Crypt Keeper pinball

This year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo trade show (E3) starts in Los Angeles tomorrow. The event has existed in one form or another since 1995, and last year, almost 46,000 journalists and exhibitors gathered at the L.A. Convention Center to wub it up and cringe.

With so many people going to the show for so many years, it’s a pretty safe bet that attendees have witnessed — or participated in — a shenanigan or two. We reached out to journalists, developers, PR representatives, and analysts to share their favorite stories from E3s past.

What you’re about to read may shock you. Unless you’re not easily shocked. Go ahead and read on.

John Davison, director of content and publishing at Red Robot

Stepping out of a cab with Chris van der Kuyl [the head of online technology company Brightsolid] — who was at developer VIS Entertainment at the time — at the Sony party in Atlanta and looking at each other and mouthing, “I can’t believe this is part of my job.”

Chris was dressed in full Scottish regalia: kilt, sporran, the works, and that Sony party was one of those from when Sony was going through its particularly audacious period. It was in an entire parking structure, and each floor was draped in white … linen, maybe? I don’t remember. It was all white, I remember that. Foo Fighters played on the roof, and Dave Grohl stopped midset to sing the Chop Chop Master Onion song from Parappa the Rapper. Fucking bonkers.

Another time, I hung around chitchatting for too long after a Sony press conference in L.A. and missed the bus to the next location. Ended up whizzing across the studio lot on the back of a golf cart with [former Sony chief] Ken Kuturagi, who gave us a ride in his limo.

The Ham Duet: seemingly the only food available through the catering at E3 itself — a thing of myth and legend. It even has a Twitter account.

Michael Pachter, analyst at Wedbush Securities

My favorite was the Gizmondo booth in 2004 (before it was out). The girls working there were attractive in an incredibly sleazy way, and I mentioned politely that they looked sort of like strippers or hookers and asked the chief executive officer which modeling agency he used.

“They are strippers and hookers,” he said.

Sid Shuman, manager of social media at PlayStation

When you’re in the industry working 16-hour days at E3, it’s almost like being nestled inside a giant sensory deprivation chamber. Out of the 10 E3s I’ve been to, only one have I been able to freely wander and play games while taking in the sights and sounds. Most times, I have to wait until the show is over and I’m back home before I can finally catch up on all the new trailers, game reveals, and more.

Rob Smith, editor-in-chief at Machinima

Not sure I can provide any juicy details, so I’ll try a stream of consciousness.

Moral Flask

E3 moving to Atlanta … the entire Bay Area industry flying to Georgia … I didn’t know it was illegal to bring alcohol on a plane (this is all pre-2001), so I busted out a flask and shared it with the local PR/marketing folks. How to make friends and influence people? That’s how.

Or trying to find Sierra’s party in downtown L.A. (before smartphones) only to end up in some gang neighborhood where, despite five guys all over 6-foot present, there were shouts to run red lights and not stop at intersections just to try and ensure we stayed alive.

Or more mundane, the hot, stuffy booth where a PR person, suffering from the events of the evening before, threw up mid-demo.

Wiebke Vallentin, account director at Step 3

Many, many eons ago, I was working for Atari, and they had a skateboarding game. I want to say it was called Transworld or something like that.

And what does any respectable skateboarding game have for E3 but a giant halfpipe in their booth, right? Right.

So, there’s a giant halfpipe, professional skaters are entertaining the crowd, all is going well … until a skateboard flies out of the halfpipe and hits a videographer in the eye, causing the camera to scratch the guy’s cornea. Lawsuit ensued, yadda yadda yadda, and the following day, the netting around the halfpipe was twice as high.

[NOTE: The only E3 half-pipes we could turn up belonged to Activision for its Tony Hawk skateboarding series; the below picture matches the setup in the story.]

E3 2002 Activision half-pipe

Troy Goodfellow, account coordinator at Evolve PR

Here’s one that is positive but hardly unique to me.

I didn’t cover a lot of shows as media, but enough to know what I like.

In 2008, they scaled down the size of the show considerably. Though this was a process that had begun the year earlier, in 2008 there was a lot less spectacle, fewer large events going on, and many of the game floor spaces felt more like an arcade than a big expo. One of my veteran colleagues compared it to an “insurance convention.”

Thing is? I loved it. I loved the small size. I loved not pushing through crowds. I loved knowing that my schedule would not be thrown off because some big publisher chose that moment to do something loud and obnoxious and draw hordes of people. I loved that I could hear at the end of the day. I loved being able to do my work.

The next year the show was back to its huge monster size, and I get why the industry and fans want this to be a big party that everyone feels they can come to or watch via streaming. But when I was a journalist that wanted to report on the games and the development and the stories behind the producers, it was so much easier when there wasn’t a theme park around me.