What Being at E3 Is Actually Like
I spent a lot of my childhood wishing I could go to E3. It seemed like a sort of Never Never Land, where a lucky few sat around all day and played video games months before anyone else got to. Needless to say, I was jealous of those people.
Eventually, as an adult, I did get to go to E3, and my childish fantasies were replaced with a more mundane reality. Don’t get me wrong: E3 can be great fun, and I don’t want to sound like one of those journalists who carp about covering things that other people would do anything to attend. But despite the many pleasures of the yearly event, it is a bizarre place, full of unique, uncanny sights, sounds, and experiences. Below, my fellow Game Front writers and I attempt to convey some sense of the madness.
Strange and Magical
Lots of developers and publishers set up bunkers all for themselves in the massive convention center. You step through an archway or a door and suddenly — you’re in a carpeted lounge, they’re offering you coffee, you can actually hear people talking, and they’re handing you crap you don’t want or need. Like temporary tattoos. Also there are huge statues of things that don’t actually exist towering over you. It’s like ducking through a portal into Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory for about 20 minutes.
Smelly and Loud
Much of E3 is a sensory assault filled with sneak-attacks of wince-inducing awfulness. You’ll stumble through pockets of some incredibly intense B.O. without warning, and sometimes, you can’t escape it, especially when waiting in line. Almost as bad are the pockets of dub-step that will momentarily deafen you while also annoying you, before fading away in the distance.
It’s hard not to be shocked and unsure how to proceed when you notice that the Medal of Honor hands-on booth has a bar inside of it, with a bartender offering drinks and beer. One guy actually got a beer. Everyone else eyed it skeptically. We can’t speak for other gaming journalists, but when you’re at E3 and your energy level is priority #1, beer is poison.
Exciting and Enticing
There are video screens running everywhere, all the time, and usually filled with some fairly awesome trailers. You’ll be walking along and run into a massive crowd of people filling an aisle — because they’re all watching a video no one has ever seen before that looks like the best game ever. It’s hard not to be excited all the time at E3, especially when you run into one of those crowds and you really have to pee. Oh, and also about games.
Full of Surprises
Big-name game developers can sometimes seem larger than life when their talking heads appear in interview videos and other promotional frippery. It can startling to come upon one in his natural habitat, like when Game Front editor Mark Burnham ran into the inimitable Peter Molyneux, casually checking his e-mail in the E3 press room.
Soft and Fluffy
There’s so much to look at at E3 that you sometimes forget to look where you’re going. This can be especially deadly due to the variety of carpets on the show floor. Aisles between booths are boring industrial, but developers and publishers often shell out for something more plush to make their booths look nice. I tripped more than once, shuffling obliviously from the hard-packed aisles into a sudden onset of shag. Suddenly aware of the texture of the floor, I noticed all sorts of strange permutations. Star Trek had sticky black vinyl. Microsoft’s booth had a bizarre Ikea number made out of loops of rope. It’s mind-blowing to think about the amount of effort that goes into making E3 happen, and even more mind-blowing when you think about the person whose job it is to shop for the right carpeting.
The journalist’s experience of E3 can be summed up by the feeling you get at 2am when you have one article written, and about 20 more in the queue. It’s not a great feeling, but hey — that’s why they pay us the actually-quite-small bucks.
“If I just wave this around, I get to cut the line, right?” One Game Front correspondent actually saw a writer from a rival publication try to pull this line on a harried-looking PR representative. Thankfully, it didn’t work.
Now that you know what it was like for the intrepid Game Front team, check out all the coverage on our E3 Channel!