Devolverland Expo (2020)

E3 never came this year, which is a bummer, I’ve gone through my thoughts on this in a separate article and also multiple times on the podcast, so I won’t be going into that here.

Publisher Devolver Digital, has a reputation for doing something weird and strange the last handful of years, and this year is no exception. While other publishers just copied each other by doing video stream presentations, some even with multiple ones, Devolver Digital brought something new to the table. They decided to poke fun at the whole situation of having E3 canceled and made a small little video game showing off their games all in one go.

Say what you will about the actual game itself, or how this is mostly just a marketing ploy (most games are anyways) but this has to be one of the most creative ways on how to tackle the situation of not having E3.

The game is a first person shooter of sorts. You are a generic unnamed and unvoiced character. Starting out in front of the LA convention center where “World Gaming Expo” is set to take place, but is abruptly canceled. It’s an eerily quiet and dark summer night in LA, and you decide to take a look. Walking into the convention center you are greeted with many little booths and areas setup for photo opportunities. Trying to enter the South Hall gets you nowhere as the doors are locked and there is a special access key that will grant access.

If you have ever been to E3 this is a very simple example of what E3 generally is, but we’ll get to that in a second. Finding your way to the security station to pick up the access card brings up the only real threat in the game, which are security bots (E3 doesn’t really have these, mostly they are just bored security guards who wave a UV light to make sure your badge is real). You’ll find a little T-shirt gun that will temporarily disable the security bots to allow you to get past their patrol routes undetected.

Once you enter the South Hall you are greeted with the lights and sounds and overall just visual and auditory sensory overload that is E3. So many years, the first E3 night, I’d get horrible sleep because the brain is so overloaded with the flashing lights and booming sounds of the show floor. Here in Devolverland Expo, it really is much less intense, mostly dark, since the convention center is supposed to be closed. As you explore the booths setup, some with real games, some fake, and even a Nvidia booth, you can find several hidden items that are for unannounced games (but they don’t actually do anything, just unlock some steam achievements)

The booths for real games that are going to come out are intricate and way overproduced. E3 is not much like this at all, it’s more like the fake booths in the game. But that isn’t to say there used to be crazy big booths with some crazy staging. But in this game, the booths come across more like mazes from Halloween Haunt at Knott’s Berry Farm instead. Cool nonetheless, but also completely unrealistic towards the end of the 30 minute game.

Watching trailers in the booths for those real games, like Carrion, Weird West, Fall Guys and Blightbound are the way to progress. Again, this is a marketing scheme dressed as a video game. At the end, you fight a big tyrannical boss made up of monitors and screens. You’ll grab a power glove that grants you telekinesis powers. After dodging the attacks, and hurling his own weapons back at him, you are able to leave, and that’s the end. Short and more of a gimmick than an actual game, but something different and creative, and I’ll take that any day, over some zoom video with executives or a presentation of CGI trailers that have nothing to actually do with the game it’s promoting. It’s worth it, if for just seeing this weird marketing experience, that only takes 30 minutes to complete. Give it a try.