Tuesday, June 7, 2011

E3 Entertainment Expo May Be The Noisiest Place on Earth

If Disneyland is indeed the happiest place on earth, the annual E3 Entertainment Expo held at the Los Angeles Convention Center may well be the noisiest place on earth. With theater sized screens showing highlights of recent and coming video game titles at a high decibel level, it's certainly one of the noisiest places I've ever been.

Of course, while I am an annual visitor to this signature trade event of the video game industry, don't mistake me for a gamer. Indeed, I haven't played a video game since 1989, when I finally defeated the dragon at the end of Super Mario 1, after several months of trying. At that point I decided to retire undefeated from video gamedom, having nothing else to accomplish.

So why do I go to E3 every year, or for that matter, how do I even get into this event which is not open to the public? Well, it goes back over a decade ago when I received an unsolicited free pass to the event (presumably as a finance professional), which had just relocated from Atlanta. It was a Friday afternoon and things were a little slow in the office with the April 15 tax deadline having passed. The name "E3" is short hand for electronic entertainment exposition, and I really thought I was driving downtown to see the latest in home theater equipment and stuff like that. Obviously, I was mistaken.

But that still doesn't answer why I continue to attend the event every year. Well, first is the spectacle of it. Tens of thousands of industry professionals swarming inside the convention center, with hundreds if not thousands of video game consoles for people to play with. Many attendees are armed with video cameras to capture the details of the newest video games--perhaps an unparalleled opportunity to check out the competition, while others settle to capture the event with still cameras. Another interesting element to the crowd is the high proportion of nerdy looking Asian attendees, particularly nerdy looking Asian women, who I take to be game designers and engineers, as they certainly don't look like gamers. Also the appearance of celebrities adds excitement to E3, though all I ever got to see was the top of Paris Hilton's head.

Then there are some of the over-the-top promotions that some of the vendors will engage with, like the video game Homefront, involving an invasion of the United States by the North Korean army. The makers of that game requisitioned the parking lot across the street from the convention center, tied small North Korean flags to all the cars parked there, and hired dozens of actors dressed like North Korean soldiers. And oh, the entrance to the parking lot was rechristened as a military checkpoint.

But perhaps the main thing is the exclusivity of it. E3 garners heavy coverage both in the press and on the TV news, and is always caveated as an industry only event that is not open to the public. Millions of gamers across the United States, and indeed the world, would give their right arm to gain admission to the event. But I can get in and they can't.

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