Update: I was unfortunately not aware of Shamus Young's severe criticism of Fallout 3 available here to link in the original piece and I regret that. It dovetails rather nicely with what I've written and it's much better executed than my piece. I strongly recommend anyone...
We're at E3 2014, covering news, game announcements, and the general atmosphere surrounding the industry as it ramps up towards the second year of a console war between Sony and Microsoft. With the press conferences yesterday it can sometimes feel like most of the excitement is already over, but that's not the case if you can make it on to the show floor.
Look no further than last week's comic for a sense of what it might feel like to join the flood of conference goers flying through the doors and into the great beyond of future games.
For those that have never visited E3 or walked the show floor and meandered from booth to booth, the entire event carries a sort of mythical property that only video gamers can really understand. I often wonder if movie buffs dream of attending Sundance the way some video game consumers do of E3.
When you take time off of work for video game news, you know you're a fan.
Even if you don't use vacation days to escape into your favorite hobby and all the new games you might play over the next year, you might be checking your mobile device or keeping an Internet browser tab open at work. New video, new gameplay impressions, interviews with developers will all flood through over the next few days, but how do you describe E3 to someone who can't attend?
Let's try to describe E3 in new ways to give you a better impression of what it's like to attend:
Work: Like it or not, E3 remains closed to those without working positions in the industry, either as a retail buyer or an executive a publisher or a developer or someone in the media. If you work at GameStop, it's possible to get a badge to attend E3 though you might be more concerned with organizing the vacation days for that kind of thing. I've been told and I like to repeat that you need to be a writer before a gamer in order to become a part of the media in this industry. Games are complicated things to talk about because the perspective of reality between you and a game can change based on thousands of different parameters.
Play: When you play games at E3, you either have an appointment to meet with a developer or a publisher or you've waited in line. It's possible that you're here and you don't have the contacts that some websites have, meaning you need to wander around hoping you can meet some in press relations, introduce yourself, and hopefully get hands-on with a game. Waiting in line sucks, but everyone around you plays games so it's not hard to find someone to talk to. You might have just street passed someone. That's a good icebreaker, but it's much better to book a timeslot to visit a publisher's booth to be lead through their lineup of software on the show floor.
Party: There are parties at E3. If you have the energy to attend one of these after writing and playing and talking and walking all day, you might have fun, you might get drunk on a publisher's dime, but I like to treat video games as serious business so it's rare that parties drive your schedule unless you're here for the wrong reasons.
See: Some games you can't play. Some of the biggest, most highly anticipated games can't be played at E3. They've been announced but the publisher or developer doesn't feel comfortable handing the controller over. That's OK. Sometimes the trailers and gameplay demonstrations can be more exciting, but they might also be scripted. I prefer to play a game, but for E3 you might be up against a wall of noise eliminating one of the sensory methods you can use to absorb a virtual experience. That's kind of lame, but it's part of the trade-off in gathering all of these publishers and developers and gamers in one place.
Sit: If you have an opportunity to sit, you take it. E3 can murder your feet if you don't have proper shoes.
Listen: Like I said, games can be difficult to describe so you need to listen carefully for the details that matter. More often than not, developers understand the difficult nature of describing games, especially if they don't want to let you play. That means many of the presentations are scripted and over the course of E3 the repetition takes a definite tole on the creative minds behind your favorite games.
Smell: People at E3 might start to stink a little as the day goes on, but that's true of every convention. If you ever attend E3, make sure to bring some deodorant.
Gawk: I like to describe the press conferences as video game enthusiast concerts. Some actual video game concerts have popped up over the years (and two have shows scheduled in Los Angeles this week). When you're sitting there and something exciting gets announced, it's not uncommon to have the kind of chills you get from a live concert or a really incredible movie. If you ever get to E3, soak it all in. It is that awe-inspiring even if the marketing budgets for some of these events can feel a little absurd. Video games are a business, there's no getting around that, but when you wander on the show floor and feel the booming speakers of a Legend of Zelda trailer or the explosive action of a Call of Duty demo hitting your chest, it's easy to feel a little stunned.
Hopefully you get an opportunity to experience E3 some day! This is my fifth year at the show (I think, I'm losing count...) but I hope that every video game fan gets here at least once in their lives. You know who I'm talking about. If you've ever wanted to attend E3, don't wait around! Try to get into the business. Make a new game, try to find work with a developer or a publisher, or just starting writing about the games you're passionate about.