Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This

In true gamer fashion, if I had to compare Sunday to any game in the entire history of gaming, I’d have a hard time.  It had elements of so many and yet, when it comes down to it, there is one particular aspect of the day as a whole that could be easily epitomised by one specific phrase from The Sims 2: memory marker.  It was a day of countless firsts, and not one single ending; of lifelong dreams coming to fruition and not one single regret. It was, when all is said and done, one of those perfect days we all fantasise about but never expect to happen, when so many things come together in serendipitous fashion and silences any potential regrets before they have a chance to even pass your lips.

In what appeared to be a rocky start to the day, my mangled body clock decided that it had sickened itself of peaceful slumber and wouldn’t listen to my brain screaming for mercy in the shape of another few hours of sleep and so, at just after 5am, I conceded and dragged myself from the incredibly comfortable quadruple king sized bed (seriously, this thing could easily have slept Yokozuna and a dozen of his Sumo mates) and through to the GLE3 War Room to catch up on what was going on.

It wasn’t long before the others started to follow suit, even though I was doing my best to remain as quiet as possible, and before long we were all planning the schedule for the day.  With the luggage still missing, Lorna made several calls to the US Airways baggage department to find out why the missing bag hadn’t been delivered to us before 6am as had been promised the night before and why it also hadn’t arrived before the second promised delivery time of 10am but, long story short, it ended up arriving somewhere around 1.30pm and so we were then free to head to the will-call centre to collect our passes.

The cab ride to the Los Angeles Convention Center varies from picturesque to corporate, taking a few winding turns through cultured and deprived… but it’s still an enjoyable trip, and was made more satisfying as we passed the monstrous Skyrim teaser poster that spanned three separate buildings of the Figueroa Hotel.  To say that it was something to behold would be doing it a massive disservice and, as an Elder Scrolls fan,  it certainly sent shivers up my spine as we turned the corner and headed towards the conference centre… and that’s when it hit me.

The first thing that you see as you pull up alongside the conference hall is the huge Assassins Creed: Revelations tarpaulin which was easily 100 or 150 ft long.  The next thing is the Battlefield 3 tarp wrapped around the curved entrance to the South Hall, and plans are afoot to undertake a covert mission to steal it in the middle of the night to bring it back as a present for EA Action Man.  Failing that, we could always pick him up some oranges.  As soon as we stepped out of the cab and inhaled the sweet smell of the hot Californian air (which was surprisingly fresh), it struck me like a French steering wheel smacking an oppressed princess… we were going to E3.

Walking through the doors and into the main foyer took me back to the time when my friends and I ripped the plywood off the back door of an unused shop so we could ride around in the pitch dark on our BMX bikes… we may have had permission to be in the convention centre foyer but, as E3 hadn’t yet started, there was still that nervous excitement from watching the last minute preparations as the final promotional materials were being hung from the ceiling, knowing that we were witnessing the birth of the greatest event in the 2011 gaming calendar.

Collecting the passes for the conference itself was a rather simple affair and was over in a matter of minutes, yet it was something that we’d been dreading up until that point as we’d imagined twenty thousand people all making their way at the same time, thinking that they’d all get there early to avoid queues and, in doing so, create a a self perpetuating gauntlet of eager industry professionals wishing they’d gone in the evening instead.

The queues for the individual press conference passes were lengthy, especially for Microsoft… even though it had the smaller audience of the three we’ve attended thus far, and so it was a relief to finally reach the front of the queue and have the much coveted pass in our hands.  This feeling of relief quickly turned to surprise when, on reading our names off their list, we discovered that we hadn’t just been granted access to the Microsoft conference but had been given full VIP access with the “purple” pass, meaning we had early access and the pick of seating on the restricted show floor rather than the stadium seating around the back and sides.

Other than a small hiccup whereby only one name had been confirmed on the official attendee list for the EA conference, which was soon rectified by a quick email to the EA desk at E3 and a text to Dan at EA himself, it was a relief to finally have the various emailed confirmations blossom into tangible passes with guaranteed access.  With only an hour and a half until we were due to be picked up by our dinner date, there was barely enough time to jump in yet another cab and head back to the house to get showered and slip on the glad rags.

Exactly on schedule, and with typical German precision, a car pulled up outside GLHQLA… it was Claas from Lace Mamba, ready to show us the sights of Los Angeles and fill our bellies with char grilled cow.  With a table booked for thirty minutes time, we headed straight for the Saddle Ranch Chop House on the busy, and world famous, Sunset Boulevard.  With an exterior that looked as though it had been plucked straight out of Red Dead Redemption, including the obligatory saloon girls standing on the balconies in an attempt to lure the men in from the cold, the whole place just screamed steak house and that was good enough for this proud carnivore.  Inside, it was exactly as I’d imagined it: wood panelling from floor to ceiling, hella fit girls wandering around in tight shirts and tiny skirts, hella fit guys wandering around in tight shirts and tiny… trousers… and a mechanical bull arena  in the centre of the room, filled with more padding than a French girl’s prom dress.  The evening was off to a great start.

We’d met Claas before, but in an official capacity when he came to GLHQ to show us the Q1 and Q2 release line-up for Lace Mamba, so we didn’t really get to chew the fat and get to know him properly, although it was obvious from the outset that he was a smart and funny guy.  In a more relaxed atmosphere, however, it was a pleasure to spend time with him and all five of us were either grinning or laughing for most of the time at the Saddle Ranch, when we weren’t stuffing our faces with exquisitely cooked meat.  To our surprise and delight, the meal ended with a huge candy floss being dumped on to the table by our waiter and so we all got stuck in and reverted back to childhood for as the delicate threads melted on our tongues while some of us thought it’d be a great idea to attempt a candy floss beard.

This was just over 2ft tall... seriously

Leaving the Saddle Ranch was heartbreaking, as I’m sure they still had another hundred of so steaks adjusting themselves to room temperature in the kitchen and I felt duty bound to eat all of them, just so they wouldn’t go to waste but, alas, my stomach had other ideas and decided that it wasn’t having any more.  As the group of valet parking attendants sprinted off to somehow get Claas’ vehicle to materialise at the front of the parking area when, up until a minute before, it had been nose to tail with another thirty or so cars, Claas suggested we take a trip to Santa Monica so he could show us the view… and who were we to argue?

The journey was breathtaking, passing through areas of California that had either been immortalised by dodgy teen dialogue such as Beverly Hills or the lush Rodeo Drive where Julia Roberts went on her contemptuous spending spree with the wonderful Hector Elizondo. On almost every turn, there was something that’d bring memories of certain movies flooding back, or the period architecture would result in either awed silence or blurted appreciation.  By the time we actually reached Santa Monica, I was already like a kid in a candy shop but with a craving for even more sugar.

The Santa Monica Pier is somewhere I’d always wanted to visit, along with Coney Island, as my love for rollercoasters is surpassed only by my passion for the ocean… so riding a rollercoaster on a traditional rickety old pier that reaches several hundred feet into the Pacific… well… there’s not really much more that could be said about that.  We parked up at the American equivalent of the NPC while I marvelled at their lighting system to help you see in advance where the available parking spaces were, and headed out towards the pier.  After only a few minutes, I could see that all-too-familiar entrance sign and the child in me once again reached a virtual sugar high, stabbing the embittered cynic in the eyes until he retreated to the back of my mind for long enough to enjoy the surroundings.

Standing on the corner of Ocean Drive with the pier entrance staring you in the face is something of a reflective experience on so many levels.  While it is something that I’d always wanted to do, I never thought I’d have the means to ever make that happen as one person’s flight alone to the USA’s west coast was as much as we’d generally spend on an entire holiday and yet, in an odd twist of fate, GamingLives had managed to make this happen.  As we set foot on the boardwalk for the first time, I felt history creeping through the soles of my size elevens and into my veins and, if I wasn’t too busy dodging the hustle and bustle of the excited families leaving the pier, I’d easily have been able to close my eyes for a few brief moments and transport myself back in time to the hey day of the Santa Monica Pier.

By the time we’d left the pier, we’d watched people night-fishing off the end in the hopes of, presumably, landing a marlin with a worm, seen the Bubba Gumps Shrimp Co restaurant, enjoyed Ben using his telekinetic powers to ruin a busker’s career for the evening and taken a ride on the world famous coaster… at night… whilst trying, unsuccessfully, to film it using my ‘phone.  This was one of those days that you wished would last forever, and I didn’t even take my cameras as I thought we were just going out for dinner. The one time in my life where I was thankful for those utterly crap fairground photos.  The perfect end to a perfect day, and hopefully a new friendship was forged in the process.

We won’t mention the African American woman who tried to drag her family across to the other side of the road to avoid “the white people”, much to her husband’s chagrin and embarrassment.

Last five articles by Mark R



  1. Knikitta says:

    How do you ‘drink’ Candyfloss?

    It is so delightfully interesting reading every ones own version of something that you are all experiencing at the same time. I applaud you all and send a virtual pat on the back for everyone!

  2. Edward Edward says:

    This was beautiful. Just, beautiful. I’ve never wanted to go to America more than I have now.
    My new objective in life is to get a job just so I can afford to go to E3 next year. Pants. Hnngh.

  3. Chris Toffer says:

    I’m with Ed on this one. Need money! Sounds like an epic time guys. Really does. I want steak now.

  4. Samuel Samuel says:

    That chap next to Lee on the roller coaster looks utterly terrified. Whether that’s from the coaster or Lee I can’t decide, heh heh.

    Sounds like you had an awesome time. Bring me back that Assassin’s Creed banner dood. The 150 foot one.

  5. Lorna Lorna says:

    This was probably my fave day of the whole trip, nightmare with US Airways aside. The dinner and company were excellent and the trip to Santa Monica was the perfect way to round off the evening – and completely unexpected. It was the first time I’d seen the Pacific Ocean, and to get the chance to be close to the sea again was a big deal for me. You don’t realise just how much you miss it until you can’t hear, see, or smell it anymore. Ben and I lingered for a while on the boardwalk, watching the waves crash in just beneath us. The rollercoaster was a fucking top way to finish the night. Next time we go, if we go, we have to do that again :) Beautifully written by the way :)

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