Every year that I go to E3 I learn something new. The first year I learned a lot because I knew nothing going in. The second year I refined the process but also enjoyed a second person to cover the event with. Now, year three where I flying solo again I find that the process is further refined and some new lessons have cropped up. Some of these points are going to be repeats from previous lists like this but that is because they remain true and are valid pieces of advice that a new E3 attendee might find useful next year.
1. Pack Extra Socks and Underwear
Right off the bat this is a repeat but I put it up at the top because it is a big rookie mistake that should be in your plans. Now look, you want to leave room in your bag for potential swag and all that but despite the halls being cold enough to store meat in, you will sweat like you owe the mob money with all those people in there crushed together. This is especially a problem if you are walking quickly to get to appointments. At the end of your day you are going to want nothing more than to go back to the hotel room, shower, put on some fresh, clean clothes and either order room service while you work on updates or go to a restaurant to relax a bit. What can bring you down really hard once you get back to the room? The realization that you brought one pair of socks and undies for each day and you are now going to have to ration out the under garments in such a way that you don’t have to go out to eat in used, sweaty drawers. Do yourself a favor and plan ahead so that when you are done for the day you can relax clean and safe in the knowledge that you don’t need to worry about going down to the gift shop of the hotel and hoping that they have boxer briefs in your size.
2. Remember That This is a Professional Event.
E3 is an industry only event. Whether you are representing media, retail or development you have had to provide credentials to prove that you are a professional in the field. Because of this, the rules of conduct are a bit different than if you were a member of the public heading out to PAX or something like that. This is not to say that you should act like a jackass at PAX either but at E3 you are there in a professional capacity and as such are expected to act like it. So, for instance, if you are trying to get in line for a 30 minute hands on pass to Resident Evil 6 it is not really professional to try to crush each other in an unruly mob while trying to get to the front. Any time a girl has to yell ‘Get your fucking hands off me!’ or ‘I can’t breathe’ this is an unreasonable crowd. Throwing bows doesn’t help much either and is either going to start a fist fight or provide you with a one way ticket to the first aid station. This also goes for trying to get into the show first thing in the morning as well. You will get in so there is no point being rude and hurting someone else. There is also no need for running. I am not sure what got into people’s heads this year but I saw people sprinting from booth to booth trying to get into the next theater experience such that two dudes knocked down he poles that hold the dividing ropes up and upon the poles hitting the ground the poles made a clanging noise loud enough to be heard three booths over and the two looked at it shrugged and then continued to get in line. I was pretty appalled by this abject lack of even the most cursory of manners. It makes us all look bad if E3 attendees act like a bunch of animals.
3. Don’t Be That Guy!
You know the guy that wears the t-shirt of the band he is going to see? Don’t be that guy. You are going to get a bunch of T-shirts at E3 and a lot of them are cool. Wearing them the next day at the show is a bad idea though because A: you look like kind of a jackass and B: because wearing company specific shirts into a meeting with another company is kind of awkward and unprofessional. If you are a regular attendee and are not there to report on the show or anything like that then have at it but if you are representing a media outlet and you show favoritism for one company over another by branding yourself with a company’s merch it can potentially offend the company you aren’t wearing. Also, to revisit the first point, you just look silly.
4. Take a Partner if You Can
If you can bring someone along with you then by all means do that. Aside from the more obvious companionship and the basic human contact that provides, having a partner means you can take more meetings and cover more games. The efficiency really speaks for itself and it helps prevent the you from going batshit nuts.
5. Gift Shop Items Go On Sale On the Last Day
This might be a no-brainer but the gift shop offers fairly deep discounts on the last day of the show. Unless there is something you REALLY want and are afraid will be gone you should probably go ahead and wait to buy that merch until the discount kicks in.
6. When Setting Up Appointments Make Sure You Give Yourself Enough Time Between Them
This another no-brainer but it is something I really messed up this year. In fairness I had 14 appointments and am just one man trying to juggle them all. Getting from one appointment to another is challenging if you have scheduled back to back appointments on opposite ends of different halls so some breathing room is pretty nice. Aside from that, every once in awhile a company with throw you curve ball like Capcom and make you come back at a particular time to get tickets which then require you to come back at a different time for your hands on and if you have no flexibility in your schedule, these sorts of opportunities are lost to you. Also, you are going to want some time to just walk around and see what is going on and if you schedule too tight then you will be missing a lot of things.
7. Wear Gym Shoes
With the amount of walking and standing you are going to be doing at E3 you want the right foot wear. I have seen people walking around in dress shoes and in flip-flips and neither choice really fits for E3. With the glut of activity and people acting like animals it is always good to make sure you are as light on you feet as possible. Also, you will have your feet stepped on. Since steel toed work boots would be a weird and uncomfortable choice, it is best to go with a shoe that offers a tiny bit of protection in exchange for being quick and agile. Also, at the end of the day you are really going to want to have worn good comfy shoes if you expect to walk at all for the rest of the week.
8. Take Snacks Instead of Stopping for Lunch
This varies depending on some of the other points above like your schedule and if you have a partner. If you are going it alone and you have a tight schedule do not count on eating lunch at the show. There are a lot of food options and some of them are even reasonably priced but when you are at a convention with 44,000 people in attendance you cannot count on getting your food with any amount of speed. If you want to eat at the show, allow for at LEAST 45 minutes to GET your food and then however long it takes to ingest it. This year I went with a pastrami burrito at one point because I was tired of cliff bars. I chose it for the ability to walk and eat and thus be more effecient. Not only did waiting for it cause me to miss an appointment but it also launched all manner of burrito juice onto the front of my shirt. Now sure, the stereotype of the gamer calls for some mustard or something on your shirt but it is not really great to have it when you go to interview someone. Cliff bars, bottles of water and trail mix (or some nice salt water taffy) are great additions to your backpack.
9. Don’t Sweat Buying a Bunch of Energy Drinks on Your Way in Because NOS is Free Outside the South Hall
On your way into the hall you can get free cans of NOS so there is really no reason to stock up on energy drinks on the way over. This is very, very handy especially if you were at a comedy show at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade until 2:30 the night before.
10. Talk to Strangers
Odds are that you are going to be waiting in some lines for a long time. This is a great time for networking and just exercising your basic social skills. If there is one thing you know about everyone at E3 it is that everyone there shares an interest in video games. You can make friends, hear new perspectives and sometimes find out the scoop about some shit you didn’t even know about. E3 is a wonderful place to meet new people from all around the world and you never know when the person you meet is going to be a great friend or provide a big opportunity for the future. Don’t be anti-social!