Game Between The Lines: One Day at E3 2014
I parked half a mile away off Pico to avoid the $40 parking lots across the street from the LA Convention Center. The video game industry could learn a few things from the parking situation at E3. Some folks are willing to pay a premium for a slightly better experience and instant gratification, but most of us would gladly go the extra (half) mile if it means they can get it for free.
I looked up from my phone for the first time since I left my parking spot and saw a group of artists painting a new twist on Washington Crossing The Delaware. Their version featured a bunch of PlayStation characters crossing a river in the middle of a futuristic post apocalyptic war. It could best be described as some sort of corporate street art meme mashup. My brain was already buckling under the marketing tsunami that was swirling around me. I silently wished the painters good luck and turned around to see a sight that stopped me dead in my tracks. Lines. Endless lines leading up to the seemingly impenetrable convention center.
Something was horribly wrong. I specifically got here at noon to avoid these massive lines. Didn’t this thing start hours ago? A security guard (btw, you only have to be like 110 pounds to be a security guard at E3, it’s pretty cute) informed me that doors to the floor opened at noon today, but because I was press I didn’t have to wait in this line to pick up my badge. He directed me to a hidden entrance around the corner. Here for 5 minutes and I’m meeting new characters, learning shortcuts and going on a side quest! This is the best video game ever!
Once inside, I took a minute to really drink in the hordes of people that lined up to enter the convention center. They were literally lining up just to flood inside and then create hundreds of smaller lines at various kiosks. Remarkable stuff. I found my way to media badge pickup. No line at all, just some trippy carpeting and no-frills signage.
In the two minutes it took me to pick up my badge the entire wall of humanity had melted into the convention center. I joined them and decided to hit up Sony, mostly because their lighting was blue and the green glow coming from Xbox felt a bit much for this time of day.
There are lines to play everything at E3. It’s kind of a bummer, but seriously shut up if you’re going to complain about it. So many people would like to be where you are when you’re at a thing like this, so if you’re going to waste a minute of it complaining then please fuck right off. You know what game didn’t have any lines? Minecraft for PS4. It looks like Kotaku noticed this as well and got a very similar photo. Seriously, what’s the point of Minecraft for PS4? There was also Tetris for PS4. I just don’t get it. That’s like using space ship rockets to make toast.
Sony unveiled a new camera this year and they had a guy sitting by himself on a couch demo’ing it. A guy sitting alone on a couch, looking at himself on a TV screen, is not a good look. Get it together, Sony. That did not make me want to sit down next to him and be transported to his magical virtual couch where we would have fog and PaRappa the Rapper. I silently wished him good luck then played a cool new car game called “The Crew.” I came in 2nd place in a group mission where three of us had to ram a target off the road with our very durable supercars.
One thing you might not know about E3 is you don’t get to actually play a lot of the coolest games. Most of the games, like the freshly hyped “Bloodborne” for PS4, are showcased in little screening rooms where professionals play the game for you and you sit there and watch. I left the “Bloodborne” demo and immediately saw Wolverine waiting to play Super Smash Bros. and a line of dudes waiting to take a picture with a Pikachu statue.
Okay. Moving right along. Checked out Nintendo which always has a really fun and accessible presence at the convention. Every game’s footprint at E3 seems to reflect its personality. “Far Cry 4” was a jungle and the new “Assasin’s Creed” kept hiding from me. “Batman: Arkham Knight” had a knack for creeping up on me then knocking me out. “Farming Simulator ’15” was just hanging out in the field.
I heard a guy say a really annoying thing at the Nintendo section about the models who are paid to demo the games. “So how many of these Nintendo girls do you think actually play games? And I don’t mean played Mario, I mean PLAYED Mario.” He said that to his girlfriend, btw. Or at least she was some girl who was there holding his hand. Hey, doofus. One: Girls play video games. Just probably not with you, because you suck. Two: Shut up. Just stop it. Like, what the hell does that statement even mean when you really unpack it? You’re the worst. I imagine it’s hard to be a girl at one of these things. I saw a real range of ladies at the convention, from this girl who took it upon herself to make a headpiece out of an Xbox controller and some old games, to this young lady who was in a skintight R2D2 dress DJ’ing for nobody to promote something. I’m not sure what. Note the dude who took a selfie with her R2D2 butt in the background.
I walked outside to the bridge that connects the two massive halls of the LA Convention Center. I forgot my sunglasses at the office, but my mistake wasn’t really noticeable until this very moment. An hour or so on the floor had my eyes adjusted to small screens and dim lighting. Suddenly this bright ball in the sky was showing me no mercy. By the time I completed the arduous 90 second journey, I was parched. I headed to the nearest watering hole where game developers were pounding midday IPA’s and I asked the barkeep for a glass of ice water.
I got some insight at the bar about what it was like for the game developers who were really the reason for the season here at E3. One guy said he’d been working 20 hour days for 4 weeks and was, “fuckin’ stoked, man,” to finally get some time to, “chill.” I looked around. This did not seem chill to me, but I suppose it’s all relative. We finished our drinks, looked at our empty cups and realized we’re both wasting time. Time for more video games.
The only two games I was really dying to check out were the new Batman and Mortal Kombat titles. Two things I’ve liked for 20 years. They were being demo’d in these massive screening rooms where countdown clocks outside ticked down the seconds until the next demonstration.
I wasn’t sure if it would work, but I told someone at the front that I’m here to cover this event for just one day and didn’t have time to wait in line to see these demonstrations. He gave me two fast pass stickers and it felt like I just used some kind of real life cheat code. I instantly walked in to the next screening and asked some folks in line how long they’d been there. Over an hour. Over an hour just to watch someone else play video games. The hype is so real at E3.
They had a life-sized version of the Batmobile outside of the demo, complete with the obligatory model to stand in front of it. I overheard another gem when one guy remarked to his buddy, “Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about. It’s like, ‘Where is Batman?’” His observation about the very real gratuitous female sexuality at this convention was overshadowed by his very real desire to see Batman. I kept moving and picked up a Mario Kart souvenir for my niece along the way.
It was time to visit my favorite corner of E3. Every year, there’s a sort of shrine to history that hangs out in the corner. You can see every console that’s ever been made in perfect condition along with all kinds of memorabilia and various retro goodies. Fully functional arcade games set to free play as the monstrous modern gaming industry looms behind them. There’s no line to play anything and everyone is smiling. I wish arcades were still a thing.
On my way out I heard the familiar music of Sonic The Hedgehog for Sega Genesis and looked over to see Sonic standing there with his hands on his hips, just staring at me. Waiting. Someone had left him hanging in the middle of Green Hill Zone: Act 3. How rude! I got him across the finish line and went back to games that cost $60 to buy when they come out 8 months from now.
I saw people craning their heads up to watch trailers projected on the ceiling. A grown man get on his knees to take a blissful photo with a Raving Rabbid. A giant monster that didn’t seem to be scaring anyone. I wasn’t sure how long I had been there at this point, but I knew it was time to go. I made for the exit, but before I knew what was happening I was playing the new Alien game. It’s a survival horror that pits you against an Alien on a spaceship. I died 5 times in 4 minutes and realized that I would probably not survive this scenario if I was somehow thrust into it in real life.
On my way out I saw a guy in some kind of crazy costume and when I asked him what he was he just shrugged. “Nothing in particular,” he said in a voice that was disturbingly normal. “Just a generic ghoul.” Sure, right. Sorry for asking. Stupid question.
The last thing I saw inside was a group of people using the Morpheus, Sony’s answer to the Oculus Rift, in a VR simulator that had players luging down city streets. It looked like some shit straight out of “A Scanner Darkly” and I just kind of reflected on how far the industry has come since I picked up my first controller. It also made me think how, even with the blue lights, nobody will ever look cool using this thing.
Outside, the painters had made considerable progress on PlayStation Crossing The Delaware. But they still had some more work to do over the next two days of the convention. I looked up at the massive advertisements surrounding the front facing walls of the convention center and made my way back to my car.
As I made my way to my car parked in a land far away, the back of the convention seemed really plain by comparison to its guts and chest. No signs. No hint of the wonders behind those walls. “Hey, man! You just come from E3?” a guy asked me with a big grin. I realized I had 4 free XL video game shirts draped over my shoulder and I was squinting. I wasn’t wearing my badge anymore but it was still painfully obvious where I had been the past few hours. He asked me about the coolest stuff I saw then asked if I would consider selling my badge. “That’s cool, that’s cool,” he said when I politely declined. “I’ma hit up Craigslist and be in that bitch tomorrow!” Good luck, Player 2.