First, a true fact: I am not at the physical E3, set at the Los Angeles Convention center, but I can still hear the clapping.
Clapping, in general, is a standard at a convention or event where someone talks and then pauses in anticipation. It’s also pretty much expected when shown something exciting, such as a new game trailer or even just a teensy weensy teaser to get the blood a-pumping and the heartrate up. It’s a reaction, and it is, more or less, a confirmation that what was shown was appreciated or desired or looked upon favorably. Golf claps and sarcastic, slow-building claps that are found only in cinematic talkies are different beasts. However, from what I witnessed via live-streams of E3 2012 press conferences, there are two instances of clapping that struck me as…woefully odd. Disappointing, too.
One happened during a live demo of The Last of Us, and the other during a live demo of God of War: Ascension, and both are sad reminders of why the media portrays gamers as violent-minded folk. When you clap for extreme violence, you are clapping with genuine excitement. You clap because you care.
In God of War: Ascension, during a boss fight, Kratos does his QTE thing and rips out a monster’s brain and then slices it in half, as if the ripping out the brain didn’t already do the needful. This got a rousing reaction from the crowd, with applause to back it up. In The Last of Us, Joel takes the head of a man attacking him and slams it repeatedly into a small dresser until the side of it–the dresser, that is–is covered in blood and the man is unmoving. The audience at the conference really liked this moment and decided to let the world know by starting giving it a round of applause.
Both of these moments immediately made me uncomfortable. I myself felt no need to clap; granted, I was watching from the other side of the United States, first in an office and then second in bed in my pajamas with a kitty cat by my feet. I spent most of the God of War: Ascension live demo reading the comments over at GiantBomb and laughing along, but I did watch the live demo for The Last of Us with genuine interest. I loved when Joel got shot and kind of stumbled back, but brushed it off due to the intense scenario he and that Ellen Page girl were in. I loved how crazy fast everything was happening, and I loved why Joel had to do that horrible thing to that man–to survive, to keep going. I don’t love the moment itself, but the push behind it. That kind of violence really shows the grittiness of the game and that it is in fact The Road and all post-apocalyptic tropes and themes, and that to keep on truckin’ one has to do what one has to do. By no means should these actions be applauded–but they should be understood. The audience members clapping like little kids on Christmas morning clearly did not understand what was happening on that big screen in front of them.
I’ll end with this polar opposite scenario then. In LEGO City Undercover–a debut videogame I now desperately want, but only on the Nintendo 3DS as I’m still not convinced a Wii U is worth acquiring–police detective Chase McCain races down a criminal, tackles him in broad daylight on a populated city street, and the evildoer explodes into LEGO bits and studs. No one clapped.