E3 press conferences have huge stakes. Multinational corporations in a multi-billion dollar industry descend on Los Angeles from around the globe to promote multi-million dollar projects, so it’s important that nothing gets left to chance. Every second of every trailer has to be perfect; every zinger has to be written in advance and rehearsed to within an inch of its life. Why, then, is everyone on stage so badly dressed? When a game company gives someone the platform of a press conference, it’s saying that this person stands in for the whole enterprise. These hosts and presenters represent how their companies want to be perceived, and their fashion choices can also reveal how they perceive their audience.
Take Microsoft. It’s an easy place to start because almost everybody Microsoft put on stage looked like they had rolled out of bed 10 minutes ago. Microsoft aspired to give its presenters a relaxed look, and if anything, the company succeeded a little too much. The line between “casual” and “sloppy” is not even that fine, but Microsoft’s flacks were on the wrong side of it almost all night. Hot Topic-caliber graphic tees were a common sight, along with hoodies and the odd track jacket. Microsoft was clearly aspiring to look approachable—despite hosting an event the size and scale of a Rolling Stones concert—and its idea of who the E3 audience would find relatable feels like a stealth insult. “See, we’re not so bad!” Microsoft seems to say, “We’re a bunch of slobs, just like you!”
This year, Sony’s presenters were more put-together than Microsoft’s, but it was a low bar to clear, and even then Sony barely managed it. The recurring look at Sony’s presser was the “college student going to lunch with his new girlfriend’s parents for the first time” uniform: a blazer, button-up shirt, jeans, and sneakers. Among menswear aficionados, this look is called a “mullet” for its doomed aspiration to be half business and half party. Sony’s parade of mullets was an attempt to split the difference between being your corporate overlord and being your pal. Microsoft’s presenters tended to look like bums, but at least they committed to the frat boy look.
If Microsoft didn’t even try to look presentable, and Sony used a half measure, then EA, of all places, got it just right. Three of the studio’s highest-ranking executives made appearances at EA’s press conference, all of them wearing similar getups. The EA executive uniform this year was a slim, modern suit—the kind none of them would likely wear if not prompted by a stylist—a plain shirt, and a pocket square. Those squares were conspicuous at E3, a dandy flourish that even the most formally dressed presenters tended to forgo. They were almost mathematically perfect: ruler-straight and peeking out one centimeter above their pockets. It was a calculated move that actually worked, giving the suits (and the suits wearing them) a sense of authority and style without relying on the boardroom stuffiness of a tie. Unfortunately, the executives’ coordinated outfits seemed more sinister than intended after the reveal of Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst’s villain, an evil corporate tyrant with a familiar wardrobe.
E3 isn’t the Oscars or anything, but the largest and most important trade show of the gaming industry could stand to look a little less ramshackle. In the hope that next year we won’t see any more studio heads effusing about the future of gaming in untucked shirts, I’ve assembled Gameological’s Best Dressed Of E3, a miniature celebration of the good and the weird of E3 fashion.
In an environment as exactingly designed and controlled as E3, you’d think it would be impossible for an individual to express herself, but Aisha Tyler pulled it off. Hosting Ubisoft’s press conference in a slouchy all-black pantsuit that I would describe as “corporate goth” and finishing the look with a lot of low-key jewelry, Tyler was one of the only people at the show who both looked like she picked out her own wardrobe and looked good in it. A special mention has to go to the gold “girlwood” necklace Tyler hid in plain sight, a reference to a bawdy joke she made at Ubisoft’s presser back in 2012. Imagine a male host wearing a chain featuring the word “erection” encrusted with diamonds to better appreciate how cheeky this was.
Lydia Winters, a brand director at Mojang (the Minecraft studio), would have walked away with the Best Dressed At Microsoft’s Conference Award just for wearing a shirt with buttons. But she stood out even more because she shared the stage with someone who decided to debut the most impressive piece of new technology at E3 while wearing cargo pants. Microsoft’s HoloLens, and the borderline magical demonstration the Mojang team gave, was probably the highlight of the company’s keynote. Winters complemented that forward-looking technology with a forward-looking outfit. At an event where most of the presenters were hovering just above the board-shorts level of informality, Winters looked like she had come from the future and had brought HoloLens back with her.
Square Enix threw by far the most fashionable press conference, featuring prominent neck tattoos, navy blazers with brass buttons, and bold plaid jackets. Even the company’s president and CEO punched up his conservative business suit with an electric pink zigzag-patterned tie. The climax of the conference, though, was the appearance of Nier director Taro Yoko in an full-head mask, floor-length kimono, and paisley scarf. Yoko hates showing his face in public, which explains the mask, sort of. Even without that grinning moon-eyed face, though, it was a power move to wear a daintily-knotted silk cravat to an event where a graphic tee and blazer is still considered “dressing up.”
There was nothing trendy about Fils-Aime’s wardrobe choice. The Nintendo Of America honcho wore a suit that was a little baggy and more conservative than is currently fashionable. It had none of the pretensions to youthfulness and relevance that characterized the stylist-approved look of EA’s top brass. But he elevated an otherwise stodgy getup with a single elegant accessory: an 8-bit Mario lapel pin. (Muppet Reggie, in an inspired detail, wore an identical but Muppet-sized pin.) Fils-Aime’s look was a bit old-fashioned, but it was a classic look that he saved from utter mundanity by imbuing it with whimsy. It was, in other words, the perfect Nintendo outfit.