Walking down breezy Ocean Ave in sunny Santa Monica, smelling the salt air, listening to the waves crashing along the beach and enjoying the feel of the warn California sun on my pale skin, it was almost possible to forget that I was in town for a videogame convention. Thankfully the swarms of young men (18-24) clustering around the shuttle bus pick-up and drop-off points, grasping for free water bottles like crows dropping stones in a glass and generally making a nuisance of themselves at local eateries and watering holes was enough to bring me back to reality.
In fact, I couldn't help wondering how, considering how out of place my colleagues and I were in this quiet seaside resort town, we'd ever be invited back. From blown electrical transformers, trucked-in generators and auxiliary air conditioning systems, closed off airport runways, entire hotels illuminated in Xbox green, a thundering media extravaganza held at the local high school and an entire army of t-shirt clad, pasty white men (and some women) rampaging along the ocean front, madly chasing down taxis and shuttles to make appointment after appointment with far-flung developers, the footprint of E3 was unmistakable. I pity those who were not a part of it, and yet had to endure it anyway. Santa Monica was not expecting this. And frankly, neither were we.
This is how a convention usually works: space is rented in a convention center; meeting rooms and floor space are assigned; local hotels are alerted as to the approximate number of guests expected (many convention centers are ringed by hotels capable of accommodating roughly the exact number of people who can safely fit into the center); and catering, transportation, registration and various other logistical hurdles are hurdled, on-site, by the organizing committee. There's usually even free Wi-Fi somewhere. Everything under one roof, everything within walking distance.
This is how the new E3 worked: hotel ballrooms, the local civic center, the local high school and a sound stage a few towns over (basically anything with a lot of seats, and a wall outlet) were commandeered for use as press event theaters; whatever large hotel meetings rooms happened to be available, as well as, on occasion, a developer's own hotel room were set up as demo rooms; and an unused airplane hangar at the Santa Monica municipal airport was set up as exhibition space. What had once all been accomplished under one roof at the spacious Los Angeles Convention Center, was now dispersed amongst a dozen hotels, and airport and Culver Studios. None of which were what one would consider "easy" walking distance.
They said everything would be "easy" walking distance, and, depending on your definition of easy, they might have been right. They also provided shittles. Unfortunately walking ten block and/or waiting for shuttle buses takes time. And time, as anyone who's attended a conference of any kind knows, and to quote Khan (of Wrath Of fame) is a luxury you simply do not have.