There is nothing quite like your first E3. Before I first went to E3 back in 2010, the event seemed like this wondrous and mythical place, like Narnia. A place that you read about and see pictures of, but never a place you actually go to. In 2010, thanks in part to some incredibly good luck, spurred on by a personal loss that made me decide to go out and see the world, I stepped through the wardrobe and raced off to something I had been dreaming about going to since middle school, but never in a million years thought I would be able to actually see.
It all started just a few weeks before the event. I had just lost someone dear to me and I was anxious to find something to do with myself. That’s when Sharky contacted me and told me that SEGA was interested in inviting SEGAbits to E3, but no one on the site would be able to attend. SEGAbits had caught my interest a few months after its debut, but I had decided not to apply for because I knew I wouldn’t be able to write for it regularly. After hearing that they might be getting an invite to E3, I jumped at the chance and offered myself up as a part time writer and as someone who could cover E3 for them. I quickly wrote up a review of House of the Dead: Overkill, and kept my fingers crossed that it would pan out. Unfortunately, it didn’t. SEGA had sent out the industry passes to other people, and I resigned myself to being a faraway spectator of E3 again. No big deal, this was how these things normally worked out anyway.
Then just a few days later my boss over at Sonic Stadium, Dreadknux, announced on the staff forum that the website had been invited to E3. Apparently, Sonic Stadium had been one of those lucky sites SEGA sent an industry pass to! Unfortunately, no one was in a position to attend. Cautiously, I raised my hand. I was not going to let what could be a once in a lifetime opportunity slip away, not this time. Being his only option, Dread selected me and put me into contact with SEGA Community Manager Kellie Parker, and she gave me the industry pass that was supposed to be my golden ticket into E3.
And from there, the most stressful, frustrating, blood pressure rising two weeks of my life began. When I went to register the industry pass, I discovered that there was a second part to the registration process, one that I could not complete. In order to get into E3, I needed to present them with a W2 business form, a business card, and all sorts of other things I simply did not have. For weeks I sent e-mails to E3 trying to figure out what I was supposed to do. I finally created a Twitter account specifically to contact E3’s twitter account. I got a mix of answers, ranging from “you’re fine” to “NO, YOU AREN’T REGISTERED!”
All the while I was attempting to set up plane tickets, find a hotel and figure out how I was going to get around Los Angeles. For the latter two issues I decided to contact a friend who lived in the area, someone I knew him from Emerald Coast Comics. I had first contacted some time ago in order to get his comic, Sonic Eggs, on the website and I had since come to know him quite well: Jason Berry. With all of E3’s hotels long since booked, he helped me pick out a hotel, an incredibly over-priced resort that on a hill overlooking the town. This hotel would prove to be the bane of my existence with its terrible internet and lack of affordable dining options, but it at least got the job done. Jason also agreed to be my chauffer, going so far as to even agree to hold up a sign for me at the airport (he would unfortunately not agree to wear the chauffer’s suit, much to my disappointment). Finally, he also agreed to help me cover E3, provided I could get him in. I knew I wouldn’t be able to cover E3 effectively by myself. I needed someone else who could help me do interviews, take videos and write about the games for both Sonic Stadium and SEGAbits. To that end, he joined both sites and wrote up a review for Sonic 3D Blast in the hopes that the industry pass could get two people into E3.
Finally, the day of truth finally came. On Monday, June 15th 2010, I took my first flight over ten years and left the east coast for the first time in my life, all without knowing whether or not I would actually be able to get into E3. I had read on the website that attendees could $500 to get in, but the registration process seemed so confusing even that I was unsure about. Jason picked me up, complete with the sign that he promised, and we headed out to the Los Angeles Convention Center.
When we tried to register for E3, our worst fears were realized. SEGA had apparently not understood what the Industry Passes were for: they were not invitations companies could send out to fans, but rather invitations companies could send out to employees of other game companies. In other words, there was absolutely nothing SEGA could do to get us in. It didn’t matter that we worked for SEGA fan websites or that the company itself wanted us in, it wasn’t enough. It was still possible for me to get in by buying an attendee badge for $500, but this meant that I had to go in alone as I could not afford a second badge.
That’s when something miraculous happened: a kindhearted E3 employee who was overseeing the Attendee Registration Booth decided to let me in anyway. I am not sure if he was just feeling particularly awesome that day or if SEGA wasn’t the only company to confuse the purpose of the industry passes. What I do know is that he let me in to my very first E3, despite not having the write credential or materials, something I would never expect out of something as strict and professional as E3. With my badge in hand, Jason and I headed over to the machines that let us purchase E3 badges, and $500 later our E3 adventure began.