A Love Letter to All the Terrible Merch of E3 2017

I dream of owning an E3-branded spatula that says "gamer" on it.

Opinion by Caty McCarthy, .

We're at E3 2017 covering the year's biggest gaming event. Be sure to check out all our coverage on our E3 2017 hub!

When I first caught wind of shirts that had "Yeah, I Was At E3" scribbled across them in a garish crumbling font you'd find on FontSquirrel, I knew I needed one.

I enlisted my colleagues on Twitter to find fetch me one, but no one saw the tweet until it was too late. I took to our work Slack chat and asked for pictures, at the bare minimum, so I could see them in their full glory (and probably rank them or something, as we tend to do with dumb things here on ol' USgamer dot net).

Alas, my dreams were dashed. Our team was too busy doing typical E3 stuff (you know, interviews, playing games, the usual) than to aid me in my quest to rank dumb merchandise. I texted a reporter friend who I knew was at the conference. Her pure response to seeing a tweet I sent her way: "Omfg." She too ended up being too busy. I blame no one. Honestly, if I were there, I would have forgotten too. In fact, with all the chaos of E3, I did forget about them. Until they returned.

My memories of the shirts that popped up online in the early days of E3 only resurfaced briefly in two moments: on Giant Bomb's E3 nightly show, where some showed up decked out in the conference's gear. Allegedly, most things were sold out by the time they swung through, further abolishing the dreams of owning a dumb shirt with controllers on it that reads, "I'd tap that." Second, when yesterday good ol' Geoff Keighley, the host for everything, tweeted a picture of an E3-themed spatula.

That's right. A spatula.

I want that spatula.

Here's the spatula:

I don't know what's worse about this merchandise—the fact that it's likely $20 for a tee-shirt you can make in five seconds on CafePress, or the pure stupidness of it. These shirts almost feel like they belittle the audience they're catering too, like there's a graphic designer on E3's end who feels superior to the public audience, and feeds them bullshit merch knowing they'll buy it anyways off their adrenaline high of being at a conference they've always dreamed of attending.

The merchandise leaves a bad taste in my mouth, especially as I dream up all these malicious hypotheticals. In reality, it was probably a dude with Photoshop, tasked with making shirts that "gamers" like. Said dude goes on Google Images, searches "gamer," and this is the result.

I've always leaned more towards "player" as a descriptor for folks who love and play games. With "gamer," I feel pigeonholed into a single role, a single hobby—almost pretentiously, like how people toss around "filmbuff" for fans of movies. I like a lot of things, and so do all my friends who play games, and so do you readers. (Unless you don't, then I guess "gamer" fits.)

Here's to hoping the merch at next year's inevitable also-public E3 is better, and hoping that the conference floor is organized in a way to benefit public attendees so they're not waiting in line four hours for a single demo in a day. (Which is wildly ridiculous and sad, they're spending money to be there, y'know?) Maybe that E3 logo itself is long-overdue for a makeover too.

Header includes images from Ben Hanson, Geoff Keighley.

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Comments 11

  • Avatar for yuberus #1 yuberus 8 months ago
    Thank you for also describing why I hate the term "gamer"
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  • Avatar for nimzy #2 nimzy 8 months ago
    I can dig the "film buff" comparison. I think we're close, as a culture, to being able to accept "gamer" as a title next to "sports fan," "film buff," "music lover," or even perhaps "bookworm" -- someone who is dedicated to their entertainment-centric hobby to the point it starts to define who they are. Some people don't mind being called one either, it's a badge of honor that represents the time they have invested pursuing their interests.Edited June 2017 by nimzy
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  • Avatar for StrwbrryJams #3 StrwbrryJams 8 months ago
    imo, "gamer" reeks too heavily of "gamergate" and that ilk for me to ever want that descriptor. That logo does need a 2017 touch-up.Edited 2 times. Last edited June 2017 by StrwbrryJams
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  • Avatar for sleepiest #4 sleepiest 8 months ago
    Gamer is also a bit weird because of how monetized it is. When I hear "film buff" I don't think "this person spends a lot of money on movies!", but with how and who we use the word gamer for the implication is there.

    Film buff also feels like it captures an awareness of history that retro gamer maybe doesn't. I don't know.
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  • Avatar for UnskippableCutscene #5 UnskippableCutscene 8 months ago
    "Cinephile" actually does make me think of someone who has spent a lot of money on movies. Usually they have some favorite posters framed or something, and I learned recently that those aren't cheap.

    As for people hating the term 'gamer', it's literally in the name of this site so to some degree or another, you bit on it... Yes, we've been plagued for years by marketing people who 'don't get it it' and make horrible merchandise like this, but I'd argue that there's less of that than ever in many ways as we've moved on from the 1996-2004 era it's become sort of endearing to see things like the E3 spatula where obviously someone who works in marketing is trying to speak to a demographic they don't quite understand. Old-fashioned marketing is almost as much a part of retro gaming as the games are.

    There are negative social connotations with the word sometimes, but every word that's had negative social connotations were "taken back" in some way or another.
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  • Avatar for Kuni-Nino #6 Kuni-Nino 8 months ago
    I have my problems with the term gamer. But, eh, I'm used to it. Life's too short to be worrying about innocuous labels. As long as I'm not viewed as a NEET, I think I'm okay.
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  • Avatar for Jericho-GM #7 Jericho-GM 8 months ago
    Hi, are you a gamer?

    No, I'm a player.

    So what do you play?

    Uh, video games?

    It's just labels, guys. Didn't the tons of high school flicks that tell you that labels don't matter teach you anything? :-)Edited 2 times. Last edited June 2017 by Jericho-GM
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  • Avatar for Lord-Bob-Bree #8 Lord-Bob-Bree 8 months ago
    No E3-branded plunger, no sale
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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #9 VotesForCows 8 months ago
    Interesting to think about the nomenclature around games, and whether or not some terms are loaded for some people like @StrwbrryJams

    I tend not to describe myself with nouns, more with verbs. As in "I play video games/I run", not "I'm a gamer/runner". There are a few exceptions for things that feel core to my identity (yogi, dad, Irish, etc.). If gaming is really central to your life then self-describing as a gamer feels like a sensible move :)
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  • Avatar for NotCarolKaye #10 NotCarolKaye 8 months ago
    I don't want that "↑ AWESOME GAMER" shirt.

    I deserve that "↑ AWESOME GAMER" shirt.
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  • Avatar for Nuclear-Vomit #11 Nuclear-Vomit 8 months ago
    I want that Awesome Gamer Shirt... with the arrow pointing down....
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