I’ve always wanted to go to E3. Before working for Goomba Stomp, however, I was the Editor-in-Chief of Sound On Sight, a popular online publication that focused primarily on movies and not video games. That meant that I had to reserve whatever money and vacation time I had to attend film festivals and not gaming conventions. But ever since we launched Goomba Stomp on December 15, 2015, I felt it was necessary to attend E3 given that I now run a gaming website. Unfortunately, the timing was never right, and although I was working in California last year, I could never align my schedule with the event. This year I decided that no matter what happens, I would make sure that nothing stopped me from attending E3. Come hell or high water, I was determined to finally experience what many gamers call the best time of the year. And believe me when I say I bent over backward to get my ass to Los Angeles for the three-day event because everything that could possibly go wrong did indeed go wrong.
What went wrong you ask?
For starters, my direct flight was cancelled and so I had to first fly all the way South to Atlanta before heading over to California. By the time I landed, I hadn’t slept in about 24 hours making my first day a complete bust since all I wanted to do was sleep. It didn’t help that my Airbnb rental turned out to be a complete scam either, leaving me with less than four hours to find an alternative place to stay and I’m not sure I could have found a worse hotel to stay at. Sure it was only a ten-minute walk from the Convention Center but it was also a complete dump; notorious for its bed bugs, cockroaches, suicides, murder, drugs and reported ghost sightings. Yes, the lights would flicker on and off, electronics would randomly stop working (including my laptop and cell phone), and the elevator did break down leaving me stranded and in a panic for ten minutes – but that wasn’t even the worst part. Los Angeles is known for its many haunted landmarks, and Hollywood is at least partially to blame for that – but urban legends aside, it still doesn’t explain the creepy old man roaming back and forth in the hallways late at night or the strange sounds I heard coming from the air vent. Luckily I didn’t encounter any bugs in my room (although I did overhear one angry guest ask for a refund due to his cockroach situation) but it didn’t make my stay any less painful. For the sake of not getting our publication in any trouble, I’ll refrain from mentioning the name of the hotel but if you ever travel to Los Angeles, I highly recommend reading reviews of any place you might stay at before booking a room. Chances are, every complaint addressed in those reviews are accurate. I should also quickly state that I am not alone in having my Airbnb rental turn out to be a total scam when travelling to L.A.. Over the past week I’ve heard stories from six other people who had similar problems and after reading reviews online from folks who’ve had to make last minute bookings at sketchy hotels, I’m convinced it could be the owners of these run-down buildings placing fake ads and hoping to get a bit of extra business during E3 by leaving people scrambling for a place to stay at the last minute and having no choice but to book a room at their establishment.
Los Angeles is known for its many well-haunted landmarks
Los Angeles Is Not Scene
What does this have to do with E3?
One of the major problems with E3 is that the event takes place in Los Angeles which is hands down the worst place I’ve ever visited. Now I’ve travelled often, across Europe, Canada and half of the United States but I’ve never visited a city I despise as much as L.A. In less than twenty-four hours I witnessed a shooting, a strange car chase (in which someone drove down a one way street against the traffic) and a building set on fire. There were sirens blaring throughout the night (every night), a depressing amount of drug addicts shooting heroin in the streets and countless homeless people I had to step over while walking along the sidewalk. In fact, there were more homeless people situated on one block than the number of homeless people across all of Montreal. Meanwhile, you have people driving by in Lamborghinis and wearing thousand dollar suits. Who the fuck is the mayor of this place and is anyone trying to clean up the streets?
One of the major problems with E3 is that the event takes place in Los Angeles
And let’s not forget the pollution. When I first arrived I noticed that the block smelled like urine so I just assumed someone had pissed on the side of the road earlier that day. I later realized that every street had a foul stench to it. I don’t think I’ve ever been somewhere that smells as bad as L.A. nor anywhere with as much smog as L.A.. I’m not even sure how anyone with Asthma could live in this city and survive. Southern California retained the dubious distinction of having the worst air quality in the nation according to a report released by the American Lung Association, and now I understand why. And not only did I not want to breathe in the air of the city but I barely ate while in Los Angeles due to the number of signs from the Los Angeles County health inspectors I saw placed outside various fast food joints. Of course, it’s easy to see why these restaurants have these warning signs outside their windows seeing as I saw a half dozen rats and two dozen cockroaches when walking back to my hotel every night. That left me wanting to only eat at the more expensive restaurants and while the food was amazing, it sure did put a dent in my wallet.
I apologize in advance if you are from Los Angeles and if you do love it there. I know there are plenty of great places to visit outside of the county and I did make it out to West Hollywood for Pride weekend which was a lot of fun as well as Santa Monica which had plenty to see and do. The problem is that unlike other major cities I’ve visited, getting from one place to the next is a chore. The public transportation isn’t exactly great and taking a cab (if you can find one) doesn’t’ help since you’ll end up in bumper to bumper traffic. So that leaves you with one small portion of the city to explore while attending E3 and there’s just not much to do around the convention center. I couldn’t even find one decent shopping mall to buy something for my nephews.
It’s Like Watching From Home
What About the Press Conferences
So here’s the thing about the press conferences at E3. In all honesty, you might have a better time watching it from home. Nintendo stopped doing their live show years ago, so if you’re a Nintendo fan, you won’t have any live presentations to watch but instead their digital event. Bethesda’s press conference (as mentioned in our review) was a vast improvement from last year but still crippled with awkward cringe-inducing moments. EA’s event (which technically isn’t part of E3) was nothing short of embarrassing and the Square Enix press conference featured a disappointing lack of content (or rather games that fans wanted to see mentioned). And as John mentioned in his article, Sony’s press conference was poorly organized with a fifteen-minute intermission that moved guests from one location to the next. At least they put on a show with live performances, a great light show, and some live commentary which is more than I can say about some of the other companies. I didn’t attend the PC Gaming show (although I did have an invite), but I did make it to Microsoft’s conference at the Microsoft Theatre which was sadly underwhelming. When I say you might have a better time watching these events from home, I am not exaggerating. I waited 40 minutes in the blistering heat hoping that they would at least have water or a bar where I could buy a drink. Instead, they had one vending machine which only took quarters of which I had none. By the time I walked in, I was dying of thirst. There was absolutely no swag handed out, nor any live performances to watch nor anything for that matter that made attending the event in person worth your while. Yes, Microsoft made some huge announcements but I’m not referring to what they unveiled but rather just experiencing it in the flesh. I was escorted into the theater, given a seat and watched Phil Spencer from a distance talking about how “committed” Microsoft was to please their fans. And in between the number of times, he uttered the word “committed,” I was shown a bunch of trailers. Again, underwhelming. Perhaps the only company that made a real effort to entertain the crowd was Ubisoft, who not only organized an opening dance number but invited Grant Kirkhopeand and his orchestra to perform on stage as well as other legendary industry folks such as Shigeru Miyamoto who made cameo appearances. Maybe I expected too much but seeing as there are thousands of people who travel across the world for this event, I would like to think that these companies could use their imagination and find ways to entertain the crowd and give us a reason to actually show up and see something that we might otherwise watch online.
Sony Should Have Just Stayed Home
What about the Show Floor?
So here’s another aspect of E3 that I found incredibly disappointing: Sony Playstation’s show floor.
Capcom had by far the best floor presentation. Capcom’s lineup of playable E3 2018 games wasn’t big this year but they did have the Blue Bomber headlining the show floor, as well as the Resident Evil 2 remaster with fully updated graphics and some incredibly intense overhauls. But it wasn’t the games that give Capcom the win for the best floor presentation but the amount of hard work that went into building a huge display for both titles. Sony, on the other hand, had only three games for fans to play, Spider-Man being the only exclusive. Considering that the company had the biggest space on the show floor you would expect them to at least have been a bit more creative but instead, they did little to nothing to decorate the space. Nintendo’s set up was pretty much the same as previous years with the Nintendo Tree House situated high above the balcony on the far left and the Super Smash and Splatoon tournaments taking place on a huge stage set up on the back wall. While they didn’t go all out in decorating their space as in previous years, it was still pretty impressive to see how well organized they were. The main problem for Nintendo this year I suppose is that Smash was headlining their event, and unlike Breath of the Wild or Super Mario Odyssey, Super Smash Bros. is a fighting game and so decorating their booth to thematically link to the game is tough. They did at least have a variety of huge real-life custom props drawn from the Super Smash Bros. series on display which was great for anyone wanting to take photos while there. Alongside the displays depicting various Smash characters and items, they also had life-sized Pokemon statues and a large wraparound screen so attendees could watch Nintendo Treehouse and game trailers while they waited in line. And if you were lucky, you might have seen some of the famous Nintendo employees walking around.
Meanwhile, Microsoft made a wise decision in changing their venue this year to the Microsoft Theatre just a block away from the Convention Center. The aforementioned press conference as well as Xbox FanFest, hands-on demonstrations, and playable demos were all situated there, making the La Convention Center far less crowded. In addition, it didn’t take long when lining up to play games. While some people waited well over an hour to play Spider-Man over at Sony’s booth, I managed to play Soul Calibur, Ori and the Will of Wisps, Kingdom Hearts 3, and Jump Force in less than sixty minutes. There was one major problem though. The Microsoft Theatre was only open on the first two days so anyone who was holding off to visit Microsoft’s space on the last day was shit out of luck, and from my understanding, that was never made clear to most attendees.
Apart from that, Bethesda should also be praised for their decorative set up which featured an ice cream truck (yes we got free ice cream!), as well as Ubisoft who built a stage for live Q&A’s and the makers of Fortnite who came with their own school bus, lots of free swag and a seriously dope shop with some nifty merch to buy.
Media vs. General Ticket Holders
This doesn’t seem that bad, so why am I complaining?
For most gamers, a trip to E3 is as exciting as Christmas morning but I feel that the media hasn’t been honest in how incredibly over-priced, exhausting and disappointing this can be for general pass holders who spend a lot of money buying tickets and get very little time to actually play games. We here at Goomba Stomp (along with most media outlets) are lucky in that our press badge allow us access to behind the scenes presentations and not have to wait in line to play what is essentially ten-minute demos. Imagine, however, if you don’t have a media pass. That means you would have to arrive at the L.A. Convention Center, line up for security check, and once you are in, you will have to line up for anywhere between thirty and sixty minutes to play a game for less than ten minutes. The majority of your day will be spent standing in line and trust me when I say your back and legs will be aching by the time the convention closes its doors in the evening. In addition, there’s very little to do between lining up to play demos. This isn’t similar to say, San Diego Comic Con where there is always a show, a Q&A, a panel or some sort of cool activity to do. You’ll see very few people walking around in cosplay and there are very few shops set up to buy cool memorabilia – and most of the stuff that is for sale is incredibly overpriced. Buying a small bottle of water will cost you $4 USD and buying a small lunch can cost you well over $20 USD. It’s pricey, and I would estimate that 90% of the time, general ticket holders will have to wait in line for just about anything. As media, we are fortunate enough to also have a media room that provides couches to sit on and we are given free lunches. We were also invited to private events where we don’t have to wait in line to play a game. And so while I did enjoy most of my time at E3, I do think this event is extremely over-rated for the general public and that perhaps letting in the general public – or rather mixing the general public with the press and industry is a huge mistake. The bottom line is, the event is far too crowded and there’s just too much wasted time. And it doesn’t help when a company like Sony shows up with just Spider-Man and Nintendo arrives with really only one game fans are excited for (that being Smash). Let’s face it, it wasn’t a great year for E3 when you consider the number of games available to play and I can’t help but feel sorry for anyone who travelled a long way for what was a lackluster event.
What were your highlights?
I made the effort to go to E3 for three reasons. The first was to just get it out of the way. After years of trying, I felt I just needed to experience E3 at least once and so I did. And if you are a huge fan of video games, I urge you to try your best to do the same. The second reason I went to E3 was to meet many of the writers from Goomba Stomp who I’ve known for years but never met in real life. Of those writers, it included both Patrick Murphy and Tim Maison, my co-hosts of the NXpress Nintendo Podcast. We’ve been podcasting for three years together and we’ve spoken online for at least two more years before that, but we’ve never met in real life until now. Meeting these guys in person was well worth my time and money spent. The third and final reason why I was so adamant about going to E3 this year was to network and make some connections in the industry. And despite having a series of bad luck, I do have a long list of memorable moments. This article is already long so I won’t list them all but below are just a few things that helped turn what could have been a terrible trip into something worth remembering.
Chilling out in the Playstation Media Booth
As I mentioned above, the only Sony exclusive on the floor to play was Spider-Man. However, if you had access to the media lounge, you were able to play a few games without having to wait more than ten minutes. Along with Spider-Man, I had the opportunity to get my hands on Concrete Genie, a wistful third-person adventure game from PixelOpus (a Sony-owned studio that works out of San Mateo, California) as well as Days Gone, an upcoming action-adventure game developed by SIE Bend Studio. I’ll be sharing my views on those games in my next article but what made hanging out in the Sony booth one of the highlights of my trip, was that not only I did have the chance to play these games comfortably while sitting on a couch (beats standing up all day), but I also had the chance to speak to the developers while they walked me through each mission. When you compare this to our meetings with Square Enix and Bandai Namco who basically invited us to their private room to sit down and watch trailers and clips which will eventually be released online (if not already), Sony treated the media well. There’s a huge difference in having the developers, programmers, art directors talk to you about the creation of their game and a few marketing guys trying to sell you on a game with nothing but a big screen showing off commercials. Needless to say, I was extremely disappointed in Square Enix and Bando Namco’s presentation but Sony did a great job of providing a media lounge where the press and industry could mingle in comfort.
Sony was great but getting into the Nintendo V.I.P. room was even better!
Nintendo really knows how to treat their fans well. Not only was Nintendo gracious enough to once again invite us to play their games in their media lounge this year, but they also brought us upstairs to the V.I.P. section. And if that wasn’t enough, they invited us back on the last day. On the second visit, we were given our own booth and left to play whatever games we wanted to play for as long as we wanted. During that time, we spent a good 30–45 minutes just on Super Smash Bros. alone. Tim already wrote his article on Pokemon Let’s Go, but if you want to know more about our time spent with Nintendo, be sure to check out the next episode of the NXpress Podcast.
Playing the Nintendo Switch at the airport with members of the Bethesda team
After a long, exhausting week, I was ready to return home and on my way home I ran into some of the programmers from the Bethesda team at the airport. While we waited for our flight to arrive, I whipped out my Nintendo Switch, broke out the Joy-Con and Pro controllers and set up a Mario Tennis Aces tournament. Despite having my Switch since launch, I had never brought my system on a plane before but moving forward, I don’t think I can ever NOT travel with it again. It was not only a great way to meet other gamers (and in this case, game developers) but also a great way to pass the time while flying from one city to the next.
What’s the Worst Part of E3?
Everyone is a fucken YouTuber.
Get those cameras out of my face. We don’t need more game footage of someone else playing Spider-Man. IGN has that covered.
At this point, this article is well over 3,500 words so I’ll save more of my thoughts for future posts but I’ll end with this. The success of E3 depends on what each studio is bringing to the convention and lately, it seems as if studios aren’t putting as much of a focus on E3. Sure, the BIG 3 made an appearance once again but how long before E3 is no longer as popular as it once was. Over the years several studios have opted in and out of the game industry’s annual gala trade show. Electronic Arts was the first to go, deciding to give up its primo space at E3 in favor of EA Play. It wasn’t long before EA’s chief rival Activision said it, too, was bailing. Nintendo no longer has a stage show and while their show floor is well worth the visit, it seems they are saving many of their big announcements for other digital events. Sony has their own event as well, and they barely provided any games for the public to play this year. Meanwhile, Microsoft has pretty much separated themselves by moving to their own building. It’s obvious that E3 simply doesn’t deliver what it used to seeing as how game publishers themselves now treat the convention, with many either creating their own events or simply relying on video streams to advertise their product. Whatever the case, it seems one thing is clear: the decision to include the general public into E3 has changed everything, and not for the better.
– Ricky D