Deep into E3 and my ears are still buzzing with the sound of explosions. There’s an itch in my throat that is the telltale sign of a convention pox, and earlier in the day, I overheard an exhibitor say loudly, “I hate E3.” Understandably, at a consumer event that feels like the oppressive churning of an impossibly hungry machine, the games industry can feel like a strange mix of unbridled excitement (I’m looking at you The Last Guardian) and deep cynicism. It’s with this mixed message in mind that I want to make a concerted effort to celebrate some of the non-gaming moments that I find hopeful from the show.
Almost more shocking than the reveal of Shenmue 3 was the appearance of a surprisingly diverse group of protagonists featured in some of the most exciting games of this coming year. It seems some developers are finally learning that female protagonists do not doom a game from selling big.
Of course Faith returns in the much anticipated Mirror’s Edge 2, as does Lara Croft in Rise of the Tomb Raider. They are joined by the heroines of Recorp and Horizon Zero, both brand new franchises (robot infused franchises at that). Meanwhile, Gigantic, a MOBA-like third-person action game, features a strong woman of color that looks entirely badass, as well as an old woman and a young girl. None of these games hypersexualize these characters, yet all explore entirely different aesthetics. These are not hastily created token characters made to check a box. Rather, they seem built from the ground up out of a genuine enthusiasm to include diverse and interesting protagonists in games.