In the past there was E3, and then there was ... well, no one cared, really. E3 was everything to everyone, but, like all good things, it had to end. In its place we now have a rainbow of game conventions spanning the globe and serving all manner of industry needs, some good, some bad.
In this week's issue of The Escapist, Issue 125 "Conventioneering," we bring you the many sides of the convention story. Greg Tito examines the current game convention landscape, Brad Rice spends time with an import game dealer, Alan Au speaks to PAX's Enforcers, Jason Della Rocca breaks down the conference lingo and Spanner brings us the dark side of dress-up: Cosplay.
In total, my colleagues have presented a near complete picture of the current game convention landscape, and by reading these stories, you can almost feel as if you've no longer any need to actually attend game conventions yourself. Almost.
We don't often miss a beat here at The Escapist, and even on those rare occasions when we do, I'd rather endure the pricks of a thousand white hot needles and suffer a hot, pointy death than admit to it. And yet, this week I feel it necessary to shine a cold, hard light on our failure. For in spite of our excellent reportage and nuanced editorial panache, we've overlooked the single most important aspect of every gaming convention past, present and future: rampant boozery.
At last year's E3, the parties were, as they say, "off the hook." After spending all day on the show floor with a head full of bass boom and an eyeful of flashy lights and half-naked women, attendees were invited to various L.A. hotspots to spend the night doing exactly the same thing, plus free booze. Attendees hobnobbed in a swarm of sweaty, gyrating bodies and the martini count soared. And it was glorious.
Enter the true tragedy of the E3 holocaust: With so much changed, would the parties remain the same?
I had the pleasure of sharing a cab with an employee of a prominent MMOG developer at this year's AGDC. I asked him why, with so much on his plate (a game near release and a dozen other, larger conventions to attend) he'd bother hitting Austin? His answer: free booze and a chance to unwind.
We often forget that the folks who make the games have pretty stressful jobs. Sure, it's all, technically, fun and games, but anything done under a deadline ceases to be fun right around the time that deadline looms. And no matter how fun your job may be, it's still a job.
So as much as we look forward to the all-out media blitz of a game convention, the news, previews, demos and swag, these guys look forward more to the chance to get together with like-minded minions and tie one on. And really, who can blame them? But if all conventions post-E3 are merely pale imitations, what about the parties? Are they "lesser" in any way?
Another developer, a minor functionary at LucasArts, put it best at this year's E3 Business and Media Summit. He said he loved the new show. He loved that the booths were spread out amongst various hotels instead of in one centralized location because it meant he could sleep late, walk downstairs to the booth in a ballroom of his hotel, then take the elevator upstairs to the in-hotel nightclub at 6 O'clock.
So, as far as he was concerned, the death of E3 was a good thing, and I have to admit to seeing his point. As much as my feet hurt from trudging from hotel to hotel, it was a comfort to know that at the end of the day the booze would still be free, and the atmosphere lighthearted and gay. And if you're a developer, the dispersal of E3's riches to a wider, more varied panorama of conventions must feel like an embarrassment of riches. Especially when you don't even have to take a cab to the party.
Long live bacchanalian debauchery, long live the game convention.