by Rich McCormick

I remember the dark times of E3. I remember 2006, a year in which our wallets were raided by giant enemy crabs, flipped over and attacked for $599 and massive damage. I remember Ridge Racer. I remember Riiiidge Raaacer. I remember 2011, and Mr Caffeine, and a Ubisoft show so awkward I had to hover my finger over the mute button to slam down whenever someone started talking. I remember 2012, when Microsoft tried to convince us the most exciting thing about video games was TV. I remember every company talking about the past, about six-year-old consoles like they were the future. I remember feeling like there was no future in games.

But something strange has happened to 2015’s E3. It’s actually good. Bethesda’s show made good on the promise of post-apocalyptic RPG Fallout 4 with several minutes of game footage, while EA’s show introduced a new Mass Effect game and let us plan out our Star Wars fantasies with Battlefront multiplayer. Microsoft, still recovering from its disastrous 2013 show, packed its conference with new Dark Souls, Halo, and Gears of War games, before being outshone once again by Sony.

So far it’s the Japanese company that’s “won” E3, tossing out sequels to fan favorites previously thought dead forever like treats to a starved dog. Shenmue III is not only real, it’s looking likely to hit its $2 million Kickstarter target inside 24 hours, having knocked the crowdfunding site offline for a while at the time of its announcement. The surprise appearance of The Last Guardian, a game first announced in 2007, was a shock only equaled by the news of a legitimate Final Fantasy VII remake, something fans have been clamoring for over the past two decades.

In addition to a genuinely exciting slate of video games, this year’s E3 has also shown that publishers and developers are listening to feedback and focusing on representing their audiences. Women have starred in the shows, both as presenters and as playable characters, a move that feels like a conscious change after the developers of Assassin’s Creed and Battlefield: Bad Company 2 previously said female humans were too difficult to include in their games.

The result is the best E3 for years. While the opulent show still isn’t perfect, for anyone who can remember the bad times of E3s past, 2015’s event has made gaming feel more inclusive, more forward-thinking, and more exciting than it has for long time.

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