Navigating the E3 showfloor is kind of like being tossed back into High School. There are people absolutely everywhere, you’re constantly worried about someone catching you looking like a fool as you try to dance along with the hip cheerleaders, and all the cool kids want nothing to do with you (actually, there’s a chance they might care, but only if you’ve made an appointment). As you traverse the dizzying twists of the main hall, you quickly learn to catch things out of the corner of your eyes (games, large installation, scantily-clad girls) instead of looking at them head-on, for fear that some large bloke will approach you. Oh, and there’s a strong chance you’ll miss out on the bland cafeteria food if you’re the meek type that avoids crowds.
At the very least, it’s nigh impossible to get stuffed into a locker.
It’s been a lifelong dream of mine to attend E3. As a native Los Angelino, the Next New Thing was practically in my back yard every summer. But while I was mere minutes away from the physicality of this game-nexus, I was far, far removed from it spiritually.
And let me tell you, having that carrot dangled in front of your eyes for years on end can be kind of maddening.
That’s exactly why waking up at six-something in the morning to attend a press conference didn’t feel like a chore. It was a beautiful, beautiful opportunity to catch what I had been missing for ages, at a time when some fabulously enticing products were just waiting to be manhandled. But watching press events, sitting in on PR presentations, and just trying to get a handle on the show is turning out to be kind of a drain.
Like I said in my spiel about the Nintendo event, there’s something about the whole shebang that’s cloyingly corporate. I’m the kind of social malcontent that walks around with headphones firmly lodged in his ears for the express purpose of avoiding too much contact. In fact, I make it a point to avoid swap meets and bazaars, just because I hate being approached. Just leave me alone and I’ll figure it out, thanks.
Needless to say, this doesn’t work out too well when in an environment where game companies hire people for the express purpose of roping you in. Even if you can get past that aspect of the show, there’s still the feeling that the folks you do want to speak to are rehashing canned, practiced lines.
If you think it’s odd that I’m getting too bent out of shape about socializing at one of the world’s largest gaming events … you’re probably right [No, you can’t have my badge for next year’s convention.] But that’s what happens when you approach a trade event from a fan perspective.
My problem with the whole setup is that it’s exponentially more difficult to get a feel for the games when you’re essentially stuck with a babysitter for most of the time. I think I’m more comfortable playing Singstar: Britney Spears while wearing a cheerleading skirt in the middle of a mall GameStop than demoing what’s on the floor here in Los Angeles. Say what you will about enjoying the medium, it’s entirely a different beast when a company representative is hovering over your shoulder as you mash enemies into paste. There’s also the aspect of being the jerkwad holding up a five person queue because you’re too good to die. Whatever the scenario, there’s an inescapable sense of being watched or having an invisible timer dangling over your head that really messes with the immersion factor.
That’s not to say there aren’t some great perks to the show. I can now, with utter certainty, say that I’ve drank the same lemonade that Gabe Newell has tasted. Cory Banks and I were fortunate enough to have what was essentially a private DC Universe Online presentation, with superartist Jim Lee sitting inches away. And there were free slurpees!
Game-wise, I’ve been floored by DCUO, I saw lots of promise in The Agency, and I’m amazed by the art style of the new Kirby. The 3DS, though, isn't cutting it for me. And, remarkably enough, there are moments where you can have an actual conversation with someone at the show and not feel the sickly taint of PR crawling all over your body.
Maybe, like High School, I’ll have the show figured out just in time to leave it behind. Maybe I can let go of the context of the circus here and just enjoy the ridiculous spectacle of it all. At the moment, I’m holed up in the Media Center, safely clutching a too-expensive iMac, warily considering walking out on the floor.
I just hope I don’t run into any open lockers along the way.