Why Gamers Make E3 An Enduring Experience

Why Gamers Make E3 An Enduring Experience
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Hey all! Wow, what an E3 we’ve had this year. You know, for the past four years I’ve sat out the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo and have been observing from home (or work) instead. E3 2018 has been no different. Truthfully, one of the things I do miss about being a gamer in the media industry is covering these types of events. E3 has always been like a second, or early, Christmas more than other gaming conventions and expos. It’s a time when both big and small contenders in the gaming arena show off what they’ve been working (or should have shown off in some cases). I hold onto this notion that I do believe E3 is relevant and exciting, but for an entirely different reason. It’s that gamers make E3 an enduring experience.

E3 has never been your typical gaming convention, because that’s just it: E3 is not a convention, it’s an industry expo. Having attended a few E3s in years past, I can tell you that there is a stark difference from being on the show floor and in the lobby of the L.A. Convention Center. The best way to describe it is like the showfloor is where you conduct business and the lobby and hallways is where you party with your fellow gamers.

I know a guy in my Facebook friends list who gets to go to E3 on GameStop’s dime. I recall him asking if he should cosplay while at the event and I couldn’t help but facepalm. Actually, we’ve run into each other before at the actual event a few years back with him in costume, and I couldn’t help but think how out of place it all felt in an exhibit hall with suits here and there pedaling their product. Still, while I do feel that costuming has no place (for attendees) at E3, that tone doesn’t need to be in the exhibit hall, I couldn’t help but admire my friend’s passion.

Aren’t we all passionate fans of something behind the walls of that convention center? The last E3 I personally covered was E3 2014. Sometimes I like to think of it as my swan song E3. I didn’t know at the time that I would be taking a leave of absence from the media, and these events by association. Prior to that year’s expo, I was determined to get as much coverage out there as I possibly could. I wanted to write, I wanted to interview, but most of all I wanted to give my fellow gamers a chance to look at E3 through a gamer’s eyes.

Now that isn’t to say that E3 is all business up front. That’s hardly true. Some of my favorite moments came from meeting total strangers in line for a turn at Super Smash Bros., or, hey, even in the lunch line to grab a slice of pizza. Every year I was also bringing my 3DS with me. I can’t tell you how surprised I was to see that I was passing the same people with their own 3DS from the year before, or the year before that.

Honestly, I was happy to see that E3 became open to the public with E3 2017. Prior to that year you could get an attendee pass as a non-media representative, but you’d have to be crazy considering how much those passes would go for. Anyway, I’m convinced that opening the expo to the public was the perfect shot in the arm for E3.

Getting the opportunity to attend or cover these events can make for an amazing time, and I think the inclusion of the hardcore gamer plays a vital role in that. The tone of E3 has also changed in recent years, and by that I’m talking about what you can physically see in attendance at these events. Remember the term “booth babe”? I recall in 2011 you couldn’t turn in a full circle without spotting one nearby! Across the street, THQ (when they were still in business) promoted Saints Row III through a car wash with girls in skimpy purple bikinis. Today, the term, and actual persons, is practically extinct at E3. Good move, I think. I totally did not end up buying Saints Row III because of THQ’s marketing strategy at E3, it was the hilarious phallic-shaped melee weapons.

In some ways the shifting tone of E3 has shifted for the better. I’ve been speaking in terms of engagement and companionship with the gamers. If it isn’t happening between the developers or publishers in the various press conferences and game previews, you can count on the gamers to do it. I’ve met several people from behind the doors of E3 that I still talk with today, and it all stemmed from the fact that we lost ourselves in our love for gaming. Forget what my business card says on it for a moment, what’s your favorite game, what are you playing right now, and what games are you most looking forward to this year? The happiest I’ve ever been at an E3 is when someone who just gave me a presentation momentarily drops their business pants and puts on their gamer hat and just talks games, any games, with me.

This year Nintendo held a Super Smash Bros. Invitational, and I’ll never forget the good memories I had of attending the very first one at E3 2014. While I did show up to provide coverage of the event, I was more looking forward to seeing the people waiting in line. They came from all walks of life, and some even spoke different languages, but while we’re lost in terms of spoken word, we all shared a bond in gaming. A lot of these people were wearing t-shirts of their favorite games, some even turning up in costume of their favorite characters. I recall someone even managed to rig their laptop to play Super Smash Bros. Melee during the long wait in line. So while E3 may look corporate a lot on the inside, its flesh is made up of these ardent gamers.

That’s what E3 really means to me with each passing year. I wish there was someway I could prove how the gamer makes these expos have a heartbeat more than anything else, but everyone has an opinion they’re entitled to. Oh what the heck, here’s my proof.

I do hope to provide coverage for an E3 in the future but, as I mentioned earlier, if E3 2014 were to be my swan song E3- it was a good way to go out. What was the first video game I played? Being born in 1988, that’s easy, Super Mario Bros., what else do you expect? I had just finished capturing some footage of the growing line at the Nokia Theater for the Super Smash Bros. Invitational, which is right next door to the L.A. Convention Center. My presser group and I return to the nearest entrance to the building and sit down, we’d shot a lot of footage that day and needed a break. As we take a breather we noticed a black Cadillac Escalade pull up bearing the Nintendo logo. That’s how Nintendo gets around at E3 after all. With the windows tinted we’re asking amongst ourselves: who could it be?

Shigeru Miyamoto hops out of the car and I’m thinking: what kind of timing is this? Here I am and this very moment in my personal gaming history. Luckily, there’s no crowd around so of course this would make for a perfect photo op! My group is thinking the same too. You can’t just pass this up. Let’s go say hi. We approach Mr. Miyamoto and I’m thinking, “well this man is basically my own Walt Disney. This man’s mind is behind a lot of memories I hold dear, yes, even when Wii Music was shown off. His passionate energy is so infectious! What do I even say to him?”

E3 An Enduring Experience

Well, as you would expect with a man so iconic as Shigeru Miyamoto, he was joined by a number of guys in suits, no doubt his security detail. They got ahead of Mr. Miyamoto to approach us, telling us that he’s quite busy and needs to keep on moving and can’t be stopped. Shoot! But the timing was so good! In that span of a few seconds we’re feeling a little bummed out, when all of a sudden I can feel a hand wrapping around my shoulder for a picture. It was Shigeru Miyamoto! I’m sure his schedule was pretty tight as he was heading out for yet another day of E3, but the man chose to stop momentarily just to take a picture with us. In that moment we weren’t people in the media covering the biggest gaming event in the world, we were loving gamers with loving memories hitting us right in the heart. What else could I say but, “thank you, Mr. Miyamoto,” in what was possibly the most multifaceted thank you I’ve given to another person.

That’s why I enjoyed coming back year after year. It’s why I still hope to immerse myself in that energy and passion again one day. E3 is a place where anything can happen. We’ll do plenty of eye rolling and head shaking, but by the end of the day we need to remember if we stopped and got giddy over something like it was an involuntary response. E3 may be a trade show at its core, but it’s lifeblood is in the gamers from all walks of life.

Jason Arriola

One of the biggest Star Wars fans there is. When I don't have one of many gaming peripherals in my hands I probably have my nose in a good book, out amiibo hunting, or contemplating (and never deciding) what game to pull off my shelf next!