My Experienced E3 Navigation Guide

E3 2019 is coming and most of us are getting mildly excited. When I started going to E3  six years ago now, (WHOA MY GOODNESS time flies!) I was happy and confused as to what was the best guide to make industry friends. In addition, I was conflicted because I was a game player first and was also engaged in the industry as a professional.  I needed a proper map to navigate which would fulfill my game playing fix and meet people as well. I reached out to an employee at Destructoid and he told me that E3 is not a place for freelancers as myself to get work. I took that advice and my instinct told me that their was some truth in that. However, showing up was the most valuable thing I could do and I have found that by doing that I was more than a quarter of the way through in terms of navigation. If you decide that you want to go to E3 AND that you can get in, the first thing is to decide what the game plan is. Will playing the new games be a goal or will it be making /catching up with friends or both? Whatever the decision is I highly suggest this first!

 

Get your E3 Pass on Sunday!

   This is the biggest pro tip I have. I can not tell you the amount of time you will save because getting your badge the first day the show floor opens will be hell on Earth! Trust! If you plan on going the last day of the show (normally Thursday) the badge line is substantially shorter or non-existent. However, if you plan on going all three days, I can not emphasize this enough – get the freaking badge on Sunday. Be proactive and go. Even if you’re commuting or staying in Los Angeles for those few days, you will thank yourself later. E3 is not a place you want to “wing it” at. You need to be smart and think a little ahead of the people that might be lazy. One major benefit of going Sunday is that the drive is not bad getting to Downtown LA (unless there is a Dodgers, Lakers, Clippers, Sparks or Kings game). The few times I have went on a Sunday has been copacetic and very relaxing.    Also, pay attention to the details. If you are signed up for the E3 newsletter the one thing I have found that they are good at is detailing what you can do to be proactive as well and prepared for the show. The newest detail I saw last year that they were cracking down on was bag sizes and I mean it! I witnessed them turn people away before you could even get your badge, let alone go in. They had security checks in all places from all parking lot entrances/exits to all entryways that were accessible to the show floor. This is due to some serious theft that occurred two years ago which is skeptically around the time they opened it up to the the public again  (Hmmm coincidence maybe?) When Tuesday arrives, you can look at that super long line and think “Thank God that isn’t me”.

 

However, be expected to be in some lines especially to get in because the only E3 badges that get “all access” to before and after the show are Exhibitor badges. Not Media and Not Industry. Don’t fret! I have some cool tips for making the time seem less painless.

Do not wait in line for E3 Press Conferences

   This is the absolute worst! Unless you were specifically invited by some company and your on the GUARANTEED list of entry DO NOT DO IT! Of course, I can not stop you but I seriously do not recommend it. One year, I got wind that Bethesda needed seat fillers for their press conference show. My best friend Efosa and I went to downtown LA, parked and then took a Lyft at least 15 mins away from the convention center into some super sketchy area. We almost did not get out of the car until we saw a line to enure we were in the correct area. We arrived around 1pm and we were in line to get in the press conference for seven hours. No hyperbole! There were two queues. One was the seat filler and the other was a guest list. The guest list line filled up and dumped out faster over the course of the several hours than the “chop liver’ line. In addition, it was hot, there was no shade, no seats, no water given out. Above all, we watched In-N-Out and upscale catering food trucks roll up and into the venue parking lot and received nothing. Throughout that time, employees who seemed to be working the event never had any line updates to clue people in if they should stay or leave because capacity had been reached. Around 6:45pm, we were about 20 people away from finally entering and one of the line monitors had announced that the press conference after party was beginning but anyone still in the current queue was not guaranteed entry. This was absurd and complete cruel and I will NEVER forgive them for doing that not only to me but to other people as well. So, instead of hoping for the best to get in to some place where you’re treated disrespectfully. I recommend this.

Watch the E3 Press Conferences at home

   Before I took the leap and got wind of actually attending the press conferences, I would host E3 Press Conference watch parties with my close friends. I must admit there is nothing more comfortable and enjoyable than doing this. You create some memorable experiences with in person reactions, shit talking, couch pillow throwing and belligerent shouting of frustration or excitement. Dish up the snacks, order some nachos or pizza, get some “dranks” rotating and get ready for some jam packed fun. If you have a solid internet connection, I highly recommend hosting or attending the party.

Make a list from watching the E3 Press Conferences/Directs of the games you want to play

   I did this for the first time last year and this helped my expo efficiency so much when I attended. Dead ass! Not only was I able to FOCUS on the games that I was interested in when I hunted them down, I was able to do it in two days! The first day I was able to knock out the majority. Granted my list was not terribly long.

However, once I crossed off everything on the list, I was able to meet with old industry friends more, spend proper time with them, run into industry veterans and just casually enjoy the extras of what E3 had to offer. If I wanted to wander into a line to try something else, I could. If I wanted to introduce myself to some other people I have been wanting to meet, I could do that as well. Come back for the Just Dance show at specific time, let’s all shake a tail-feather! Oh, this friend or fan saw that I am at the conference and wants to meet, let’s make it happen! You get the idea. I did not have to worry about what I was missing at any moment because I was prepared.

Do the Math for Queue Lines

   No, I do not mean y = mx+b. Nerd! I jest but in all seriousness, this will save you so much time and time goes fast at E3 if you’re in lines especially when it opens up to the gamer badges. I would encourage anyone before stepping in-line to ask the booth worker how long the demo are for the game. Normally, they know (at least they should, I hope). There will most likely be people in line before you. So, if you count the amount of people in the queue, the amount of game stations there are and the amount of time each game demo is then, you can get a fairly close estimated average of how long you will be waiting for your turn to play. Here is the basic math formula outline.

(People in Line * Demo Time)/ Number of Stations

This of course assumes the game booth is playing fair meaning people don’t cut, people with media badges do not cut into your spot just as you’re about to go up etc. I tried this formula for when I was in the queue for Batman – Arkham Knight. There were 10 game stations and the game demo was 15 minutes long, (Too damn long for Expos with a high attendance by the way) and about 65 people ahead of me. Doing the math, I averaged that I would be waiting for at least a two hours and twenty-six minutes. The show floor would be closing not too long after I played (because I got there around 4pm) and therefore cutting my day short to play anything else at the show! I had to make a decision – to either make that sacrifice or to possibly try and play other games before the day ended. See why making that list ahead of time helps too? You can plan the day better using the the time guides.

Talk to people in the queue for the game you are waiting to play

   I truly believe in this. I know that as game players we are not the most social human beings out there but think about this. We are all there for the same thing that we love…video games! This is the one place where you can nerd out, feel at home, be yourself! You have so many people around you to make friends with and make the time fly faster too! It’s a no-brainer two-for-one! Sure, some people bring their Nintendo Switchs, DS’s GameBoy SPs, Raspberry Pis and other handheld consoles for entertainment before their chance to play the latest game announcement. However, I was able to make multiple friends in the queues I was in. Last year, I gained two new fans for my music. Two years ago, I made some filmography friends that ended up doing a two small segments about me and my work in composition for video games in their documentary sponsored by Intel. Three years ago, I met a great concept artist that remembered me and chased me down just to say “Hey” while I was in the airport heading to GDC. In addition, was able to make a connection with a future client game developer, that needed music for their own game. You never know who you will meet or make friends with and you’re killing time.

Fit some Snacks in that Bag!

   Alright, I get that you may not be the most social butterfly out there. You’re sticking to your guns and playing that handheld until it’s your turn to play the new hype game! Well, from all this running around and waiting, you’re going to get pretty hungry. The food court and food truck lines are long too. Facts! You do not want to get a headache from being in-line for so long due to lack of nourishment. I recommend you bring a water flask and pack at least three granola bars or Complete Cookies and some dried fruit for the day. You can even get these for cheap. Here is other pro tip, I did my snack shopping at the Dollar Tree on Saturday (the day before I had to get my E3 badge). They had some of the premium snacks you normally see at a grocery store for $3.00 – $5.00 for a $1.00 each.

You only need to stock up for three days worth and ration out the snacks you will be able to fit comfortably in the bag, still be able to fit “swag,” will tie you over until lunch and keep you from being “Krangry” [Crabby and Angry] in the queue.  You’ve played Metal Gear and survival games before right? So, apply those ration skills now!

Park Away from the Convention Center

   You do not want to get caught up parking in the convention center. They charge $20.00 – $25.00 and if you plan on going to any parties you better be out the lot before 10Pm or you’ll be getting your car the next day! Hope you have a place to stay locally IF that happens. (Let’s hope for your sake it’s not) I would recommend getting the parking app like SpotHero , which seemed to work pretty well for me and saved me time and money. Just remember to consider how late that you are staying out and ask parking employees when the parking lot or parking garage closes. Walking is good for you and once you see the traffic you will thank yourself later. Most importantly, get there early as you are fighting Los Angeles traffic in a busy downtown area during a work week.

Look out for “swag” grabs

   Booths nowadays will not just give out anything when you walk by. They want to scan your badge and suck your time out by making you stand in line to play the demo first. If you’re at E3 to collect swag then, you better decide quickly which booths you want to hit and be in line for. You’ll most likely be waiting to play a game in order to get a t-shirt or some other cool exclusive collectible and if that game is SUPER DUPER POPULAR then kiss more than half of the day good-bye! Hope it was worth it. At least be in the queue for the games you care about to play and if you get some additional “swag” for waiting then, that is icing on the cake. Just be cognizant. Sometimes, in more rare cases now than before, if you wait an hour before the booth closes on the last expo day, they will just give out the “swag” only because they do not want to tote it back. Some booths are mad stingy about it though and will tell you a straight “No” or lie to your face about having extras and you’ll see someone that the booth worker knows have a friend walk up, ask for the same item you did and they give it right to them. In addition, you’ll probably come to find out that they have several boxes full of stuff too even on the last day of the last hour. So, just keep your wits about you and do not give them your time to be in line if they are mistreating and disrespecting you. Remember, you probably paid to be there and if no one attended E3 they would not be getting paid. E3 is expensive to organize and run. Your presence helps in paying their bills either in the moment or in the future when you work on a game, buy it or both.

“Buddy Housing”

   This is optional! However, if you can find a place to stay in LA (such as a friend’s house or apartment) that live close to the convention center I suggest HOP ON THAT SHIT! You eliminate trying to find parking, you can take Lyfts and Ubers (if needed) to other parties far from the center, which will keep down the budget spending and can stay out as late as you want (assuming your host is cool with that).

 

Go with the Flow

  I remember an episode on Samurai Champloo, Jin and Mugen was fighting someone (no spoilers) and it was their most challenging fight yet. After the battle, the Jin told Mugen that “you can not fight the current you have to flow with it.” That said, my metaphor connection to this is E3 is big and can be overwhelming. Lots of bodies moving about and booths to maneuver. If you can’t make it too play a lot of games and visit every booth don’t worry. If you made that list, that I mentioned earlier and you do that queue math, you’ll have a very efficient and fairly successful expo! Have fun! That is what you’re goal should be no matter what! Thanks for reading and have grand E3!