Every E3 starts with a bit of melancholy.
Before the biggest videogaming event of the year, I always find myself sitting in some LA bar, wondering whether all the travel and planning is worth the trouble, whether this year some spectacular announcement or some undiscovered game will make it all worthwhile.
Every year I start E3 wondering if I should even bother. At that point, sitting in LA, the city of dreams, just makes me miss my family.
I suppose for your average young games writer, a week away from the daily grind at home is a refreshing respite. But when you have kids, it just seems like they should be along for the ride. Los Angeles never feels real to someone who doesn’t live here. It’s too easy to see a building here (Look, that was where they filmed Bladerunner!) or a street corner there (wasn’t that from Batman?). And the entire Southern California landscape is the imaginary setting for so many television shows that just driving down the highway makes you feel like you are in an episode of '70s cop show CHiPs.
To make it all even more surreal, I followed a friend around a rough spot of town in search of a virtual sculpture. Once we found the right place, he held up his phone and superimposed on the camera’s image of a dirty sidewalk was some post modern graphical sculpture. Perfectly, nothing in LA seems real.
So between the eternal fantasy of just being in LA, and the prospect of spending a week looking at, talking about and playing games, I end up feeling like I have snuck out of the house to romp in this amazing wonderland without my family. It’s sort of like playing hookey from your real life.
Worse, after a bunch of E3s (I’ve been to more than dozen) you start to tire of the glitz and the glamour. Everyone is endlessly nice to you and makes you feel important. But deep down you don’t feel all that important. You’re someone who has worked hard mastering a bit of craft and just happens to have the names of some publication editors in your Rolodex. And for that, for a week, you get treated like a somebody. More fake smiles. More well rehearsed nice.
It only takes a few hours of LA’s simulated world, and E3, a virtual reality inside that simulation, to make you crave something real—like the noise of your kids playing Call of Duty or your wife asking about weekend plans.
As much as it sounds like old man game journalist whining, what it really is going on, I’ve learned over the years, is that I am going through a reality jet lag. In what feels like change as sudden and jarring as teleporting from the safety of your mothership to planet fun, it just takes some time to get your bearings.
Sitting on a bus, heading out to a press event that features performers from Cirque du Soleil and will unveil the long-awaited Kinect (Microsoft's revolutionary motion-control device previously called Project Natal), I start to feel better. I am getting my bearings and the fatigue fades away.
It’s game time and I’m ready to play.
Paste videogame correspondent David Thomas is on the ground in LA and will file daily dispatches on life at E3—the games, the glory and the gooey guts of the biggest hype machine in the world.