Dr Gamelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Convention

As suspected, the responsibilities of editing and being the unofficial official photographer has meant less time being spent on writing up daily accounts of our experience at this year’s E3 so, as the podcast pretty much covered everything that I had to say about the individual press conferences themselves, I’ll take a side step and move on to the first day of E3 instead, although I WILL be writing up a detailed article on Sony’s approach to 3D from the perspective of a lifelong 3D freak!  Whether that’ll be enough to drag me away from my Xbox kicking and screaming, and over to the PS3 is another matter entirely.

For something that has so many hoops through which to jump in order to be accepted for media passes, including scanning in business cards and passport, then sending over a letter from the editor with links to a selection of your own published articles with prominent by-lines, the security at E3 was actually pretty laid back.  The foot of the escalators leading up to the exhibition floor was nothing more than a sea of excited gamers, randomly lapping up against the deserted beach of security officers until, at noon exactly, they were given the all clear to let everyone through.

I say ‘security officers’ because the term bouncer just doesn’t do these guys justice.  Meticulously chiselled from granite, with the widest shoulders possible on any human being, with their tanned skin and jet black hair, sporting perfectly pressed black suits, I half expected one of them to reach behind and whip out a horse’s head for good measure.  Yet only moments before, a group of guys behind were slagging off the people who, immediately after setting foot on the escalators, were spinning around to take photos.  The term “retards” was being thrown around rather a lot and, just as I reached in to my bag for the HD camera to film a little bit of verite footage, the guy said “Hey man, if you even think about taking photos from the escalator we WILL throw you off”.  He was being funny, I’m sure, but I turned around and said “OK, deal!”, at which point he sort of looked me up and down and replied “Maybe not” and the most polite response I could think of was “You DO know that it takes ten guys to take down a Glaswegian?” and we left it at that.  He wouldn’t have known where Paisley was, so I temporarily shifted birthplace to Glasgow and it would likely have taken some explaining that you need more for a Paisley Buddie anyway.

The point that I’m trying to get to is that, for that brief moment in time, I felt empowered and yet one look at those security guys on the door and I became the guy behind me… wondering what would happen if I even so much as looked at them the wrong way.  Unfortunately, that thought went out of the window when I remembered that I was filming and, as the camera’s field of vision caught the first guy in frame, I realised that I was announcing “Hey look.. Mafia” to the camera.  Before my foot even touched the first step of the escalator, the security guy to the right of me (not the one on camera) bellowed “Mafia, eh?” and I quickly swung the camera round to see if he was smiling or producing a bloodstained baseball bat from behind his back.  He wasn’t, thankfully, and I was now on my way to the main exhibit in the South Hall.

The Activision Carpet

PAX was big.  I remember standing on the gangway above PAX East, looking down at the show floor beneath me and trying to work out how much of the space would be taken up by the 2010 MCM expo… and it was about an eighth so, in that instance, I became overwhelmed by the enormity of the whole PAX East experience.  The incredible thing is, when you stand in one of the corners of the South Hall at E3, you could easily fit PAX East on to the show floor four times.  That’s just the South Hall.  There are no immediate “WOW” moments at E3 though, not like at PAX with the giant Rockstar logo or the inflatable Pikachu, probably because everyone here has blown their entire marketing budget and, in doing so, are all on equal footing with each other.

We didn’t come to Los Angeles to talk about how gorgeous the booths were though, or the babes frequenting said booths.  It’s all about the games, or the tech behind the games…

Without going into too much detail, as there’ll be individual previews of certain games over the next few days, the first day started off in the same manner as previous events where I perform a meticulous circuit of the hall, including each of the booths, taking photos and looking for particularly good photo ops while getting an idea of the layout.  Yes, they provide maps and, yes, we picked some up… but that’s far too organised for me and so I rely on a special technique I’ve developed called “aimless wandering” where I’ll make sure to leave myself more than enough time to get from one area to another and then eventually find it.  While it may not be the most reliable method of navigating the show floor, it works for me.  It’s like a “scenic route” for conventioneers.

One thing I’ll say now about E3 is that the journos who bitch and whine about the number of non-trade and non-media people getting in are actually dead on the money.  Reading a few E3 articles before even arranging the flight out here, I was surprised at just how much disdain a lot of game journalists and publications had for both the “undeserved press” and “fanboy attendees”, because I naturally assumed that they were exaggerating a bit for artistic license.  Their complaints about the media badges was that anyone chucking up a website a few months prior to the show were still somehow managing to get in, and that these ‘kids’ were clogging the queues for demos, to the point where anyone who genuinely had something to report wasn’t able to do so.  The same was said of the non-media passes where teenagers were somehow able to gain access and run from booth to booth in typical “ZOMG, it’s AWESOME!!!” screamy fashion.  I thought they were all talking shit and being a tad pompous.

Fanboy Central

The truth of the matter is that they were correct, unfortunately.  At the time of writing, I’ve attended two full days at E3 now and was able to count no more than maybe one hundred media badges out of all the people I walked past or stood next to.  Two reasons for this.  The first is the more obvious one, being that, at any given point in time, it’s more likely that the press are either going to be in a closed-doors press-only session behind the main booth or in a dedicated meeting room above the show floor, as that was also the case for us a lot of the time.  There aren’t so many meeting rooms that the majority of the press would be absent from the show floor, and so that brings me to my next point… the press lock-down.

This year, they made it much more difficult for press to get media badges as it was more about reputation and worth rather than simply having a presence online.  More websites and publications were turned down this year than ever before, the press conference guest lists were much harder to get on, except for Sony… but they not only had a huge sporting arena to themselves, but also a fan base to win back.  While you’d think that this clamp-down would streamline the attendance, it didn’t seem to make any difference to the attendee passes, and there were a lot of these.  I was standing next to a couple of sixteen or seventeen year olds in the queue for Colonial Marines and they had ‘Exhibitor’ passes carrying ‘NBC Universal International’ as the name of their employer.  My arse.  They were clearly people who knew people who knew people and somehow managed to get themselves in, and turned out to be ‘whoopers’… the type to air-punch and ‘fuck yeah’ their way through a presentation.  I’m all for getting punters to see gameplay months in advance, but when it means that people who are there for a purpose aren’t able to get through as much as they could, thanks to The Awesome Gang taking up so much queue space and causing hour-long waits for fifteen minute presentations, then I’m siding with the whining bitches who say the entry applications need tightened up.

Games.  As I’m not going to be covering Batman: Arkham City myself, I’ll take a few lines to just say ‘wow’ a few dozen times.  Arkham Asylum interested me because it was Batman and, well, he’s just one of those characters that gives me shivers and the overwhelming desire to become a billionaire with bat cave.  I still haven’t played the game though, despite having owned it since release day.  As time went on, I became more and more turned off the idea of ever playing it thanks to a certain GamingLives writer who adopted the same sort of techniques that concerned parents of thirty years ago did when they discovered their kid smoking… they’d force them to endure so much of it in a short space of time that they sickened themselves entirely.

Arkham City, on the other hand, looks entirely fresh and new.  The addition of controlled gliding to move around the city is certainly welcomed, and what a huge city it is… I wouldn’t dare throw out an estimate but the first frame of the gameplay had us zoom in to where Batman was standing atop a grotesque, in typical fashion, yet when the wide shot started he couldn’t have been any more than ten or twelve pixels tall and you could clearly see a sprawling city stretching as far as the eye could see.  The new moves were great, and the inclusion of Catwoman has my interest piqued, to say the least.  Beautiful figure, incredibly athletic, fast as hell and with some killer moves to boot.  This is a game I’m going to get hold of and complete before having any other GamingLives writers over to sicken me of it!

In the middle of the South Hall was what appeared to be a drop-pod of some sort, covered in a somewhat eerie camouflage and the typical queue of teens snaking around it like some bizarre millipede on a sugar high.  It was Aliens: Colonial Marines.  No contest I’m afraid, and so both Lorna and I decided to brave the line and hope we’d be able to get to the front and through the entire presentation before our next scheduled appointment.  It was very early code, so the lack of polish was apparent but it still looked good, and frantic.  The sheer volume of oil-slick-coloured aliens tearing through vents and dropping from existing holes was insane, and that pacing never once dropped until the area was cleared.  The presentation was hosted by Randy Pitchford who, in typical Pitchford fashion, enthused his way through with so much passion that you cannot question his love for video games or his respect for the Alien franchise.  This game’s a keeper.

Dropping by the Bastion booth so Ben could get to see the game that was Lee’s ‘Best In Show’ for PAX East, I managed to finally meet Jen Zee… the artist behind the beauty of Bastion’s meticulously hand painted levels.  After PAX, I fell in love with the art style and had read up on Jen herself, wishing with every fibre of my being for even just one millionth of her incredible talent and eye.  I hadn’t expected her to be there, so it was not only a surprise but also one of those moments where you realise that this may be your only opportunity to let this person know how much you appreciate their hard work and talent and, with so many people undoubtedly taking the art style for granted as they play through the demo, it was a joy to see the excitement on her face at hearing how much we all loved her work.

Finally meeting up with Adam R, one of our American writers, was an absolute joy.  We do the typical email or Facebook exchange now and again, but we’ve never gamed together as I tend to immediately place myself in Offline mode whenever I fire up the Xbox so I don’t get bothered by incessant party chat and co-op invitations when I’m trying to squeeze a review into my ridiculous schedule.  He looked just like his photo on the Writers page, except in actual 3D, and his sense of humour shone through immediately and I knew we were going to get on.  That’s before he pinned me to the floor, jamming a ‘piece’ against my face demanding that I tell him where the rest of my crew were.  Or maybe not.  So we hung out for a while outside the convention centre before we all filed back to GLHQLA, with Lee taking on the role of navigator (which was usually cries of “I dunno where the fuck we are… just keep going straight”), had ourselves some Chinese take away in cardboard boxes like you get in Castle, and chatted away while we all worked on our respective articles.

Overall, the first day of E3 was much more grand than I’d anticipated, but it was expertly executed and it sets the bar ridiculously high for other event organisers.  This was how an event should be run – if you were standing by a staff member asking for advice on how to get somewhere, you could see other staffers in any direction you look so there’s never a point where you feel alienated or alone.  This was video game convention organisation at its very best, and it made me even more excited for day two.

Last five articles by Mark R



  1. Knikitta says:

    Intentional or otherwise, I spotted a ‘Bolt’ quote (ask Ben) in there.

    Fantastic piece Chief, again, it was so nice to see yet another perspective on the whole E3 experience. Love you all! <3

  2. Chris Toffer says:

    Sounds awesome boss. The coverage so far has been top notch from everyone. Enjoy!

  3. Joeydale13 says:

    what I am loving about the GL E3 coverage is the personal experiences of the writers. Most other sites are just reporting “We saw Game A, it is awesomez LOLZ”. You can get that experience at every site…

    The writers here are first and foremost fans, and it’s great to see how a fan is reacting to what is going on around them. It makes me jealous of how I’m not there, not just because I’m missing out on seeing and playing games but the banter and the great time (even if it is hectic and full of work!) you guys are having out there.

  4. Richie rich says:

    I love the way that even when faced with sleep depravation, a ton of games to cover, a podcast to make and whatever else, you still push out a small novel like this.

  5. FC360 says:

    What’s up with Lee in the picture? Everyone else is smiling but lee, did some1 behind the camera guy do something that lee noticed? lol… Sorry Lee but honestly why you no smile in the picture? Even the guy in the background is smiling, I should really learn the names of all writers at GL. Who’s the guy who purchased a Two Worlds 2 royal edition in a nice plastic protective cover? ermm Nice article, I haven’t read it all the way through due to an annoying website going bing all the time informing me some1 needs to turn that annoying chat alert noise off.

  6. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    Um… right ok, rather than get you to look at the Writers page to see who is who, we are (from left to right): Lee, Markuz, Ben, Lorna and Adam. The Two Worlds II box set is the same one that I tweeted when I was given it by the devs after interviewing them – you should have got it if you follow me, which I think you do. I asked Lee why he wasn’t smiling and he said that he was watching someone being shot. Why didn’t you just close down the other browser window rather than listen to the annoying bing?

  7. FC360 says:

    I don’t really know to be honest, I tend to forget to close tabs at times, it’s closed now though after I realized I had 10 tabs open which was way to many for me to handle. I missed your tweet as I was getting so many tweets from other ppl at E3 I feel so ashamed :( lol at someone being shot.

  8. Edward Edward says:

    Sounds like you had the time of your life out there!
    Still insanely jealous of you that you got to witness all the games and so forth, and I’m quite looking forward to Batman. Just need to make sure that like you, I get through it before that dastardly villain forces us all to witness it all weekend!

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