Serotonin: Eliciting extreme excitement

June 19, 2015


I’m an excitable fellow. It’s both a fault and an self-diagnosed admirable quality: my personality is a friendly magnet at parties, but in a more somber setting, it’s a reminder that loud isn’t allowed. I just can’t help it, nor do I want to. It’s not like I actively raise my blood pressure, take a sharp breath in and resist the urge to blink when I watch a trailer for Jurassic World. I don’t do it to annoy others, but if I manage to rile them up (and I often do), I can’t be held accountable for my actions.

What a thrilling year for guys and girls like us. We got The Witcher 3 for games. More Game of Thrones for TV. Mad Max: Fury Road for movies. All are unbelievably high-quality products that we didn’t do anything to deserve except wait patiently and plunk down our money when the time came. We owe our global glee to the hard-working members of this industry, and 2015 looks to be one of the best in recent years. I mean, a new Star Wars is coming out in December for crying out loud. I’d grab your shoulders and shake you through the screen right now if I could.

The Electronic Entertainment Expo, a name nobody says because that’s why acronyms are useful, is the ultimate holiday for video game enthusiasts. No, it’s not recognized by any governments. So instead of gleefully enjoying a day off (or three) to watch every ounce of coverage, we have to settle for watching every ounce of coverage once we’re home from work. That is, of course, in between checking the live streams of conferences, because what’s the point in commenting on something that’s already hours old?


Most trade shows have some allure to stakeholders in an industry, but E3 is close to a religious event for us. It means a forecast for the year, it means companies showing off impossible technologies and, most of all, it means a chance for players and watchers to get excited. To feel adrenaline at the lead in of a potential announcement. To believe anything is possible.

There are so many subdivisions in video games that I’m defeated before I can even start counting. There’s a wild variation in systems, games, genres and difficulties that it means there’s something for everybody and rarely a single thing that everybody likes. On top of that, you have single player and multiplayer, offline and online, indie and AAA, console and PC, and handhelds and phones competing for our attention. It’s all too much, to be honest. This results in a maelstrom of criticism and discussion on the Internet about what’s better and what sucks. E3 magnifies this, but it’s also one of the few times it gets everybody excited about the same thing. Considering a large majority of the hobby consists of being alone and playing alone, this type of inclusion is one of the reasons E3 is so big, positive or negative.

Reactions to game announcements can be as volatile and hostile as they can be gloriously happy, and it’s a clear indication of how serious people take their games. I’ll never forget what happened with Nintendo’s major announcement in 2001 regarding one of the biggest franchises past, present and future: The Legend of Zelda.


Try to put yourself in the shoes of a 17-year-old Henry Skey (only for a moment, I promise). To a teenager who didn’t really have much lined up for the summer, June was the best month to be alive. The Stanley Cup playoffs are on, school is out, my room has an N64 and a tiny TV and I don’t have a curfew. You want to know what true freedom is? It’s the freedom to choose whether to do everything, something or nothing. That’s how I felt. I knew E3 was coming up, and I was glued to my computer. Even having a consistent Internet connection was still relatively new (2001, remember) and the fact that I could get video updates within minutes of announcements blew my mind away. It was like real life news, but for video games!

Nintendo has always been by my side. Faults and all, I’ll always own the major Nintendo system. It’s not a decision I’ve made; I just can’t possibly let go. Look at what it’s given me. Look what I’ve done. Look what I’ve seen. There’s no chance that I’m getting off this ride anytime soon, let alone 14 years ago. They’d shown a tech demo in 2000 of what we were all salivating over, a new 3D Legend of Zelda game. It looked incredible. It was only a minute or so of Link fighting Ganon, but it was enough. It was more than enough. Link looked so realistic that I swore that graphics couldn’t get any better.

Then 2001 rolled around and we were all waiting. The announcement came and they presented The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and the Internet collectively freaked out for the wrong reasons. Link had transformed from “realistic” to a cel-shaded cartoon. A cartoon. A CARTOON!?! NINTENDO, WHAT DID YOU DO?


Rage. I mean real rage, from a lot of sources. It was seemingly irrelevant that the animation looked fantastic, or that we’d never really seen a game look like this before, or that critics said it played really well. Nintendo had taken one of its most beloved franchises, teased us with what we thought we wanted and then yanked it back into the closet and presented us with something for which we were completely unprepared. It experimented with something sacred, and that won’t do.

All this buildup and all this discussion was for nothing. Now we had to live with something like that looked like a Link version of Pikachu, all cutesy and making weird facial animations. Shigeru Miyamoto, the godfather of games, plunged an invisible dagger into our hearts by saying that the new look was designed to “extend Zelda’s reach to all ages.” Hopes were dashed.

The fact that the game itself turned out very well and still holds up to this day is an afterthought. The outrage, the disbelief that E3 transported from a building in Los Angeles to screens all over the world was a new feeling to me. I felt I mattered and had a pulse on the game industry, when in reality, neither was all that true.


All was forgiven in three short years, when in 2004, Nintendo absolutely caved with a fantastic reveal trailer for The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. A dark, gritty Zelda game. An epic orchestral score. Horseback combat. Realistic visuals. They even had Mr. Godfather himself come out afterward with a replica sword and shield. The cheers of the fans when they realize what franchise they were watching riding the horse says it all: we care. We can get really, really, unnecessarily excited. That magical moment, when you jump up and down, or rub your hands together in anticipation, or high five a friend? It’s unattainable for us any other time of the year. Just three crazy days in June when nothing, something or everything is possible.