The Accidental Sexual-Experience award: Activision booth
On the E3 show floor, publisher Activision had a giant 180-degree screen that would play a promo video for developer Bungie’s first-person shooter, Destiny, every 15 minutes or so. Everyone would gather around and sit crossed-legged on the ground while waiting for the video to start. Once it did, the ground would vibrate violently with the music and explosions … and that’s when I started to notice a few men and women looking around a bit guiltily.
It was clear that the vibrating floor was causing some of those sitting on it to feel … feelings. I imagine that many industry insiders will forever associate Destiny with an inner-awakening that they’ll never forget. —Jeff Grubb
This Should Be a Game award: The Playroom (PS4)
Sony reps made it extraordinarily clear to us press guys: “The Playroom is a tech demo for E3. It is not a game or an announced product.” Got it. But it should be. Hey, if Double Fine’s Kinect Party can keep kids occupied with on-camera, on-TV nonsensical activities — and I’ve seen firsthand that it can do that very well — then The Playroom’s got a shot.
The Playroom shows off how well the PlayStation Camera and the PlayStation 4 controller can work together. At the show, we sat on a couch in front of the Camera, which mirrored us right onto the television screen. The demonstrator then summoned a small herd of adorable little spacemen on the floor right in front of us. If we waved at them, they would wave back. If we kicked at them (hey, it wasn’t our idea — the developer told us to do it), they’d fly out of the way.
Then, the demonstrator used the PS4 controller as a powerful vacuum and sucked all the spacemen into his onscreen controller. From there, he gave us a virtual peek inside the gamepad itself, where you can see buttons moving and the spacemen squeezed together in their tiny chamber. Then he tilted and shook the controller, which caused the squealing little guys to stumble and slide all around the room — much like these poor pups.
After seeing The Playroom, I wanted to show it off to other people — it’s just that cute. Hopefully Sony will consider officially releasing it as a consumer demo for the PlayStation 4. —Dan “Shoe” Hsu
The Actions Speak Louder than Words non-award: Sony and indie gaming
Although Microsoft and the Xbox One have become a punching bag for the entire gaming industry, I wasn’t particularly offended by its press conference at E3 this year. In fact, it showed over an hour’s worth of nonstop next-gen gaming, sometimes even with sound! It got me excited about games again. But as a longtime journalist covering Xbox Live Arcade and a blossoming indie developer myself, my mind was figuratively blown at how delusional and brazen Microsoft’s claim to being the No. 1 support of indie games was. I’m more impressed than upset that the company would have the audacity to tout such erroneous words after years of outcry from developers of games such as N+, Fez, Castle Crashers, Super Meat Boy, and others.
The Xbox Live Indie program has also been slammed time and time again for being nice on paper (and of course, in press releases and E3 conferences), but in practice, more akin to a forgotten, underdeveloped realm pushed far, far away from the Old Spice ads and non-gaming content that plague the front page of the modern Xbox Dashboard.
Sony, on the other hand, didn’t just proclaim its intangible love for indies and then in the same breath announce another version of Minecraft (now the least indie indie game of all time); instead, it brought several indie developers onstage to show off their wares. If the story behind games like Journey and the existence of the Sony Pub Fund haven’t already convinced you, Sony’s commitment to indies at E3 embarrassed Microsoft’s nonsensical corporate babble more than any other instance, in my opinion. ––Sebastian Haley
The Closest We’ll Ever Get to a Pinky and the Brain Game award: Tiny Brains
“One is a genius, the other’s insaaane!” Anyone who watched those dastardly mice try to take over the world in the ’90s has that intro memorized by heart. That’s why I was so happy when I played Tiny Brains, a co-op puzzle game with four superpowered critters: a hamster that can create icy walls, a rabbit that can pull things in with a vortex, a bat with a Force Push-like power, and a mouse who can swap places with objects. They must work together to escape a mad scientist’s laboratory. Pinky and The Brain would be proud. — Giancarlo Valdes
Best PR Line award: Hohokum demo
During a demo of the bizarre indie game Hohokum (PS4, PS3, Vita), a PR rep for Sony took control of a long rainbow ribbon; flew around the flat, minimalist landscapes; and sought out trees to grow and creatures to fly kites on mountains. It is reminiscent of other leisurely, discovery-oriented adventures like PS3’s Flower. When I realized this, I asked the PR rep an odd/stupid question: “Oh, so this is just for fun?” (I meant that Hohokum doesn’t have any objective markers, inventory screens, stuff to shoot, or other more common game mechanics, but my exhausted E3 brain couldn’t muster up the proper words.)
Her reply, with a smirk: “Oh, it’s all for fun.”
Of course it is. That response made me chuckle (and realize how silly my query was), so it wins this award. —Dan “Shoe” Hsu
Worlds Colliding award: Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments
Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments is still set in the Victorian era, but Sherlock’s cool new look and attitude sure aren’t. That’s because Frogwares, the developers behind the long-running Sherlock Holmes adventure series, looked to modern representations of the great detective to piece together an experience that will hopefully draw in fans of actors Benedict Cumberbatch and Robert Downey Jr. This new Sherlock is disheveled, openly rebellious toward law-enforcement procedure, and superpowered — he can stop time when searching for clues. All the changes Frogwares made definitely improve the experience, but it is a little weird to see so many versions of Sherlock Holmes collide into one representation. —Jasmine Rea