Bits & Bytes: E3

Robert recalls his first trip to E3 in this week’s installment!

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 06/13/2021 23:41 Comment on this     ShareThis

Bits & Bytes is a weekly column where Editor-in-Chief Robert shares his thoughts about video games and the industry on a lazy Sunday. Light reading for a day of rest, Bits & Bytes is short (except this week), to the point, and something to read with a nice drink.

My first E3 was in 2014. I referred to it at the time as a bucket-list item officially checked off. Seven years later, I still look back incredibly fondly at that first trip. My scheme for getting to E3 was simple: I had access thanks to working for Nintendojo but a hotel cost too much money, so take a redeye train to Los Angeles (where the convention is traditionally held) and get to the expo right as it opens. Spend the day exploring the show, try out the games, then in the evening reverse the process and get back home to the Bay Area early the next day. At 10 PM, I found myself boarding an enormous Amtrak Thruway bus on my way down south.

I’d taken an Amtrak train prior to that trip, but the experience departing from the Jack London Square station in Oakland via bus was a different beast. I located what is even to this day “my spot,” the two seats all the way in the back next to the tiny bathroom. Hardly anyone ever uses this particular head because it’s so awkward to maneuver inside of while the bus zigs and zags across the highway, so that seat guarantees a relative level of privacy and isolation throughout the journey. I learned that late-night bus trips are interesting for the people watching, alone. The array of travelers is captivating, a mix of oddballs and average Joes and Janes who, perhaps even more so than in the daytime, would normally never end up elbow-to-elbow going anywhere together. Eccentrics, dregs, grandmas, college kids, and a fat gaming journalist squirming in an ever-increasingly uncomfortable seat, just to name a few.

Staring out at black highways at night was a hallmark of my childhood. My parents are night owls, so we’d often find ourselves coming home under the cover of darkness, my dad driving and playing everything from ’80s New Wave to ’90s rock on the radio. As the asphalt rumbled under the Thruway, I looked out into the familiar mix of pitch blackness and tail lights imagining what the convention was going to be like. Nintendo Power and EGM had given me a hazy picture in my mind of what to expect from the booth, but nothing concrete. As the air in the bus grew hotter and I tried to force myself to get rest for the next day, I was a jumble of nerves and excitement. I eventually drifted into a sweaty slumber and awoke unrested in Santa Barbara, our connecting stop.

At six in the morning, the chill air was very welcome as I stepped off the bus. The small congregation from our Thruway was joined by early-morning commuters and travelers already amassed outside. Santa Barbara Station felt very SoCal. Built at the turn of the century, its Spanish mission-style architecture and palm trees are picturesque, a serenity only broken by the occasional homeless person using a bench as a bed. Eventually, the train came into sight and we were all climbing aboard. If Santa Barbara Station is pretty, then Union Station in LA is stunning. The enormous hub of transit, where bus and rail all connect, was designed with the same mix of art deco and Spanish mission architecture as its older sibling. I rushed through its long corridors trying to start the next leg of my trip. As someone who grew up on AC Transit and BART, I was perplexed by the colored subway lines as I tried to make my way to the convention center.

Finally, after figuring out which rail to hop onto, after 12 hours of travel, I followed the throng of journalists to the LA Convention Center. Plopped right next door to the Staples Center, I was blown away by the enormous E3 and advertising banners that hung from its face. Inside, thousands of people from all over the world mingled and roamed the halls. I marveled at the elaborate booths which felt in some cases like strolling through Disneyland and its elaborate facsimiles. Vendors sold their wares, devs of all sizes hawked their games, and the cafeterias sold incredibly overpriced food. As I attempted to get situated, I started asking people where I could find Nintendo. Someone explained that there are two main halls at E3, and at the time Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft occupied one together. Finally knowing where to go, it was time to freshen up. I was a sticky, disgusting mess of sweat and headed into the bathrooms to refresh myself. I brushed my teeth and splashed water on my face, not feeling one iota cleaner but ready to start looking around.

Many of the booths were wonderful, but Nintendo’s was my favorite. Color me biased, but the Nintendo booth is almost always the most interesting and impressive. 2014 was a big year for the company, with Splatoon and Super Smash Bros. Wii U taking up prime real estate on the show floor. The day was a whirl of standing in lines, playing games, taking notes, eating expensive food, procuring a tiny bit of swag, and then heading back out to Union Station to go home. I snagged a couple of Wetzel Dogs from the Wetzel’s Pretzels stall in the station (a new tradition had begun) and ate them on the platform as I waited for my train. Once aboard, the whole process from 24-hours prior repeated itself. I again disembarked into cool morning air after another grueling 12 hour journey, but this time it was the chilly breezes of the marine layer that blankets the Bay Area hitting my face.

Venturing home, it struck me how I’d just done something I thought I never would. I’d gone to E3. I’d seen the things I’d only ever been able to read about in magazines. I was working technically, yes, but it was such an uncanny moment of wish fulfillment. I’ve gone every year since, with the exception of 2020 and this year, and I’ve never taken the privilege for granted. Looking at the digital-only version of E3 2021, it warms my heart to see so much excitement and fervor surrounding the event. The past few years of tired “do we need E3 anymore?” talk has landed with a thud with every so-called think piece I’ve read. The show is spectacle. It’s all about dropping jaws and bringing together groups of people who otherwise would never intersect. It’s a way for devs to show off months and even years of hard work and for fans to become infatuated with the pastime they love so much all over again.

E3 is an institution. It’s here to stay. Shut up and have fun.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Log In 0 points Log in or register to grow your Ninja Score while interacting with our site.
Nintendojo's RSS Feeds

All Updates Podcast
News Comments
Like and follow usFacebookTwitter Friend Code Exchange + Game with Us Join the Team!