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From new Call of Duty to Star Wars Outlaws, it’s a massive few days for game reveals
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From new Call of Duty to Star Wars Outlaws, it’s a massive few days for game reveals

For the best part of 15 years, every June I would get on a plane to Los Angeles to cover E3. It was the giant video games conference where most of the major games and consoles of the past few decades were first shown, from the PlayStation to the Wii U, Fallout 4 to Final Fantasy VII Remake. Alas, the pandemic killed E3, and so this year we have a cluster of loosely affiliated and competing events instead: Summer Game Fest, run by Geoff Keighley of the Game Awards; the Xbox Games Showcase; indie-driven event Day of the Devs and many more. It all kicks off tomorrow, 6 June.

Publishers such as Ubisoft and Devolver are hosting their own broadcasts. Other former E3 standbys, such as EA and Square-Enix, are absent. There’s a live show from IGN, the huge games and entertainment website – I used to work there in the glory days of E3 in the early 2010s, when the company would hire out a studio and we would basically run a four-day continuous broadcast of all the announcements. Basically what appears to have happened is that we’re still getting at least as much gaming news as we would have at E3, but now it’s super diffuse, and also crammed into a single weekend as opposed to a week-long conference.

In short, it’s now very confusing – but here I am, on a plane to LA just like the old days, so I’ll be doing my best to play and cover as many interesting games as I can. If you want to follow along with not-E3 over the weekend, here are five things to look out for (and where to watch them).

Summer Game Fest livestream – Friday 7 June, 2pm PT/10pm BST

This is a live two-hour showcase hosted by Keighley from LA’s YouTube Theatre. From previous experience of both SGF and the Game Awards, it is likely to be a barrage of blockbuster trailers interspersed with some very tepid, very rehearsed chat with developers. It’ll be an endurance test, but with all the big names in video games involved, including Capcom, 2K Games and PlayStation, there will be at least a couple of major game announcements that should make it worth watching. And straight afterwards, for those staying up late in the UK, the Day of the Devs indie showcase (4pm PT/midnight BST) and Devolver Direct broadcast (5pm PT/1am BST) will deliver some games industry satire and independent spirit to wash the corporate taste away.

Wholesome Direct – Saturday 8 June, 9am PT/5pm BST

This is where to look for the cosy gaming vibe: farming simulators, dating games, anything involving cats or frogs. I get a lot of emails from Pushing Buttons readers asking where to look for non-violent, approachable games, and this is where. In previous years I’ve found this showcase goes on for long enough for the cuteness to become cloying, and with more than 70 games on show that is a distinct possibility for 2024, but the, um, wholesome intention behind it redeems it for me.

Star Wars Outlaws.View image in fullscreen

Xbox Games Showcase – Sunday 9 June, 9am PT/5pm BST

I am super interested to see what a rather embattled Xbox division has to show for itself this year, having spent the past year pushing through a mega-merger with Activision/Blizzard/King and then making the deeply unpopular decision to shutter several of its studios. A new version of the Xbox is on the horizon, its Game Pass strategy appears to be shifting, and Microsoft now owns so many developers that it should have no shortage of first-look games to show. This year’s forthcoming sequel to the Call of DutyBlack Ops series (above), will premiere shortly afterwards.

PC Gaming Show – Sunday 9 June, 1pm PT/9pm BST

PC releases tend to receive less attention than their console counterparts in the games media, so for the section of our readership that loves real-time strategy, 4x, Mobas, team-based FPS games, CRPGs and all the other genre acronyms that go with PC exclusives, this will be the most exciting showcase. Hosted by venerable magazine PC Gamer, this event is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.

Ubisoft Forward – Monday 10 June, 12pm PT/8pm BST

Ubisoft’s slate is encouraging this year: a new Assassin’s Creed game set in feudal Japan and the promising-looking Star Wars Outlaws ought to be enough to make this hour interesting, but I’m holding out for a left-field moment like the Mario vs Rabbids: Kingdom Battle one from 2017, where Shigeru Miyamoto showed up and Rabbids’ creative director, Davide Soliani, was overcome with emotion. And what would not-E3 be without a vaguely embarrassing Just Dance performance?

What to play

A screenshot of Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree.View image in fullscreen

With two long-haul flights ahead of me, I have decided it’s finally time to get properly stuck into Elden Ring on the Steam Deck – happily, 2022’s best game (and indeed one of the best fantasy games ever made) works great on the portable PC gaming machine. Its upcoming expansion, Shadow of the Erdtree, is out 20 June, and it’s so big that it could count as a small sequel. The good news for people like me who haven’t beaten Elden Ring yet is that you don’t have to get all the way through the game before the expansion comes out, but you’re going to want to get reacquainted with the brutal but invigorating rhythm of the combat (and the substantial lore) before jumping into its new challenges later this month.

Available on: PC, PlayStation 4/5, Xbox
Estimated playtime: 60+ hours (the expansion will be at least another 15-20 hours)

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What to read

Like a Dragon: Infinite WealthView image in fullscreen
  • Amazon Prime is unexpectedly making a live-action TV series based on the brilliant cult-hit crime drama games, Like a Dragon (pictured above).

  • The summer of gaming announcements technically kicked off last week with Sony’s State of Play showcase. Gamesradar has a rundown of the trailers – the highlight was Astro Bot, starring the delightful little white robots who serve as PlayStation’s best mascots. A playful mix of platforming, puzzles and action, it looks thoroughly delightful.

  • In news with ramifications too depressing for me to think about too hard, Ikea will be paying people minimum wage to work in its virtual Roblox store. You wanted the metaverse? This is the metaverse: working in Ikea for minimum wage, except now it’s not even real.

  • Actor and developer Abubakar Salim, whose studio Surgent recently released its debut game Tales of Kenzera: Zau, has spoken out about the targeted, racist harassment he and his team have received, part of a resurgent anti-woke culture war that’s bubbled up again this year in gaming and elsewhere. “There’s always a reason diverse stories can’t exist … these exclusionary rules just continue to stack up and the goalposts continue to shift until me, my studio, people who look like us just sit down, be quiet and just accept the fact that you’re outsiders. But I won’t do that,” he says.

What to click

  • F1 24 review – an enjoyable way to rewrite recent Formula One history

  • ‘A place that made sense’: Minecraft is 15 years old and still changing lives

  • I tried playing video games stoned for the first time in my 50s – and I have some thoughts

  • Wax Heads, the record-shop video game that channels High Fidelity

Question Block

Bury Me, My Love gameView image in fullscreen

This week I’m answering a question from reader Alejandro:

“What do you think of games as a vehicle to understanding other communities’ problems and realities? I recently finished the excellent Get in the car, loser! and though its gameplay is quite simple, its story really made me connect with the hardships of the LGBT+ community in general and the intense mental and emotional distress that transgender people have to navigate in an intolerant world. Have you ever had an experience like that? Playing a game and suddenly feeling that you understand another group of people a little better?”

I think this is one of the greatest strengths of video games: their interactivity engenders empathy. When we’re put in the shoes of a character, we get the opportunity to see things from a different perspective. One of the first games I played that had this effect on me was Anna Anthropy’s dys4ia, a game about transition made up of simple vignettes that helped me understand dysphoria, the sensation of just not fitting, and the horrors of navigating the medical system as a trans person. I played it more than 10 years ago and it had a big impact on me.

Before I Forget, meanwhile, is a moving and emotionally difficult game about the experience of dementia, which had me walking around my house as my memories were wiped out before my eyes; it starts to feel like the walls are closing in on you. Bury Me, My Love is one of several affecting games about the immigrant experience, told from the perspective of someone fleeing Syria. These games are all the direct result of the slowly increasing diversity and democratisation of game developers – there is a long way to go, and I hope I never stop playing games that help me understand other people better.

If you’ve got a question for Question Block – or anything else to say about the newsletter – hit reply or email us on [email protected].

Source: theguardian.com