I’ve been very fortunate to have attended many E3s. I still remember how starstruck I was by my first, all the way back in 2000, but as the years go on and you return again and again to Los Angeles, you gain a different perspective for the hubbub and explosive hype and booths. That’s not to say it’s always an exciting adventure, and while I had many E3 first-timers along with me who echoed many of the sentiments I had ten years ago, I thought it might be interesting to detail what I found memorable about the show.
Meeting fellow staffers in person. Working on a fansite can be a bit disconnected. You pour so much time and emotion into working with a great group of people that you often never see with your own eyes. E3 is traditionally the only chance any of us have a reason or opportunity to meet in person, and this year I was delighted to meet Evan, Tidman and Channel Massive cohost Eric in person for the first time.Switching from random exchanges via email, instant messenger and podcast recordings to full on, 24/7 buddy time can be daunting, and the demands of E3 (no sleep, weird eating schedules, funky accommodations) can push people to the edge in ways that only boot camps can. Yet we all got along terrifically, and I’m so happy that Tidman and Evan put up with me when I was very crabby from exhaustion, and that Eric was always available to provide a thousand watts of happy energy regardless the circumstances. And every last one of my compatriots, which also included Channel Massive cohost Mark (who I record that podcast in person with), loved their mandatory trip to In-n-Out, so all was good.
In-n-Out. Sometimes I go to this burger joint more than once in a given 3-day E3 trip. I just love those cheeseburgers, fresh fries and neapolitan shakes that much. This year I was only able to go once, but I still can taste the deliciousness in my mind.
Staying at a ghetto hotel. Nintendojo’s only stayed at the same hotel for two of the E3s I know of. Every other year, for proximity and pricing issues, we’ve stayed somewhere different, and this year was no exception. However, our hotel was quite exceptional in that it had quite misleading reviews and advertising. This was not a 3-star joint. It was backed up against a pawn shop and only a few miles from Compton. That serene photo on the website of a grassy yard and pool was artful trick photography at the most ideal angle, disguising that this little dive was in the middle of traditional, filthy L.A, and some pretty unsavory characters liked to hang outside the hotel’s rooms– all day– giving you shifty looks as you came and went. If that sounds too pollyanna for you, we also realized that walking barefoot in the rooms resulted in the soles of your feet turning black, and a little cockroach came and said hello to me in the bathroom on our last day. Why I don’t feel guilty about staying there, given all that? We all chose to stay there as a group. So no, this is not “Noah’s Hotel.”
Activision’s “Preview Event.” I use quotes because that name has to be one of the most ridiculously understated titles for something of this scope. This was easily one of the most “holy cow, OMG, WTF?!” moments of E3. Perhaps in the top 3 for the whole show, regardless of everything else. As Evan and I sat in the Staples Center, bowled over by the whole thing, one musical artist after another came out, bigger than the last, and every single one of them were supported by some of the most incredible projection displays and computer animation I’ve seen at any $100/ticket concert. The crowd was a roaring mess the whole show, and with good reason. The genuinely explosive (giant fireworks-comparable explosions and giant jets of flame) finale was the perfect ending. Sure, Activision didn’t have its traditional huge booth on the showfloor, but as an attendee to one of the coolest E3 “parties” ever, I’m not complaining. After attending the dismal, downsized E3 back in 2007, nothing else made me feel more like “E3 Is Back” than the glorious excess of this incredible event.
Getting hands-on time with 3DS. As Nintendo said, this has to be experienced to be believed. I wasn’t expecting something miraculous, and I wasn’t expecting something disappointing. But once I got to see the 3D effect working perfectly (given the right viewing angle) I was truly mesmerized. I’ve never been so sucked into a handheld before, and this was just on account of its technology. Thinking of how many all-time favorite games I’ve collected over the years for my original DS Lite, the hours I’ve put into them, and expecting a comparably excellent library for 3DS, I’m fairly certain the new device will be pure cloud 9 bliss. It may even be the first handheld device I actually preorder, I loved it that much.
Attending the developer event. I never know if I should expect a jaw-dropping announcement or an intimate look into daily Nintendo-Japan culture, but Nintendo’s annual developer events, always cohosted by Shigeru Miyamoto and other Nintendo development luminaries, have never failed to be one of my favorite E3 experiences.
The return of Kid Icarus. I have been right there with Andy in believing a new Kid Icarus game was a dumb thing to lust after. Sure, I had moments when I was excited by Matt Casamassina’s years-long rumor mongering, and I recall how giddy I was thinking that Factor 5 might be making a mature reboot of the franchise. But I gave up hope the fifth or sixth year of people desperately panting we’d see the franchise revived. It felt more like we were being had just so websites could get clicks. Finding out that Project Sora was behind the real deal, though, on 3DS no less, was incredible. I still can’t get over how, when the trailer began playing during Nintendo’s press conference, I was thinking that I was watching just another Wii trailer. Then it hit me that this graphics quality was on a handheld– I was pretty bowled over. Having put myself through weeks of Captain N: The Game Master marathon viewings, and hating most of the voice acting performances in that cartoon, I did want to vomit a little when I heard Kid Icarus use the same voice from that old cartoon, but I’d be a fool to let that keep me from trying this game when it comes out.
Getting hands-on time with the new Zelda, Metroid and mystery Retro project. I only was truly elated by my Metroid: Other M experience, but Skyward Sword is gorgeous (I absolutely love the artistic design and the acrylic painting look) and has a lot of potential to be the Zelda game I always wanted on Wii, thanks to to all those nifty gadgets and sword fighting built around motion controls. And I was never a DKC fan, but Retro’s created their own beautiful (and very difficult) platformer that may potentially one-up Rare’s and Super Mario Galaxy developer EAD’s efforts.
Pulling off fantastic interviews and appointments on the fly. We always try to come as prepared and scheduled as possible. But with everything to do, some things slip through the cracks. Nevertheless, my fellow staffers did an amazing job of lining up some killer exclusive appointments that were never planned, making our E3 experience all the more exciting, efficient and worthwhile. Thank you guys.
Meeting with the terrific people that make this industry work. There’s an increasing number of angry grousers who complain that E3 is a farce and a disgusting dog-and-pony show, that the PR and marketing folks are putting on their sliest used car salesmen tricks and developers are all trying to hide the worst aspects of their in-development games. That’s certainly true in some places, but it’s not something I focus on. This was a really great show, and the folks we met with were very together and in great spirits from start to finish. They may be there to sell us on their latest games, but they also leave you thinking that working at and with these myriad game companies is a genuine blast.
Surviving the gauntlet of content creation and posting. Of my time at E3 2010, the most sleep I got on any night was four hours. The other nights were three or zero hours. Somehow I still was completely energized out at the convention center– how could anyone not be?– but once back at the hotel and sitting down to record and write, the fatigue would hit. Evan was always good for keeping me awake in the nicest way possible while we struggled through podcast editing and video voice overs that we were far too punch drunk to be attempting. Yet thankfully, you were spared those embarrassing outtakes– but what hilarious moments they were.
Seeing what the guys at home did. Every year there are Nintendojo staffers who really want to go to E3 and can’t. Yet all the at-home staffers also really did a bang-up job with their own updates and analysis, managing to pull all of it off while getting used to the new site’s design and content tool. Bravo, and here’s hoping you make it next year.
Actually getting excited about free-to-play MMOs. From the people who published… Maple Story? I took a couple brief detours from the world of Nintendo to try some MMOs with my Channel Massive cohorts, and the last thing I thought I’d be looking forward to are some free-to-play titles from Nexon: Vindictus and Dragon Nest. I usually abhor nickel-and-dime “F2P” MMOs, but these were really fun. Sure, I missed getting a chance to play The Old Republic with my CM cohosts, but I think I may still even like these other two titles more. How on earth…
Returning home to Colorado air. It’s pretty sad and gross that as Mark and I stepped into the parking garage– yes, the parking garage– at Denver International Airport, the air smelled so fresh it was like being in a pine forest. This was a bit delusional, of course, but goes to show just how disgusting Los Angeles’ air pollution is. How nice to return to the thin, fresh air of Colorado– even in the parking garage of an international airport.
Loving that I got to go to E3 one more year. It’s the mecca of video gaming, and one that so many gamers want to go to but never do. That I got to go another year and cover it, regardless however many times I’ve been before, is humbling, especially when working with such a great staff, writing for such dedicated readers and listeners, and putting all our heart into this brand new Nintendojo. Top to bottom, this was one of my favorite E3s, ever.