Do Video Game Conventions Need to Grow Up?

I walk into RTX Sydney. The show floor is a little sparse but, to be honest, fans aren’t there for the booths. They’re there for the people they see and get to know online. Those people sit on stage playing games and running panels, laughing and cajoling each other.

As major publishers are investing less and less in conventions, it was no surprise when the show floor had six indie games and no AAA games. Also, should you stand with your back to the stages at one end of the room and look toward the entrance at the other end, you wouldn’t be able to tell you were at a Rooster Teeth Expo. Booths were mostly devoted to selling products, and the massive line people stood in for the chance to buy Rooster Teeth merchandise was a definite highlight. (/s)

On one stage, a group of four sit in chairs under bright lights. On the other stage, someone yells into their mic, “Face me, you pussies!” while playing a video game.

This is a throwback for me. I’ve been playing video games for what feels like a long time (I’m sure someone will jump in to tell me they’ve been playing longer, good for you) and this specifically reminded me of Counter-Strike. Counter-Strike is 19 years old. In Australia, it’s old enough to vote, drink, smoke, and join the military. It’s not quite as old as Wolfenstein, but it’s getting there.

I pass a stall with a “life-sized” Harlequin with a hefty price tag.

As an industry, we’re pretty young. Compared to the textile industry, for example, we’re not even out of gestation. The leaps in technology over a small period of time have allowed us to connect millions of fans, which in turn pushes our own technology forward.

It’s always been the entertainment industry that drove technology – well, entertainment and war. It’s been argued that video games have surpassed both war and movies in terms of pushing higher-end hardware. The issue is, we’re not driving ourselves forward with our technology.

Back on the first stage someone exclaims, “Rimjobs for the boys!”

Red vs Blue started 15 years ago in 2003 and grew into something much bigger. Now with several regular series, a thriving community, and an archive of all their classics (RvB boasts 15 seasons!), it’s easy to see why Rooster Teeth has such a big influence inside (and outside) the gaming industry.

The two things I appreciated seeing was both CheckPoint (a charity for mental health in video games) and the World Wildlife Foundation (a charity that addresses environmental issues with a focus on saving animals).

To be fair, RTX probably caught me at my most cynical. I’ve worked many expos, ran several events, and have worked in almost every single part of the video game industry. It is with an incredibly jaded point of view that I entered RTX in the first place. From what I have seen, many conventions don’t care about their community.

(I am looking directly at you EB Expo, with your branding of the entire show floor, including the Poppin’ Popcorn Arena. GFY.)

What I’m getting at is this: if we still sound the same as we did nearly 20 years ago, are we evolving as quickly as we should? Will Rooster Teeth, a company that is at least 15 years old, still be calling people pussies while live streaming from their own convention in 15 more years? If so, what does that say about them, and us?