10 years anniversary of my first E3

10 years ago today I was embarking on a journey to my first E3 conference.

Written in June 1, 2022 - 🕒 17 min. read

I still remember the first time I planned to go to E3 with some friends, back in 2009. It felt like a distant dream, just the idea of going to E3 was already exciting enough. At the time, I didn’t even realize that E3 was an event for media press only and that I wouldn’t be able to just buy a ticket and attend. Of course, I eventually did get to go to E3, but how?

As a huge fan of video games, especially Nintendo games, I applied to be an editor for Nintendo Blast, the biggest Brazilian blog about Nintendo. I was accepted and started writing blog posts and making videos for their YouTube channel. A few years later, I received an email from one of the blog managers saying they were looking for people to travel to Los Angeles to cover E3. I was over the moon and applied right away.

Since Nintendo Blast was a voluntary work, I had to pay for my own trip, but they would offer me something money couldn’t buy: a media badge.

I had to go through the process of getting a visa to enter the US, which was quite bureaucratic, but fortunately, my visa was approved. The hotel and tickets were booked and our media badges were issued, and all I had to do was wait for the day of the trip. I was so excited that I had trouble sleeping for months.

First time in Los Angeles

Attending E3 had an unexpected side effect: I fell in love with Los Angeles. It’s cliché, I know, but LA is not only the home of E3, but also the home of many famous skate spots that I had seen in skate videos my whole life. Being able to visit these spots in person was very emotional for me, and I even bought a Plan B deck while I was there. Downtown LA is practically filled with famous skate spots from 90s skate parts.

This was also my first time in the US, so I experienced many new things, like extra-large meals at McDonald’s, shopping at Target, receiving massive receipts from CVS, going to a GameStop, buying Old Spice products, going to White Castle, and, as a Forest Gump fan, finally visiting a Bubba Gump restaurant.

We were a group of seven young video game enthusiasts, ready to cover the biggest video game event in the world. We had lots of things we wanted to do in LA, but we had no time to waste as E3 was starting just two days after we arrived.

A little help from the veterans

Despite being a small team, we were fortunate enough to be staying at the same hotel as several veteran editors from Nintendo World, the official Nintendo magazine in Brazil. As someone who has been a fan of Nintendo World since childhood, it was a surreal experience to be there with these legends.

In fact, some of us were even given the opportunity to write a guest article for the magazine - although unfortunately, I was not selected. Nevertheless, just being considered for the opportunity was one of the greatest achievements of my life so far.

Nintendo World #159
Nintendo World #159

In addition, we participated in several meetings on how to make the most of our time at E3, which proved to be extremely valuable and have proven useful at every E3 I’ve attended since then.

Wait, when does E3 starts?

Every E3, I would see articles stating when the event was supposed to start, only to have the Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo conferences happen a few days earlier.

These conferences, while not technically part of E3, are still closely associated with the event. E3, organized by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), is a trade show where gaming companies can showcase their products and new game releases to media and traders.

During this time, the entire gaming industry is focused on E3, leading major companies to schedule press conferences a few days beforehand to give attendees an idea of what to expect at the event.

However, for those of us watching from home, it can be confusing as E3 seems to begin with the start of the conferences and end after the final conference.

I remember being surprised when I was told that the Sony conference was being held at a location far from the Los Angeles Convention Center (LACC), as I had assumed all conferences were held at the LACC as part of E3. It was a shock to me, and in the years since, I’ve noticed that many other E3 attendees have had similar confusion.

The conferences

Typically, access to the highly sought-after E3 conferences requires an invitation. However, many media professionals still make the journey to the conference location in the hope of securing a last-minute spot. In my experience, I have always been able to attend the conferences, even if it meant making phone calls and reaching out to PR professionals to try and secure a spot. On one occasion, I didn’t even try to attend a conference, only to later learn that it was the last year that Nintendo held a traditional E3 conference.

The conferences are typically scheduled at specific times and locations to allow attendees to move from one to the next. A typical conference day might include a Microsoft conference in the morning, followed by Ubisoft, a lunch break, and finally, Sony. There are even special buses that provide transportation between the conferences for free - I’m not sure where these buses come from, but they are incredibly helpful.

Many conferences also provide attendees with souvenirs such as pins, t-shirts, and action figures. These items can often be found for sale on eBay for hundreds of dollars later the same day. Personally, I have kept all of the souvenirs I have received and still wear at least one E3 t-shirt every week.

The locations of the conferences are always iconic places in Los Angeles, such as the Dolby Theater on Hollywood Boulevard where the Bethesda conferences were held in 2015, or the LA Memorial Sports Arena and Galen Center, where Sony and Microsoft conferences are typically held.

The Event

E3 typically takes place over the course of three days, from Tuesday to Thursday. However, if you want to see everything, three days is not enough. Attending the event is an incredible experience, but it’s easy to miss out on a lot of things due to the sheer size of the Los Angeles Convention Center (LACC) and the time it takes to walk from booth to booth.

To make the most of our time at E3, our team split up into smaller groups and booked slots for hands-on demos, interviews, and presentations with various publishers in advance. This allowed us to skip the long lines and go straight to the hands-on experiences. As I mentioned before, three days is not a lot of time to see everything, so it’s important to try to avoid wasting time waiting in lines.

During my first year at E3, I was a bit lost and wasn’t sure what to do, but I still managed to play a lot of games for the Wii U and PS3, including ZombiU, Nintendo Land, LittleBigPlanet Karting, and PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale. My favorite game from that year, however, was not playable - Dead Space 3. That’s when I became a fan of the series and received a nice beanie, which I still have to this day.

Dead Space beenie
Dead Space beenie

The LACC is divided into two main areas where you can find booths from various companies, as well as several meeting rooms where companies often have VIP areas with closed presentations and demos. These two main areas are connected by a large open area that is open to the public and also full of activities, including exclusive games to play. It takes about 10 minutes to walk from one main area to the other, so it’s important to try to book appointments that are close to each other to avoid getting stuck in the middle of the open area.

There is also a special room for media with computers and high-speed internet, allowing journalists to quickly edit and publish their articles and videos. Additionally, there is a “chill” room where we could relax and get a free lunch around noon.

During our free time, we could explore and find interesting things to cover. Personally, I spent most of my free time at Nintendo’s booth, trying to play as many games as possible and collect as many souvenirs (also known as “swag”) as I could. One of the best things about E3 is the opportunity to receive a wide variety of free items, such as keychains, t-shirts, and action figures.

The swags

One of the most exciting aspects of E3 is collecting “swags”, or free souvenirs. Each company booth has its own unique swags and ways to obtain them, which change from year to year. At the Nintendo booth during my first E3, for example, we could earn a pin for each mini-game we played in Nintendo Land, with the goal of collecting them all (which I was able to do).

Some swags required playing a game against other attendees and winning in order to obtain them, such as the 2014 Smash shirt - although I’m not very good at Smash, my friend Danilo from Hyrule Legends was able to secure one for me. Other swags could be obtained simply by asking, although they could also “sell out” quickly and need to be waited for the next day to obtain.

Nintendo Land pins
Nintendo Land pins

As a collector, I always appreciate receiving swags, but the ones that are most useful are the ones that can be worn. I wear a different E3 t-shirt almost every week, and my favorite is probably the Lego Dimensions t-shirt from 2015, which I was able to convince the booth staff to give me, even though it wasn’t technically a swag.

Lego Dimensions t-shirt
Lego Dimensions t-shirt

I consider “ultimate swags” to be items that are not typically available as souvenirs, but somehow I manage to obtain them through persuasion or other means. For example, I attempted to get a water bottle meant for booth staff at E3 2012 but was unsuccessful. However, the following year, I was able to persuade the staff to give me a water bottle, which I was able to obtain.

Booth staff water bottle
Booth staff water bottle

At the end of each day at E3, my friends and I would meet up for a nice dinner and discuss the swags we collected and how we obtained them, as well as the games we played and our overall experiences for the day.

I typically leave my last day at E3 fairly open, allowing me to walk around and collect any remaining swags or replay my favorite games. Afterwards, we would gather all of our swags and game-related purchases for an epic group photo.

E3 2017 swags
E3 2017 swags

The food

There are several options for obtaining food at E3. Media professionals can get a decent lunch for free in the press room, while others can purchase overpriced food at the various cafeterias within the convention center.

If I’m lucky, I don’t even have to stop to eat because some company booths offer snacks while you play their games - this was often my main meal during E3. Why would I stop to eat when I could just power through and play games at the largest gaming convention in the world?

CD Projekt Red booth snacks
CD Projekt Red booth snacks

Meeting your heroes

One of the best things about E3 is the possibility of meeting the people who create the games you love. If you’re media, you might be able to book an interview or assisted hands-on session with them.

Alternatively, you might simply stumble upon them while walking around the convention. This is how I met Hideo Kojima, and I even managed to get an autograph from Shigeru Miyamoto after running into him returning from the bathroom. (I apologize for the awkward encounter, Miyamoto! 😅).

Me and Kojima
Me and Kojima

An unconventional way to meet game developers is to wait at the entrance of the Convention Center early in the morning and wait for them to pass by on their way into the event.

While they are often accompanied by security guards and may not have much time due to their busy schedules, there are occasionally moments when they are able to take a moment to interact with fans. This is how I was able to meet Miyamoto and get my 3DS Zelda Edition signed by him, which is now my most prized possession in my collection.

Me and Miyamoto
Me and Miyamoto

After I shared my story of obtaining an autograph from Miyamoto with friends, they decided to try the same thing and were able to get autographs as well. Excited about their success, they told their own friends about the method, leading to a large group of Brazilians who didn’t even know each other waiting at the event entrance in hopes of getting photos and autographs from their heroes.

This became a popular way for fans to meet their idols at E3, with a growing group of people waiting at the entrance each year.

Hue Hue BR
Hue Hue BR

However, once E3 became open to the public, famous people and staff began using a different entrance, rendering this “trick” ineffective. Despite this change, the memories and experiences of meeting beloved game developers will always remain with those lucky enough to have had the opportunity.

After parties

During my time at E3, my days were filled with waking up at the crack of dawn and heading over to the convention center. I made sure to get there early to avoid long lines and make the most of my time there. I spent the majority of my day playing games and exploring all that the convention had to offer. It wasn’t uncommon for me to be there until the event ended for the day at 6:00 PM. By that point, I was usually pretty exhausted.

But the fun didn’t stop there. After a long day at E3, I would often meet up with my friends and gather my gear before heading out to explore the vibrant nightlife of LA. There was always a party happening somewhere, and I was always game to join in on the fun. Some of these parties were exclusive to media professionals, while others were open to any game enthusiast in the area. Some were paid events, while others were free. Some offered free food and drinks, while others had swag to give away. No matter what type of party it was, there was always something for everyone to enjoy.

The best part of these parties, for me, was getting the chance to meet new people and hang out with my friends. We would spend hours talking about the day’s events and getting hyped about all the new releases that were coming that year. It was a great way to unwind after a long day at E3 and make some lasting memories with like-minded individuals.

PC Game Show party
PC Game Show party

Post E3

During my first trip to E3, we barely had time to explore all the other things Los Angeles had to offer - like walking around Santa Monica pier, visiting retro gaming stores like Game Dude, and checking out Universal Studios, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and the Hollywood Sign. We were only there for a week, which was just enough time to attend the conferences and the main event, and have an extra day for shopping.

On all my subsequent trips to E3, I made sure to stay for at least two weeks. That gave us plenty of time to fully experience E3, as well as explore all the other things LA has to offer. After the event was over, my friends and I always had a whole week to do things like hunt for game deals, eat as much junk food as we could, and do all the other touristy things. One time, we even took a weekend trip to Las Vegas - it was amazing!

Going back home

Saying goodbye to E3 was always the saddest moment of the trip, especially during my first year when I was not only saying goodbye to the event, but also to my first trip to LA, which had been an unforgettable experience.

Returning home was always a bit bittersweet, but at least I knew I would have the opportunity to come back to LA again the following year. At least, that’s what I thought until 2019 😅.

See you at E3 2020
See you at E3 2020


Is E3 still relevant?

This is a controversial question, but I believe we need E3 to return. The truth is that E3 was already struggling prior to the pandemic, and the pandemic was the final blow that ended the event. E3 could not survive as a media-only event, as it no longer made financial sense for news companies to send journalists to Los Angeles to cover the event when everything could be easily shown on YouTube.

When E3 opened to the public in 2017, the event was not prepared for such a large audience and it resulted in extremely long lines - for example, there were reportedly 5 hours of wait time to watch the presentation of Cyberpunk 2077, in addition to long lines just to enter the event. The Electronic Software Association (ESA), which organizes E3, was also facing challenges before E3 2020 was canceled, as Geoff Keighley had already announced he would not be attending the event that year.

While it may seem like there’s no need for E3 anymore, as conferences can be held online and game demos can be made available for everyone to play, there is one thing that cannot be fully replicated in the digital world: the hype. E3 is a great tool for creating buzz and increasing hype around game releases, as all gaming enthusiasts are paying attention to everything that happens at the event. It’s practically a week when all of our gamer dreams come true, as we get to look forward to what’s coming in the next year. It’s like Christmas, but better.

Without E3, we don’t know what to expect from the gaming industry in the year. This is why even without E3, many companies still used the E3 time frame to announce their new games in 2020, but it’s just not the same without the big in-person event. Plus, there’s something special about being able to physically be at the event and see everything in person. It adds to the excitement and creates a more immersive experience.

For example, there are still movie trailers shown at Comic-Con. Why do they show trailers at Comic-Con weeks before they are released on YouTube? It’s because this creates anticipation and excitement for finally seeing the trailers, as we know others have already seen it and are reading reactions and comments about it. E3 is the same way, but for games. I attended Gamescom in 2019 and it was a great event, but many of the games that were there had already been announced and the closed presentations were similar to those at E3. Despite being an event that is up to three times larger than E3, it doesn’t create the same level of hype.

What now?

It’s still uncertain if E3 2023 will happen or not, but with the pandemic hopefully coming to an end in the near future, there’s a good chance that the Electronic Software Association (ESA) will be able to bring E3 back next year. If that happens, count me in! I always look forward to attending E3, as it’s not only an opportunity for me to play amazing games and meet new people, but it’s also a chance for me to have an awesome trip with my friends. It can be difficult for us to all get together, since we have busy schedules and live in different countries.

E3 is such a special event for the gaming community, and it’s a shame that it had to be canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic. But I have high hopes that it will return in 2023, and I can’t wait to experience all the excitement and hype that comes with it. From the big game announcements to the hands-on demos, there’s just nothing like being at E3 in person.

Team Nintendo Blast
Team Nintendo Blast

Let’s hope for an E3 come back in 2023 and see you there!


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