Escape from E3

Escape from E3
I Hate You, E3

Dave Thomas | 23 May 2006 12:00
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I like LA.

Like.

I'm no Randy Newman, who professes a melodic love of the place. Rather, I've grown to appreciate Los Angeles, even as I look out on the street and see an urban civilization dying, one homeless drug zombie at a time.

Come to LA early on a foggy Sunday morning and you can see it, too. Downtown Los Angeles only compares favorably to places even more bleak and empty, like downtown Phoenix. No one lives here. And the people that commute in during the week to work here are exiles, looking forward to leaving as soon as possible. So, you never come to the nominal center of the massive SoCal megaplex expecting much. There's a bunch of office buildings, the Lakers play in the Staples Center down the street. And this is where they put the convention center.

I came here, once again, to attend a convention.

For the 10th year in a row, I've tossed aside other responsibilities to attend the Electronic Entertainment Expo. For the past eight years, E3 has put on its call girl circus of marketing come-ons and sultry promises in an effort to woo videogame buyers and press. And, by and large, it works. We show up the Sunday before the expo spreads her legs. We flock here on an annual pilgrimage and help make E3 into one of the most successful industry commercials ever. Maybe the Super Bowl does a better job in its ability to sell product in guise of sharing news.

Maybe.

Wandering the streets of early morning LA stokes a love/hate relationship that would fill a season of Oprah. From the scabby man blocking the door to the bathroom in Starbucks, to the white Rasta kid toking up in front of Macy's and screaming at some hobo incoherently, to the three city blocks cordoned off for some film shoot, LA is like a cancer patient that just keeps going to work. "What else am I gonna do? Just sit at home and die?"

George Romero shot Dawn of the Dead in Pennsylvania. But he could have saved money on extras and just filmed the whole lurching masterpiece in downtown LA.

I'm here because of E3, and E3 lives in LA for what might seem like an obvious reason. One of the major power centers of game development and publishing, Southern California provides a magnet for people with digital stories to tell, entertainment to shill.

Eight years ago, the whole sultry shebang moved to Georgia for two years. The suits behind the decision explained the relocation in terms of needing more space and something to do with making it more convenient for the Europeans because, technically, Atlanta is closer to the old country than California.

And while I'm sure Georgia has its charms, they don't include providing a place that game people want to be. That's why the whole tawdry mess was shipped back to LA, where it started. Because, like LA itself, the game business feels like an unhealthy entity kept alive by a bubbling mad scientist's cocktail of dreams, greed and a vaporous aroma of the future.

LA is fantasy, to be sure. But, maybe just as important, LA is the city of hope.

Every once in a while, I pick up my copy of Lester Bangs' madness and read a little. I'm not so much looking for tips on how to put more "new" in my journalism as much as I like to get a feeling for what it's like to be really, crazy, passionately in love with something. Rock 'n' roll broke Lester's heart because he loved it so much. And I think the reason why is that he was there, man. He was there when it all happened. And he was young. Rock changed everything and he wanted it to keep on mattering. He got older, but he wanted to stay young. He never lived to see a creaking The Who smirk as they sing "I hope I die before I get old," or to marvel at a geriatric Sir Mick Jagger strutting in front of NFL fans crowing about his general lack of satisfaction. Rock grew up; Lester couldn't, and it killed him.

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