I watched Summer Game Fest with my mom and she thought it sucked

The show starts with Street Fighter 6. My sister asks, “What year was this game released?” and I have to explain that it’s not out yet. My mother laughs. Street Fighter came out in a closet when she was a kid.

I’m back for the week visiting home. The Summer Game Fest is launched and I decide to watch it on big TV. My mom sits where she usually sits in the living room, so she ends up watching most of the show with me. I think she wants to understand a little bit more about what I do for a living – it’s such a shame that the first games Geoff shows are all dark, grey, gloomy, scary sci-fi shooters with generic characters, a few robots, and of course, the mandatory Call of Duty Modern Warfare boat mission. My mother turns to me and says, “Why do they all look the same? and she has a very good point.


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My mom has a few favorite games. Minecraft, Stardew Valley, Animal Crossing. Minecraft is played by all my family members except my dad, and during lockdown we had eight-player servers that my friends also joined. It was a highlight to hear my friend tell my 11-year-old brother to “fuck you” before apologizing profusely to his mother, who was also in the hall. Stardew Valley’s co-op mode was another big hit in house. Even for all of its peaceful music and sweet harvest, it is my mother’s role to act as an arbiter of peace between my feuding siblings. Something to do with my sister calling my little brother a lazy miner. Animal Crossing is Animal Crossing. My mom and sister have easily over 2,000 hours in New Horizons. It kept them sane during lockdown – pretty much.

But his favorite game? All time? Call of Duty WW2. Yeah. I bet you didn’t see that coming. WW2 was a dumb, dumb game. You could dress up in a full Grim Reaper costume during the French Resistance and run around with a shotgun that blasted flaming bullets. It was stupid, but it was fun. He took our house in a kind of strange embrace. We’ve all played it. We couldn’t stop. My sister, my brother and my mother were glued to the screen, looking for costumes and screaming, yes, screaming when they were killed. There have been tears, but if you’re not crying while playing Call of Duty, are you playing it okay? I make this point because it’s clear that my mom isn’t naturally against below-average triple-A shooters.

But by the time SGF’s first segment ends – where Routine appears after a decade in the game development cryo-chamber – we’re both disappointed. My mother said, “Even, even, even, don’t they know that simple things are better?” With, like, colors? Trailers for Routine and Modern Warfare catch his eye, but the consensus is that it’s too dark and the movement of the boat is making us both sick. After The Rock’s cameo and Black Adam’s trailer, she says, “That sounds like total shit.” I nod my head. I’ve always found The Rock’s hero worship a little weird.

Come on, Geoff, you’re giving games a bad name in my house. I just convinced everyone that my work is a real thing. Please no more “tight thrillers” and dark hallways, and please get this sweaty man off my television. I explain what an RTS is to my mom after the Stormgate trailer (which is surprising, as she fits right into the age range of this lonely genre), then, congratulations to the almighty Geoff, we get our first game in forty minutes with any color in it—Highwater. It’s ironic because it’s a game about total environmental collapse. Gay that.

American Arcadia also attracts our attention. Truman Show video game? We are all for. In fact, I’m pretty sure my mom even nods. Then the goats appear and all credibility is ruined. My little brother asked for the first goat simulator when he was a kid, and he’s still a kid, but even he outgrew the goats. My mother does not understand. Me neither, really. I try to explain that this is a parody trailer for an old zombie game, but realize that I’m probably spending too much time online and giving up.

Then I find myself explaining Cuphead and One Piece to my mother. Yes, it’s a mug. Yeah, I know. It’s actually really—oh, okay. Yeah. This kid’s name is Luffy, he ate a magic fruit and now he’s really stretchy and they’re all his buddies. We stop for tomato soup and return with Metal Hellsinger. It feels like you’ve stepped back in time to the start of the show. Haven’t we already seen a trailer for this game? I thought The Quarry might score points, but my sister just said, “I saw that in a horror movie – Cabin In The Woods?”

Everything falls apart during The Last Of Us and I can tell my mom and sister that they want to watch Bridgerton, so I pack up my things and head upstairs. Whether we’re in some sort of game development black hole due to covid or people really love dark thrillers set in space, Summer Game Fest was so beige I felt like I was sitting in my grandmother’s living room. It’s a shame we didn’t make it to the Devolver showcase, but I don’t think any of us would have walked through the sketches without falling into dust. I showed her the Plucky Squire trailer, and she loved it, so there’s just one win for video games and me mom today.

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Helen L. Cuellar