What it's like to be at E3: my first time
- — 14 June, 2012 22:00
Lights are flashing. I hear the rumble of 47,000 people talking, their voices mingling with the beeps and boops, the music and sound effects, the shouts of congratulations or groans of failure. Around me, there are giant replicas made of plastic, rubber and metal - a giant Sonic the Hedgehog over here, a to-scale model of a vehicle from Halo over there. I pass a woman with pigtails, and she's wearing a cheerleader outfit and carrying a chainsaw.
Welcome to the Electronic Entertainment Expo, AKA E3, where the dreams of every geek come true.
It almost doesn't matter what kind of geek you are - even if you're not big into video games, there are all kinds of incredibly powerful PCs to look at, or posters of comic book heroes. There are games about Dungeons & Dragons, and about Magic: The Gathering.
The Los Angeles Convention Center spans 16 square acres, and I have an appointment five minutes ago. It's my first behind-closed-doors session of the day, so some of the game's developers will be on-site to talk about their game and its features, months before it's set to hit shelves. Later, I'll get hands-on time with the game.
It took a lot of organising just to get to this point. You have to schedule weeks, even months in advance to get access to the good stuff, and be very careful about what you say yes to. Since I was the lone New Zealand PC World journo in attendance - the lone Fairfax journo, actually - I had to pick and choose only the biggest of the big titles. Anything that wasn't as big as Halo 4, The Elder Scrolls Online, or God of War: Ascension got cut from the list.
The public's not invited - E3 is strictly a trade show, for developers, retailers, PR types and media. Being media means first-class treatment - you get access to all of the games that aren't on the show floor.
Developer/publisher giant Bethesda, for example, has a booth that was entirely closed to everyone, with the exception of those journalists who had pre-booked time to see the company's games. Granted, being from New Zealand often means you're the lowest of the first-class - you may be driving a BMW, but it's one of the cheaper models, and it's several years old. Those driving the Ferraris still look down their noses at you.
It's 11:10am when I walk into the behind-closed-doors session, but I've been working since about 30 seconds after my alarm went off five hours ago. I'll probably have an hour off for a meal with fellow game journos at some point, but other than that I'll work straight through until around midnight, writing around 3000 words about the day's events. Then I'll get up and do it again.
The whole situation might sound awful to those who aren't interested in video games, especially given that there's a large, sunny, vibrant city just outside those convention centre doors. Los Angeles is a beautiful place, and I loved what little time I got to spend exploring, but for gamers, E3 is the holy grail. I'm there to work, yes, but I'm enjoying every second of it.
At the end of the last day, the people filter out of the convention centre quickly. The media keep on working and leave an hour later than everyone else, so it's 6pm before I step out into L.A. sunshine. The show's done and I'm officially a tourist, but for some reason I feel like the holiday's over.