“There's a reason "gamer" has become a singular term in a way "comic book fan," "movie buff" and "TV viewer" aren't. For some who play videogames, it's not a hobby, it's an identity— one in the midst of a cultural shift that has produced ugly and often frightening reactions specifically because it cuts so deeply to the heart not only of what people like to do, but who they are.” - Laura Hudson
THE RETURN OF BANJO-KAZOOIE
Banjo-Kazooie is an old, beloved, classic video game character. Now, more than 20 years after its debut on the Nintendo 64, Banjo-Kazooie will appear in "Super Smash Bros. Ultimate" as a downloadable character. Fans of the 90’s era "Banjo-Kazooie" have been looking for the duo to feature in "Super Smash Bros." for years and years, but exclusivity agreements appear to have kept the character out of the picture. It seems this gaming world win is a result of Nintendo and Microsoft’s (Xbox’s) increasingly close relationship.
The return of bear-bird duo was announced at E3 to the absolute delight of fans. That might be an understatement... While the brand’s reveal of the news was playful and simple, the fans on the other side of the screen were simply demonic. Videos of extremely excitable young fans receiving the news have millions of views - and they are worth watching!
HOLLYWOOD GAMING: KEANU’S CAMEO
In other news, CD Projekt Red (the developers of the critically acclaimed Witcher series) announced a new game called Cyperpunk 2077. It’s a first-person action RPG (role-playing game), set in a future where law has little meaning. Though they haven't released any gameplay, just a story trailer, people love their games so much that pre-orders for the game have been triple the amount that the last Witcher game got.
However, perhaps the biggest news item for gamers from this announcement was Hollywood heartthrob Keanu Reeve’s involvement. Reeves made a cameo at the end of the trailer, and people lapped it up:
“Celebrity cameos in video games are really interesting. As gaming budgets- and respect for the industry- have skyrocketed, so has their ability to hire hollywood actors and are being treated more like movies every year.” Grace, 27
“I think Keanu has a lot of dialogue in the new game. He even made an appearance at E3 which was really cool. He’s just a really sound guy. Another trend that this game nods to is body modification. This is huge- people could have a sword come out of their arm or their eyesight could be vastly improved.” Darragh, 29
As technology in gaming advances, and with the involvement of actors like Reeves, games are more and more like interactive movies.
Notwithstanding this excitement, this E3 announcement also invited criticism - much of this was around stereotypical representation problems. In general, representation seemed to be a broader issue, due to a lack of female representation.
SCARLETT, XCLOUD & STADIA
Google Stadia is Google’s new game streaming platform, due to launch in November. If it works as promised, it’s essentially a ‘sweeping away of the status quo - an end to console boxes’ that have shaped the last 40 years of gaming. Essentially it brings a myriad of networks and devices together so players are able to play any video game within five seconds. Read on here for more.
Project Scarlett was formally introduced by Microsoft at E3 - it’s the next Xbox. The console will apparently be able to reach 120 frames per second and support 8K resolution - specifications we’re ‘far from experiencing or requiring on a consistent basis’. But, as gaming wars will have it - rumour has it that the Playstation 5 will be stronger.
XCloud is Microsoft’s own game streaming technology. Basically your Xbox at home becomes your own gaming server and that can ping your game to your mobile or your PC - any mobile device. Essentially, it’s a streaming service for gamers, freeing them up to play away from a console.
Because these new services are so device-flexible, it’s interesting to think how it could drastically change what young people do in the time that they already spend looking at their phone.
While not all of these enhanced devices or services are ready yet, the gaming industry is learning to hold back hype and communities reaction to delays or early announcements seems to be changing:
“I’m so dubious about gaming and streaming. Playstation have had one for a long time and it’s going to be a while before internet services can catch up with the capabilities needed to stream 1080p 60fps! But an interesting change I noticed from previous years is the gaming community's reaction to delays. In Nintendo's E3 Nintendo Direct they announced that new Animal Crossing game was delayed for a few months and Nintendo explained that they could have gotten the game out this year as originally planned, but they would have had to put immense pressure on their employees and didn't want to overwork them. In previous years gamers have been up in arms when games are delayed but I think the community is changing for the better and people are more aware of how damaging crunchtime can be for developers.” Grace, 27
Vulnerabilities of gaming companies have been felt by fans in the past due to faults with premature releases. The humanisation of the industry has been generally accepted audience who really value this informative back and forth communication.
If you listen to fan feedback you’ll be rewarded. Youth really value when their voices are heard and acted upon - especially in a ‘superfan’ context.
Despite representation issues (sense check everything - youth are hyper sensitive to these), young gamers have an increasing respect for the creatives and developers behind their favourite games. They are willing to wait for something actually worth the hype, and with this, have an increasing respect for the processes that bring products into reality. Value honesty and work-life balance - communication around these values are key.