Getting nothing done at E3


There were no available hotel rooms in Los Angles last weekend. That's because E3 — the Electronic Entertainment Expo — is the biggest trade show that ever comes to LA, unless you count the Democratic National Convention.

At E3, the rooms are dark and the budgets are high. The booths that house the large video game publishers are like amusement parks. The booths flash and moan with sex and death, and video screens are everywhere, as if MTV has taken over the world. The people who go to E3 are generally eighteen-year-old boys who do not work in the industry unless you count playing video games every night in their dorm room work.

There were no available hotel rooms in Los Angeles, but I persisted. For some insane reason I forgot how incredibly stupid E3 is, and I told my company I would go. I told my company I've been to E3 a million times (true) and I'd be able to cut some deals (false).

I forgot, though, that I have hated E3 every time I've gone, and every time I've gone I say I'll never go again. I also forgot, that I am not really a deal maker. I am great at strategy and I'm great at process, but I am not a person who can sell oil to Arabs, or whatever that expression is.

So I stay in a hotel an hour from the convention center and work out in their crappy gym in the morning to prepare myself for my powerfulness on the negotiating floor. I check my email but I cannot check my email because I cannot dial up. I call the front desk and they send up a “technology person” who says he's not allowed to touch peoples' computers.

I get to E3 in the early afternoon. As soon at I approach the convention center doors, I remember how intimidating E3 is. The ratio of men to women is about 100:1. I'm not kidding. So you can imagine that the place is a fashion nightmare: Shorts and T-shirts rule, and I'm not talking about the clean kind.

I am in my DKNY negotiating clothes and I look like an adult who came to pick up her kid at a birthday party. I spend about ten minutes roaming through the multi-leveled Micorsoft booth, the beer-filled Apple booth, and the Nintendo booth that is so large and packed that I have to push a kid off his video console in order to escape.

I realize the sad truth is that the people cutting deals are not on the trade show floor — they are in rooms at the edge of the building where it is invitation only and I don't have one. I realize the sad truth is that my company spent $1300 for the plane ticket and $500 for the hotel and I will do nothing at E3.

In fact, after ten minutes, I am ready to go home. I tell myself I will memorize pieces of the exhibitor directory so that when I get back to my office, I will sound like I got a lot of work done. Thank goodness no one in my company has ever been to E3 so no one knows how absurd it was that I came here.

I am ready to leave but I cannot leave. I have come with a friend who wants to play video games, and we are not meeting up again for four hours. Cell phones do not work on the floor. I have four hours to kill. I notice a sign for a media relations room and I have an idea: I swap my software bus dev badge for an eCompany media badge, and I am a new woman. I am a reporter. The first thing I do as a reporter is go to the room filled with fast computers for filing stories and I check my email.

I decide I will be the reporter doing a story about women at E3. I look for women who look cool. The first woman I talk to is an admin at Activision. The next one is not sure what she is. “Talk to him,” she says, and points to the guy she's with. I tell her I'm doing a story on women. “I'm only talking to women,” I say. Turns out that she is the guy's secretary, but only for a couple of weeks until her vacation ends and she goes back to Amsterdam. The guy wants to talk to me about his company. I ask him if he's staying in the same hotel room as his secretary. The interview on the whole goes pretty poorly.

I talk to Lana who is actually very cool. I spot her playing an Infogrammes game where you drive a truck and do truck jumps. She drives off a ramp and does a double spin and lands on her wheels. I am impressed that she can figure out how to do the game on the first try, and I am impressed that she wants to. I ask Lana what she's doing at E3. She says she's looking for a job. She just got laid off from an Internet company. She is cool because she's wearing a dress at E3 — the cool kind that you wear with gym shoes — and she is cool because she seems to not notice that every guy at the Infogrammes booth is eyeing her.

I want to give her a job, but she is a bookkeeper, and I don't need a bookkeeper since I haven't made any deals that need keeping track of. Besides, she lives in Vancouver, BC, which would be a long commute to my office. But someone should hire her. So here's her email address:

Lana would probably be good to invite back to my hotel so we can hang out at the pool, but it's very embarrassing to be a reporter who is really a bus dev person who is really going to sit a the pool for the rest of the conference. So I thank her for talking to me and start writing the report I will send to my boss to show how much work I got done.

8 replies
  1. Rahul
    Rahul says:

    That’s funny. What were you doing at E3 in 2001? Writing about women in the videogame industry?

    * * * * *

    I was in the software industry for ten years. Went to lots of E3s

  2. Greg
    Greg says:

    Did your employer ever read this (I don’t even know who you worked for then) and if so, did you get in trouble? I wonder where Lana ended up…

  3. GiantHaystax
    GiantHaystax says:

    Found this very old article while searching for E3 2009. These trade shows are a great way for bloggers to get PR contacts within the games companies. Only problem is you need to have some contacts in the first place to get the invite usually. I ran a video game blog for about a year. After going to a small video game show we managed to get good contacts at SEGA after talking to the reps on their booth. They didn’t care we were a really small blog site and signed us up to their review copy mailing list as well as invited us to PR events when there were spaces.

    Attending these shows can give your attempets to get into the games media industry a boost by helping you to make contacts.

  4. Anon
    Anon says:

    I’ve read this post before. But I read it again today when I was doing a search to see what your very first post was.

    Can you believe it’s been 10 years?

  5. Sharanya
    Sharanya says:

    Hey Penelope, Came across this post and just want to say happy anniv in advance. Can’t believe you’ve been blogging since I was ten haha. Just want you to know that yours is one of my favourite blogs and I love your insights:)

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