In my mind, I was silently saying “goodbye.”
Bye Nintendo! Bye Capcom, sorry we didn’t get to talk this year. Bye Sony! Why didn’t you call back? Bye all the rest of you.
E3 would be over in 20 minutes and I fought the urge to stick around until the announcement came:
“We are sorry, but the expo floor is closing. Please head to the nearest exit.”
It’s always sad to be asked to leave a place. So I headed for the door, for reality. And I got ready for what comes next, the return of the melancholy that goes with the end of E3, this feeling of all this fantasy splayed out life-sized, being folded back into those teeny-tiny boxes that they sell at the game store. If decompressing is the way people talk about relaxing, then the end of E3 is a compression. Packing up all those feelings and experiences is hard.
But before I can fully let it go, I spot one last little E3 thing I can do—there’s a taco truck across the street from the convention center as a part of promotion for Homefront, a game about a North Korean invasion of the US. And in the topsy-turvy world of E3, this narrative plays out with a couple of lonely North Korean soldiers who have cordoned off an entire parking lot with flags, barbed wire and parked a food truck near the sidewalk selling subsidized Korean food “for the people.”
While bottles of water sold across the street for $2 to fans flocking to bask in the shadow of the Staples Center while the Lakers battled the Celtics back in Boston, the North Korean taco truck was selling big plates of hot food for less than two bucks and serving water for fifty cents. The government/marketing department food subsidy made the Homefront taco truck one of the best deals in Southern California. Thank you generous and enlightened leader!
Now a word about E3 and food.
People at home observing E3 might get the wrong idea that the event is a sexually repressed, booth babe-driven affair that trades attendee attention for a few smiles from a model in a silver bikini. And it is, but it’s a lot more about food.
People actually working at the show will tell you, a can of coke or a granola bar is going to get more interest than a pair of double-Ds in a tight t-shirt. Following the natural law, you need fuel to keep moving in E3 and you learn to just avoid the vacuous T&A.
Which means, setting up a taco truck outside of E3 is a genius move. And it’s probably why there were two trucks, one for Homefront and another directly in front of the convention center serving burgers to promote Bulletstorm. And if you don’t believe me that food sizzles more than sex at E3, all you’d have to do is notice the snaking line from the Bulletstorm burger van and the one lonely guy (who obvious already had his burger) taking pictures of two lovelies in white swimwear sunning themselves on some sand next to a sports car to promote some game.
So, bye girls lying on a pretend beach in a parking lot!
And after a quick trip across the street, for $3 I scored a pile of kimchi quesadillas and Fanta pineapple soda. Everyone in line is chuckling at their good fortune and toasting our new North Korean overlords. Everyone, it seems, except the tanned, barrel of a man with a bushy white mustache collecting money for the chow. Quizzed on the peculiarity of a North Korean food concession at E3, he admits his company rents out trucks for all kind of occasions.
“Last week it was a Jamaican food truck,” he confesses.
But this week it’s North Korea and he quickly points out that he’s not that happy about it because he fought the commies north of the 38th parallel in ’53.
Even though I’m not sure he looked old enough to have battled Ho Chi Minh and the boys, it’s clear he’s got no love for the Communists. Which is immediately clear because he symbolizes everything that is great about Capitalism: The Capitalist pretends to be a Communist food vendor to make a buck. Which is pretty insidious as far as ideologies go. But there’s more. What Capitalism can clearly contain, and no other system seems all that good at, is embracing irony. See, it’s ironic that a big American company is subsidizing a food truck they paid thousands of dollars outfitting to look like some rolling North Korean deli into order to promote a game about how the US has to fight back against North Korea, a country probably about the size of Florida.
Ha ha ha. And this kimchi quesadilla really is quite delicious!
So with hot sauce running down my chin, E3 in my review mirror, but the ongoing irony of the game business still burning in my mouth, I make the slow transition from game land to reality.
Then, a homeless lady stops me and asks of the remaining scraps of my snack:
“Are you gonna eat that?”
I feel bad because I picked out all the good bits. But there’s still a good pile of food on my plate.
“This?” I ask as I hand it to her.
She wonders out loud what it is and seems unconcerned by the answer. And then I feel guilty for handing this poor woman something I only had in hand because I couldn’t find a trashcan, and try to redeem myself.
“Here, you want this too?” and I hand her my sipped-on soda.
She takes it and seems happy. I turn up the street to head back to where I am staying and wonder if I should have actually given her money to get her own plate of commie food.
My conference badge flaps in the wind like a forgotten flag on an empty battlefield and I think about that lady until I am blocks away and I realize that E3 is over. For good this time.
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.