The Graying of E3

by Eric Huelsman

All right, call me a cynic…but first of all (and not regrettably so), I don’t get paid much for writing articles about trade shows. Therefore, I feel no affinity for writing "up" articles if I think the event I attended wasn’t very good. I write this stuff purely for my enthusiasm and love for all things connected to animation, and those are the onlyreasons.

Which is why I am not pained much about panning this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo, which was held at the Los Angeles Convention Center May 10 - 12, 2000. Furthermore, and despite the inducements of being comped for the exhibition floor admission, given a free lunch, quaffing free beer and spending time on a lot of cool games, on the whole of it, no amount of love and enthusiasm for the game industry would soften my view that this year’s E3 exhibition sucked…and I don’t mean in the good way.

The Thrill Is Gone?
Why would I think the biggest, most popular trade show of its kind anywhere in the world sucked? Especially given all the truly great stuff I got to play with (like Video System’s truly groovy "F1 World Grand Prix," or the Sega Dreamcast version of "Dead or Alive 2")? Mainly because it was boring. Okay, call me sentimental, but I’ve been to four of these shows now and what I liked about the first E3 shows was that I could count on a few things -- like having fun. Pure, unadulterated and visceral have-at-it-ness. Being a kid again. Or maybe it was being surrounded by kids having fun that made me feel like a kid again.

First of all, this year’s event was so corporate. I mean Disney-Interactive buttoned-down kind of corporate. The Microsoft booth, for example, despite the very sexy X-Box stuff, wasn’t a fun place to be. Of course, anti-trust judges can make you this way. Geez, and Interplay’s booth was muy serioso; in fact, the only smiles at the whole exhibit were on the faces of the Barbie-doll expo girls that passed out CDs. And then there were loads of conspicuous-looking folks wearing the "Hello, I’m Susan" kinds of corporate smiles at Activision. The kind that really say, "Let’s get down and exchange dinero." Guys like me were looked straight through and into the soul to see if green were at our cores. No green, no scene. I didn’t even get a T-shirt.

The Expo Floor. Courtesy of IDSA.

Secondly, the people I saw on the exhibitor floor were not there to have fun. Hey there, E3 event organizers, have we forgotten how much funthis event used to be? Where are the kids in sneakers? Maybe in the past E3 was fun because of the free T-shirts and not some jacked-up exec yelling potential profit figures for Blizzard’s "Diablo II" into a tiny Nokia. Or could it be the free beer in plastic cups of previous shows had its own primitive kind of charm? (Do I really need the cocktail lounge effect of a leather couch in Dolby’s booth and the Dos Equis to go with it? I’m there to play "NHL Hockey" for chrissakes.) Or perhaps it was playing the newest games (like the now-aging flight sims like "Mig Alley") or picking up the occasional demo and/or toy that I miss (like last year’s LEGO stuff, which this year failed to be a major interest). No, this year if I wanted to have "fun" I had to a.) perform a public strip to get the T-shirt or b.) make an ass of myself at the Nintendo booth (or was that Sega’s?) as hundreds of event goers watch some hack magician make me his unwitting "assistant."

At previous year’s shows, if I got shoved aside by the occasional overgrown juvenile trying to get their hands on something, like 3DO Company’s "Army Men Air Tactics," it was okay, because this kind of rudeness left me none the worse for wear. After all, weren’t those kids, like I, having fun?I dug the whole scene, the atmosphere. Very carnival-like. E3 was fun because the event was geared to us kids; who are, you know, the people who BUY these products.

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