This past week, gaming aficionados, tech gurus, and corporate innovators flocked to the Los Angeles Convention Center in celebration of gaming glory. During this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo, tightlipped industry bigwigs spilled their guts about secretive gaming projects and the next generation of consoles, all with the style and pizzazz of a Las Vegas show. Extravagant press conferences clad in mystery drew the attentions of millions across the globe, enthusiasts and fans anxiously awaited the future of gaming unfolding before their eyes.
For many, E3 is regarded as an illustrious holiday, a spectacle put forth to serve and celebrate gaming culture on the grandest of scales. This perception of unadulterated ecstasy is epitomized through the lenses of camera crews who portray the gaming industry’s boldest event under the tenor of absolute bliss. Onlookers following the event from their couches or computer screens might imagine the affair as the ultimate video game playground, a festival of glorified gameplay sessions and multiple nerdgasms, but for the people actually attending the event – the journalists, critics, and media personnel, covering the reputed expo is actually work. Hard to believe right?
As an attendee myself, it’s my mission to express the reality of E3 beyond the pomp and thrills showcased by the majority of media outlets; in other words, what it’s like to actually be there. With the event restricted to the general public, there are so many facets, intricacies, and realities of an exhibition like E3, both good and bad, that the average gamer will never see or hear about. So without further adieu, I present a mere slice of the deliciousness that characterizes my E3 2013 experience, everything from the mundanities to the outlandish.
Day 1 Jitters
Following the big press conferences in which Sony, Microsoft, Ubisoft, and EA showcased their lineups for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, the Los Angeles Convention Center opened its doors in a whirlwind of infectious enthusiasm. Welcome to Day One of E3. Despite spending $20.00 to park within the venue, I certainly had an extra bit of pep in my step that day. Gallivanting with pride, I attempted to absorb each and every bit of gaming decor that adorned the massive walls of the building. Even though 2013 marks my second consecutive E3, I must have looked like a tourist lost in a faraway land, scanning the terrain with innate curiosity. That is until I made my way to the West Hall where a line extended down the entire length of the hallway, leading to mysteriously closed double doors.
Unfortunately for me, I was unaware that the main exhibits opened at noon. As someone who prides herself in punctuality, one who embraces the old saying, “The early bird gets the worm,” I arrived at 8:30AM with three and a half hours to kill…awesome. Reviving my deflated ego with a few cups of coffee, chit chat with passersby, and idle bouts of day dreaming, I was able to cut the clock’s sluggish embrace by half. Upon that small victory, I joined the ever-patient line-goers in waiting. Standing in variable silence, the line’s structure degraded to an all-out crowd when noon approached. Standing shoulder-to-shoulder amongst strangers wasn’t very appealing, and neither was the unfortunate presence of body odor that permeated throughout the swarm. True story.
Without delay the floodgates opened, and the hordes were unleashed upon the exhibit hall. Being stepped on in succession by stampeding attendees did not halt my resolve to rush to the ‘good stuff’ before the masses made their entry. Advancing to Sony’s territory, a nearby gaming station beckoned me to approach, and with that first bit of gameplay, the fun had officially begun.
E3 is not the kind of event that you could absorb in a few hours. Hell, even three days isn’t enough to experience the entirety of the occasion. Prioritizing which games, theater presentations, and showings to pursue is paramount. I was able to explore quite a bit, but there were ample titles that I simply didn’t have enough time to get my hands on. Luckily, I was able to play a plethora of games including Beyond Two Souls, The Last of Us, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, Kingdom Hearts 1.5 ReMIX, Bayonetta 2, The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD, Tales of Xillia, Lost Planet 3, and many more.
Breaking the monotony of traveling from booth to booth, I attended several gameplay viewings for The Walking Dead: 400 Days, Watch Dogs, Thief, Murdered: Soul Suspect, and Dead Rising 3 as well. Even grander of a departure, exploring the Into the Pixel Art Exhibit, History of Gaming Museum, and Retro Arcade provided a whole new level of diversity to the overall experience at E3.
Where the Work Fits into the Equation
Over the course of 10-hour days, only a fraction of that time is spent under the facade of entertainment. Most of us journalists can be seen running from appointment to appointment, attempting to appear sane and authoritative during the nth interview, spending brief down-time between announcements feverishly typing in the press room, and overdosing on coffee to stay afloat. All of which is substantially harder with exhaustion clawing at your brain.
I was lucky enough to secure one-on-ones and arrangements with Square Enix, Sega, Konami, Sony Online Entertainment, Snail Games, Telltale Games, and PDP which awarded me some pretty cool content. But of course, one barely has time to enjoy the announcements before work-mode kicks in with a vengeance, requiring you to crank out as many articles as possible before the next showing. The writing process often stretches beyond the confines of E3’s scheduled hours, extending far into the night and even into the wee hours of the morning. Hard work is a small price to pay, trust me.
The ‘Uncool’ Part
While the main compulsion for just about every individual lucky enough to attend E3 is to play as many games as he or she can get their hands on, patience is a prime necessity. To provide an analogy, E3 is like a theme park. Thousands of visitors figuratively battling over a few prime attractions in an effort to experience them first. In a theme park scenario however, watching the rollercoaster in action doesn’t typically dampen the experience when your turn comes around. At E3, watching the five people in front of you play the exact same demo that you’re waiting to get your hands on, can certainly subdue the jittery feelings of anticipation. If you’re someone with a violent aversion to waiting or standing, E3 is simply not for you.
Passing time is a worthwhile and necessary evil in the grand scheme of gaming glory though. In addition, proactive E3 guests who make appointments with publishers and developers prior to the actual expo are privy to exclusive content, interviews, and best of all, line-cutting privileges. Appointments definitely preserved my sanity during E3.
Appreciating the Little Things
During the bizarre mishmash of work and play that characterized E3, mundanities become sweet victories. Claiming an open chair after standing for three hours is one of the sweetest moments you can ever imagine. Over the course of my three-day E3 excursion, I spotted quite a few people literally sound asleep on the few comfy couches sprinkled throughout the convention center as well, adding a few much-needed instances of laughter to the trip.
Building on the simplistic joys category, grabbing a bite to eat is actually a spectacle in itself. Boasting a bunch of edible options via food trucks, sampling a variety of cuisines while complying with the mobile food movement of LA is an appreciated opportunity for any connoisseur of victual delights. Nothing beats the appeal of sitting in the beautiful California weather with a gyro in one hand, and a banh mi sandwich in the other.
Food always helps to lighten the load of high-stress situations, and so does free stuff! At E3, companies attempt to seduce curious onlookers to their booths under the pretence of freebies, and let me tell you, you would be surprised what people will do for a free t-shirt, plushie, or poster. I personally was able to acquire quite a bit of loot this year; a t-shirt from WiHD from winning a Gears of War: Judgment tournament, another limited edition tee from successfully slaying Ifrit with my team in the Final Fantasy XIV demo, posters, handkerchiefs, stickers, tote bags, stuffed animals, and more. Not bad if I do say so myself.
Out of all the miscellaneous happenings at E3, my favorite non-gameplay indulgence would have to be taking pictures with all of the costumed characters. I will admit, I was a bit fanatical about this guilty pleasure, I certainly chased down the real-life versions of my favorite characters at every chance that I could get. If a picture is worth 1000 words, imagine the story my images tell as I pose with a life-size Mario or Sly Cooper? Don’t judge me.
Is it worth it?
Despite the long days, terrible LA traffic, ridiculous lodging and food expenses, incredibly sore feet, waiting in line for hours on end, and walking for miles amongst droves of gaming enthusiasts, E3 is one of my favorite events of the year. The craziness, surprises, stress and exhaustion are all part of the essence of gaming’s biggest exhibition, facets that all media coverage in the world will never be able to capture. A genuine passion for gaming propels newbies like myself and industry veterans forward in spite of sleepless nights and early mornings, and you know what, I wouldn’t change the whole experience for the world.
E3 attendees are part of a select few lucky gamers who have the opportunity to witness the next step in the evolution of video games, and I’m honored to be able to attend and cover it along with my colleagues and industry cohorts.
Editor’s Note: All images were taken by myself, Taylor Stein.