himself than an entire brotherhood of assassins, let alone four dudes. — Gavin Greene
The ‘Don’t Worry — You Can Still Kill People’ Award: Splatoon
Nintendo has an online-multiplayer shooter where the objective is to turn into a squid and cover the map with your team’s colored ink. It’s cute and friendly looking, and it isn’t all about killing people like every other shooter … but don’t worry, you can still kill people.
While the easiest way to win a match in Splatoon is to shoot your ink on the ground to cover more of it than the opposition, you can also use your ink to kill them, too. This will cause your enemy to respawn just like in Call of Duty, Gears of War, and the rest of the genre.
Sure, Nintendo is different — but it’s not that different. — Jeffrey Grubb
The Most Inappropriate Way to Feed Journalists Award: EA’s press briefing
At Electronic Arts’ E3 press conference — which took place from noon to 1 p.m. (aka lunchtime) — the publisher laid out boxes and boxes of donuts for the attending press to consume. Not only are these sugar bombs a most insubstantial way to feed journalists on a day with back-to-back-to-back events (who have no time for a true lunch break), but EA chief operating officer Peter Moore even joked to the crowd that it’s a perfect fit: gamers and donuts. Like we need more stereotyping in our industry.
I was so insulted, I couldn’t even finish my third donut. — Dan “Shoe” Hsu
Best Waste of 90 minutes: Code Name: S.T.E.A.M.
I love Advance Wars. The strategy game franchise for Nintendo’s handheld devices is always a blast, so I was happy to attend the debut for developer Intelligent Systems’ new turn-based tactics project, Code Name: S.T.E.A.M.
Unfortunately, my happiness quickly turned into impatience as Nintendo kept us in the room for 90 minutes while focusing on very specific aspects of the gameplay.
I bet that I’m really going to like this when it hits my 3DS in 2015, but I’m not sure it’s a game that justifies occupying an hour and a half of the limited time we get at E3. — Jeffrey Grubb
The Biggest Whoops in a Video Game Story Headline in History: The Los Angeles Times
The Worst Experience with a Game That Is Probably Good Award: Evolve
GamesBeat staff writer and community manager Mike Minotti got some time with Evolve before I did, and he convinced me to get in line with him so that I could try it out. And I did, but I probably should have played with someone else.
Mike controlled the monster while I was stuck on a team with a bunch of strangers, and the five-minute match went like this: My team jogged around the level trying to find our opponent, but we never even saw him until after he was fully leveled up. At that point, the monster (a term you can use interchangeably for the creature or Mike) killed us almost instantly.
I get that everyone else is really loving Evolve, but I think I’ll need some more time with it before I get it. — Jeffrey Grubb
The ‘Is That Really Necessary?’ Award: Dead Island 2’s mo-cap cat
The developers behind Dead Island 2 claim that they are the first studio to ever motion-capture a cat for a video game (with some help from expert animal trainers). They call the cat Rick Fury, and his owner is Max, a nonplayable character who follows you around in his van. I thought it was a joke at first, but then they showed a picture of a cat in a mo-cap suit during the hands-off demo.
“It was a pain in the ass,” said our presenter, “But we totally think it’s worth it.” — Giancarlo Valdes
The ‘What Were We Thinking?’ Award: Ultra Street Fighter IV tournament
Publisher Capcom invited fellow GamesBeat writer Mike Minotti and me to participate in its Ultra Street Fighter IV press tournament at E3. But once the action started, we realized very quickly that we were outclassed. Apparently, “expert at fighting games” isn’t at the top of our requirements list at GamesBeat, and it showed.
Mike fell out of the tourney in the first round. I didn’t fare much better, advancing to round two before losing to the guy from Edge magazine who would go on to win the entire thing.
Perhaps the above Tweet and my response to it should’ve warned us that we were in the wrong place. — Dan “Shoe” Hsu