Schrodinger’s E3

Sunday is my favorite day of E3, which probably sounds a bit odd, given that the show doesn’t officially open until Tuesday. At the moment, men in work boots and khaki shorts are putting the finishing touches on the LA Convention Center, probably quite ambivalent towards the digital heroes depicted on the banners being raised into place by cranes. Gaming journalists are wandering into the press center in ones and twos, picking up their credentials and chatting amiably about nothing in particular. They’re off the clock until tomorrow morning, when Microsoft kicks off the week with its media briefing.

So if nothing’s going on, why is this my favorite day? Because right now, E3 is full of possibility and potential. Surprises can still happen, expectations can still be exceeded. Tomorrow, all of that will begin to be replaced by fact and experience but for now, it’s all a wonderful mishmash of maybe. I know we’re not supposed to give a damn about E3 anymore – it’s no longer the vital gaming showcase it once was and besides, everything’s just sequels, movie licenses and franchises, so who cares? And though I see the truth of those statements, I simply don’t care. This is my sixth or seventh E3, I’m honestly not sure which, and I’m as in awe of it now as I was the first time I walked through its enormous doors.

I’m supposed to be objective in my role as a journalist, immune to the dog and pony show that E3 has always been, even the past two years when it was in a more stripped down form. But I’m not. I come to this show as a lover of games, giddy just to be in the same room with so much cool shit. Not terribly professional of me, maybe, but the day I stop thinking this is fun is hopefully the day I quit the industry and go back to editing safety standards for a living.

Lots of stupid things happen at E3 – press conferences that go horribly wrong, demos that inspire yawns instead of applause, publicity stunts that are just plain embarrassing. But sometimes, every so often, there’s a wonderful surprise. One year, it was my friend Joe telling me about a demo he saw of this amazing game I’d never heard of, which took place in an underwater city inhabited by enormous creatures in diving helmets. Another year, I sat against a wall, exhausted, listening to a buddy tell me about this crazy DS game he’d played, where you actually used the stylus to perform surgery. Then there was the Sony press conference where Phil Harrison introduced us to a small stuffed boy with a zipper up his front and a loopy grin. Each moment was delightful, unexpected, and full of the joy of discovery.

Will there be more such moments at this year’s show? I certainly hope so. I don’t know where I’ll find them, but I’m pretty sure I will. Maybe it’ll be tomorrow – Microsoft sent out an urgent email letting us know that its briefing will be starting earlier than planned to make room for a special announcement. Will it be a shocking and exciting revelation, or a shrug worthy example of self-indulgence? I’ll know the answer in a little over 15 hours, but right now, during Schrodinger’s E3, it’s both.

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