Devolver Digital’s press release was a fever dream designed to mock the perfectly packaged media that other E3 speakers put forward. The series of videos presented weaved a satirical tone with a bizarre and convoluted narrative, which may have been employed to highlight Devolver as the quirky and unconventional outsider. It does make them stand out but perhaps cult movie fans will be the only ones enamoured by these acid-soaked announcements.
The central character of this presentation was Nina, a faulty android that first appeared at E3 in 2017 and was the centerpiece of their 2018 presentation. The message that Nina carried then is much the same as today, a parody of the event and a throwaway commentary of the gaming industry as a whole. The video starts with R&D eggheads, sociopathic corporate suits and a creative type fussing over Nina in her broken-down state. The scene cuts to Nina’s mind where she is interrupted by a “Youthful Exuberance Supervisor” who promptly gets his throat ripped out. While this personification of other E3 presenters dies loudly on the floor, Nina is briefed by an off-screen voice on the first game she is meant to be announcing.
The subsequent trailer plays a delirious sequence of neon figures collecting golden eggs while riding giant skateboards to claim a crown. This appears to be an advertisement for Fall Guys Ultimate Knockout. The light and inconsequential feel was a stark contrast to the psychotic violence of the previous segment. The video was entertaining but some real-time gameplay would have been good to see.
An interlude contained one of the corporate suits explaining the concept of Devolver Bootleg, a gimmicky package on Steam that sees some of their games turned into off-brand jokes of themselves. If a self-deprecating product wasn’t enough of a gag, a man with a suit and tie has a gory monster pop out of his chest. It’s unclear how much effort went into this marketing stunt but it is obvious that it is targeting youth culture and its penchant for the absurd. This swipe at nihilistic consumers would have been refreshing but continuing the same shtick for three years in a row is as fresh as canned peas.
The animated pile of flesh is a segue to Carrion, the “reverse horror experience” that puts the player in the role of horrific abomination. Research staff are consumed and security personnel with flamethrowers are avoided. It’s an interesting concept and the retro format is on brand for Devolver.
Enter the Gungeon: House of the Gundead is based on arcade video games and set within a universe that Devolver have already created. Its release is in-line with their marketing strategy of appearing anti-establishment to attract the loyalty of shallow edgelings. Nina states the company is looking backwards for inspiration while other studios race forward and House of the Gundead is meant to be proof of this.
As Linda from Marketing censored and interrupted Nina, a trailer for the holiday-themed expansion of The Messenger played. New levels and bosses are the key announcements for the free addition and the fresh design of Picnic Panic adds a fruity twist to the original game.
Linda managed to double tap the audience with My Friend Pedro. The clip showed a heavily armed avatar free-running through a moving train, cutting down the guards with a hail of bullets and explosions. Controlling two full automatic guns while performing acrobatic manoeuvres, all while being shot at, is going to be quite the challenge.
Nina proceeds to suffer a mental breakdown while disorientating gameplay cuts over the screen. Outside of Nina’s headspace, Linda from Marketing is depicted as a power-crazed departmental despot intent on using Nina to fool the masses into consumerist compliance. Another cynical comment on the ethics of the gaming industry, as if Devolver aren’t playing the same game themselves.
The rest of the conference devolves into a lazy chat show format with an improvisational tone, you can think of it as a knock off version of The Eric Andre Show. The people who play the characters in the previous piece of satire play unknown games and natter without direction. This ‘Pre-Pre Show’ is perhaps the biggest joke Devolver played at E3 as it wasted everyone’s time.