May of 2004 obliged me to go to California for the first time, to visit the E3 event. This was, at the time, the largest video game event in the world, consisting of academic events and a massive exhibition of games. As usual I front-loaded it i.e. get the work-part out of the way so can enjoy the rest of the trip. So a couple of days after getting through immigration control at LAX (a surprisingly downheel airport considering it serves Hollywood and the richest parts of California), I ended up at the conference centre in downtown LA:
Registration was quick, despite there being several hundred people in the queues. The conference centre itself was absurdly huge, and I suspect not much smaller than the island I now live on in square footage. And it needed to be, with the number of floors, conference rooms, huge lecture theatres, and above all, this:
What the picture utterly fails to convey is that:
- the Nintendo stand, huge though it was, was only a small part of the exhibition. Microsoft and Sony had equally massive stands, as did a variety of game developers and publishers.
- the room was very, very, noisy. Imagine a rave, but with (in Spinal Tap mode) the volume pushed up to 11 and the lasers in overdrive. That's pretty much the floor of the E3 exhibition.
- there were many thousands of people in this one room, from all countries, demographics and ages.
Being a borderline Nintendo fanboy, I spent most of the time in that area of the exhibition space. Part of this was spent patiently queuing to go into a back room where groups of people would have their first go on the Nintendo DS. Under the strict eyes of security guards ensuring no-one took pictures or sneaked out a device, I had a few minutes in the middle of a group of around 100 near-hysterical, and mainly Japanese, video game obsessives oooh-ing and aaaah-ing at their first go.
And then it's back outside to the main floor for more sampling of soon-to-be-released games:
One of the best was Donkey Kong on the Gamecube. It's one of those that you watch other people playing for about 5 seconds, and you just know it's going to be popular. Bang on the drums in the correct way to control your character on the screen. Good marketing; people were drawn in by haphazard drumming sound of several people playing Donkey Kong:
The conference (variable quality) and the exhibition (heart-pumping stuff) made for an engrossing few days. When they finished, it was time to get out into the Californian sunshine and explore a bit - see next posting...