As I type this, I’m less than one week away from leavin’ on a jet plane to Los Angeles for my first Electronic Entertainment Expo. Podcast host Turks and I will be arriving at LAX at almost exactly the same time (if all goes well; how’s that for good planning!) and checking into our hotel, which will be E3 Central for our coverage of the biggest show in gaming. I’ll be posting my impressions of the show every night here on Avault, but here’s a look at the hoops Turks and I had to jump through just to get invited.
Flashback to early April. Registration for E3 has finally begun. Because E3 is a trade show, only industry professionals and accredited members of the media are allowed to attend. This meant that Turks and I had to submit a series of documents that not only proved that we are who we say we are, but also that we are legitimate members of the gaming press. This meant photocopying this, scanning that, then attaching them all to an official application for credentials. The E3 registration site said that it would take about a week for our documents to be scrutinized and an official approval to be sent.
Now the hard part: transportation and lodging. Once we received notification that our applications were accepted (it only took two days, thankfully), Turks and I went about the tricky task of arranging flights from our respective home bases (he in the Carolinas, me in Pennsylvania). Originally we had planned to meet up in Dallas and take the same connecting flight to LA, but by the time our show badges were confirmed, those flights became unavailable. So, on to Plan B: we’d try to find flights that would put us at LAX as close to the same time as possible. This, as it turned out, was much easier than Plan A, the difference being that, while Turks would still be boarding a connecting flight, I’d be going non-stop from Philly to LA. Ground transportation was a breeze by comparison; Priceline offered us an add-on to my plane reservations for transport by van from LAX to our hotel, and vice versa at the end of the week.
But then there was the hotel. E3′s official website had listings for a number of hotels close to the LA Convention Center. Free wireless Internet connectivity was a must, which eliminated most of the possible hotels. We also wanted to get a place as close to the venue as possible. And then there was the cost; we’re both on a budget, so frugality was the order of the day. In the end, I’m glad that, after 30 years with a driver’s license, I finally sprang for a AAA membership; it got us a nice hotel discount.
So, we’ve got our credentials confirmed, our flights and hotels booked and our ground transportation arranged. What followed was both enlightening and surprising, at least to me. I haven’t been on a plane since 1993, so I was unaware of the new regulations regarding air travel in the post-9/11 era. According to the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA), I’m not allowed to wear gel-filled shoe inserts on a plane. Any liquid items such as shampoo, after shave or toothpaste must in containers holding four ounces or less, and they all have to be stored in a clear, zip-top plastic sandwich bag. There’s also the possibility that I might be asked to boot up my laptop for inspectors before I’m allowed to board my flight. It’s a good thing I found out about this in advance, or I’d end up in LA with sore feet, dirty hair and bad breath, at least until I could hit the hotel gift shop or a local convenience store.
Once all of that was arranged, next on the list was figuring out what we were going to be doing at E3 besides playing games and staring at booth babes. It wasn’t long before invitations from game developers and hardware manufacturers started coming our way. E3 runs from Tuesday, June 2 to Thursday, June 4, but there are also events scheduled for Monday, June 1. One of them, the annual Microsoft press conference, occurs on Monday morning, meaning that we’re not going to be able to attend. But EA has a conference that afternoon, followed by Ubisoft that night, so we’re going to be hitting the ground running. Tuesday starts with the Nintendo and Sony conferences, after which the show floor and meeting rooms open up for business. Invitations started coming our way in late April, and as of this writing Turks and I are almost totally booked for the entire three days (we have stubbornly resisted the urge to accept all of them, since we want to reserve the last two hours of every day to wander the show floor, where by all accounts the real E3 action is). We kick it off on Tuesday with a visit to the Activision booth, followed by demos of 2K Games’ Bioshock 2 and Borderlands. Our Wednesday is highlighted by two hours of private demos of EA’s new games, while Thursday features visits to the Ubisoft and Warner Bros booths and a chance to be among the first to play the Beatles Rock Band expansion in the Harmonix/MTV booth. Sprinkled in amongst all of that are demos of games by Sega, Capcom and Bethesda, which is also hosting a cocktail party in a restaurant on Sunset Boulevard.
So, as you can see, E3′s not going to be all fun and games, although much of it hopefully will be. There’ll be lots of walking (I’ll be getting my much-needed cardio for the week), lots of discussions with top industry players and, yes, lots of playing games. Turks and I are looking forward to the opportunity to give you all a first-hand look at E3, the gaming industry’s biggest, loudest, most exciting showcase. Stay tuned…