Goodbye E3, the Trade Show That Changed My Life

E3 2022 has been canceled, and there’s a good chance E3, for many years the annual epicenter of video game hype culture, is now gone forever. 


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/qjb5pd/goodbye-e3-the-trade-show-that-changed-my-life
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First, a little fun tale of E3:

My computer science advisor at college used to work for Epic Games and had the opportunity to attend E3 circa 2003 or so. The EA display for Need for Speed prominently featured a bright orange sports car (I forget if it was a Lamborghini or a Ferrari). Tim Sweeney saw it and said “I want that car.” Talked to the display manager, who said it was a rental. Got the phone number of the rental company. Explained who he is and how much money he has. Now owns the car (Cliff Bleszinski verified this for me on Twitter lol).

Now for a take:

E3 shares a common trait with Harry Potter for me specifically in that I find myself trying to distinguish the fond memories I have surrounding E3 from E3 itself. Iron Man 2 is not a good movie, but going to Iron Man 2 with my friends before finals week was a good time. The first Hobbit movie was not a very good movie but it was a very good date. Etc.

E3 itself is a capitalism bacchanalia. It’s a demonstration of the hard work of a lot of smart, creative people coming together to show off the cool thing they made, yes, but it’s fundamentally a festival of commercials. And more and more it’s been even less “commercials” than “here’s our CG recruitment video; please get excited about this thing coming out in 5-7 years.” Todd Howard showed us an in-engine flyover and played some placeholder music for Elder Scrols++ and I got excited about it. A game we might get to play in 2027 if we’re lucky.

And that’s to say nothing of the relative lack of an indie scene at E3, where a lot of the more interesting stuff happens. E3’s essentially like Disney’s “First Look” days where they just say character names at you (“a ‘Hydra Bob’ series is in development for Disney+!”) and say “GET EXCITED” and they hope the sentiment analysis from Twitter will give them a couple point boost in their stock price. It’s all just capitalism in all the ways capitalism is manipulative.

And yet, I wouldn’t be writing this were it not for E3. I wouldn’t have run into good people like the Waypoint Extended Universe who not only introduced me to cool video games but better politics. The camaraderie I felt with all of these perfect Internet strangers over this mutual love of ours - that’s real. I am was a weird kid without a lot of friends but video games? I understood those. Finding out that there’s a whole world out there of people I finally relate to? Huge. Having even the mainstream press poke their heads in and so people say “Oh yeah that video game thing?” It’s not a lot, but it was enough.

I recognize the slightly pernicious nature of E3, but I find myself missing it anyway. That sense of collective joy is hard to find.

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This is very sweet

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Despite being younger than Patrick, I have this very strange parasocial feeling of being a “proud dad” when I look at the arc of his career. It has been immensely edifying to me to see him grow as a reporter and public intellectual over the past 10+ years that I’ve had him talking in my ear. Perhaps it’s the perpetual babyface and lingering reputation as the young’un in most of the podcast dynamics he’s been a party to? Maybe I’m the only one who feels this way?

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I feel a very strange kinship with Patrick because he did his 1UP internship (including a few appearances on 1UP Yours) just about the time I was really getting into video games in earnest so it’s less “proud papa” for me and more “oh hey it’s that dude doing well” kinda pride. Patrick definitely used to be the perpetual young gun but his dad vibes are far more powerful now.

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