But what's stranger is that even if alot of what is said and shown at these conferences didn't make sense, it's strange to find how normal and fundamental they are to a flashy and successful show. So lets go ahead, jump down the rabbit hole and then criticise whatever we find.
As with most cult presentations, it started off with a propaganda film. But not one of those strange films where they just have the developers come in and give long interviews about the future of the platform like Sony did for the PS4. Microsoft went for the even stranger version of this where you take every developer, famous face, or even person that you can get your hands on and make them say one phrases like “love”, “one” and “me” at the screen. The whole time I'm watching this it keeps itching at the back of my mind that this is supposed to be a games console. I don't want love, I don't want community and feeling, I just want to eat a big bag of crisps, drink 2 six packs of Pepsi and to not feel anything but pure hedonism for hours on end. To not be disturbed by anyone from the outside world in fact.
“Depressing”, “OCD collecting” and “really desperately needing to take a piss but not before completing this section of the game, which because you need to take a piss is making you fail at the game and so making it take longer for you to go and piss” - these are the words and phrases I wanted to see in this video. This is gaming. The video in front of me and all the others that have been used recently at these conferences are just confusing. They're just clearly the outcome of a mix up of tapes at a cookie cutter media company's headquarters who accidentally delivered tapes made for a self help group for depressed suicide survivors to several gaming manufacturers, and in the absence of having anything better to show, they've just been running these instead.
There were even some famous faces among the sludge. Some of these famous faces were Steven Spielberg and his gimpy looking shadow which somehow managed to become independent of its host body and project itself into the film spouting some more drivel about how it's actually an individual who does things its own way. Oh no wait that's JJ Abrams, my mistake.
It's strange that any conferences actually start with this, because everyone watching knows it's all jargon and lingo and empty optimism, nobody pays any attention to it and it doesn't matter how many colourful transitions you put in between each increasingly vapid statement or how inspirational the music gets, we all just want to crack on to get to the games. The films are boring and we know they've been paid for, to trick us with its quality filming and editing techniques into simulating emotions that make us think that we're part of something bigger than ourselves. To inspire loyalty into a faceless brand, which in playing this type of distraction film, is ironically demonstrating just how its failing to deliver on any of its promises. Jesus it is just like a cult meeting.
The worst thing is that even the way the opening films at these conferences are displayed can be used in strange and terrifyingly manipulative ways. At the Xbox One reveal, the opening video was shit, but it was also shown on a big screen at the front. Here's the Sony PS4 reveal conference opening video and just take a minute to watch the first three and a half minutes.
You'll notice it's full of the same meaningless words, visuals and colours all of which are designed to make you emote for no real reason about objects which are completely unrelated to the device that they're announcing. But check out the way it's being shown. In a large theatre, every wall covered from roof to floor with screens, everywhere screens surrounding you, with every person attending drowned in darkness in the room to create a facelessness to each individual, making them lose themselves into the form of the crowd. The music comes on and suddenly it hits you, all the colours and the lights and the deafening sounds. It's like a nightmare. It's like someone managed to weaponize a rave and then unleashed it on the public. And this goes on for over three minutes, with no relevance and yet people sat around being assaulted by it for three and a half minutes, not knowing what relevance it had, but simply being enthralled by it because it was captivating and cut them off from the rest of reality, screaming their brain into submission. This kind of display is used elsewhere in secret facilities in the Middle East on terrorist suspects to drive them to insanity and confess their crimes and is seen as abhorrent treatment, an assault on human dignity. In the gaming world, this is just a show starter.
So the film ended, but yet again I had a feeling that I still hadn't learnt anything. I hadn't even heard fake enthusiasm for the games console like the developers drooled out during the propaganda video for the PS4. At least there I was being lied to with optimism, but in this move, I didn't even know what I'd been told. It sounded more like a second coming than a game's console.
Then we have the people who come after the films and they're not much clearer. In fact most of the things that they say are as clear as a glass of shit and about as useful as one too. Everyone seems to speak in a strange language composed of nothing more than broken promises and cryptic. Some of the things they say are fantastical and amazing. Over stating is what they do best, all of them basically the sales equivalent of some asshole that calls everyone who's ever expressed a thought as genius and describes every explosion that covers a plot hole in a JJ Abram's movie as awesome. The kind of person who thinks Dane Cook is hilarious. But these over-staters have an incredible gift, and we see it all the time. I'm not confused that people are trying to big up their product and get people excited for it, but I am confused about statements which can only be seen as a massive disappointment in comparison to what their describing. It's the kind of bullshit statements that we hear all the time at these conferences that mean nothing and should've been seen as puzzling and embarrassing with just a simple script read.
I'll start with my newest favourite irritant, very impressively over taking the Gaikai Guy from the PS4 reveal as my now most hated sales rep in gaming. The one, the only, Nancy Tellem. I like to think Nancy crafted that name to be a better sales person and to let her motivation for selling products not just to be a job, but to be a part of her very existence. She walks proudly around in her cream pant suits, about to go on stage to promote the television division of Xbox One, painfully unaware of how pointless and stupidly irrelevant that is to a games console. Suddenly one of her associates calls to her from across the room, “go on Nancy, you Tell'em” and Nancy smiles to herself, knowing in her own heart that she is the boss of selling and that she can succeed. “Tell'em Nancy Tellem” are her last thoughts before she steps out onto the stage and gives...one of the stupidest fucking pointless speeches at a gaming convention I've ever seen.
We can now “virtually jump into the action” of television spouts Nancy from her word hole a few seconds later. This sounds amazing and in fact upon hearing this I was reminded of the big promises of “we have been able to finally record dreams” as said by Alex Evans of Media Molecule at the PS4 announcement. These grand statements are only disappointing and just stupid whenever you see what they're actually describing. Alex Evans was describing a new sculpture game which utilises the move and not the breakthrough in neuroscience that came to mind immediately. In fact they'd barely invented anything that changed the way we could record our thoughts at all since we already had the traditional method of just hacking out images in stone, which has been handily just transported inside a screen. More practical, but no less bullshit. Nancy however is referring to using your Windows phone to check details about the show on your TV screen as opposed to using your phone's screen itself or just checking on the internet in general. It's less of a jumping into the action and more of a projecting a web page just to right of the action.
There was a lot of spiritual energy hanging around the Xbox One reveal as well. In fact the machine's got some in it itself, as highlighted by the fact that every person who spoke on the floor referenced the “magic and science” of the Xbox One. I was confused at first that this must just be a really stupid and pointless thing for adults to be saying as the actual process by which they came to producing the console, but that was until they didn't show the specs for the Xbox One at the conference and that's when it hit me. The HDD and the Blu Ray drive were the science parts of the console, the rest of it was the magic. No CPU or GPU specs were mentioned, so I assumed that the reason this hadn't happened was because they couldn't be summed up in words and concepts known to us muggles. The inner workings of the Xbox are made from some sort of delicate mix between science and magic and so for every HDD there is in the console, there's a GPU made with a hint of eye of newt and a CPU made from a mixture of north facing ancient snow from the peak of the Himalayas that never melts even in the heat of the sun, a lamp that grants wishes and the re-awakened soul of Tutankhamen.
Thought I may as well put a picture of the thing while we're here.
Helps to break up the big blocks of text as well.
Nancy didn't stop with the big statements either, promising an experience of television that was different in ways “previously unknown to us”, a description usually revered to describe the coming of a great evil or how to imagine it feels to stare into the mind of god. But we live in an age where video game consoles can be described as having “Infinite possibilities” and an app that allows us surf the net while watching TV is a concept that cannot be understood until it is discovered, as if the Xbox designers were just fiddling about when suddenly the Xbox One spawned in front of them from the nothingness and they were all enlightened that life could be better.
I'm sure they were also sad that they were out of a job, because with these consoles having infinite possibilities, there'd be no reason to ever improve on them say every six years or so.
So I end this with the sad news that there will therefore be no next generation of consoles, not because they are outdated and pointless, but because they are so perfect, we shall never need another piece of technology. Mankind's journey reaches its peak here my friends. Unless everyone's talking bollocks at these things, in which case life will chug along as it always so maddeningly continues to do.
This is only the beginning of the console announcements, we still have many months to go before they're eventually released, and even then we still have plenty more generations to go. But I imagine as technology becomes more insane and alien, there will be more methods to amaze and distract, and more words to over emphasize and chat shite with. But next time you watch one of these conferences, just listen to what the sales people have to say, and if you take them seriously and believe what they say right off the bat, you can look forward to a mental world made up of window dressing and empty sales pitches.
If you're interested in reading more about the PS4 conference and enjoyed this article, I've linked to an article here, where I reviewed that in a similar vein.