Pushing Buttons: What to expect from the world’s biggest games convention | Games


A slightly shorter missive this week as I’m on my way to Gamescom in Cologne, a convention I attended for the first time in 2006. I played the then-unreleased Nintendo Wii for the first time at my first Gamescom. A few years later, I got a look at Project Natal, Microsoft’s mad motion-controlled game experiment that later became the Kinect. I once had the uncomfortable experience of being driven around Cologne in a limo for 20 minutes, while being shown dodgy footage of a licensed Stargate online game that was never released. For more than 15 years, I have honed my journalistic technique by plying tipsy, jetlagged American game developers for rumours after a few pints of Kölsch by the river.

Gamescom has never had the LA glamour of E3; it was always more workmanlike, great from a coverage perspective but light on pizzazz. I’m fond of it though, not least because as the biggest games convention in the world – with more than 300,000 attendees – it challenges the video games industry’s US-centrism. There are many millions of gamers in Europe too, folks! We deserve a big event. PlayStation, Nintendo and EA have eschewed this show for a while, and in their place you get a mish-mash of unexpected exhibitors that reflect gaming tastes on mainland Europe. Simulation games are huge here, and massive swathes of the show floor are usually given over to games like Farming Simulator. PC gaming is bigger here, so point-and-click adventures, war games and strategy games are also more prominent.

Gamescom has become even more consumer-focused, with behind-closed-doors presentations for journalists, investors and publishers replaced by exhibition areas full of paying customers queueing for an hour to play 10 minutes of the next Call of Duty. The same has happened to E3 – once an industry show, now a public one. This reflects how game development and marketing has changed, and how the world has changed: where once media were the gatekeepers, now the creative industries talk directly (and endlessly) to fans through social media, livestreams and events like this.

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My task now is to filter that information, and find what’s most interesting. And lemme tell ya, that task is a whole lot easier and more enjoyable when I actually see games and talk to people rather than watch a bunch of marketing videos. I’ll be returning at the end of the week with some good stories, some new games to keep on your radar, and hopefully not another Covid variant.

What to play

We Are OFK STeam
Music-making and late-stage capitalism … We Are OFK. Photograph: Team OFK/Steam

We Are OFK is a video game band biopic about four friends making music and trying to get their act off the ground. It’s about the price of creativity in late-stage capitalism, basically, and trying to choose between your passions and your need to make a sustainable living. If you are not into indie-pop and LA millennial group-chat drama, it’s worth trying an episode (there at five, each accompanied by a song and a music video). If this sounds like a game that would make you want to cringe out of your skin then, well, it probably is.

Available on: PlayStation 4/5, Nintendo Switch, PC
Approx playtime: one hour per episode, five episodes

What to read

The beard is back … Steve from Minecraft.
The beard is back … Steve from Minecraft.
  • Our summer games preview series wraps up this week. Check it out to hear about some titles to keep an eye on in the next year or so – from the new Street Fighter to a game about finding joy in the brief life of a housefly.

  • Minecraft fans are celebrating a new visual update that gives its default main character, Steve, his beard back (pictured above). And that, friends, is how I learned after 10-plus years that it’s supposed to be a beard and not a big smiley mouth.

  • I am mesmerised by this mechanical arcade version of Pong. It’s like air hockey but better, and now I must dedicate myself to finding one of these cabinets out in the wild.

  • The indie developer behind the Bloodborne PlayStation 1 demake a while back is now making a late-90s-style kart racer based on FromSoftware’s eldritch horror masterpiece. Lilith Walther’s project started out as an April fools joke, but is now a working game, if the progress videos are anything to judge it by.

What to click

Saints Row review – a vast, ridiculous B-movie caper

Sony could face £5bn in legal claims over PlayStation game charges

The game’s Bond: the making of Nintendo classic GoldenEye 007

Swedish gaming giant buys Lord of the Rings and Hobbit rights

Question block

Confession: an email snafu means that I am all out of fresh reader questions, so please send more by hitting reply on this newsletter. In the meantime, here’s one from the archive from reader Dan: As someone who is incredibly busy with a full-time job, part-time studying and a wedding to plan, I have developed a nasty habit of acquiring shiny new games that are either left unstarted or unfinished. Do you have any tips or advice on how to gtackle it?

Ah yes, the pile of shame – or, in 2022, the digital game library of shame. Let go of the guilt, Dan. We are bombarded by entertainment options all the time, and we end up with to-watch and to-play and to-read lists so overwhelming that they give us low-level anxiety. When exactly did keeping up with pop culture start to feel like a job?

I doubt you’ll find a single person among this newsletter’s tens of thousands of readers who hasn’t got a pile of shame. Remember that all of your unstarted and unfinished games will be there for you whenever you do have time for them, whether that’s in a few months or a few years. In the meantime, my rules for keeping the backlog relatively under control are: play only one game at a time; don’t worry about completing games; and consider them finished when you’ve had enough of them. Also, play for an hour here and there instead of waiting for, say, an entire free weekend or evening to play. And a Switch or Steam Deck liberates your gaming time from your time at home in front of a TV – that gives you more opportunities to play.

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Pushing Buttons: What to expect from the world’s biggest games convention | Games

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