The Fall of E3: The Importance of a Teachable Spirit

It brings me absolutely no joy to say this, but E3 is officially off for 2023… and for those of us who have attended this event in the past, it appears that we have done this for the last time. After years of failing to read the writing on the wall, one of the original premier gaming expos in the entire world has finally accepted the inevitability of their situation… the Electronic Entertainment Expo is not returning this year physically, electronically, or in any other form. The saddest part about this is that there was a flicker of hope that this year would be the year that E3 would return to relevance… after foregoing a physical meeting space since 2019, the event organizers seemed to have confidence in a plan to rise from the ashes, starting with a new event coordinator (ReedPop) to provide a much-needed reboot. A glorious comeback story seemed to be in the making… but E3 2023 was stuck facing the same challenges that they never truly addressed in the wake of E3 2019. All of their former dance partners (Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo) politely declined their party invitations as they no longer need a stage presence at E3 to gain worldwide awareness of their platforms or their titles. One by one, major publishers such as Ubisoft and Sega who had previously expressed interest in attending this year’s event started to cancel… and while the founding body behind E3 is still publicly sharing that they intend to find a solution that will enable a 2024 event of some kind, it seems that the curtain has finally fallen on E3 as we knew it for the final time.

Conducting an unbiased autopsy on the fall of E3 is made even more heartbreaking because of how easy it is to see a path to survival for them… there simply isn’t a good reason why this previously annual gaming pilgrimage couldn’t succeed in the current gaming environment. Multiple gaming expos are delivering positively received and well-attended events this year while facing the same headwinds as the E3 event organizers. There is even a competing event hosted by previous E3 stalwart Geoff Keighley occurring in a similar time frame. The root cause of the failure of E3 is not found in exploring external environmental factors that equally impacted their competitors without shutting them down, but in a series of internal decisions that reduced this former industry giant to an irrelevant afterthought.

For the years prior to E3 2019, organizers of the event received constant feedback from both the hardware giants as well as the industry media that the expo was originally designed for that E3 was in need of a reboot. The major studios were finding that the millions of dollars they were spending to participate was not equitable to what they were gaining from the showcase and began exploring alternatives… and with companies like Activision and EA no longer demonstrating a presence at the event, journalists were finding even less reasons to attend. Rather than find a way to get all of their core members back into the fold, E3 decided to go bigger instead of better… but opening the doors to the public only resulted in further backlash as the event completely lost sight of what it was originally designed for. For years, E3 was provided with warning after warning that they were losing their most valuable allies and facing extinction… but they failed to listen, deciding to coast by on their name recognition and past glory while their competitors chose to watch and learn from their mistakes. Oh, how the mighty have fallen…

The even more tragic reality about the fall of E3 is that many of us face many of these exact same challenges and follow a similarly flawed pattern of judgment… and there is much to learn from E3’s failure if we are willing to do the one thing that they wouldn’t do. But to get there, we will first need to look at another painfully tragic and unnecessary fall from grace… the very first king of Israel, King Saul. Saul is one of the most complicated character studies in the entire Bible, a man who was hand-picked by God to be the very first “king” of His chosen people. The beginning of Saul’s story reads like an inspirational Hallmark movie… he was a classic underdog, born to one of the lowest ranking families from the smallest tribe in Israel (1 Samuel 9:21). He wasn’t seeking out a life of destiny or fame… he was just an ordinary guy with very little significance other than being tall and handsome, and he was performing a fairly unexciting job of looking for some donkeys he had lost when his path led him on a collision course with the prophet Samuel (1 Samuel 9:3-19). Samuel changed the entire narrative of Saul’s life when he bestowed the honor of becoming king on his shoulders, and for a short time it appeared that Saul would become the hero that Israel had been searching for. He demonstrated both the ministries of a victorious king (1 Samuel 11) and a prophet (1 Samuel 10:9-13), and much like the incredible rise of E3, Saul’s future was looking so bright that he would have worn shades if they made them back then. Right people, right place, right time… all systems seemed to be coming up “green to go”. So… what went wrong?

Both Saul and E3 suffered from a terminal state of arrogance that prevented them from learning from their mistakes… they lacked a “teachable spirit”. Both of them reached the highest of highs, attaining a plateau that should have allowed them to ride the wave of success that they had inherited. Saul was given the position of “head of the table” for a country called “God’s chosen people”, and E3 had the eyes of the entire world on them as they were in the favorable position of sharing the biggest announcements in one of the world’s fastest growing forms of entertainment. But rather than seek to understand and grow from their mistakes, they chose to double-down on them and pursue them to their logical (and unfortunate) conclusion… and create the opening for those who would go on to replace them.

Saul had the benefit of having access to one of the greatest prophets in the history of the planet as a personal advisor… but Saul’s rebellious heart prevented him from actually hearing and following Samuel’s wisdom. Over and over again Saul had opportunities to course correct… while Saul was mindlessly pursuing his future replacement David to murder him, Saul’s life was spared on more than one occasion by the very man he was trying to slay. But each time that Saul was given a new lease on life, he refused to learn his lesson and went right back to hunting David. Similarly, E3 was given several warning shots by major publishers like Activision and Sony when they ceased participating in E3 because their repeated requests were not answered by the governing body. E3 slowly died a death by a thousand cuts, as more and more developers followed suit each year until E3 simply ran out of interested participants. E3 ignored the bleeding from their own self-inflicted wounds… and if they would have simply listened and learned from the complaints from Activision and Sony when they had the chance, I probably wouldn’t be writing this article.

Sauls’ final days were just as tragic as they were confusing… in 1 Samuel 28, Saul was facing an invasion of the Philistine army that he had no hope of winning. His previous champion David, the one who had slain Goliath and given Israel a critical victory over these same Philistines, had been foolishly chased off by the jealous Saul and took a valuable chunk of Saul’s military with him. Trapped in a no-win scenario of his making, Saul did the unthinkable… he reached out to a witch/spiritual medium in a pathetic attempt to speak with the deceased prophet Samuel, an advisor that Saul had full access to but had failed to listen to or obey while he was still alive (1 Samuel 28:3-25). And in Saul’s final bizarre demonstration of lacking a “teachable spirit”, Saul was given the chilling news that he as well as his sons would fall in battle the next day. And this next question has bothered me for a very long time… if Saul KNEW that he was destined to die the next day in this last stand with the Philistines, why did he still go? Why didn’t he call in sick, use a PTO day, try to make peace with his enemies, or just get on a horse and ride to wherever there WEREN’T any Philistines? Why did he still go marching ahead into a warzone that he knew would not only become his grave, but for his children as well? And the sad answer to that question is the same reason why E3 fell underneath the weight of its’ own massive hubris… because they had heard and received all the warnings, but they never actually listened and took them to heart.

The sobering reality is that we all receive warnings every day across a variety of forms… our human bodies send us desperate messages through our nervous system to let us know that we need specific amounts of nutrients, rest, or are even at risk of vital organ failure, but we tend to mute these messages through the use of aspirin, caffeine, or entertainment so we can keep marching along our path. Our spirits cry out for deeper meaning and connection with our Creator, but we feed it the equivalent of fast food by consuming an occasional Bible verse or muttering a quick prayer when we reach a point of being too overwhelmed to go on. Like a car that we continue to drive with the “check engine” light flashing, we know deep down inside that this is not sustainable… but for a variety of reasons we continue to press forward and hope that maybe it is the warning that is wrong. Fortunately, this does not have to end the way that it did for Saul or E3… for the best example of a “teachable spirit” in the Bible, we have one last case study to examine.

Acts 18:24-28 Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John. So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. And when he desired to cross to Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him; and when he arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace; for he vigorously refuted the Jews publicly, showing from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ.

Apollos was a clearly anointed and gifted follower of the Lord, with a wealth of Biblical knowledge and a ministry that was already demonstrating remarkable success. But Apollos was missing a critical element of Christ’s message… and if he continued down this path, Apollos would likely do more harm than good for the cause of Christ by sharing a doctrine that was only partially accurate. Two believers respectfully pulled Apollos aside and filled in the gaps in his grasp of the Scriptures, and at this point a decision had to be made. Apollos could have turned out like King Saul, rejecting this gentle course correction and believing that his past success was an indication of the Lord’s blessing on all he would do going forward… but the Lord has used everything from a rebellious Pharaoh to a talking donkey to perform His will, so His willingness to use us for His purposes should never be mistaken for His “permanent stamp of approval”. But Apollos did not reject this tender teaching of the Lord that came to him, and even Paul when discussing the “factions” that existed in the early church mentioned the ministry of Apollos in equal terms with his own ministry as well as the Apostle Peter’s (1 Corinthians 1:12).

We will all face correction from the Lord as we follow Him… this is not an indictment of us as His followers, it is actually PROOF that we are following Him and are His true children (Proverbs 3:11-12). We should CRAVE the continuing interest of the Lord to grow us and bring us closer to Him, even though it is typically uncomfortable and unpleasant at the time (Job 5:17). He isn’t correcting us out of anger, but out of love and a desire to press us on towards our BEST destiny (Revelation 3:19). His guidance will always place us at an unwanted crossroads, and He will send warning after loving warning our way to prevent us from falling to the same fate that awaited both King Saul as well as the E3 event organizers… a warning they refused to listen to even when it came from some very unexpected sources.

E3 turned a blind eye to the exodus of every developer who had once depended on them for exposure and a closed ear to the complaints from those who had their best interests at heart… and the people who warned them and could have guided them through this storm are now running more successful annual events in the very shadow of E3’s demise. King Saul also put his fingers in his ears and closed his heart to the guidance from the very Lord who chose him… and Saul’s rebellion and arrogance became the catalyst for a man after God’s own heart to replace Saul as king, the very same David who had loyally served and attempted to spare Saul over and over again. And now the question turns to us… how teachable is our spirit? What area of our lives has the Lord been probing and pushing us to deal with, but we just keep on moving past it in the hopes that it will somehow solve itself? What correction has He lovingly given us, but we keep on doing the same thing and praying for a different result? The Lord is not willing that any of us should perish (2 Peter 3:9)… that is why He brings others into our path to correct us, guide us, and show us “a better way”. We will all get it wrong sometimes… I know I do on a daily basis. And it is because of the Lord’s incredible grace that He does more than simply CLEANSE us of our sins… He CORRECTS us so we can avoid the pain of the consequences that even forgiven sins will bring us. Let’s not despise the chastening hand of our loving Father… let’s make today the day we finally get that “spiritual check engine light” serviced.

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