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]