E3 Was a Terrifying but Rewarding Experience

E3 2017 has come and gone like a chaotic flash in the pan of interactive electronic entertainment, and it has left in its wake a bevy of announcements and trailers for us to pour over. From Wolfenstein to Mario+Rabbids, there is no shortage of software to be excited about. But this post isn’t about games or announcements, it’s about my first experience at a major convention, my battle with anxiety, and how I came out feeling fulfilled.

For the first time in its history, E3 opened its doors to the general public, a move that has garnered many differing opinions. I tend to fall into the camp that supports the decision; game development is largely funded by consumers, and drumming up hype is an essential part of the development cycle. It makes sense that publishers would want to get previews of their games directly into the hands of the people who will be buying them. A public show is also a great way to build a sense of community among consumers, games press, and publishers, which is a situation beneficial to everyone.

When my wife surprised me with a ticket to E3, I found myself gripped by a variety of emotions. I was overwhelmingly appreciative that she would be willing to spend that kind of money to send me someplace that she didn’t have any particular interest in. I was excited to experience first-hand the show that, for years, I had eagerly followed online. And I looked forward getting my hands on all the newest games before anyone else.

But there was a part of me–a loud, obnoxious part–that was terrified. I have always struggled with anxiety issues, and the idea of travelling to a city far from home, staying in an unfamiliar house, and attending a convention that was expecting tens of thousands of people filled me with nearly crippling apprehension. I’d like to give another shout out to my wife here: she, throughout the months leading up to E3, put up with my bouts of panic without complaint. Honestly, without her patience and support, I doubt I’d have made it down to the show.

And make it I did. Entering the convention center was an almost overwhelming experience. Throngs of people crowded the show floor nearly shoulder to shoulder. The noise was deafening, flashing lights battered my vision, and the heat of thousands of tightly packed bodies hung heavy in the air. Every sense was assaulted in a barrage of stimuli that rattled me to the core. It was terrifying.

And incredible.

I’ve spent much of my life in a small zone of comfort, and to be outside of that was equal parts apprehensive and exhilarating. Once I was inside the West Hall of the Los Angeles Convention Center, everything was about games. It felt like the release of months of build up.

I strolled the floor with no particular plans, just wanting to take it all in. Seeing, in person, the booths publishers erected in honor of their games lent a huge sense of scale to entire event. They were grand, elaborate displays that attracted the eyes and promised excitement for anyone who wandered in. Those promises were not always delivered on (Dissidia Final Fantasy), but it was a thrill nonetheless.

monster hunter world display

There were moments where I lapsed back into anxiety. For instance, the path between the WB Games and Activision booths was narrow, which was exacerbated by the fact that WB was putting on a skit for Shadow of War starring people dressed as orcs. With passersby stopping to enjoy the show, getting through became an claustrophobic exercise in futility.

In fact, the entire show seemed overcrowded, thanks in large part to the 15,000 general public tickets sold. For all their spectacle and enormity, the booths were ill-equipped to handle the sheer numbers of people lining up to play their games. I overheard a conversation during which one guy said his friend waited four hours to play Call of Duty: WWII, which puts most lines at Disneyland to shame.

sony booth

Sony, to their credit, attempted to head off the nightmare of the hours-long queue by building an app that could be used to make reservations for demos. On paper, this sounds like a great idea–it certainly eased congestion in their booth, making it easy to navigate and look at everything. In practice, however, it was arguably the most frustrating part of the show. With around 10,000 people attempting to log into the app at the same time, seats in the demos became prizes in the world’s most obnoxious lottery as the app struggled to accommodate all the requests funneling into it.

But my experience was largely positive. It was great to be there in person rather than watching endless streams at home on my PC. Highlights included visiting the E3 Colosseum and watching James Gunn, Kiki Wolfkill, Randy Pitchford, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Chris Hardwich discuss fictional world building, checking out smaller developers at the IndieCade, and getting my hands on Sonic Mania, a game that has shot up my most anticipated list.

world builders panel

Overall, aside from a few complaints, I had a great time at E3. If anything, the negative aspects of the show only strengthened my resolve to improve my writing and land a job in the games journalism field in order to attend next year’s event as a member of the press and gain access to interviews with the developers and creators I admire.  I’m incredibly grateful that I got to attend, and I now have a full slate of games I’m looking forward to.  It’s going to be an expensive holiday season.


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