Objection! Should We Bother Going To E3?

Tokyo Games Show has just wrapped up and in a few days the Eurogamer Expo will be kicking off. Trade shows like E3, TGS, PAX and GamesCom are meant to be the highlights of a game journalist's calendar, but how relevant are they? In a time when everything is live-blogged and streamed, is there even a need for us to go any more?

Kotaku's regular editor, Mark Serrels, took some time out of his holiday and put down his can of Irn Bru to give us his two cents.

TRACEY: Hey Mark, thanks for taking time from your holiday to gel your hair like an Ace Attorney and yell at me mid-sentence. Today's objection topic is on the relevance of trade shows: E3, Tokyo Game Show, GamesCom — you know, all those conventions and conferences that glow brightly on any game journalist's calendar.

This year was the first time I'd ever been to E3 — I booked my own flights, lined up my interviews, registered for the press conferences, and was totally pumped for what I'd been told was a journalist's wet dream. As it turns out, E3 didn't really stir my loins at all. I wouldn't say it was a pointless trip, because I did get a lot out of it, but I can't say that I was particularly impressed by the event as a whole. But before I go on about my experience, I know that you actually chose to not attend at all this year. Why's that? MARK: Firstly – that’s not gel. In lieu of the fact that I’m coming to you, live from Scotland, where it rains every single day, my hair is in a constant state of wetness. Which makes it all the more difficult to hide my receding hairline.

But I digress – E3. Why did I not attend?

Well, firstly, one of the major reasons why I didn’t attend was because I felt as though it would be difficult for me to do my job properly in a different time zone – the fact that you’re getting this reply at some ungodly hour is testament to that fact. And as you now no doubt understand – being the Kotaku Editor relies on you to create a large amount of content constantly in a timely fashion. It’s tough to do that whilst on the show floor, running like a clumsy gazelle from interview to interview.

But my major issue is the ubiquity of the whole event. And by that I mean the fact that you sit down, in a room, and watch the precise same demo that every games writer in the world has either already watched, or will watch in the course of the event.

Then you do it again. Ad infinitum. For the next three days.

For a site like Kotaku I feel as though it doesn’t really make for the kind of unique content I want to create. It’s designed for by-the-numbers previews – ‘And then the big monster came at the guy and then he shoot at him with his mega-bazooka-gun from cover and then he ran away and the graphics were sweeeeeeeet.’

E3 just isn’t really all that conducive to the content I’d like to write – and I realise this sounds a bit ‘hoity toity’ and elitist, but that’s really how it is for me personally. I was happy to let the US guys go over there and do the preview stuff, giving me space to cover the Australian side of thing. In Australia. TRACEY: I have to agree with you on the ubiquitous nature of E3. I remember arriving in LA a few days before E3 kicked off, checking into a hotel that had lousy internet and telling myself that I probably didn't need a great internet connection because there wouldn't be any big announcements prior to E3. After all, weren't all the big announcements meant to be reserved for E3? Apparently not. Publishers were announcing new games, CD Projekt Red announced that The Witcher 2 would be coming to Xbox 360, and I just felt so annoyed that I'd flown all the way to LA for E3 only to have news announced outside of E3.

What annoyed me even more was discovering that while I sat in these press conferences that I'd travelled 14 hours to attend (on my own money, no less!), people were streaming it in real time in the comfort of their own homes (people like you!). What was the point of me coming to E3 at all!?

On top of that, I was appalled by the behaviour of the media that were present. As a journalist, I couldn't believe that people holding press passes were whooping and hollering at the announcements of new games. I understand we're all gamers and we all have a right to get excited about upcoming releases, but come on, if you're there as a journalist then at least try and act professionally. Perhaps I'm just some old grouch who is annoyed by everything (can you believe the price of blueberries? THE NERVE!), but the "press" conferences felt less like events for the press and more like a gathering of fan boys (and girls). It was disconcerting.

Having said that, I found that having the majority of big game developers around the world in the one place was a huge advantage. Had I not gone, I would have never interviewed Cliffy B, Eguchi, or the guys behind Tomb Raider, Rayman, Final Fantasy, and Bastion in the flesh. There was certainly some value in it.

Were you not tempted at all but the opportunity to speak to developers who you probably wouldn't be able to get the chance to speak to in Australia? MARK: First off, it’s the price of avocados that really annoys me, and secondly - yes – the whoopin’-and-a-hollerin’ of those in attendance at the press conferences (particularly the Nintendo ones) is completely ridiculous. It just makes everyone look bad, and in a strange way sort of reinforces the decision of publishers to treat games writers/journalists/enthusiast press like a giant herd of barnyard animals on the show floor.

However, you are right; it’s the access to developers that makes E3 worthwhile. It can be pretty difficult for Australians to get a hold of big names in the industry like your Cliffy Bs and your Peter Molyneuxs. Attending E3 puts us on an even keel with the rest of the world - if you can secure those interviews.

And it’s your chance as a journalist to try and define your own angle – to find something interesting to write about or discuss, as opposed to the ad infinitum demos I mentioned earlier. At E3 I can’t help but feel like the flow of information – from the conferences to the announcements to the demos – is all part of a grand marketing plan that most publishers rarely deviate from, but in a one on one interview you have a little more personal control and that’s an opportunity you have to make the most of.

But over and above, I think the real attraction of E3, and the reason most likely to convince me to attend next year, is the fact that E3 – for those three days – really is the centre of the gaming world, and it’s fun to be amongst it. It feels important, and seeing all these new games first hand really can be a privilege – a privilege I, personally, often take a little for granted.

Have you ever attended a gaming trade show, whether it be E3 or EB's Expo? How did you find it? Let us know!

[Photos from Tracey's camera taken at this year's E3]


Comments

    ""Objection! Should We Bother Going To E3?""

    No, send me instead.
    I can ring you up and give everything i see a one word review, Alright or shit.

    I went to the E3 (my first E3 and time out of Australia) in 2006, I was 19 and I went by myself to cover it for my site, unlike most 'pro' guys I didn't book myself up with a million and one interviews and sessions but instead left myself free to roam the floor as I saw fit. That of course meant waiting in the 3 hour long Wii line, but it was worth it. Being there in LA when the Wii hype was at full swing was absolutely hilarious and awesome at the same time, everyone was talking about it and it felt just different being there.

    Nintendo's Conference was something else too, you all know I'm a Nintendo 'fanboy' at heart and too see Shiggy come out of stage playing the Zelda theme on the Wii remote then that montage of games, in the place where they hold the freaking Oscars. I got goosebumps for real. Scarily awesome.

    There was a stampede on the Friday for the Wii line, no one wanted to wait 3 hours and that meant a swarm of video game journos, litterly stampeding their way to play it, I was it and it was awesome. I'll have to dig up the video I recorded, I hung my camera around my neck and just let it film in the rush.

    The next year E3 did that crappy downsizing thing and I never went. I haven't been since, travelling to the US is expensive and it takes a shit load of time to get there. You've got to not only have the means but the dedication to go, you basically don't sleep for the entire time and you feet hurt all day, well when I went I was really fat so that didn't help either. I was litterly popping painkillers on the show floor.

    Since the E3 I've been to Nintendo World 2011 which again was in another country (Japan) and yeah they don't speak English there, but again another fun experience.

    Even thought I went to both for 'work' I didn't stop having fun at any point. If you're a pro in the business and you have 3 days of non-stop interviews and writing to do I can see how you wouldn't want to go, but you are usually getting an paid ticket to go there.

    Alright I'll shut up now. (forgive my poor spelling to, I should be doing work).

    Oh and Mark, they holla at Apple Keynotes, it's all part of the fun!

      I think your experience with E3 will depend largely on your workload. For example, the guys who work for GameSpot were working around 16 hours a day during E3 -- they're do interviews and then file stories and they'd work right into the night. For me, I went as a freelancer so one of the aims was to make back the money I'd spent on flights, which meant doing *a lot* of interviews and having back-to-back appointments in order to get enough original content for features that I could then sell. For this reason I chose to avoid demos and focus on interviewing. The press conferences turned out to have no value for me whatsoever.

      I'll probably go back again, but this time knowing what I need to focus on.

    Great article, a very interesting insight into the whole process. I am all for independent Australian content in lieu of E3 coverage

    Game previews will be on youtube, and the US guys will give us one line articles linking us to those! :)

    I've attended only the GO3 consumer electronics/misc nerdy stuff convention that's graced Perth once or twice in the past 5 years, and it was fairly disappointing, with a very small range of gaming-related content. That said, I did get to try out Borderlands before it was released, which was fairly neat.

    The large-scale convention format is pretty great at disseminating a vast amount of information at once, but it's probably not too important that the Kotaku AU guys head out there: after all, their unique interests are, by definition, local.

    I'd much rather go to something like PAX or Game Developers Conference than Tokyo Game Show or E3, however. Much more about the culture and people involved in games than about marketing. I'm sure I'll go to anything gaming-related which is launched in Perth, because I have no other options, but if I could be picky, I'd love to go to PAX.

      GO3 was terrible, embarrassed for it to be held here in Perth.

        Yup, absolutely. At least we get the symphony next year. Actually, WASO is on Murray St right now, brb...

    I watched E3 this year on live stream on Gametrailers TV & I loved every minute of it! GTV had Olympics style coverage of it & it was so exciting! Had to stay up late & get up early for work, but worth it!

    I went in 2008 for the first time when E3 went back to booty babes and all out cosplay and what ever else they did after years of watching it on my computer streamed the fact I had the chance to finally go walk around both conference halls meet new people developers publishers and other journos was amazing.

    Sure most games I had already seen pictures and videos of previews hands ok etc but there were some I hadn't and what I like about E3 is that amongst all the big title you get to have a go at the underdog games. You walk past a game you never heard of give it a go and love it.

    I agree last year and this year I didn't have the same urge to go but I'm definitely pumped to get back there next year

    Nice article, I think both of you (in furious agreement :P) make some pretty good points: going for announcements might be redundant, given that a thousand others are covering it, but the interviews that we couldn't normally get in Australia would be appealing.

    "running like a clumsy gazelle from interview to interview" <-- excellent metaphor.

    Also, what *is* the plural of Molyneux? :O

      "Also, what *is* the plural of Molyneux? :O"

      Molyni? :p

    Who is this 'Mark' guy?
    Name's familiar.

    As a viewer I was perfectly happy with Mark's liveish blog of the events, and having him here and available during real hours (as opposed to those damn fake hours) so I could quiz him about his opinion, and the fact that I knew he'd seen the same or very similar things to what I had, all helped to make E3 seem personal. Which is a hilariously bizarre idea for what is a massive tradeshow.

      That said, if you weren't watching the stream, all you got from Mark and the commenters were a whole bunch of "wat"s and nothing really informative. I think 'Flu came in going "What's with the 'wat's? What's going on?" while we were all "WAT". I forget which conference this was though.

        I was only there for the witticisms from both him and James Mac.

        The absolutely no sleep was worth it.

        This. I ended up just catching up over the following days anyway.
        I don't think we would have gained anything by having Mark there, except perhaps to ask some devs questions that we suggested, which, while interesting, isn't all that important.

    its up to you guys really. I like live blogs and all the fuss around these expos. I would love the opportunity to go somewhere and meet new people/catch up with old colleges half way around the world.

    I went to the Taipei Game Show in 06 & 07 while I was there visiting relatives. 06 was quite good. Sony had the largest booth in the middle, and had demos for both PS2 & PSP games. I bought my white PSP there. 07 had Microsoft, who I thought did a great job promoting the 360. Sony was MIA in 07, and Nintendo was nowhere to be found both years.

    Unfortunately both shows weren't as interesting as I thought a game show would be. It was too bloody crowded (I hate crowds), and also the majority of the publishers there cater specifically for the Taiwanese market. Most games were RPGs or RTS games, which I have no knowledge of, and zero interest in. Didn't see any cosplayers too which was disappointing.

    Does anyone really need a good excuse to go on a work junket?? pffffffffffft

      It wasn't a junket for me -- I funded my own way there. I even went to the supermarket to buy fresh fruit and packed fruit boxes with me for the show. :P

    I'm really, really glad you both despise the cheering and clapping and shit.

    However, I wonder how much noise comes from people like yourselves, magazine writers and other games writers who have been doing their job for a few years, and those that run a small site that's little more than their own pissy blog and filled with their utterly subjective opinion (yes, yes, all writing is subjective to some degree, and good on you if you run a videogame blog and can coherently string a sentence together).

    I went to E3 this year as a journo and although the bulk of news was online by the time I got to publish it I was stoked I went. Speaking for myself and for other Australian outlets, I think it's important to go and get your own perspective and then tailor the info you get to your local audience. Plus, if you have a bunch of interviews then you're golden.

    However, it was mental, filled with a lot of hoopin' and hollerin' and scum like me that cut in line because they have a press pass. I don't know if I'd rush back unless I had someone else with me getting content and shouldering half the workload.

    This year's E3 was my first E3 too. It was great, but I definitely encountered some disappointment there as well.

    So much of the expo seems to go on behind closed doors. Each company had it's secluded areas for registered press, and the biggest/newest games were all nested safely within. As a game developer, I didn't get to see Bioshock Infinite, didn't see XCOM and couldn't play a single game being published by Bethesda. And that started to make a lot of sense when I realised that the show isn't a wonder palace of gaming experiences, but is rather a bunch of meetings designed to convey a specific marketing message to certain media outlets.

    And yet, I did have a lot of fun. The major consoles had an amazing amount of content, playable by attendees, at their booths (the XBLA and 3DS areas were a highlight). I got a chance to play some great games, and talked to some awesome people. And I certainly enjoyed the chance to see the smaller games that may not necessarily be front page news.

      I realised that I managed to edit away any sort of point that I might have been trying to make.

      Big publishers tend to use the events as controlled information dumps. Mixed in with the hype of E3, their large games get a lot of attention and press. Unfortunately, this is where you get thousands of reporters chasing each other's tails down the concourse of major announcements, and this is where the event starts to feel unnecessary.

      The chance to see smaller game developments, interview the designers and developers, and experience new things, is the event's diamond in the rough.

    Totally agree about the journalists turning into drooling fanboys at game announcements. That's *our* job :) the people there are hopefully are supposed to be getting info and actually reporting it objectively rather than wetting their pants because a pre-rendered trailer looks good.

    Back in the day (whenver that rally was).. E3 and the like were semi-exclusive events reserved for those people who really needed to be there to report on things.. at least that is how it seemed to me. Whereas these days it seems every tom, dick and harry can get in AND blog about it, constantly with minute to minute updates, photos and videos.

    I've been to a few press junkets myself over the years, so I know it's not all that exclusive at the BIG events.. but maybe it's that very lack of exclusivity that is dragging the E3's down.

    Also, there seems to be more E3-like events than there were before.. it's like one event after the other, all year round.. it becomes overwhelming and, to be honest, tedious as an audience to be constantly bombarded with this stuff.

    Do you need to go? Well yes, you'd be shooting yourselves in the foot if you didn't.. but at the same time, I wish there was just one big event per year.

      Dude, can you imagine how INSANE it would be if there was only one event? It would be hideously frantic!

        What if it was one big event that lasted six weeks and was held in the Grand Canyon? I'd go.

          Oh, well that changes *everything*.

            *snicker*

    What I think makes E3 worthwhile is actually getting to play titles. I agree with you on the videos that everyone watches, but watching a video and playing a demo is such a huge difference, it's not even on the same scale.

    I think it's worth it to go there, play the games, and tell us your thoughts. There may be a zillion other journalists playing them, but each of them will have different opinions, and Kotaku is the same.

    If you're just going to rely on re-publishing content other games websites have already put out, whats' the point of Kotaku at all? I visit kotaku because i like their viewpoint on games news, and I would be saddened if you guys decided to no longer attend games cons.

    I'd have to agree with the comments about the ..ermm... over exuberance of the journos there, although by the same token, as a gamer, I can understand their enthusiasm.

    I'd love to get to E3 to play the games, even if it means waiting in line for an hour or so. As it stands, the best I've been able to do so far is go to the Tokyo Game Show for the sheer size and spectacle of it (not to mention the completely different culture in Japan). PAX would be worth checking out, and I reckon out of all the big events it's probably the one that is the most "pure" for gamers, having been started by the Penny Arcade comic guys celebrating gaming culture, rather than a bunch of video game companies showing off their upcoming titles (although having that happen at the PAX events doesn't detract from the expo :-)).

    Have to agree with Steven Bogos.. sure everyone will be writing about the same thing, but it's all about the writer's take on the material that makes people either excited or full of 'meh' about an upcoming title.

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