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What Do You Want From Me, Man

This week, Geoff Keighley told viewers to temper the Summer Game Fest expectations he's been hyping up--again

E3 is officially dead, which means Geoff Keighley has won in his quest to supplant it and now gets to slap his branding on its corpse. He’s been cranking the Summer Game Fest hype engine for weeks now, only to tell us on Monday that we shouldn’t get too hyped. Weirdly, he does this a lot. 

On a Twitch stream this week, Keighley said Friday’s Summer Game Fest show will focus on “existing games that have new updates” and that, while there will be announcements, “this is not a show that has a lot of like ‘coming in 2026' or ‘2027', or teasers for games that are years and years out.” 

It’s not the kind of thing you expect to hear from a man who seems intent on holding the copyright for the phrase “world premiere,” a man who looks both animated by and exhausted from hype about hype. He’s been tweeting about the show for weeks, announcing partners and counting down the days. This semi-reversal has felt so notable that it’s spawned a universe of headlines about “what we know won’t be” at the show and “what not to expect,” alongside exhortations that we “don’t expect big reveals” and “don’t hype yourself up.” 

But a similar thing happened around Summer Game Fest 2022, when Keighley said in a Twitter Spaces chat a few days ahead of the show that “it definitely is a show that’s primarily focused on stuff that is announced” and warned viewers to "definitely manage your expectations in terms of the megaton shocks that you’re expecting." Previously, Keighley had hyped that show up all the way to IMAX screens, and told The Washington Post that “June is definitely a good time for people to ramp up, get people excited about things coming in the future.” 

The next year, he burst his own hype bubble around Gamescom Opening Night Live 2023, telling Video Game Chronicle, “This year's ONL is less about announcing brand-new projects, and more about giving fans updates on some of the biggest games due out over the next year.” This was after hype trailers and teasers about world premieres, and stood in contrast to ONL 2022, which he touted as a “big spectacle.”  

What do you want from us, Geoff? Keighley's whole deal is setting viewer expectations sky-high, turning advertisements into news and long-winded speeches by his friends into a required-viewing awards show. He's skilled in finding ways to appear excited about whatever is put in front of him, an orientation toward the world that seems like it must be very comforting--asked to select from the smorgasbord of human emotions, I too would choose endless enthusiasm if I could--and which has forged him a long-running and high-profile career. But part of that schtick is getting us to be as excited as he is, or at least as he portrays himself as--and then telling us not to get excited at the last minute. You're the one who's doing this, buddy! You're the one who keeps having to correct the expectations you set us up for!

Covid’s effect on game development and the layoffs chewing their way through the industry have made reveal shows weird for a while now. It’s not Keighley’s fault that it’s harder to coordinate everyone having new stuff to show at the same time than it used to be. But it is his fault for continuously trying to make Fetch happen, pretending that everything is business as usual and that the only emotion worth having about video games these days is excitement. He’s inflicting all this on us, but he’s also doing it to himself, shovelling coal into his own hype train and then dodging before it hits him. 

E3 saw the way the winds were blowing and bowed out. I think there’s some value, or at least some pleasure to be had, in doing something in its absence. If Keighley is determined to corner the market on that, ditching his role as the Harold Hill of video game hype and just being normal could do him, and all of us, a favor.

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