Escape from E3

Escape from E3
Recipe for Disaster

Kyle Orland | 23 May 2006 12:04
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But this limited access can actually be a blessing in disguise for a small outlet, says Computer Games Magazine Editor-in-Chief Steve Bauman. Getting rejected by the big boys "gives smaller outlets an opportunity to find the stories other guys are missing or skipping because they're fixated on whatever Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo and Electronic Arts are selling." Bauman recommends that struggling journalists "go to Kentia Hall and discover something weird. Those people are desperate for coverage, but everyone is trying to cover the ones who don't really need it."

If you do end up getting led around, though, note that all booth tours are not created equal. "Some publishers - notably Eidos, Vivendi, Microsoft, Midway - have the developers and play-testers on hand to demo the games and answer questions, which is ideal," says Erin Bell, editorial assistant for Canada's HUB magazine. "Other publishers, such as Namco, seem to just hire some booth babes, give them a point-form info sheet about each game, and set them loose, which is a waste of my time."

For all its problems, E3 does still have value to the intrepid journalist. The sheer number of actual developers wandering around E3 and its environs makes it easy to just grab someone working on a game and make contact outside PR's stifling gaze. "For the sort of stuff I do, it's not a place where the actual work gets done - more of a place where ideas for things start," says British game journalist Kieron Gillen.

The key to a good E3, according to many journalists, is to stay away from the standard post-everything-and-sort-it-out-later coverage that has dominated E3 in the internet era. E3 is a chance to "meet developers you won't usually see [and] find obscure companies, products and hardware that hasn't been seen before," says insert credit Senior Editor Brandon Sheffield. "It can really be an eye opener, if your eyes are just a bit open to begin with."

The best way to cover E3, though, might be to simply not go at all. Slashdot Games' Michael Zenke doesn't have the time or budget to attend this year's show, but he will be covering it from home, where he can "watch the keynotes on Gamespot and gain a gestalt view of the E3 experience through the lens of everyone on the ground. I can then successfully reprocess that experience for the readers in the form of copious linkage. I hope to ... provide the users some understanding of what's going on out there."

And that's the real key to successfully consuming the rock concert/war zone/casino/arcade stew that is E3. At some point, you have to take a step back, put down your spoon, and excrete a couple hundred words about the sleep-deprived week you spent eating it all.

Bon appetit!

Kyle Orland is a video game freelancer. He writes about the world of video game journalism on his weblog, Video Game Media Watch.

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