A simple suggestion for fixing E3

E3 is not a videogames event. To be sure, there are people who care about videogames and make videogames. There are also things on display that might one day be videogames. But E3 is a futures market: As with corn or oil futures, the things you are being asked to invest in are still in the ground. We are talking about potentiality here.

How, then, are we to talk about E3? There are all these shiny things—so many shiny things! And they’re exciting! Who wouldn’t want to talk about the new Cuphead trailer? Or the Tacoma trailer? Or the level editor in Doom? There is a mechanism for talking about potentiality and fandom, it just hails from outside the videogame world: We should treat E3 like the NBA or NFL drafts. 

Drafts are about prospects, and explicitly so. This has two major benefits. First, a draft encourages fans to think about an uncertain future. Joel Embiid’s foot may not heal; No Man’s Sky may be the world’s largest procedurally generated trailer forevermore. These things happen. The draft structure allows deep investment to coexist with a sense of uncertainty about the future. That’s part of why they’re fun. Second, drafts encourage an investment in the process of making a quality end product. Much as sports drafts encourage fans to consider developmental leagues, the needs of their teams, and different drafting strategies, a videogame draft might encourage fans to consider what goes into making a game and to contextualize each announcement (read: glossy trailer) within the larger process of delivering an actual product. 

Drafts encourage fans to think about the uncertain future. 

A draft-style E3 would do away with keynotes and speeches. Presenters would come on stage, announce what they are adding to their offerings, and get off. During the interval between announcements, people would surely discuss what this all meant (the content ecosystem isn’t going anywhere—at least not yet) but this more rapid-fire structure might at least help redress the news-to-total-fluff ratio.