The Neon Chronicles: How E3 Can Be Improved

I'm going to, as my roommate calls it, "get a little East Coast."

Written by on    

Attention
The views and opinions expressed in this article may not necessarily be representative of The Koalition as a collective.

E3 – the Electronic Entertainment Expo. If you’re a gamer, you most likely know what it is, and have aspirations of one day attending the event that takes over the news and internet every year for a few days in the middle of June. For those in media and industry, it’s work. It’s a stressful event which adds a lot to the workload and can define a freelancer’s career. If you want to be in the know and be considered relevant in the industry, you have to attend E3 – that’s just the way it is. Before E3 became it’s own thing, it was a part of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), and in May of 1995, it was no longer just an extension for another show.

E3 has always been in Los Angeles, except in 1997 and 1998, when it was held in Atlanta. The Los Angeles Convention Center is in a part of downtown LA referred to as LA Live – it’s surrounded by chain restaurants, the Staples Center, and a few hotels such as the Ritz Carlton and the JW Marriott. Logistically, an event that holds an alleged [in 2017] 68,400 attendees should be in a convention center that is large, easy to navigate, and has plenty of hotels, stores, and food options in the area. Sadly, this is not the case.

Industry attendee Chris, who was attending for the first time, had a very strong opinion about the convention center: “It’s like a maze of 80’s chic architecture punctuated with warehouses unfit for squeezing in the overwrought spectacles bestowed by game industry marketing budgets.. And the bathrooms were gross.” The zig-zaggy layout of the convention center with escalators in places escalators shouldn’t even be makes it difficult to get from point a to point b all while also trying to navigate through a crowd. Luckily, this wasn’t my first rodeo and I knew some secret ways to get around.

E3 is always crowded, regardless of how many people they let in. The least crowded [that I have ever attended] was probably E3 2013, which was only 48,200 people. This was the year the new consoles were releasing, so there wasn’t a lot to show off. Although content wise there wasn’t a lot to see, it was a very relaxing, productive convention. This year, things changed: E3 was going to again open to the public, this time allowing 15,000 people to get a badge. Luckily, the ESA made it incredibly easy to spot these folks out: neon yellow badges. And thus, the nickname “Neons” was born.

I had run into an industry veteran [friend of mine] on the show floor shortly after the doors opened on the first day. We were both clearly anxious and hoping the crowds died down sooner than later, but sadly it was not the case. This industry attendee had lots of meetings to attend, and people to see – navigating the convention center with almost 70,000 other people was a nightmare.

“I honestly don’t think you’re going to see this [E3 open to the public] again. I think they realized it’s not special enough to spend $250 a day on, especially when it’s an industry show that does not cater to the public. [I think] they’re going to want to stay with the PAX shows – it’s a cheaper ticket with a more hands-on experience. While I’m sure it was a nice additional revenue stream for the ESA, I just don’t think it was a positive experience for either the public, or the industry attendees.”

I have a couple of serious suggestions that should be considered to improve E3, let me know if you’re in agreeance or not..

E3 2017 Neons
© James Joy, 2017

Stop letting the public into E3!

We get it. E3 is a perfect opportunity to sell a dream to gamers across the globe. Sell them the hope of having fun, seeing plenty of games, playing plenty of games, and seeing celebrities and developers that they idolize. But we shouldn’t forget what E3 is: a professional industry event where the press reports the products and titles seen, and retailers and buyers can meet and secure deals. Many have claimed that the ESA is allegedly doing this for the money. Let’s assume that this is true for a minute; if they continued to do this, then they likely won’t make much money anymore, and here’s why…

Floor space at the Los Angeles Convention Center is incredibly expensive. It’s stupid expensive. Companies that are respected among a good majority of gamers like Hori and Telltale could not afford legitimate space on the showfloor and had to settle for a small cubicle-like space in the Concourse Hall, an area which is only accessible by industry and press. Not to mention that if you didn’t have an appointment there, you wouldn’t know the hall itself even existed. If this continues, it can potentially screw good companies and good people out of the exposure and networking they were hoping to get out of E3.

Don’t want to stop allowing Neons in? Well here’s how you can make us all happy…

Because a room at the Westin (which, the one in downtown LA is arguably pretty shitty) would have cost me $2000 for four nights, I decided to stay with a friend in Santa Monica. Santa Monica is roughly ten miles directly West of where E3 is held, and with traffic, takes anywhere between 35 and 45 minutes to drive to. Lucky for me, I had a friend who lives around the corner from where I was staying, so I had someone to carpool with. Not a lot of money spent on gas, hotel money saved, and parking considerably cheaper than Oracle Arena made me a reasonably happy woman.

Yeah, I was happy, sure. Until I came a teeny bit later [than the previous day] and it took me longer to find parking than it did to drive from Santa Monica in rush hour traffic. The line to get into the far parking lot was almost backed up into the Highway 110 on-ramp. I was late for a meeting, but thankfully communicated with the understanding representative from Square Enix and was able to get into the next slot. Not to my surprise at all, the parking lot I entered was filled with Neons. If there weren’t an additional 15,000 people who needed parking spots (granted I’m sure plenty carpooled, but still), this would never be a problem (or, if Los Angeles had public transportation that wasn’t awful, but we know that’s a much bigger problem which isn’t getting solved anytime soon).

Conventions like Gamescom have a good system down, allowing the press to come a day early and roam the floor to get everything they can done ahead of time without the inconvenience of Neon wanderers getting in their way and destroying their productivity. Even if there wasn’t a full press day, they could still meet us halfway and make the Neons wait until the final day, or only give them two half days.

Doing this doesn’t just help get rid of the stress and anxiety industry and press attendees have to get through to do their jobs, but also the people working the booths, and that is a very important factor people tend to overlook. The people you have working booths can be anyone from a volunteer, someone in QA, to an executive producer. These people have to repeat themselves over and over while ensuring attendees all get the same treatment and experience. Unfortunately, not every Neon thinks they have to treat these people with respect, which takes me to my next topic.

Have an orientation for all public attendees. It may sound impossible, but there are various ways to approach this.

Most Neons were shockingly rude and inconsiderate. Before I continue, I do understand there are plenty of actual industry affiliates that unfortunately received neon badges. Take This, for example, had clinicians with white badges and the blue industry bar and some with neon badges. Take This is a non-profit organization and charity that provides an amazing service to gamers and convention goers alike by hosting AFK rooms for people to have a safe place and recharge. Take This is a well recognized organization within the industry, and I cannot think of any other reason other than poor planning that half of them got neon badges, and the other half did not.

I’m going to go ahead and say PAX attendees, which are 75-80% public attendees are better people and more aware by the tenfold. Sure, you still have the occasional person who have clearly never walked in a crowded area, but PAX-goers are nothing like the Neons.

The main problem with the Neons was their sense of entitlement. It genuinely confused the living crap out of me. Okay, so you won the internet and beat a bunch of other folks in the internet queue and got a badge, cool. But why does that convince the Neons they have the right to shove the press and industry around to take a photo of a Monster Hunter dragon? Or (yes, this happened) legitimately move a rope blocking off a press-only area to try and look at things already on the showfloor and seem surprised when asked to leave? If anything, it was insulting to the industry.

If the plan is to continue allowing people from the public to come in, then Neon badge holders need to be taught some etiquette. Make them watch a video about some ground rules and guidelines for how to handle certain situations. We all know you can read the signs that say “do not enter” and “press and industry only.” Neons need to learn that this is a professional industry trade event in which actual, real business is conducted. Do not swarm celebrities, do not push and shove, and most definitely wear deodorant. Hell, host an orientation in the Nokia Theater before the show! Make it mandatory! Still doesn’t sound good? All right, I have one last suggestion, and I know you’ve heard me say it before.

CES 2017
I promise you, this environment is really not that stressful.

For the love of all things holy, take this convention back to Vegas.

It doesn’t have to be connected to CES, you can still do it in June if you so wish, but for crying out loud, get this thing the hell out of Los Angeles. First and foremost, never have I ever had an anxiety attack at CES – which has grown to roughly 180,000 attendees in 2017. One hundred and eighty thousand. That’s legitimately almost three of this year’s E3 in one convention. Sure, it can be crowded, but it’s nothing like E3. CES does an excellent job of organizing the large showfloor so everything relevant is as grouped together as possible (North Hall always has family tech and cars, for example), and utilizing the Sands Expo Hall at the Venetian.

“But Tatjana, CES is such a large event, it’s gotta be really expensive!” Well, getting floor space anywhere is expensive, but you can fit E3 in one hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center, or even in the Sands Expo Hall.

Using both for E3 like CES would give a lot of indie developers the opportunity to attend the show and get some exposure they would otherwise never be able to get. CES’ showfloor must be less expensive – there are plenty of start ups and small companies who are able to showcase. Sands Hall is filled to the brim with some seriously cool tech.. From companies started by two college kids in their dorms! So not only would this save exhibitors a crap ton of money, it would actually increase the profits for the ESA. 

Logistically, Vegas just makes more sense. Before you make any assumptions – I do not give a shit about gambling, clubs, and crazy rager parties. What I do care about is affordable hotels, a good shuttle system (which CES’ is near flawless), and access to things like a CVS, gas station and grocery stores. Las Vegas has CVS and Walgreens on the main strip.

Las Vegas has fancy buffets and restaurants, cheap fast food, and affordable options as well. Getting something to eat at the Los Angeles Convention Center can seem impossible some days, with people needing to stay close for appointments and meetings.

Please hear me out when I am telling you this year’s E3 gave me my first major anxiety attack in over a year. An event I have gone to time and time again, and that this has never happened at the much larger CES. Hosting this convention in the very poorly designed Los Angeles Convention Center which has surrounding areas clearly not meant to host something of its size has become a serious problem, and this year really pushed it over the line.

Moving back to Las Vegas will open so many doors for developers, freelance journalists, exhibitors and even the public (this will give more room for the public to enjoy it and get a chance to network). It’s time we cut the crap and think about catering to everyone, not just one part of this wonderful, chaotic and somehow beautiful industry.

About The Author
Tatjana Vejnovic
Leave A Comment