I feel like crap. The small cough and sneeze I was nursing heading into E3 - thanks to my constantly goobered 3-year-old son - has matured into a full-on hacking cough and apparent sinus infection. On my flight out from Los Angeles, it became clear that I wasn't the only one to have taken a beating.
In the line to use the bathroom, the gentleman ahead of me noticed my vintage GDC:04 T-shirt and asked if I had had a good E3. I responded with a "Yes, very busy" type answer. He asked if it was my first one and what I had been doing there. With a certain pride I told him how I've survived a grand total of 10 E3s. However, I couldn't quite express what I was doing there - or why I had gone ...
He, of course, went to scope out the competition. Ironically enough, in this case, the "competition" was the U.S. military. This particular fellow represented the Canadian Armed Forces and was curious to see what the U.S. military's latest initiatives were in terms of using games and game tech for training and recruitment. I handed him my business card and told him I knew some folks involved in the "serious games" space.
Three quick lessons: 1. E3 starts the moment you leave your home and ends only when you walk back through the door; 2. Always ensure you have enough business cards for the trip home; and, 3. You can never guess who's going to be attending E3.
See Any Good Games?
The previous night, despite my festering cold, I managed to enjoy a pleasant sushi dinner with an academic researcher from a prominent business school. It was partly a chance to catch up with a good friend, but we also discussed plans to initiate a new program to study the economics and demographics of the game development industry.
Between the sashimi and an extra order of unagi, I tried to talk about what cool games we saw during E3. I noted that EA's Army of Two and Ubi's Assassin's Creed looked particularly promising. Sadly, she didn't really get a chance to see any games, despite being at the show for the whole week.
This was the more common response during most of my meetings and social encounters during the week. As it turns out, a lot of folks at E3 don't actually go there for the games.
Never mind the general chaos or the fact that the line at the Nintendo booth was over four hours long at times. To many attendees the games are an afterthought, and it's too busy a show to waste time standing around. I walked up to the line, sighed, took a picture and just kept walking. No Wii for me.
Most game developers in attendance are there to work. That is, to run the demo of their game at their publisher's booth, or do press interviews, or have meetings with potential publishers and business partners for their game-to-be, and so on. It's rare for development staff to be at the show just to be at the show, despite the fact that "competitive analysis" is a totally defensible excuse to be there!
Parasite and Prey
Admittedly, I was not a fan of E3 in the early years (doubly so when it was in Atlanta). The hectic nature of things, the noise and fact that I was always too busy to wait in line to see the coolest stuff added to my frustrations.
Further, I always felt that the extravagance that went into most booths and related trappings from publishers was a waste. Current estimates place the total E3 tab in the $100 million range. All that money could have been going into funding new, innovative game projects.