Thursday, June 17, 2010

E3 on TV

Geez, just two years away from reviewing things for a daily newspaper and I've lost my edge. I know this because I've been enjoying the G4 network's coverage of E3 this week. And really, that coverage is only monumentally mediocre. Objectively, it deserves a huge ration of scorn. But I can't muster it.

Here's the bottom line: The coverage is 50 percent missed opportunities, and 50 percent the next best thing to actually being at E3. I'm so happy with the latter 50 percent that I'm forgiving the lapses. There should be a steady flow of interviews with industry analysts and journalists who could counter -- at least a bit -- the torrent of hype from the game developers and publishers who have gotten all the camera time. All I've seen over, hmm, maybe seven or eight hours of viewing is the self-promoting stuff. The G4 hosts/commentators/interviewers add next to nothing in terms of intelligent discussion, and the range of games being featured is fairly narrow (shooters rule, y'know?). Still, I've kept watching because the difference between getting an extensive look at game action, which is the G4 sweet spot, and reading about a game in print coverage is often the difference between being eager to know more about a game and not. Valuable radar, I think.

(As an aside, there's one G4 personality I think is quite good -- Adam Sessler. Now, I know Sessler a bit from the years I was covering games and E3, and I've always thought he was legit. Maybe that's a bias, because it has been in my head for so long. But as I watched the E3 broadcasts, I kept thinking that his questions, opinions and overall tone were shaped by some darn obvious smarts.)

Don't over-analyze what I'm saying. I don't want the G4 equivalent of CNN and Fox News political coverage, with drawn-out, talking-head potshotting. But there ought to be some snippets of depth to sprinkle in with the ooh-ahh breathlessness. That's all I'm suggesting. I did, after all, stay tuned in. I've been to a bunch of E3s, I've covered E3s, and G4 made it all familiar and fun again. My edge is gone, but honestly, I'm OK with that -- well, this week, anyway.

Monday, June 14, 2010

E3 and your newspaper

(First, a short note of explanation. Once again, this blog went quiet for a while. The reason: Two friends, both exceptionally influential in my life, died during the past couple of months, and the sense of despair I felt was overwhelming. The energy to blog disappeared. Still, I know what that seems to say about the relative value of this kind of writing -- that it's utterly dispensable. Well, not utterly. I think it's worth something, and if I think that, it can't keep going on vacation. So starting now, I'll give it yet another whirl. And if I can't sustain it this time, then we'll all know that I should vacate the space permanently)

I'm going to pick up the thread of previous posts later this week or next. But I want to jump on a topic that's particularly timely:

The E3 video-game convention is in full swing in Los Angeles, and it's the perfect yardstick for judging whether your newspaper, wherever you live, has any chance left to be meaningful amid the wreckage of the news-on-paper industry. Unless your paper carries substantial daily coverage from E3, it has almost no chance of being relevant going forward. If it can't recognize the importance of E3 -- which is culturally, financially and technologically significant on a national scale -- it's never going to keep up with American life in the 21st century.

That sound like an amateurishly inflated statement? Then you're out of touch. Video games are pivotal in understanding how entertainment is influencing us. The companies behind them matter on Wall Street, and the money spent by consumers is telltale about family life. Perhaps most intriguingly, games are always on the cutting edge of technology. If your newspaper misses the E3 story, which percolates over several days, its news sense is probably hopelessly moribund.

I can't be at E3 as I used to be, but there are interesting windows on the convention I may want to comment on (the G4 cable network's coverage, for instance). In the meantime, watch your newspaper for signs that it's really trying to grapple with how news is shaped as of 2010 . . . or is completely adrift.