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Each year the video game industry descends on LA for #E3 (The Electronic Entertainment Expo) to showcase the latest and greatest in interactive entertainment. And each year I do a statistical breakdown of the trends in gameplay mechanics. 2019 is my 5th year doing this analysis.
It’s no secret the gaming industry is laser focused on creating experiences that center violent combat. But engaging with a gameworld from behind the barrel of a gun or blade of a sword is extremely limiting. This is why my stats sort titles into combat and non-combat categories.
#E32019 started with the Electronic Arts press event. #EA only showcased 6 games. 50% of those were combat focused. Of the other 3 titles, 2 were annual sports franchise updates and 1 was a new DLC for the Sims 4. (I didn’t include Anthem because no footage was shown onstage).
#Bethesda Softworks is easy because their games are nearly always heavily focused on combat and #E32019 was no exception. Bethesda showcased 12 games at their press conference. 100% of those titles featured violent combat mechanics.
Microsoft's #Xbox press event at #E32019 featured 62 games. 20 of those were part of their indie game sizzle reel. Of the 62 games shown 81% featured combat. Most of the 13 non-combat titles were smaller games (with the exception of Flight Simulator and Forza Horizons 4 DLC).
I should note that of the 20 games shown in the #Xbox indie game montage, 6 were non-combat titles. Those were: Afterparty, The Good Life, Felix the Reaper*, Supermarket Shriek, Night Call, Totem Teller.

*Players do kill people in Felix the Reaper but it's really a puzzle game.
Other non-combat games of note from the rest of Microsoft’s E3 Xbox event: Management and caregiving game “Spiritfarer,” time loop thriller "12 minutes,” and adorable adventure game "Way to the Woods.” Never typed the words caregiving mechanics before. I’m super excited about it.
The PC Gaming Show is one E3 press event that isn't run by big game publishers. The stats aren’t much better though, 72% of the 41 PC games shown center combat mechanics. The 9 non-combat titles included: El Hijo, Mosaic, Telling Lies, Per Aspera, Genesis Noir, and Planet Zoo.
This is consistent with the stats for smaller games in general. I’ve found that about 70% of indie titles feature combat mechanics. So while this means we do see more creative innovation from smaller games, the indie space is still largely dominated by combat mechanics.
Japanese publisher #SquareEnix showcased 30 games during their #E32019 press event. 23 or 77% of those titles feature combat mechanics. Of the 7 non-combat games, 6 are smaller indies from Square Enix Collective. Life is Strange 2 was their only relatively major non-combat game.
French video game company #Ubisoft highlighted 22 games onstage during their #E32019 press conference. 18 or 82% of those 22 titles were combat focused. Of the 4 non-combat games, 2 were new announcements: Just Dance 2020 and the contact sports game Roller Champions.
Normally Sony holds a press event to showcase #Playsation games and hardware but the company skipped #E32019 this year.
In the absence of a Sony event, I took a look at Google’s prerecorded #E32019 showcase for their new #Stadia gaming platform. Google highlighted 7 games, 5 of which were combat focused. That’s about 71%. The 2 non-combat games shown were Gylt and Get Packed.
The Kinda Funny Games Showcase for #E32019 is also worth mentioning. Kinda Funny's video highlighted 62 small indie games. Of those 39 or 63% appeared to revolve around combat mechanics, while the remaining 23 or 37% include a wide variety of interactive non-combat experiences.
Nintendo was the last company to hold an #E32019 press event. #Nintendo Direct showcased 43 games for the Switch console. Of those 91% featured combat mechanics. Only 4 games could be categorized as non-combat: Animal Crossing, Catan, Just Dance 2020, and Mario & Sonic Olympics.
It may seem counterintuitive that Nintendo games would overwhelmingly focus on combat but it’s a consistent trend. Although Nintendo games often fall under the category of cartoon combat, the underlying message of the game mechanics is still “Get them before they get you!"
Final statistical breakdown for all video games featured at major #E32019 press events. A total of 208 games were shown. Of those 167 (80%) use combat mechanics. Only 41 (20%) don't include combat; this category includes sports, racing, rhythm, puzzle, art, and narrative games.
The ratio of combat to non-combat games at #E32019 is consistent with previous years. The pattern illustrates a lack of innovation in gameplay.

Combat games E3 2015 = 78%
Combat games E3 2016 = 80%
Combat games E3 2017 = 82%
Combat games E3 2018 = 79%
Combat games E3 2019 = 80%
Here’s a more detailed breakdown of the types of gameplay shown at #E32019 press events. I added the subcategory of "Minimal/Mixed Combat" for games that include some combat mechanics but the game is mostly marketed as a sim or building game etc.
Note: I use the classification “combat” instead of “violence” because combat describes the actions players take when engaging with a gameworld to solve conflict. This means that some games classified as "non-combat" may be violent but the player isn’t perpetrating the violence.
The gaming industry still largely defaults to hostile worlds built around a "kill or be killed" framework. I made a video essay after E3 2017 detailing why this needs to change if we want to see deeper more emotionally resonant interactive experiences:
Now for the fun part! Below is my list of some of the most interesting and innovative video games from #E32019, which don’t focus on combat mechanics.
1. Spiritfarer - A management and caregiving game by @ThunderLotus about guiding deceased spirit friends across mystical seas to the afterlife:
2. Way to the Woods - An exploration adventure game by @tamagotchi44 about a deer and fawn traveling through a strange beautiful abandoned world:
3. El Hijo - A stealth game inspired by spaghetti westerns from @honigstudios about a young boy trying to reunite with his mother:
4. Telling Lies - An investigative thriller from @mrsambarlow about searching through a stolen NSA video database to solve a mystery:
5. Planet Zoo - A zoo management simulation game from @frontierdev in which players must care for a plethora of realistically rendered animals:
6. Superliminal - A mind-bending forced perspective puzzle game by @pillowcastle which was part of the Kinda Funny Games E3 Showcase:
@pillowcastle 7. Per Aspera - A narrative-driven strategy game by @TlonIndustries where players work to terraform Mars:
8. Untitled Goose Game - A slapstick-stealth-sandbox game by @house_house_ where you play as a horrible goose on the loose:
9. GYLT - A haunting puzzle adventure game from @TequilaWorks about a young girl searching for her lost cousin:
10. Genesis Noir - A poetic cosmic adventure game by Feral Cat Den (and published by @FellowTravellr) about stopping The Big Bang to save your love:
There were a handful of other small non-combat games from #E32019 that you may find interesting including: 12 minutes, Totem Teller, Mosaic, Afterparty, Blair Witch, Night Call, Flight Simulator, Supermarket Shriek, Felix The Reaper, The Good life, Lost Words, Circuit Superstars.
Thanks for following along with me on this thread! I also make critical video essays highlighting the often troubling ways masculinity is represented in entertainment. You can check out that project here: patreon.com/popdetective

Until next time, TTFN.
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