My fellow fanatics, E3 has always been an event about the gaming industry. Where producers, executives, and heads of marketing put on suits, get on elaborate stages and speak to consumers around the world about what they have in plan for the future. Most of them try to appeal to the inherent pride there is in being creators and producers of some of the greatest pieces of interactive media out there. Some of them spin their presentations to say that they really care about the players, and that they care about making things better while making games more accessible and widespread.
And then there is Devolver Digital: the crazy drunk uncle of the bunch who just doesn’t give a fried side of duck. Two years ago, the publisher mostly known for releasing quirky retro-flavored games made waves when they announced their own press conference at E3, putting themselves on stage with the likes of Ubisoft, Microsoft, and Nintendo. But rather than be a sterile inoffensive showcase of titles complete with big promises for the future scheduled at a competitive primetime time slot, the conference was, to be absolutely frank, a completely mental prolonged descent into dark comedic genius that was thrown out around midnight.
It was glorious. The speaker they had, Nina Struthers (played by Mahria Zook), took on an iconic status almost immediately as her presentation opened with her casually taking out a pistol and firing into the air to silence a crowd clearly made up of generic stock footage. Within twenty minutes and change, the entire idea of a corporate presentation was satirized, current trends like the idea of Early Access games were taken to farcical levels, and Zook’s performance became increasingly exaggerated and confrontational to the point that she was screaming about future’s future future of gaming’s future while bleeding profusely from the nose I was laughing my ass off. If it wasn’t for the actual smattering of game announcements peppered throughout the show, the whole thing could have been mistaken for a prolonged sketch of anti-comedy from the likes of Adult Swim’s The Eric Andre Show.
Last year was no different, with the exact same structure and set-up used a second time. Mahria Zook took stage as Nina yet again, and the absurdity was cranked up even further. People getting “excited” about the unholy fusion of loot boxes and cryptocurrency. A new device that let’s people literally throw money at the screen and having it sent straight to Devolver’s bank accounts going horribly wrong when a guy’s arm gets caught in the screen. There was even a dig at the NES and SNES classic with the reveal of a Devolver Digital mini console… that only plays the uber-patriotic cult classic mech game Metal Wolf Chaos. Which they followed up by announcing Metal Wolf Chaos XD, a remaster of the game coming to Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Steam with a nebulous 2019 release date. One that still hasn’t been confirmed by the way.
Oh, and apparently there’s some bizarre Marvel Cinematic Universe style continuity going on as well. Since last year’s conference ended with Zook getting herself shot to pieces by a half-dead “volunteer” from the audience – she even landed on a model city straight out of Robocop, her body was rushed to an operating table, where she died. Which finally brings us to how this year’s Devolver Digital showcase opened. Keeping with the prolonged Robocop spoof, the executives and suits are at a loss as to how to do this year’s conference since Struthers can’t host it. The solution? Change the entire conference into a thinly veiled parody of a Nintendo Direct and have it take place entirely inside Nina’s head, all while the head of marketing keeps scrambling her gray matter to turn her into the perfect soulless corporate mouthpiece.
They have done this joke three times now and it still works!. Nina’s language getting hijacked. Random guys from the marketing department showing up to have their throats ripped out or their hearts eaten by tentacle monsters. Tons of shade thrown at live musical performances. And yes, it even ends on yet another cliffhanger for poor Nina, with a mysterious shotgun wielding badass breaking into Devolver’s offices to free her.
I still have no idea what made Devolver Digital think it was a good idea to start this performative skewering of industry trends, but I want them to continue.
Oh, also peppered throughout this feature are the trailers they showed off during that presentation. Highlights include them actually selling a five-thousand dollar arcade cabinet, brand new DLC for retro-platformer The Messenger, and a “reverse horror” game called Carrion; a game where you’re a horrific monster striking out against the military force that wandered into your home.
See you next year Devolver Digital, and I can’t wait to see even more rubber suits, fake blood, and insane ramblings on top of the quirky games you are so well known for.