Saturday, June 23, 2007

E3 Exposed

The other day I realized that May was long past, but I hadn't gone to E3, a convention in LA also known as the Electronic Entertainment Expo. The reason for this, of course, is that E3 was officially canceled after the 2006 convention, saving me the cost of a cheap flight to LA, but also denying me the opportunity to wallow in the sheer ridiculousness that is E3.

E3 is (or rather, was) a yearly convention for video games. Yes, even video games have their own convention. Like many "trade-show" oriented conventions, the main event was the expo floor, where companies could peddle their wares. Except in this case, the wares were whatever video game titles were coming out soon, and the games weren't really sold at all, but rather, hyped with the marketing power of a thousand suns.

I had been going to E3 since 2002 or thereabouts, but I wasn't going to learn about new games. Being something of a video game connoisseur (or addict, take your pick) there was almost never anything revealed at the show that I didn't already know about. Rather, I went because I wanted to laugh out loud at the sheer over-the-top atmosphere that was E3.

E3 was always: 1) Incredibly loud (every booth was trying to drown out the sound from their neighbors), 2) Incredibly flashy (30+-foot high light shows, wrap-around projection TVs bigger than my apartment complex, random celebrities, fog machines for no good reason) and 3) Filled to capacity with slack-jawed nerds. Think of the main strip in Vegas, but instead of bright lights, gambling and strippers, you have bright lights, video game demonstrations and "booth babes" (who were often strippers making some extra cash on the side). Here's some example pictures I took of Nintendo's booth from two separate E3s:

In addition, there was always a special section of the LA convention center (Kentia Hall) reserved for smaller companies trying to get people interested in bizarre games and accessories that no one had ever heard of.

My personal favorite E3 was when I went as a member of the self-aggrandized gaming press. I was writing for a gaming website at the time, and thus was told to make appointments to talk to game producers and find out what they were doing. I waltzed to the front of a long line at one booth and was ushered inside an "invite-only" room where I was served drinks and snacks, sat on a comfy couch, and had a company representative walk me through their in-development games. At another booth, a company rep walked me around the booth, and abruptly kicked "regular nerds" out of the booth when they were in the way of something she was trying to show me. Ah, the halcyon days.

The problem, however, was that most companies really had very little to actually reveal, but tried very hard to over-hype what little they had. This was the real reason behind the eventual demise of the convention itself. In 2006, the committee behind the convention decided that the overall signal-to-noise ratio of the show was so skewed, that it would benefit mankind as a whole if E3 was just canceled. The committee has since announced a new show to be held in Santa Monica, but this is a "press-only" event of a much smaller scale. Likewise, other organizers have announced wanna-be E3 replacement shows, but for me at least, the party is over.

Which is a pity. Most conventions, even trade-show-based ones, cater to some sort of professional. E3 catered to nerds, plain and simple. 16-year-old backpack-wearing nerds who worked for minimum wage at Gamestop rubbed shoulders with people who worked on games for a living. Rarely have I seen the true nerd spirit celebrated so profoundly, and in spite of how pointless the show really was, I will miss it, just a little.

1 comment:

Ken said...

While the idea of videogames and (possibly) hot slutty women IN THE SAME PLACE is awesome, I don't think I would have enjoyed the noise or the crowds.

Also, this has nothing to do with E3 but I just wanted to mention that I saw a billboard yesterday that said, "The algorithm is banned in China."