Perhaps there's a lot of subconscious realization or personal admission that videogames writ large are never going to be any more mature than Hollywood action films, vacuous pop music, spandex-clad and platitude-spouting superhero comic books, or Stephanie Meyer novels. There's always a current of thought running in critical circles about how videogames can be so much more than they are, and those conversations often carry a subtext that videogames should be more than they currently are because they're intrinsically superior to other forms of media. E3 2012 looked those critics in the face and said, "Not really." We're never going to grow out of the shooty and moar splosions, we're just going to add to the palate of experiences that videogames offer and live with coexistence versus wholesale replacement and evolution.
There's a silver lining here that either no one's picked up on yet: The fact that such a communal, negative reaction to the violence at E3 this year is even possible is a sign that videogames writ large have achieved the level of maturity those critical voices have been pining for. This is not to suggest the evolution of videogames is finished, nor to suggest that increasing the variety of experiences supported by the medium is no longer a concern to be monitored and discussed. But ever since I began writing about videogames two years ago, it's been impossible not to see this hand-wringing thread of "When will videogames grow up?" discourse running through popular writing about videogames.
The communal reaction to E3 is a touchstone for "When videogames started to really grow up." It would be impossible to recognize E3 for the anachronism it has become without also making the tacit statements that videogames writ large have moved on from the days of simple kinesthetics and graphics fetishism being enough to confer value about works in the form. This also is not a new realization, but it's one thing for everyone to know something and another thing to have a proof right under our noses. The collective nose-turning at E3 by the critical community is that proof.
Videogames haven't "grown up" but they have, finally, diversified. We may be at the point where, unless the outlet in question has a clear focus to its coverage for context, we can't just use the word "gamers" anymore without a modifier to make the appellation specific. E3 doesn't represent all of us anymore, either. We're on the other side of videogame history, even if we've only taken a few baby steps.
Dennis Scimeca is a freelance writer from Boston, MA. You can read some of his other musings on his blog punchingsnakes.com, or follow his random excitations on Twitter: @DennisScimeca.