We’ve written this as an E3 survival guide, but it basically applies to any big geek event, like GDC, PAX, or Gamescom.
When conferences and events come around, you’ll usually find advice threads, particularly on Twitter. In them, “experienced hands” will tell people what they must and mustn’t do to “get the most” out of an event.
When it comes to “getting the most” out of an event – whether you’re press, professional, or punter – there are no hard and fast rules. Some people will want to network like crazy. Others will want to lurk in the background and take it all in. Some people will be hummingbirds, and want to taste as many different games as possible. Others will be happy waiting in line for several hours for the one game they care about.
When these advice threads start, our advice is generally to ignore them. You do you. Only you know what’s going to be the most enjoyable way for you to spend three days, and you don’t need to do anything you feel uncomfortable with because someone else said so.
All that being said… there really are some things you need to know to survive an intense event like E3. Some of them are for your health and wellbeing. Others are for the wellbeing of those around you. Others are just common sense.
Read this list. Take it in. And then tackle the content of the event itself however the hell you like, by all means, but make you sure you do these basic, decent things. For your own sake, and everyone else’s.
The big E3 survival guide
People joke about it, but the stink from a convention centre can be overwhelming. Especially in a warm, humid location like Los Angeles. In the middle of June.
On the first morning of E3, when it’s just press and professionals, it smells like fresh paint and new carpets. By the middle of the week, it smells like any other busy, crowded place. By the end of the week, it smells like a locker room. And it’s not the games that smell; it’s the people around them.
That’s not to say it’s just the “gamers” who smell bad. Press and developers have also been known to stink the place up! But it’s only in the free-for-all public sessions, where the crowd density is higher, that the smell really kicks into high gear.
If you come to E3 without showering, putting on deodorant, and wearing clean clothes, you are an awful human being and you’re making the whole experience worse for everyone.
Like showering, deodorant, and clean clothes, hand sanitiser is an essential component of what can potentially be a disgusting environment.
Consider that game you’re really been wanting to play, that you’ve queued for several hours for. Maybe there’s been 3-400 people in that queue in front of you, who have all touched that controller before you got there. Maybe it’s the third day, and that number can be extrapolated upwards.
Now consider that one of those people has been eating something greasy and disgusting and didn’t have a napkin. Maybe they have a cold (or worse) and have been sneezing into their hands. Or they went to the bathroom and touched their junk and wiped their arse and didn’t wash their hands.
Now consider that all of the people in front of you in the queue might be disgusting incubators of disease and pestilence. Carry hand sanitizer with you, use it liberally, and share it with others. But don’t use it instead of washing your hands! It’s both, not one or the other.
Oh, and fist bumps are better than handshakes for not spreading germs. (Assume that, under no circumstances, hugs or kisses are appropriate – unless you know the person very well and that’s how you always greet one another.)
Remember that Los Angeles heat we mentioned earlier? You’re going to spend a lot of time on your feet, walk miles upon miles, and become very dehydrated.
Water fountains are suspect – see the reasons under hand sanitiser – but the Los Angeles Convention Center is replete with water refill stations. But they don’t supply cups or bottles.
If you can, bring a reusable water bottle from home. If you’ve got one with a sports or screw-on cap, that’s even better, as it means you can put it away in your bag without leaks. Having to keep a bottle in your hand means you’re more likely to put it down and lose it. If you lose it, you’ll need to find or buy a new one. But if you don’t have a reusable bottle, then buy one plastic bottle of water at the start and hold onto it for the entire event.
Remember to drink plenty and keep your bottle replenished. You’ll feel so much better for staying hydrated. (And the planet will be better for your using one bottle for the week.)
Make sure you grab some lunch and snacks, too. Being dehydrated will hit you faster, but not eating is also not healthy. Also, keep in mind that food and drink inside the LACC can be expensive, and options are limited!
You’re going to walk literally miles over the course of an event like E3. Even if you’re not actively walking somewhere, it’s very rare you’ll be sitting down for long. Standing on the Los Angeles Metro, waiting for security checks, queueing for food – and that’s before you wait in line for hours to play games.
Very few areas of E3 are geared around sitting down. You might find a stool to perch on while you’re playing a game, or get sat down in a chair to test a VR experience. You might even head over to one of those stalls selling gaming chairs to sneak a furtive seated break while pretending you might order some of their wares.
But other than those rare occasions? You’ll be on your feet. A lot.
Do not wear shoes that are not comfortable. It’s not worth the pain. Do not wear new shoes that you’ve not broken in. It’s not worth the pain. Make sure you wear comfortable socks, and for the sake of keeping your feet healthy, a fresh, clean pair every day.
And even if you do take all those precautions, you still might get blisters. So carrying around some sticking plasters in your bag isn’t a bad shout, either.
Yes, we mentioned this one already, but personal hygiene is really important.
Did you know that – in addition to being showered and wearing clean clothes and putting on deodorant before you leave in the morning – they also sell tiny deodorants, small enough to put in your bag, so you can keep yourself topped up all day?
If you get one that’s smaller than 100ml, you can take it on flights in carry-on luggage, too. Yes, people do occasionally give you a bit of a funny look if they catch you sneaking a little roll-on in the bathroom, but do you know what? Screw those guys. You’re making sure you’re not gross, it’s for everyone’s benefit, and if anybody’s giving you weird looks for reapplying deodorant? Don’t stand near them. They probably smell disgusting.
The ESA, E3’s organiser, has since deleted this tweet, but we screen-grabbed it because it’s worth highlighting:
This tweet has since been deleted/changed, which is good, because you definitely shouldn't stay up for 3 days straight at E3. That's basically crunch (for players) and the ESA shouldn't be encouraging or glorifying that. pic.twitter.com/iMNrL5VrtE
— Tom Baines (@TomThumbsticks) May 5, 2019
Do not stay awake for 72 hours. It is not healthy. It will do bad things to you, and encouraging people to do it is incredibly irresponsible. (That’s why the original tweet has since been deleted.)
But more than that, even a sensible E3 schedule is still very draining, especially now the running hours have been extended. It’s tempting to try and see everything, but you need to pace yourself and be prepared to miss some stuff, if you need to. If you’re on the go between 9 am and 7 pm every day – including maybe an hour or more’s travelling on either side – that’s nearly a full working week in three days. On your feet. In sweltering heat. In an incredibly over-stimulating environment.
Make sure you take some time to chill out. You’ll feel better for it.
Drink in moderation
This one’s more for the professionals, the developers and press who see an event like E3 as their big outing, but it applies to everyone.
There are a lot of parties. At these parties, there tend to be some socially awkward people who don’t get out much. An afterparty at E3 or GDC or Develop might be their one chance to socialise with their peers, who tend to be globally distributed, and people get a bit over-excited. Maybe they feel like they need the drink as a social lubricant. Maybe they just don’t know their limits.
But when people drink too much, particularly when they’re not used to it, things tend to go wrong.
Best case scenario? You make a fool of yourself in some fairly inoffensive way, you get sick, and you have an awful hangover the following morning.
But that’s the best case scenario. You might get alcohol poisoning. You might be so drunk you physically injure yourself. You might say or do something really inappropriate that hurts you, your career, or worse, someone else.
Which leads us nicely onto our next point:
Don’t be creepy
This one is super important, so pay attention.
Don’t stare at people. Don’t invade someone else’s personal space. Don’t demand someone’s attention or to strike up a conversation. Don’t initiate physical contact with them. Don’t linger too long if there is mutual physical contact. (Like a handshake – remember, fist bumps are better, both for fewer germs, and to give you an easier escape.) Don’t compliment or comment on someone’s appearance. Don’t tell them if you think they’re attractive. Don’t ask for someone for their personal or contact information. Don’t take pictures of other people without asking for permission.
Yes, that includes developers, publishers, PR people, cosplayers, and members of the press. They, we, are all working. We’re there to do a job. Yes, that’s to provide you with information and/or entertainment, but that doesn’t entitle you to anything.
If you’re on the receiving end and anybody is giving you a hard time, don’t suffer in silence. Find your friends and remove yourself from the situation, if you can. Speak up, if it’s safe for you to do so. Find a member of staff, either from the ESA or the Los Angeles Convention Center itself, and report the person or persons who are bothering you.
And if you see two older guys, with greying hair and “Thumbsticks” written on their press passes? Come and talk to us! We’ll greet you like an old friend, chase away anybody who’s bothering you, and hang out with you until you feel safe again.
But if everybody just wasn’t creepy or unpleasant to start with? We’d all have a better time of it.
Clean body. Clean clothes. And deodorant: applied liberally, and reapplied as required.
It shouldn’t need saying, but here we are. The fact we’ve said it three times might give you some clue as to how big of a problem it is.
The E3 survival guide – in summary:
Don’t be disgusting; don’t be creepy; take breaks; drink plenty of water; don’t drink too much alcohol; wear clean clothes and comfy shoes; look after yourself, and look after each other. Oh, and please, wear deodorant.
But also, remember to have fun! Play some games, meet some cool people, learn about the industry, and make the most of your time there. There’s so much to see and do, with something for everyone, so you’re going to love it.
Just try and be considerate of others while you do it, OK?