For GameGirl Advance: On E3 home

Thinking About E3

Thinking about E3 2003, I feel a familiar mixture of excitement, anticipation, and apprehension.  

On the upside, it's a chance to see new games, old friends, and visit LA – great things separately, all the more wonderful when combined.  I love the pageantry and buzz of the show floor, with its neon aluminum vistas and plush pile carpets. Networking opportunities abound – dinners, lunches, parties… plenty of handshakes and business cards.

tall monitorsBut above all else: new games.

Everywhere you look, the monitors shine from alcoves – casting their space-aged glow onto the faces of expectant, enchanted gamers. There simply is no way to describe the energy that comes from this industry, this show, these fans.

But man - what a zoo!

meet the massesIt's loud – often painfully so. There are way too many flashing lights and thumping sound systems (not to mention people). It’s hot, then it’s cold, then someone steps on your foot or elbows you in the ribs. As the show wears on, copies of Show Daily double as pratfall bananas.  It's difficult to focus, easy to get lost, and the lines for everything are long and slow. 

Well, ok – everything but the ladies room. As I wash my hands, a 6 foot woman in a shiny black costume primps and obscures her panty lines. Heels echo on the tile as one goddess asks another "Are my lashes straight?"

My own reflection is discouraging. At 10 am I was so excited to get to the show and see all the new, exciting titles – and after just a few short hours I’m spent. Physically, spiritually, emotionally – for me, E3 is trial by fire.

But I’m a gamer.  I’m a fan! I can take it!

pat the assesI press back into the crowd. Pale, t-shirted spectators clamor for free stuff; others bustle to pose with Atari girls. A few disappointing demos, some ridiculous marketing and outrageous claims are feeding my fears. Many of the “new” games look familiar – too familiar. And can there really be another sequel to that cheesy title?

peek-a-booI pause in a dark corner to experience the spooky (but inaudible) environmental sound of Fatal Frame. A friend stops by, and we trade recommendations (shouting).  Ratchet and Clank waits at the top of the vibrant and posh Sony setup, Robot Alchemic Drive brings me back to the ground floor. Inside Nintendo’s magical LCD pumpkin, I tilt and roll with Roll-A-Rama, gush and gape at Metroid Prime and (of course) Zelda.

And at some point, I realize: this is what I came for. I found it. Disappointments, false starts, and empty promises aside... the gems were out there, waiting for me.

Why on earth was I so worried?


After several shows, I’m only just beginning to understand my recurring affair with E3. Like any relationship, there are ups and downs. Unrealistic expectations and unconscious assumptions create stress and friction, and frank dialog is an important remedy. But you can’t talk to a trade show. What’s a girl to do?

caught in the actThe key, as one friend says, is to “embrace the chaos” and accept it for what it is. Understand E3’s primary audience is buyers and industry affiliates – and predominantly male. Ignore bogus filler and bad taste - focus on the positive trends. Last year, for example, we saw less booth bait, more middleware and a handful of outstanding games.

Rome, as they say…

Looking at my photographs from last year, I can already feel the excitement and anticipation in the pit of my stomach. I’m still anxious to see what rises to the top – but maybe (hopefully) a little more positive and prepared.

Will my new Zen approach lead to a more successful show experience?  Stay tuned – I’ll report back! 

Robin Hunicke is a student of game design & proponent of game studies, concluding her PhD work in AI & Interactive Entertainment @ Northwestern University. Her first love was M.U.L.E.

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