American Bacon

The shrill of my alarm sounded… surely it wasn’t time already?  No.  It was only 3am and my pissing phone was ringing.  Threatening to disembowel whatever thoughtless bastard was calling at this hour, I hit the pillow again.  I eventually prised myself out of bed a mere four hours later, and plonked myself in front of my laptop after making a cup of tea in one of the apartment’s tiny mugs.  As everyone else settled back at the table, looking as knackered as I did, it dawned on me that this was the last day of E3.  Already.  It had gone so quickly – alarmingly quickly – and a sudden wave of sadness washed over me.

It seemed just yesterday that we traipsed into the apartment, pulling open cupboards, snooping, and generally exploring.  PAX East seemed to go on forever, but E3 had gone by in a flash.  In two days we would be flying home.  How the hell did that happen?  There was still so much to see and nowhere near enough time.  Even if we chopped the legs off everyone else at the show, we wouldn’t get around to everything.

I made a list of priorities.  It filled a whole page of my notebook.  I slammed it shut in despair and stared blankly into my tea.  This wasn’t happening; E3 could do with being two more days long.  Oh, and not having Nintendo hog half the first morning with their conference would have been nice, because it meant that in reality, the show was only a shockingly meagre two and a half days long.  Where would I be without Lee filming absolutely everything, shuffling around in his Superman PJs, and swearing that he keeps seeing murderers and meth labs on every street corner.  Where would I be without Ben encouraging Lee’s wild LA fantasies as his partner in crime, making witty quips, and hiding people’s stuff.  Where would I be without Mark opening up his camera bag to disgorge a riot of technical equipment and camera gear with which to chronicle our adventures, while shaking his head at Lee, rolling his eyes with Ben, and moaning about not having peppermint tea.

Still, the show must go on, even if for just one more day.  I had to yank my chin up because day three was Hitman day.  I’d only waited fucking years for this game; woe betide them if they bollocksed it up.  After a (thankfully) uneventful cab ride, we hit the centre and snagged a locker, but as soon as I split up with the others, I ended up with a sudden arm load of swag from nowhere.  Three APB bags and a World of Tanks tee end up in my arms before I was even back in the building.  Okay, I stole the tee mid air from someone else, but it was headed my way, so fair dos.  Anyway, in my defence, it was nowhere near as bad as Lee taking a prime t-shirt toss by Cliffy B. from the hands of a small woman who likely went home in tears to cut her wrists.

Fifteen minutes to go.  I decided I had enough time to run and get a new locker, cram it all in, and get all the way over to the South Hall to Square Enix.  In the E3 crowds.  An ambitious plan perhaps, but I took off at a run, immediately spilling my business cards everywhere; cards which had been sensibly tucked into my badge holder until this point.  Three guys helped me scoop them up and after hacking down to the media centre and stuffing everything into a new locker, I took off for the South Hall.  I made it with plenty of time to spare and settled, slightly puffed (that’s a generous description which generally means ‘fucking done in’) in the plush carpeted press area.  Seriously, these carpets… more thought and effort has gone into them than some of the show floor booths, I swear.  So, yes, Hitman.  Don’t fuck it up, don’t fuck it up, don’t fuck it up.

Welcome back, Agent 47.  Preview will be incoming, but this is the game I have been waiting for.  With the new Glacier 2 engine powering our favourite stealthy agent’s new outing, it looked far better than its predecessors and the gameplay was smooth and engaging.  The only niggle for me was the Batman-esque ‘detective vision’.  I didn’t like it, thought it was a little too ‘cheaty’, and while it appeared optional, it will no doubt be over used and easily abused, rather than forcing players to rely on timing, patience, practice, and skill.  I came away feeling somewhat elated, though not as much as I had wanted or even expected to be.  However, Hitman was one of the ‘big’ show highlights that I’d been looking forward to and I’m glad that I had the chance to see it – as a huge Blood Money fan, I owed it to myself.

Mark, the jammy bastard would be going into Skyrim at this point, and feeling jealous, I sloped off to do another circuit of the hall to try and see what I could get in to before we met up with AceyBongos for  a chat.  Not much, as it turned out, since most queues and presentations would have taken too long to get in and out of, and there wasn’t enough time.  I was, however, particularly pleased with myself after winning a sexy Star Wars: The Old Republic poster.  The queue for the game had been capped to prevent anyone else from joining so I wandered along the snaking mass (calm down at the back) and spied a girl giving out posters.  One chap nearby tried to blag one and, in an inspired move, was made to answer Star Wars questions… which he failed miserably at.  A girl also tried and asked the eye-rollingly embarrassing question of “Can you ask something girly?”  However, before I could slap my palm into my reddening forehead and plan a stabby cleansing on members of my XX chromosome club, the girl from Star Wars laid down some tasty words of reproach, telling her “not to do that”, and “don’t go there”, and that girls, especially her, were huge Star Wars fans too – she was “probably the biggest fan there”.  I salute you.  Thank you that woman.  The girl backpedalled and stated that she had only wanted a female character related question, so was asked: “What was Princess Leia’s last name?”  The girl looked blank and I was bouncing on my heels.  I waved my hand, slid in neatly with “Organa” and got the poster.  Score.  Thank you awesome Star Wars girl, and also for saying that the original trilogy were the only ones she counted; it was almost love at first sight.

We met Acey at high noon beneath the Marcus Fenix statue, and it was a relief to discover that he was a great, very grounded and down to earth guy.  A real pleasure to talk with.  Sadly, his E3 was just coming to an end and he was due to head to the airport to begin his trek home; we didn’t envy him that at all and tried not to think of our own journey looming on the horizon.  We then decided to split the teams in different ways for our last afternoon and we (perhaps foolishly) left Mark and Lee to their own devices while Ben and I headed off to see CD Projekt Red’s Witcher 2 for consoles.

The presentation was in one of the meeting rooms above the West Hall and we made it in plenty of time, spying some nice looking art books in people’s hands as they left, along with a copy of the game.  This made us both bounce with joy, as we had both wrestled with the idea of picking it up before E3 but neither of us had been able to afford it or had the time.  The showing was a good one and, game aside, the dev team were the most impressive – perhaps even of the show.  They came across as incredibly grounded, genuinely caring about the fans of their games to the point that they have given away ten DLCs for free for the PC version and continue to refine and support their game.  The passion for the product was obvious and it made for a very engaging and personal presentation.

The game itself is one that I’ve had my eye on for a long time and despite my reservations, appears to have made the transition well to console.  The existing DLC for the PC will all be rolled into the console version and they promised to release any additional content for free.  This got raised eyebrows around the room and someone took the words from my own mouth, asking them how they plan to square that with Microsoft – notoriously difficult in this respect; even Valve have been known to struggle.  The reply of “we’ll just say no” if forced to charge, was perhaps naïve but touching in their determination to make their game as accessible as they can to fans.  The RPG itself was brutal, gritty, and pulled zero punches, offering the player choices and driving elements of the story and gameplay based on them.  The mature reputation was undiminished as we saw a half-naked lady about to have her boobs tortured with a poker.  Somehow I don’t see that making it past the prehistoric Aussie censors, which is a shame, but hopefully UK fans will have no issues.  While some games get their mature tag from violence, sex and nudity barely make it past the scissors on most occasions, so to see it in a genuinely dark RPG was refreshing for me, especially since the only other RPG I had seen at the show was the far lighter, more fantastical Kingdoms of Amalur.

The Witcher 2 appears to have made a good transition to the Xbox360

The last part of the presentation was focused on the GOG (Good Old Games) service which delivers digital downloadable classic PC games.  They have the benefit of no DRM and no install limit.  I was largely uninterested until they showed off some of the titles which would be on offer, including EA’s entire classic back catalogue, but most importantly Dungeon Keeper and Alpha Centauri.  Yesssssss.  Ben grinned as my pen carved a thousand lightning circles around Dungeon Keeper in my notebook and we then started to make our exit, but not before a kinky nurse, clad in the shortest, sexiest PVC nurse costume you’ve ever seen, dispensed some ‘pills’ (the theme of the GOG presentation being a medical one).  She stopped to chat to me, complimenting the flower in my hair. She looked great but, most of all, she was a real sweetheart and we chatted briefly about the censorship issues facing the PC version of the Witcher 2 in Germany and Australia before Ben and I headed out, snagging PC versions of the game on the way. Artbook and sexy edition of the Witcher 2 may not quite beat a Two Worlds 2 Royal Edition, but I was over the moon – this was a game that I genuinely was looking forward to.  Only then did our thoughts turn to what Lee and Mark had got themselves into.

We picked them up at a table in the West Hall, threw Ben back into Lee’s cuddly arms, and Mark and I headed off to Kalypso, our last appointment of the show.  Tropico 4 and Jagged Alliance both grabbed our attention and I knew that as soon as we were out of there, the bickering would begin over who would be previewing and reviewing what.  Discussion was cut short by me realising that I had left my poster behind and I had to run back to get it while Mark shook his head.  With just over an hour or so until the end of the show we split again to absorb the chaos for the last time.

EA had already bloody closed the SSX presentations by the time I got there, meaning that I missed it, but worse, had to put up with Lee showing off his awesome snowboard USB drive that he got by not even going into the show but by blagging it from the dood on the door.  Bastard.  Not only that, but he didn’t earn his Star Wars poster either, he simply lifted it from a stock of them when a bloke’s back was turned.  Swag pirate.  Anyway, I missed out on snowy action and was left to trawl around, feeling disappointed that most of the queues were now capped, meaning that was likely the end of my E3.   With half an hour to go, I managed to join the end of the already capped Mass Effect queue – on effective standby – and although a ton of other folk turned up in a priority queue minutes later, we were all crammed in for the last show of the day.  Most of us were standing, but we didn’t care.  This was Mass Effect 3, baby.  It was just as the last few folk were being squeezed in and directed to sit on the floor that I noticed Mark on the other side of the room.  A grin and a quick wave and the presentation lifted off.  Great stuff, looked gorgeous, and it now means that I’ll have to play the first two games pretty fucking sharpish.

We filed out and heard the announcements telling folk to bugger off.  Well, okay, that E3 is now over, but it amounted to the same thing.  Sad times.  Devs and PRs started to close up shop, run away with consoles, and the place started to feel like a grand old machine finally reaching the end of its life and breaking down, shedding parts as it tumbled.  I’d love to see a time lapse film of it all coming down, with one lone swag bag laying abandoned on the show floor when the dust has settled.

Looking back…

The team met up in our usual spot outside, commiserated with one another, and took one last look at the show hall.  Where did E3 go?  We headed, in a sad convoy, for Adam’s car, squashed into the back, and set off for the apartment with one lingering look back at the vast Assassin’s Creed banner.  Lee started to get hyper during the journey, but luckily Adam had some toys which we used to pacify him.  While Lee made battle and gun noises with Iron Man and Hulk, we talked about the events of the day and enjoyed the journey.  Back at the Duplex, we all hopped out, hoping to witness Lee getting stuck in the car again, and Mark had the camcorder on standby, just in case.  Lee started to step out without issue, crowed about it, and promptly fell out, nearly ploughing into the road.  We laughed.  A lot.

Our last meal with Adam R. was one of pizza and pop, and it was around this time that Lee hit his evening verbal ‘sugar rush’, bombarding Adam about various American things; mainly snack foods.  The rest of us had our hands over our faces in hysterics and disbelief, and I couldn’t write them all down quick enough, but I think I captured enough to get across the pure essence of Lee and why we were all in pain laughing so much that night.  To his credit, Adam was both bemused and amused, and ultimately collapsed laughing.  So, to switch to real time for a moment, or ‘Lee time’ to cover what was chronicled at the time, here goes…

Scrapheap Challenge, classic viewing

We get talking about TV shows, and I mention Scrapheap Challenge.  Lee immediately tells Adam that the Americans stole it.  I regret mentioning it now.  On the back of this, Lee decides that some TV will be good and stands flailing around in the middle of the room with the remote, declaring US remotes as “all rubbish”.  In between comedy moaning about the TV shows, we get onto how good Ice Road Truckers is before he divulges that he won’t watch the superior ‘Deadliest Catch’ because it “has fish in it”.  Fish and moths are Lee’s Achilles Heel.  Because I’m laughing at him, he decides to wind me up by slagging off the original Battlestar Galactica and Babylon 5.  Oh, fuck help us, what has he found now?  The religious channels.  “Oh look, Sister Act!”  Flick.  Flick.  “Camp Meeting.  Do you think that’s gay?”

Mark: “No, it’s a religious channel.”  Facepalms.

Back to food; the rest of us can’t stop laughing.  Lee is appalled that Americans don’t have Jaffa Cakes, sausage rolls, or Mars Bars before continuing the interrogation:

“Do you have Indian food in America?”
“What the fuck is a Dairy Queen?”
“What about Curly Wurlys?”
“Finger of Fudge?”
“Do you have orange squash?”

Adam: “No, what’s orange squash?”
Lee: “I can’t believe you don’t have squash.”

And on to the surreal thought train that was riding through the living room that night:

“Wooden houses just blow over. Someone needs to read fucking Three Little Pigs over here.”
“Do you measure distance in metres?”
“How come you only do pots of milk about that big?” (measures a tiny amount)
“Do you get milk men in America?”

Mark: “And do they impregnate housewives?”
Lee: “Like with their willies?”

“Do you have play time in America?”  He then enquires about school and what Adam does.  One of the subjects turns out to be public speaking and Adam elaborates on a recent project:

“We had to do a speech about a cultural artefact.”
Lee: “What, like a Stargate?”

The room collapses into hysterics and Adam R. is in a laughing mess on the floor.  I have stitch.  Back to the foodstuffs again: “What’s wrong with American bacon?”

What Lee doesn’t realise is that Mark and Ben have changed his laptop wallpaper to a giant moth… (true story)

According to Lee, ‘diagonal’ bacon sandwiches taste better.  I pipe up about ketchup, which seems to exacerbate the situation.  Ben gives me a look.  This degenerates into an argument between Lee and Mark about brown sauce and what it is actually called/contains.  Ben and I just look at one another through double palms.  The topic moves onto sausages, Cumberland Sausages, Mars Bars, Milky Ways, biscuits, SuperNoodles, and why English Muffins are called English Muffins.  Adam reveals that he eats noodles like cookies, i.e dry.  His comeback to the bombardment of food questions was the excellent: “I took a sick day when we decided to name food, sorry.”  Lee’s clockwork eventually winds down and Adam makes good his escape.  He has barely got into his car before Lee is plastering his Facebook wall with more questions about Car Boot sales among other things.  Poor guy had a lucky escape, but at least Lee appears to be burnt out for the night.  Luckily for us.

Lee and Mark flutter their eyelashes over a cocktail

The next day brought a weird feeling.  We were up early, but the morning felt empty.  There was no E3, no rush to prep bags, find passes, wolf down toast and tea, and flip through appointment books.  It was our one lone free day, and worst: our last day in LA.  We decided to make the most of it and headed out to that geek bastion: Mann’s Chinese Theatre – home of the original Star Wars premier.  The place was packed, and the star studded pavements sported some of the worst – presumably pro – cosplayers I have ever seen.  As we walked down Hollywood Boulevard, Lee obsessed over finding Ted Danson’s star, while we snapped pics and cringed at some of the ghastly, naff souvenir shops.  I suppose I always expected the street to be glitzy and pompous, but the further down you go, the shittier it gets.

We eventually managed to find a cab (fuck, I miss London) and flump down into a booth at the Cheesecake Factory.  While not an overly busy day, it was tiring, largely because the stress and strains of so much travel, plus E3, combined with punishing nights had taken its toll.  It was worth it though, and however sad we were that Saturday would be our last partial day in LA, we were glad we did it.

Our last full day in LA and the only real free time that we had

Would we do it again?  In a heartbeat.  It was bigger than I had expected, brighter, funnier, more absorbing, fascinating, a real learning experience, and one that I will never forget.  Whether I do no more E3s or ten more, this will be the one I suspect I’ll remember most.  The one that ignited a real wonder, that was so fresh to me, and for all of us, and which made me realise that the gaming industry is far more grounded than I thought.  While we may live and play games, we also write about them with passion and I think, ultimately, that was my favourite memory: sitting around the war-room table with Mark, Lee, and Ben, with the glow of the laptops flushing our faces, laughing, sharing jokes, and trying to connect with the people who read, and hopefully enjoy, what we have to say.

That, for me, made E3.

Last five articles by Lorna



  1. Knikitta says:

    I see Chief has moved into the old Lee-Ben Bromance there… Love triangle?

    Did you manage to try Tropico 4 at all, or Sims Pets? I was crossed legged yet again reading this and I think at one point Ben had to come and check on me because I was trying to stop myself laughing which only resulted in a bizarre strangled noise!

    Fan-fucking-tastic! *\o/*

  2. Samuel Samuel says:

    Lee’s antics and your writing them up is my idea of pure comedic gold, Lorna. When I started reading this I was filled with an odd sort of ennui by proxy, as though I’d had the same sense of loss, despite not being there. By the end of it I literally had tears of laughter all down my face.

    You guys have made this E3 pretty damned special. Thanks for that.

  3. Chris Toffer says:

    Bravo! Top coverage from Lorna and a very fitting ending to the reports from her. It’s been awesome reading about everything your point of view Lorna. Simply awesome.

  4. Victor Victor says:

    But…, what is in brown sauce? I am still confused.
    Great write-up. Great E3 adventures.

  5. Lee says:

    Oh man this seems like ages ago now :’(

    In reply to Samuel “You guys have made this E3 pretty damned special. Thanks for that.” – Thanks man, sounds weird but that really means a lot.

    Also there’s no way CliffyB was throwing my shirt to that woman, he’s my new best friend (and it was a XXXL)

  6. Richie richie says:

    Unfuckwittable as usual. Epic work, Lornadoon.

    E3 has simultaneously pissed me off and excited me. For every Kinect Kocksuckerz game there’s a GRAW, a Colonic Marines and there’s even a few ‘hmmms’ that I might take a punt on.

    Aside from watching the video streams, the only E3 coverage I’ve looked at has been GL’s.

  7. Mr McGash says:

    Brilliant read, as are all of them :)
    Sad to see the end of it all, but will be happy to have you all back home safe n sound x

  8. Edward Edward says:

    I don’t have words for this. It went from the emotions of being at E3, leaving it behind, then Lee’s hilarious antics in the space of a single article, and it was a tour-de-force for its entirity.

    the entire amount of coverage has been simply incredible, and you’re all amazing for providing it.
    Glad it was such an amazing experience, and I can’t wait to see you all soon. :D

  9. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    This is my favourite E3 article. It’ll probably be one of my favourite articles of all time, to be honest. Good times, but sad to look back on.

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