Gone to E3

Sorry for the intermittent posts, but right after spending the majority of the past two weeks writing my travel essay, it was time to host my mother and sister who were in town visiting from New Jersey. We had a nice four-day weekend with them: visited the little Bavarian village of Leavenworth, took my mom to her first Major League Baseball game (the Mariners got shutout 0-2 in a pitcher's duel with Cleveland), and basically hung out around the house and talked and played games. I hadn't seen either of them since a brief dinner visit in April of 2005, so it was good to have some time with them.

But nevertheless, it's the second week of May and that only means one thing -- it's time for the annual pilgrimage to Los Angeles for the Electronics Entertainment Expo (E3). Attending E3 is like living inside the world's most complex pinball machine for three days. I will be jostled endlessly while way-too-loud sound effects and music are blasted at me from all directions. If I didn't already have a slight heart murmur, I certainly would come week's end. And the pushing and shoving and body-shaking oratory assault has nothing on the myriad of flashing and strobing and flickering lights. It's like an acid trip without the pleasant sensation. Or so I'm told... But that's actually what's good about E3.

Sure, my sense of touch, hearing, and sight will be run through the ringer -- and my feet will ache by the end of the first day -- but what really makes this show difficult for attendees is the smell. You wouldn't be wrong to think that most stereotypes about gamers are off the mark. For the most part, the idea of the pasty, overweight, unathletic, introvert living in mom's basement no longer applies. And yes, ESPN-televised Madden tournaments and the various "hip-hop" games have certainly broadened the appeal of gaming to the masses. But, for some reason, that doesn't matter come E3, as one can't help but get the impression that most gamers have no concept of personal hygiene or, at the very least, deodorant. It's for that very reason why I only browse the show floor for a couple hours first thing in the morning -- the sweaty masses are literally quite sweaty and smelly. My goal each day is to retreat to the relatively safe confines of my publisher's booth just as the fanboyant excitement of the masses builds into a sloppy, malodorous, froth of socially inept humanity.

But E3 isn't all bad. It is, after all, a chance to get one's hands on pre-release games and also, this year in particular, to play the next generation of videogame consoles months before the public. But, to be honest, what I really enjoy about E3 is that it's my annual chance to actually hang out with my editors and fellow guidebook authors. There's a group of us attending the Dodgers vs Astros game Wednesday night, and an even larger group going to a dinner party on Thursday. Many of the journos will rave about their time at the big Sony and Microsoft parties, but I prefer the smaller crowds. As much as the gamers who flock to sites like www.ign.com every 5 minutes this week like to think E3 is about the unveiling of unannounced games (and it is to an extent), E3 is really about networking and building business relationships. That's the unsexy truth of it. And nothing helps foster a good business relationship than tossing down some cold frosty beers at Dodger Stadium with friends. Friends who happen to be my editors.

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