It’s taken me nearly two weeks to write and compile all of my feelings and happenings at PlayStation Experience. I wanted the hype to die off a little bit, to see if maybe I was just on a bit of a high from getting to go to Sony’s inaugural event in Las Vegas. Of course it was amazing while I was there, but looking back, would I feel the same a bit later? I wanted to let it internalize and sink in, because my initial impression was that Sony’s PlayStation Experience was one of the most important things that could happen in for the industry right now. Now that I’m back in my normal day-to-day life, I realize now more than ever that I was right.
A Celebration of Games
PlayStation Experience — or PSX — was truly a celebration of games, gamers, and the joy that PlayStation has been bringing us for 20 year. Like an E3 that was open to the gaming public, the people that were there were fans of PlayStation! Leave it to Sony to create an unprecedented gathering of like-minded people in one place to honor games and gamers past, present, and future.
Every conversation that I had was incredible. While waiting in line for the merch area to grab a couple of shirts and a coffee mug, I started talking to a few of the gamers in line behind me. After some conversation, they let me know that they had flown in from both Chicago and New York! People like this had come to this event because they wanted to celebrate PlayStation. They passion and love they had for the console and for gaming in general was incredibly apparent as we talked. In fact, I made a couple of new PSN friends (thanks to the PlayStation app) out of the experience! I ran into them a few times during my two days there, and each time the conversation never found a negative direction, but always found a love of the games.
There was never any talk of frame-rates or resolutions. There wasn’t conversation about DLC being too much money, day one updates, graphics, or anything else that gamers seem to latch onto and complain about these days. There was simply a fondness of games. If there wasn’t a love of a particular game or feature, nothing bad was said about it, we simply moved on. With so much to laud and be happy about, there was no room or time for negativity. In fact, a question about resolution and frames during the Bloodborne panel led to a sea of groans from the audience. Nobody wanted to hear it. That’s not what this was all about.
Another huge theme of the show was transparency, allowing gamers to get face to face with developers and industry icons, people that they wouldn’t normally be able to rub shoulders with. There was an entire wall dedicated to about 80 indie devs showcasing their games, and standing with the people that created each of these games, watching their eyes light up as you played their game, was an incredible experience. Furthermore, once I could finally tear my hands away from the controller, talking to each of these devs about their titles was eye opening. The insights and passion that these guys and girls have for their games and the industry as a whole is very motivational and inspiring.
It wasn’t just the smaller names that I got face time with though. I met some of the names that most people who follow the industry will recognize. At the Telltale panel, I met Adam Harrington, who does the voice of Bigby Wolf and a variety of other game characters. I ran into Geoff Keighley on the show floor and we talked briefly about The Game Awards. I even sat right behind Shuhei Yoshida at the Bloodborne panel. None of these meetings were because I had a media badge on. They were all in places accessible to the gamers and the fans.
Together Under One Sky
When I made the decision to go to the Night Under No Man’s Sky concert event on Saturday night, I made the hard choice to leave my media self in the hotel room. I was just going to enjoy this. I didn’t bring my backpack, laptop, camera, or any of the other things that I was usually hauling around with me. When I got there, I grabbed a beer and made my way to the right side of the stage. Sean Murray made an awesome speech prior to the show that radiated exactly what the PlayStation Experience truly meant. To see what he said, check out the beginning of the concert here.
About twenty minutes into the show, someone on my right grabbed the shoulder of the guy in front of me to get his attention and tell him how awesome the show was. This was Adam Boyes, the VP of Publisher & Developer Relations at PlayStation, talking to Sean Murray, the creator of No Man’s Sky. I had been standing right next to them just enjoying the concert. As I shook each of their hands and made some conversation about the show and the event, I noticed Shawn Layden standing to the right of Adam Boyes. Yup, the President and CEO of SCEA was enjoying a drink and a concert with the rest of the gamers. He wasn’t hanging out backstage or in some VIP room. He was right there on the floor with us.
Meeting these three industry icons in such a casual manner spoke volumes to me about what PlayStation Experience was. This wasn’t a closed door event. It wasn’t blinded and blocked by PR and a pressure from devs and press. It was an open celebration, both of 20 years of PlayStation, and of what the gaming future holds. It was a chance for gamers to get face to face with the people making games happen. After the concert, as the lights came back on and people were shuffling out, I stopped by a group of people wearing No Man’s Sky shirts. After some brief interaction, I found out that I was in fact speaking with the entire Hello Games team (minus Sean Murray). These interactions with developers continued to occur throughout the weekend, meeting Media Molecule’s James Spafford and many others. As big as the event was, it seemed so small and intimate. It was Sony saying “come on in friends, make yourself at home.”
What the Industry Needs
With the success of the show, I would think that Sony is planning on doing this next year as well. This is just what the industry needs right now. Celebration. Transparency. Blurring the lines between gamers and creators. In a world where the internet is filled with complaints over numbers, and comment after comment about what people dislike, it was nice to find an environment where dislikes were put by the wayside. I spoke for about 30 minutes with the PR guy for EA Sports. Those of you who know me know that I am not a sports guy at all, but that didn’t matter. We were both gamers. And as long as we had that in common, our conversation could have kept flowing for a very long time. It was an amazing weekend filled with inspirational conversation and fervor for video games.
My takeaway from the PlayStation Experience — one that I hope many of you can share with me — is that gamers need to celebrate together. Let’s focus on the positive in gaming. Let’s embrace our passion for games and for the industry. Let’s find that common thread and come together despite each other’s genre preferences or skill level, despite the resolution or the frame rate. Games are there to be enjoyed and there are a hell of a lot of passionate gamers who are out there making these games for us. Raise a glass to Sony, for giving us the positivity, the celebration, and camaraderie that gamers need. This is the PlayStation Experience.