Why the Gears of War 3 reveal is crucial for the games industry

April 15, 2010, Author: Andy Corrigan

Sensationalist title isn’t it? I’m sure many might think me certifiably mental by declaring that the official announcement of Epic’s third venture into the Gears of War franchise is one of the single most important moments in gaming’s history, but please stay with me; I’ve not totally lost it. You know how to follow this apparent madness to its logical conclusion… Hit the link below.

Make no mistake; Gears of War 3 is a big title. It’s almost guaranteed to sell by the bucket load and will probably be one of the most hyped games of 2011, and why not? It’s a visually gorgeous series that gave us a cover mechanic worth playing with, and inadvertently gave birth to the ‘stop & pop’ era of gameplay. A type of gameplay that has spawned a thousand mimics, not to mention inspiring the award winning Uncharted series. That’s not to say it’s going to receive universal acclaim; I’ve seen quite a few apathetic reactions to the announcement on the web and Twitter, probably mostly considered in light of the issues faced with a consistently problematic online component that many just gave up on.

Still, despite some indifference, any announcement regarding Gears of War is still likely to attract a lot of attention from within the industry and especially amongst consumers, but let’s forget about that aspect for a moment. I’m not talking about the quality of the game in question. Hell I’m not even talking about the game itself; I’m talking about the way it was announced.

Forgetting that Microsoft had jumped the gun and ruined the surprise before the real announcement took place (seriously, how hard is it to not push a publish button?), series creator, Cliff Bleszinski, was invited onto a major US chat show, NBC’s Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, to unveil the latest instalment of his prominent 360 exclusive franchise.

Let me just repeat that back to you. A games designer was invited to appear on a TV show, watched by millions, to talk about his career and to unveil his latest game. Anyone else see what’s wrong with that?! It’s practically a work of fiction, as unbelievable as the plot of Gears of War; nothing more than a pipe-dream.

Surely is this photo-shopped?!

Yet, there he was, a computer nerd being treated like a real celebrity. Cliff was quite rightly shown great respect towards his work, and he was even applauded at length several times by the audience. Although the applause was possibly prompted (we all know how US shows work), it was a stark contrast to the events of a few weeks ago when a British daytime chat show chose to vilify gaming, and this now has literally taken me from one extreme to another. Last week I found myself defending our pastime in the eyes of the general media and non-gaming public, this week I’m writing about how a maturely rated title with graphic scenes of violence was being treated as a legitimate form of entertainment amongst adults. I mean, have I stepped into the Twilight Zone or something?

The best part is, I don’t think for one second that the entire industry left to their own devices could have picked a better person to represent them in this instance. Bleszinski rose to the challenge perfectly. He was charming, unassuming and just seemed thrilled to finally be allowed to reveal his game to the world. For any non-gamers watching the show, his appearance must have at given a good account of the industry to at least some people out there, and maybe that’s just what we’ve needed all along. Could this really be the start of the games developer being given similar treatment to those in front of the camera, or behind the pen or microphone?

Obviously, we should remember that Fallon has featured games on his show before, most notably with Project Natal being demonstrated shortly after its unveiling at E3 2009, so he’s (or at least his production team are) evidentially pro-games, but that was showcasing new tech that was already announced. Information about games is just not presented this way to the general public and to me that is the most exciting part in this.

I mean, who out there didn’t find it odd in the first place that a big game was going to be announced on television instead of at one of the big tradeshows? Yet after witnessing it for myself, I don’t think I could even begin to overstate how huge this moment was for the games industry.

Don’t get me wrong, we’re not there yet; there’s still plenty of work to be done if games are to be accepted as credible media. Things won’t change overnight either. David Jaffe probably won’t be appearing on Letterman tomorrow, nor Molyneux on Leno, but with that said, if in five/ten years from now games are respected a great deal more by the general media, I think that we can look back at this moment and see it as a major turning point, regardless of the game that triggered it.