Please enjoy this self-indulgent vlog about my first day at an expo in over four years. I wasn’t planning to focus so much on Shadows of Doubt, and I will be doing a proper preview in the coming weeks, but I cannot stress this enough – it’s brilliant. Rarely does such a bold vision enjoy being matched by its execution. It reminds me somewhat of Cloudpunk, which I really enjoyed, but I desperately wanted to have a less passive relationship with the city itself. With it’s striking sense of immersion and a commitment to granular interactivity built into the game’s core design, I feel like Shadows of Doubt very much achieves that aspiration for me. I can’t wait until the full version comes out next year. It won ‘UK Game of the Show’ at Gamescom a few weeks ago, and it’s blindingly obvious why from the second you start the demo.
It’s day two of EGX as I write this: yesterday was one of the nicest times I’ve ever had at a trade show. It truly feels like events are finally back, and it’s easy to forget how big a deal that is after months of relative normality following the pandemic. I say relative, because covid is, of course, still with us – I’m not ready to ditch my mask just yet – but I’ll take the sweetness of Relative Normality over the alternative of having no human contact outside of poorly framed webcams.
I didn’t really think about any of this in the run up to EGX. I’m pretty new in this job and I saw it as mostly a good opportunity to finally meet some of my VG247 colleagues in person (and how important it has been – I finally know what Connor looks like in 3D, and genuinely didn’t recognise him without the bevel of a laptop screen). But I found myself feeling genuinely affected by the sight of groups of friends, mostly in their late teens/early twenties, cutting about the show floor together, cosplaying, laughing at dumb jokes, buying Hatsune Miku t-shirts, and generally just doing normal stuff – something their generation was denied for a good 18 months, during some of the most pivotal developmental years in their lives. I hadn’t really considered this aspect of the pandemic until now. I’m nearly 40, I’m settled, my socialising days are comfortably behind me and I like sitting on my arse. I’m in the extremely privileged position where covid was an embuggerance more than anything else.
Expos have taken on a new dimension of importance following the events of the last few years. It’s vital for our collective healing as an industry, as a society, to spend some face-to-face time with each other. I had forgotten what it was like to actually speak to the people behind the games we cover – to feel that enthusiasm radiating off someone as they describe their artistic process, their hopes for the project, their inspiration. It’s rare that those indefinable aspects of human communication come across via streaming video. Indeed, it makes you appreciate why screen actors have to train for years to get any good, and why the good ones are so well compensated for their work: pushing raw human emotion through a lens is hard work.
As beneficial as the home working revolution has been for those of us lucky enough to enjoy it, it nourishes the soul to do things IRL, if only for a long weekend.
If you’re at EGX on Sunday, come and see the VG247 Best Games Ever podcast: Live! In front of people! Possibly you!