E3 is a time when tens of thousands of writers, merchants, and game developers occupy an enclosed space and make a lot of noise about upcoming titles. It's an environment wherein anything weird, sad, hilarious, or remarkable can happen, and often does. Sometimes all at once.
With E3 2016 breathing down our necks, the USGamer crew decided to relay some of their favorite personal stories from past shows.
My first live-and-in-person E3 was E3 2006. It was a good one: Nintendo unveiled the Wii and an accompanying trailer for Super Smash Bros Brawl (can any amongst us forget the wonderful confusion that hit us upon hearing Metal Gear Solid's ringing Codex at the end of that display?), and Sony delivered a press conference that supplied us with memes for years to come, e.g. "Giant Enemy Crab," "$599 US dollars," and "Riiiidge Racer!".
But my shining E3 moment is a little more personal than what took place in those media circuses. I attended the show as a member of 1UP's staff (requiescat in pace), and being rather low-rung, I was assigned to cover a low-key game squirreled away in a little booth staffed by a couple of guys who called their company -- what was it, again? "CD Projekt?" Something like that.
These kindly gentlemen explained The Witcher property in heavy Polish accents, outlining its popularity in European territories. They outlined the abilities of this mysterious "Geralt" gentlemen and punctuated their demonstration by having the titular Witcher fling a fireball at an enemy on-screen.
The demonstrator -- I can't remember if it was Marcin Iwiński, Michał Kiciński, or someone else entirely -- turned away from the screen and back to the small group of game journos watching the demo. In the middle of explaining some other game mechanic, one of the journos beside me suddenly pointed at the screen and said, "That guy's still on fire."
The demonstrator slowly turned back around and watched the human torch flail around screaming. "Oh, yah," he agreed. "Soon, he will die."
And he did.
I've yet to play any Witcher game, though The Witcher 3 is inching its way to the top of my "Must Do" list. Nevertheless, I've always been cheering CD Projekt from the sidelines with a weird, semi-motherly pride. The Witcher had its genesis around the same time as my games writing career, and it just makes me warm to know the franchise has blossomed from an adventure game based on an unknown property (in North America) to a phenomenon.
I miss the wacky Nintendo booths of years past... and the wacky low barrier to entry that E3 used to put into place. While it was technically an industry-only show back before the big shakeup in 2007, in practice E3 would pretty much let anyone in who wanted to attend E3 and could produce some scanty evidence that they were tangentially involved with video games in a semi-professional capacity. This had the frankly hilarious effect of creating massive crowds of "professional" fanboys slobbering at the prospect of being the first to reach Nintendo's booth the instant the doors opened.
We called it the nerd stampede, and honestly I'm surprised no one ever died.
At E3 2005, Ziff-Davis bought a bunch of floor space and constructed a massive booth around it, which included an upper deck that was intended to be used for meetings. In practice, the noise of the show floor was entirely too much to make that open space up above the crowd viable for anything resembling a conversation, and hardly anyone went up there. I used it as my personal writing space for the show, and it was pretty cool.
The best thing was, though, that booth lay directly between the main entrance to the main hall and Nintendo's booth. Since the booth netted us both media and exhibitor badges, we got to enter the hall early and avoid the lines. That was handy for staking out the show floor and prioritizing our plan of attack for demos, but I soon learned that it was the best possible vantage point for observing the daily nerd stampede as well. Every day, we would climb up to the top of the ZD booth a few minutes before the doors opened and wait to witness the sight of a thousand sweaty nerds trying to outrace one another to be the first to get their hands on Nintendo demos. The next year, we had the same setup, and it was even better, because Nintendo had early Wii preview kiosks set up. Again, no one ever died in the daily stampedes, but only through sheer dumb luck.
You don't really get to enjoy sights like that anymore at E3. The nature of the show has changed too much, I'm afraid. And I work for a company that is far too sensible to buy a giant glass booth on the E3 show floor in any case. But I'll never forget those memories!
And like I said, Nintendo's booths used to be a lot more fun, too. In 2005 they had women who would randomly come to the edge of the booth and start chucking plush Nintendogs into the crowd. I somehow ended up with one despite my best efforts to avoid the madness and prevent death by trampling and gave it to my girlfriend. "If you ever break up with me, I'll set fire to this Nintendog and throw it down onto the street," she once told me. And that's why we're married now, probably.
They say there's no E3 like your first-at least, I think they do-and for me that was doubly true. I arrived in the Bay Area on June 1 to start full-time at 1UP.com, and basically had less than a week to acclimate myself to a new living situation, location, and job before I headed off with the rest of the team to Los Angeles. And I didn't even have the comfort of being surrounded by my stuff, seeing as my moving pod wouldn't even be showing up until long after the show ended. All in all, it was a situation that could only lead to perpetual queasiness: I really had just a few days to learn the ropes before being tossed right into the fire.
That said, E3 doesn't give you a whole lot of time to worry. In case you weren't aware, most destinations require quite a bit of hustle-and gentle nudging of the impolite-to make it there on time. Having been a freelancer for five years, these were literally the first video game-related appointments I'd ever taken in my life; I barely interviewed people on Skype, let alone face to face. But my anxieties soon quieted down when I took one of my first appointments for a little game called Dark Souls. After playing 20 minutes on the show floor, I ducked into an enclosed cubicle to chat with one of the producers. This being my first interview with an interpreter, I had no idea how I was doing, until I happened to ask if some obscure system from Demon's Souls would be making a return. When the producer heard this, his eyes lit up and he immediately became much more relaxed, as if to say, "Hey, this guy might actually know what he's talking about." A small gesture in retrospect, but one that helped convince me I could actually do this.
My best E3 memory, though, is the one that landed me on the front page of a national newspaper after a whopping five days as a real member of the games press. 1UP brought along a freelance photographer named Anthony Parisi, who looks so much like Mario that our EIC convinced him to dress up like that character at Nintendo's conference. Of course, this got him a lot of attention, so when the media descended on Anthony, I happened to be in the frame is well. Just by my arbitrary seat selection, I had a good way of impressing my parents mere days into my new job by phoning home and telling them to pick up a copy of said newspaper. Unfortunately, I might have peaked too early, since the only way I'll find myself with that kind of exposure again is if I rob a bank or something.
I know this is about our favorite E3 moments, but I'm so old, I used to attend Consumer Electronic Shows before E3 was even invented. And, to be blunt, those events hold the most cherished memories for me. There's no one thing that really stands out, but going to the Summer CES in Chicago several years running in the very late 80's through the early 90's was a pretty incredible time to be attending the event. There was amazing new hardware on display every year, and I got to see the launches of the SNES, Genesis, Game Boy, Lynx, TG-16, and even the 3DO.
And if the hardware wasn't enough to get you excited, there was a huge amount of new games software on display. Nintendo was at its peak back then, and there was an astonishing number of companies producing software for its systems. Everywhere I looked, there was some new game I'd never heard of being shown off. What was also great was that the show wasn't quite so crowded back then, and getting hands-on time with software was easy - so you could literally spend all day playing games without having to stand in line.
The downside was trying to take pictures. This was a time before screen capture technology, and to take a screenshot, you'd literally have to photograph the TV screen. Indeed, doing that is probably one of my enduring memories of CES. I'd wander around with a tripod and camera, and a big black sheet that I'd have to put over a monitor to cut out the glare from the overhead lights, so I could then take pictures using my own impromptu dark room. I certainly got some funny looks from people, who wondered what the hell I was doing, and it'd get baking hot under the sheet, but it was the only way you could take screenshots. And they came out pretty damn good, even if I say so myself!
This is pretty every E3 in a nutshell for me: everyone head-banging to Queen while I'm just trying to get another article done. By the way, this was E3 2010 with 1UP. Sigh. Good times.
My favorite E3 moment was before I was press actually. This is back when I worked at a video game retailer and retailers were allowed to go to the conference. It was my first E3 and one of the few that actually took place on my coast. Hell, I was still in high school at the time, so I had stars in my eyes. I covered this previously for one of our community questions, so I'll repost that here.
"I'd always been into games. Video Game Exchange was my first job at 15, after I convince my mother and the manager to let me work there on a work permit. E3 was the first time that I decided that I wanted to be involved with the industry in some capacity. (A decision I put off for a long time.) For a 17-year-old, it was stunning at the time.
Anyways, Nintendo was showing off Starfox 64 at the event, specifically the multiplayer dogfighting mode. They had a tournament running, with 4 players fighting it out on a huge screen. It was my first time with the game, but hey... it was nearly everyone's first time with the game. I came out the other side of a long line a winner in my round. The reward was a gold N64 controller... a system I didn't have at the time.
It's the same gold controller I believe Nintendo eventually released everywhere. The only real difference is the embossed 3D "N" underneath the Nintendo logo. It's just a small, random keepsake that I have in my attic. I'm not the type of person to collect stuff, but it's a cool little piece for history that I'm sure only hundreds have."
The weird thing is I honestly have no clue where I have that controller packed away. It's somewhere in my house.
That was a great E3 though. I met Miyamoto and got his signature! I played all the games! I got a ton of swag. For young Mike, it was everything I wanted as a diehard game fan. I love E3, but there's also a different feeling attending the show for work than for pleasure. You're running from appointment to appointment, seeing really cool stuff, but you never really get a chance to stop and take it all in. I leave a day at PAX just to wander the showfloor; I don't really get that at E3. It's a binge and then I return to my hotel room to digest it all. But back then? I was just a kid playing all the new games.