Zombies, Xenomorphs and Witchers: My trip to E3 2014

Last week, I had the good fortune to attend the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, California. It was, at the same time, the most exciting and busiest experiences of my life. Although I got to visit E3 last year, this was the first time I went representing Darkstation, itself a very surprising circumstance. I tried to apply for media credentials last year but was denied. The organizers at E3 use a series of website trafficking tools to determine whether or not a website manages to reach a predetermined threshold of visitors. It appears that 2013 was a grand year for Darkstation, because my request for Media credentials was approved. I was so surprised and thrilled by the situation that, to be safe, I requested multiple confirmations to be sent just to make sure I was reading and understanding the “Please bring this page with you for registration” text correctly. I was even shy about announcing the trip on Twitter in case something went wrong. But nothing did go wrong. I showed up at the Los Angeles Convention Center, gave them my print outs and I walked away with a “beary” spiffy badge insert. At this point, the situation really started to sink in. I was at E3! And under my own name, no less!

The show itself was the spectacle I imagined it to be and more. Publishers and developers were out in full force showing off new video games for modern consoles. I had expected this year’s show to be a a great one because studios could show off what they were making for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. There was no need to sell the audience on their hardware. It was all about games and platform exclusives. Unlike last year, I didn’t spend the time waiting in line for game demos. As Media, my job was to run to and from scheduled closed door presentations for games in varying stages of development. Many of these appointments prominently featured finely tuned and tightly controlled demos to give press and investors an opportunity to see the game’s progress and vision. As Media, I had VIP access to a great deal of games on the show floor which meant I didn’t have to suffer through incredibly long lines. This was most certainly a comfortable perk, though I suspect the real reason behind the VIP lines was to ensure folks like myself had enough time to see a game before moving onto the next appointment. There was plenty of swag on hand at these appointments and as grateful as I was to have them, I caught myself wondering just how much money goes into producing these items? How much of a game’s budget is allocated to making bags, sunglasses, shirts, statues, pins, glowing bracelets, and pens? What happens to all the leftovers? Do they get thrown away, recycled or handed out to the company employees?

I was blown away with just how classy and sophisticated the meeting rooms were designed. I’ve been to a fair share of convention panels and didn’t come to E3 expecting anything more than panel setup with a projector and conservative seating arrangements. Instead, each of the individual meeting rooms were decked out in prefabricated offices (complete with working air conditioning) and theaters. This was the first time my eyes were opened to the endlessly fascinating world of convention space design. Techland’s room, for example, featured a plush lounge offering coffee and snacks and two closed off rooms. The Dying Light room featured two rows of computers while the Hellraid space was converted into a video presentation theater. In comparison, Activision was a bohemoth. One end of the booth was taken up by an incredibly large monitor that looped trailers for Call of Duty and Destiny. Next to the monitor were a series of rooms to show off playable builds for Destiny and show off new Skylanders toys. The second floor of the booth (yes, two floors!) was comprised of about six to eight rooms for interview space and to show off special Media-only gameplay demos.

Growing up as a gamer, I always thought E3 to be gaming mecca. A place where anyone who called themselves a gamer needed to visit at least once in their lifetime. As I got older, I started to see E3 as little more than a hype generator designed to inject healthy competition among game publishers, console makers and the ever hungry fanbase. To be there in person, I recognized E3 as an industry event designed exclusively for investors and press. This was a space for the people controlling the budgets and investments got to see where their money was going. You didn’t have to look very hard to spot someone in a suit walking the floor or sitting in a gameplay presentation. As someone who has never been to an event like this professionally, it was a little unreal to share a room with so many prominent and important looking people.

Over the course of the week, I will be writing a series articles on what I saw at E3. Borrowing a page from Giant Bomb, I also recorded two “on the road” Darkcasts going into light detail about the games I experienced and I would recommend giving us a listen.  Incredibly busy as the week was, I had the time of my life and I can’t thank my editor Joel Szerlip enough for the opportunity. During the course of three day, I was killed by a Xenomorph in Alien Isolation, chased by zombies, dodged piranha plants as a yarn-ified Yoshi, enjoyed free hot dogs and beer while playing Lords of the Fallen and even crossed paths with Hideo Kojima. Fortune willing, I hope to find myself in Los Angeles again next year.

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