Tales from E3: The industry shares its favorite stories

The Killers

Mel Kirk, vice president of marketing and public relations at Zen Studios

At E3 2005, I was at the Xbox 360 unveil party at the Greek Theater. This was back in the day when first-parties would bring the hottest bands to perform. The Killers were on their way up but not yet huge; their debut album Hot Fuss was getting popular.

The band came out to start the show, and it looked like no one in the audience was really ready. I happened to be standing near the stage when the lead singer, Brandon Flowers, came out and was looking around a little confused.

I said, “Hey, you’re the lead for The Killers.”

He replied back, “So is this a party?” with a really odd expression on his face. He asked me to go get him a beer, and then we drank onstage together before the show started. No one else recognized him.

Jeff Castaneda, vice president of communications at MTV

We first debuted Rock Band at E3 2007, and we knew the game was something special when approximately 50 journalists started belting Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive” at the top of their lungs together in unison. The lyrics “I’m a cowboy … on a steel horse I ride” will always have a special place in my heart because of this.

xkcd Rock Band

From a previous life:

At E3 2001, no one was paying attention to Grand Theft Auto 3, which was playable at the Rockstar Games booth. Instead, long lines formed around the game State of Emergency. Glad to see that destiny took over at some point, and the world eventually got it right.

Joe Lieberman, PR guy at VGSmart

My first year at E3, I was with TriSynergy, and we had a private meeting room demoing our lineup. When I arrived, several shocking revelations occurred. First, that I had packed nonstop meetings and forgotten about lunch and bathroom breaks. Second, that I was going to be alone for 90 percent of the time since my boss had scheduled his own set of meetings with other companies. But third and most story-worthy, I realized we had a flight sim to show off (Battle Over Britain 2) and no joystick.

In a panic, I ran out of the booth in hopes of finding someone I knew who had a spare and realized that directly across from us was the Saitek booth. I basically begged for them to let me borrow a joystick, and not only did they let me have a brand-new Cyborg Evo, but they told me to keep it. I still have it, and it still works!

This is also the year I had the worst pitch I have ever heard. It went something like this: “Our massively multiplayer online game has events that occur when you’re not playing, so that if you have plans with your wife and kids to go to the movies and get an alert your castle is under attack, you cancel your plans and go save your fortress!” It was a stunning display of how not to pitch a game to a U.S. publisher.

Jeff Green, director of editorial and social media at PopCap Games

I’ve been to 17 E3s since 1996, and each one was great and utterly miserable in its own way, so it’s hard to single out any particular memories. It’s all one gigantic, grotesque blur in my head, accentuated by wafts of gamer cropdusting and B.O. So instead of one epic story, here are a few random incidents that have stuck with me over the years:

In 1997, E3 was in Atlanta, which was unbearably hot and sticky. It was hardly worth showering because as soon as you stepped outside, you were soaked through with sweat. So that was fun.

But my big memory of that show was that one of our editors at the time (at Computer Gaming World magazine), who was from the South, kept telling us he was going to take us to the place with the best chicken wings in Georgia. On the third night,  he led us to our destination on foot. As we were walking, a Hooters came into view. Sure enough, as we approached the Hooters, he started turning in. We thought he was kidding at first. But, nope, this was where we were going to have the best wings in Georgia.

The best part was that he was completely serious and was surprised when we started making fun of him. “What?” he said. “The food here is awesome!”

Yeah, dude. That’s why you led us here. For the wings.

Optim-ice PrimeThat same E3 was also the scene of one of the most notorious parties in E3 history: the Eidos party, in which two giant anatomically correct ice sculptures — one male, one female — served as booze dispensers, with alcohol flowing out of each sculpture’s genitalia.

Another year, one of our editors threw up all over himself at one party in L.A. and then proceeded to party hop with us to two more places with vomit on his shirt the entire time.

My fondest E3 memories, however, are not about the parties, or the games, or the heavily orchestrated press conferences, or the insane crush of humanity on the show floor. It was the nightly ritual of the old Ziff-Davis/1UP crowd — hanging poolside at the Figueroa Hotel, decompressing from the day with great friends and drop-ins, including Drs. Ray and Greg from BioWare, who never failed to show up with awesome cigars.

In the end, every E3, every game demo, every press briefing is exactly the same every year: PLEASE BUY OUR AWESOME SHIT. What remains for me are the great memories with friends: Kindred spirits, goof-offs, dumbshits, beers in hand, knowing we had pretty much the greatest jobs on earth.

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