Emotional, Enduring, Engaging: A Tale of My ‘First Time’ at E3

There’s a belief that swirls about the culture of video games press that states that those writers/journalists whom look forward to E3 with genuine, perhaps blind, excitement are likely those who’ve never attended it to begin with. For all the publicity, hype, humor and online fuss that the Electronic Entertainment Expo accumulates on the side of the general public/community, it’s a whole other kettle of fish for those whose job and/or obligation is to help cover the week-long event. Don’t get me wrong, E3 is a fascinating time in our calendar and of course, still holds a special place in my heart so far as looking forward to particularly repeated events in one’s current, far-from-rosey, life goes. Whether “looking forward to” is on par with that of having a nice lie in on the morning…or a trip to the dentist, that I can not genuinely say.

E3, fascinating as it is, is one heck of a thing to even try to wrap one’s head around. Both as someone having viewed it from the confines of their home and someone not just attending it, but offering coverage of it. You’d have to be inhuman (or at least more inhuman than your’s truly) not to see the good and appreciate the atmosphere and “in-the-moment” vibe E3 brings. Uncomfortable as I may be around large crowds — increasing ten-fold if said crowd are there only to add extra bodies to what is an already packed venue — even I can appreciate the general intent of sharing in the excitement. But at the same time, housing even the bare minimum of logic and common sense would dictate that once the figurative honeymoon was over (which for me is usually the night before the voyage to, in my case, the first airport of that dreaded twenty-hours-awake day), comes the nitty-gritty. The work, the obligation, the intent and sole purpose of being at this event, to enjoy one’s self sure, but above all else…report.

It’s one thing, even to the bluntest most socially alien of us, to look past the glitzy corporatism of the whole affair and see the real bravado behind the giant banners, booths and balls-up’s seldom absent for this occasion. But that would be to play this whole thing on easy mode — not to mention it’s just one cynical way of looking at it. It’s another thing entirely to maintain one’s focus (not to mention sanity) in keeping to the schedule. A mode with increased difficulty. The good thing about having a great Editor-in-Chief/Boss Man then, is knowing the fixture will often run like clockwork. To flow in a way that’s both reassuring and practical.

E3 OpEd Screenshot
During my debut year last year, I was fortunate enough first and foremost not only in avoiding the roasting weather of an Angeleno summer — let’s not forget I am a Brit — but was even luckier at having the majority of my press appointments in the same gathering of booths and rooms I started in. Far removed from the noise and the chaos of the show-floor, for the most part; seldom whizzing between East Hall & West Hall; upstairs, downstairs, in-between mezzanines. Yes it can get stressful and yes it can get a little disorientating. But before you can even begin to withdraw into full anxiety, the day is over and you’ve crossed-off but another batch of games, developers and publishers that were prior, at the very least, a genuine curiosity and now represented something more, be it positive or otherwise.

So whether it was making a small walk between PES & LawBreakers, an even smaller one for the independent gathering of booths at the convention’s center, or simply finding the right entrance at Resi 7’s pop-up installation, it’s a nice distraction from the orderly chaos on rampant show — an uncanny juxtapose of stress and stress-relieving formality. Even something as simple or as mundane as making the walk that connects the Los Angeles Convention Center’s East and West sectors lends itself to a little passage of idle relaxation. Relaxation mixed with distraction, obviously, from what comes next. But even for that brief minute or two — a reference to my previous point on the admittance of appreciating the rowdy ambience and atmosphere of the event previous — thousands of miles traveled, countless hours of flying and numerous instances of dreaded clock-watching, do eventually pale in comparison to the genuine uplift an event such as E3 represents.

E3 OpEd Screenshot 2
It’s everything both liberating and testing about the industry from the side of someone who both plays and writes about it. Regardless of the number of small conventions or indie-exclusive events one partakes in on an annual basis — with no offense intended for the likes of PAX, GDC, EGX and such who are just as crucial and just as intriguing in their own rightful ways — E3 is, by default, “the big one.” The main event, the test to end all tests as to whether one can handle the duty of not simply attending…but surviving it under the same physical and/or mental capacity one originally went into it with. I barely managed last year; perhaps the biggest shock to one’s system I’ve had for some time and a massive wake-up call I deep-down, sub-consciously so, just may have wanted to give me that extra kick.

Because if one if serious about all this. Someone who wants to get into writing, reporting, journalism, critiquing, whatever…to challenge one’s self in such a fashion, may well be the best opportunity to see how their mentality, their mind-set reflects on what just might be the biggest stage in our industry. While writers may not have to stand in front of millions, give a carefully thought-out speech on a particular product a certain number of times, or simply go through the process of physically constructing/managing the event in whatever capacity, there’s still definitely a degree of endurance and commitment needed to stick to it until the very end.

E3 OpEd Screenshot 3
Yes, E3 has lost a significant portion of its lust and its majesty with developers, publishers, companies, whoever stripping back — pulling out altogether at times, from the confines of one lone convention center. Even still, as it did with me, I am in no doubt as to the influence and potential defining E3 has on that ample amount of budding creative writers whom came into this through interest, but may come out with a totally different perspective on what’s required of them. By no means an easy or otherwise simple task — just like any other event — E3 is many things to many people on an individual level. But collectively, it’s an emotional pivot by which we lean anywhere from outright euphoria to absolute despair over.

Herein lies this event’s less-discussed fascination — away from the news, the games, the highlights and lowlights alike. Within their right to look forward to it (should it be their first time) some people may be, for someone having experienced it, I can only throw a passive look of curiosity at those whom no doubt will mark 2017 their debut visit. Specifically to my fellow writers and passionate critics, be it here or anywhere in the World making Los Angeles their base of operations in no less than a few days time. For something portrayed so simply as but a mere letter and number, E3 just might be the most crucial moment in any writer’s career.