Take a look at this picture. Does everyone in it look like a gaming industry professional to you?
A couple years ago E3 decided to reorganize itself into a “business and media summit.” What was a convention that would routinely pull in over 50,000 attendees became something that only about 10,000 industry only invites went to. Meanwhile, E for All was created, a new convention open to the public that was meant to fill the void that E3 left behind when it went business only. This lasted only two years. E3 got too small and E for All got way too big. Eventually, the two conferences were merged to become the new Electronic Entertainment Expo in 2009, yet this event is still industry only…
Or is it?
I’ve been going to E3 for some time now as a game journalist, and my view on the event has changed quite a bit. While I originally thought that going to E3 was sort of a badge of prestige that showed I was finally part of the gaming industry, it turns out that is far from the case. In Los Angeles, you can find all sorts of people who said they used to go to E3. Everyone from mailmen to artists to taco stand workers. While at E3, asking people how they are affiliated with the industry gets a variety of responses. Some people only run small blogs that update a few times every year. Other people are friends of friends of friends of someone who works in a Gamestop. Still, others simply walked up to the door and asked for a pass and got in! Add to this a variety of contest winners, special invites, and people who just plain sneak in.
You see, the gaming industry and gamers tend to come at things in two different ways. When talking with a few of my industry contacts about what was good at this past year’s E3, we sat around a table sipping coffee and came to the answer of “not much.” Few AAA titles were playable, and those that were weren’t very impressive. None of the next generation consoles had impressive offerings. Simply put, the conference was average at best.
However, I asked random convention goers the same question and they thought the expo was amazing! They loved Destiny, even though it was just a video of gameplay that we already saw at the press conference. They loved Killer Instinct even though only two characters were available to play. They were looking forward to the Xbox One and PS4 line-ups even though only a few games were playable. Everything was big and bright and mindblowing and awesome!
Frankly, this sort of hype is needed for an event like E3. As journalists, our job is to be as objective as possible about new game reveals. Game developers would rather study up on their competitors than stand up and cheer at a press conference. So, if it weren’t for the people "sneaking" into E3, the tone would be far more subdued. It would be a whole lot more like the “business and media summit” years of 2007 and 2008.
So E3 isn’t really industry only. If you really want to go, you can find a way. Because it’s largely you, the excited gamer, that makes E3 the huge gaming party that it is. Besides, it's not like professional games journalists are going to go out of their way to cosplay, right?