All of our favorite television shows are starting to become reruns. Every week there’s a different blockbuster movie playing. The weather outside has made you seek comfort in your air-conditioned SUVs. Ah yes, it’s summer … and that can only mean one thing: the most important convention of the year is here.
Now, I’m not talking about a Star Trek or some comic book convention, but rather a trade show that will attract somewhere in the ball park of 63,000 people. A convention that looks like Disneyland to the naked eye, but shares more in common with Las Vegas than Mickey Mouse. Oh yes, for many gamers all over the world, E3 truly is the most wonderful time of the year.
It’s also the most hellish and crowded places most video game journalists ever hope to find themselves. At first it’s a madhouse of people running in every direction for the game they are most interested in, unconcerned with the well being of their fellow man, consumed with only a selfish desire to feed. They run about, uninterested in the plight of humanity a half a world away, dealing with poverty, war, and tyrannical governments. Not even a good old-fashioned girl on girl hazing news story was going to keep these people from finding, and devouring, whatever game they were looking for.
But as the week dies down, it becomes a lot easier to appreciate the startling amount of games found on the shows floor. And not just a bunch of first person shooters, but dozens of genres, from sports to puzzle, to role-playing and adventure, E3 displayed bizarre games, new concepts, and the best in animation. And not just games, but all kinds of systems, accessories, exhibits, and contests to dazzle you. Every company is fighting for your attention, hoping their product will be the one you go home talking about.
By now most websites have taken a look at these hot products, giving huge in-depth write-ups about most of the games you have been waiting to know about for months (and a few you could care less about). You’ve probably noticed that these same news outlets have also done a great job of sweeping up all the surprise announcements made by the big names in the industry. With all this coverage surrounding you, I’m sure you’re wondering, what could possibly be left to cover?
Well, that’s exactly my pickle. As I started my organizing of my E3 artifacts and notes, I found that instead of this year’s E3 being about video games, it seemed to offer something deeper than just video game news. Even with all these high quality titles, I found myself wondering if the real story wasn’t perhaps something bigger than Half-Life 2 or Grabbed by the Ghoulies.
Instead of writing an expose about a bunch of games you have likely already read about, I opted to tell the real story of E3. The story of one man trapped in a conference just wanting to get some of his questions answered. Looking around every corner, and every dark hallway to find what makes this convention tick. After all, there must be a reason that more than sixty thousand people show up for this thing.
As I started writing my piece about my experiences involved with E3, I realized that I am holding back a great deal of the knowledge I’ve learned from my travels. It would be a shame for me to arrogantly write about what I saw, without perhaps shedding some light on an event most people will never see. There’s a lot of care put into E3, and I don’t want to take it for granted.
I find myself conflicted with the need to tell the story of E3, but also try to teach the world what I have learned from this yearly event. So, without anymore of this build up, I am proud to bring you a list of rules you can use if you ever get the chance to attend E3. Perhaps this may seem a bit dated now; it has been a few weeks since the three day event. But I feel that these lessons cannot only help you in the real world, but also illustrate how all over the board my journey really was. This helpful guide can also be used for any big convention, not just next year’s E3. In fact, our European readers should take notes so they can make their trip to ECTS (August 27th – 29th) that much better.
But there’s a beginning to this story, one that starts well before E3 even began. It’s a point and place right after you have received your badge and made the proper arrangements. It’s a time when you know what’s going to happen. It’s a day, a week, maybe even a month before you travel the Golden State. It’s a time when you are getting your body and mind ready for this transition, this experience, this E3.The Real E3: Day Zero
A lot of planning has gone into the Electronic Entertainment Exposition, the premiere video game trade show in the United States. For eight years E3 has been the leading event for the showcasing of future games, systems, and accessories. A virtual wasteland of sounds, colors, and provocative images thrown together like some Jackson Pollock painting.
Before E3, video game professionals gathered at the summer and winter Consumer Electronic Shows (C.E.S.), a trade show build for all electronic industries, be it car stereos, computers, or televisions. Many of the worlds most bought inventions have come from this convention, and for many years the C.E.S. was the place to be if you wanted to know what Nintendo, Sega, and N.E.C. had up their sleeves.
But as video games became more popular, it was clear these giants of interactive entertainment needed a bigger venue. They needed their own trade show where they could discuss the good parts of the industry, and figure out ways of combating the bad. They needed a place where they could show off their newest game system without worrying about somebody debuting a new media format, like DVD.
Flash forward eight years, and video games are among the biggest moneymaking forms of entertainment around. They outpace Hollywood’s box office totals, major sports teams, and almost every other form of fun you can think of. Love them or hate them, video games are a legitimate art form that is just as controversial as books, movies, music, and TV ever was.
And even now, there is a great deal of preparation being into an event like this. E3 coordinators start months ahead of time selling booth space, registering people, getting the promotions ready, and doing everything they can do make each year better than the year before.
Since they’ve gone to all this trouble, I don’t think it’s too much to ask for the people that attend the event to put a little thinking into their planning. I can be accused of many things in my life, but being unorganized is not one of them. Putting some time into your pre-E3 preparation shows that you are an upstanding member of the human race, and worthy of going to an event like this. That’s why we’re going to jump right into our very first rule …Rule One – Pack Accordingly … this is E3 after all!
It’s important to know what you want to pack when going to a convention like this. Obviously, clothes, toiletries, and other vacation nick-knacks are a must, but there are a few items exclusive to this line of convention.
For starters, you’re going to need to bring an extra suitcase. I won’t begin to say how much room you will truly need; it all depends on how many goodies, magazines, and other free handouts you want. But I can tell you; it’s going to take more than one suitcase to adequately bring everything back. By the end of my trip, I can guarantee that my two suitcases exceeded the new weight limit passed only days prior to my trip.
Since you will be lifting heavy suitcases, lugging around weighty bags, and walking for hours on end, it is suggested you do a little working out before you make this leap. While anybody that knows me can attest to, I’m not in the best of shape, and have never been one who has exactly “embraced” exercise with loving arms, I did do my part to get in shape.
Problem was, there are only so many exercises one can feel comfortable performing while sitting and watching a Charles in Charge marathon. Had that been only a week earlier, I would have been able to bulk up and walk for hours. So, instead I popped diet pills all week, and didn’t get much sleep. But learn from my failures, it’s a good idea to do a little walking before the show.
If you can’t exercise, you may want to get a lot of sleep. You’ll want to be bright eyed for all the things you’ll see and hear at E3. And one of the best things you can do for yourself is being well rested, and ready to tackle the expo with as much well intentioned force as possible. Of course, if you’ve been popping diet pills all week, it can be awfully hard to get that needed sleep, even if you want it. Chance are good you’ll find yourself sitting in the complete darkness wondering what other people think of you. Whether or not you should have cut your hair. If you have enough clothes to get you through the week. If you have any right to be going at all, and other such paranoid thoughts.
You may also want to bring a camera of some sort. After all, there are sites to see, and things you will want to remember (and show your children) long after the second video game crash has happened and nobody cares about games. Oh … and there are booth babes, something the friends back home will surely want you to bring back pictures of.Rule Two – Have Something to do on the Trip
For the most part, people fly to E3. But no matter if you ride a bike, take the bus, or swim to Los Angeles, make sure you have something to do for all those times you aren’t required to be in control. I suggest a notepad, so you can write down all your E3 predictions and expectations.
But like most things, there’s a trick to writing your prediction list. Make sure you haven’t even considered putting the pen to paper until the SECOND time the flight attendant offers you alcohol. Without the added incentive or liquor, you’ll come up with dull and mundane predictions. But with the alcohol in your blood, let me assure you, every prediction you write will be a must read whenever you sober up. Hopefully the buzz will also allow you to forget about the screaming baby one row behind you that finds it funny to kick the back of your seat.
In those times you are unable to think of anything worthwhile to write, I suggest a portable game system. Of course, for the time being Nintendo pretty much controls this area, so while you’re sporting your GameBoy Advance SP, why not spruce it up a little with a Nintendo World Championship 1990 tee shirt? Or how about a bag from last year’s GameCube event? Or maybe even one of them Mario baseball caps?? No matter how you test your loyalty, there’s one thing that is for sure, I don’t fit into my Nintendo World Championship 1990 tee shirt anymore.
Of course, portable gaming isn’t for everybody. So how about a DVD, after all, that’s one of the great things about the world of laptops, we can watch anything we want to, whenever we want. Of course, without an extra battery pack, most laptops lose their gusto 40 minutes in … well before Bryan Singer is done introducing characters in X-Men, or Neo completely understands the Matrix.
On my flight the person next to me had no trouble passing time, when he wasn’t reading the newest issue of Playboy (for the articles, I might add), he was demeaning gaming for being a violent influence on the de-valuing of our youths morals. I always thought an argument with a porn packing twenty-something would be easier, but it ended up just making me question what Hef is putting in his magazines.
When going to a convention it is probably not a good idea to bring too much reading material. It’s heavy, and frankly, you’re going to have more than enough to read while on the flight back from E3. And besides, almost every airline offers you a free magazine to help aide you on the flight.
If you’re a writer, and you’re looking for something that will suck your soul dry of originality, you ought to check out one of these magazines. You can read about the All American BBQ Cook Offs, or a woman who had twins, and then gave birth to quintuplets two years later. My flight had an especially lurid piece about a woman who has traveled the United States looking for the finest quilt makers, so that she will be able to make the ULTIMATE quilt.
As I read further I began to understand that if my career doesn’t go well, or I get side tracked by diet pills and alcoholism, I could be forced to write for publications like this! It’s a good thing the airlines outlawed knives, box cutters, and other sharp objects, because thinking about this magazine was enough to question my will to live.
Thankfully there is also a catalog of useful (and extravagant) items you can buy. I know if I’m not shopping at least once an hour I’ll have an anxiety attack, but these prices are ridiculous! You’d really have to be going through shopping withdrawals to actually consider buying a $600 radio/CD player combo, or $150 pajamas. I understand this country is founded on the principals of commercialism … but can’t we all just put the credit cards away until we know for sure we’re going to land safe and be able to use the stuff??
Once the plain has landed, and everybody has unloaded into LAX, it’s time to find the motel and do a little unpacking. It’s also important to find a very special place to eat every day you’re in L.A. Which leads us to our next rule … Rule Three – Stake out a good place to eat … and stick with it!
I know we all like variety, and we enjoy the adventure of finding new places to feed our ever growing appetite … but after you’ve been on your feet all day carrying two bags full of press releases, posters, shirts, and hand outs, you’ll thank yourself for finding something simple you know is just around the corner.
The day before E3 should be used to fully understand your surroundings. Where is the best place to eat going to be, where can I find the bottled water dispenser, where are the fire exits, and so on so forth. If you’re lucky, you will even find a few stores you like to spend some hard earned cash at.
For me it was a video game store just down the street from my motel, a store simply called VIDEO GAMES. While I wasn’t in the buying mood, I am always interested in seeing what rare items an out of the way video games stores might have. And while I was impressed with his stash of Sega CDX units, and his display of Power Gloves, I was both shocked and amazed by his $100 Nintendo Entertainment System.
Not that it’s not worth that … 15 years ago!!
I questioned why this system was so expensive, yet the Nintendo 64 was going for a mere $30, and he concluded that the N.E.S. is a rare system. Not in any mood to argue with the man, I decided to ask him about E3. I assumed that since the event was being held just down the road from his store, and he had magazines that had obviously been read (that were still on sale), he must know somebody going to the show. Not only did he have no clue about E3, but acted extremely insulted when I implied it was the biggest video game trade show in the United States (and he SHOULD know something about it).
He seemed noticeably taken aback when I mentioned that I owned every system in this current generation, as if it was something that was too expensive to even conceive of. These days you can buy two systems for around $350, and the other one used for $100, something that isn’t extremely out of the question.
Heck, in this day and age you almost need to own all three systems, as each have their own strengths and weaknesses. And there’s at least one killer app worth buying for every system out there right now.
I realized it would be a lengthy fight trying to explain to him why I traveled so far to attend a video game show he’s never even heard of. So I decided to keep on moving in order to find something good to eat.
There’s a nice feeling you get when you find the perfect restaurant in a new city. But if you can’t find that special place, you need to just do what you did last year. In my case, that was eating at the same small Italian restaurant every single day I was at E3 2002.
When you’ve found a good place to eat, gathered your thoughts, unpacked your belongings, and watched more TV than you probably should on a “vacation”, it’s time to get a little shut eye. The first day of E3 is no simple task, and it’s important to be as ready as one can for such an experience. Set the alarm, turn the light off, and get ready to dream about all the games you’ll be playing tomorrow.
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