Big Pic­ture Mode

In­dus­try is­sues given the widescreen treat­ment

EDGE - - SECTIONS - NATHAN BROWN Nathan Brown is Edge’s ed­i­tor. If you dis­count all the time trav­el­ling back and forth, he is tech­ni­cally 872 years old

Nathan Brown con­sid­ers the print journo’s place in a new, faster E3

Sadly, I never went to E3 dur­ing print’s hey­day. I was still in school for most of the ’90s, and spent the back half of the decade shirk­ing ev­ery re­spon­si­bil­ity go­ing so I could play Gold­en­Eye and Tony Hawk’s Pro

Skater with the cur­tains closed. Dur­ing the 2000s, when the tide re­ally turned from print to on­line, I was mak­ing ter­ri­ble life de­ci­sions such as ‘hav­ing a re­spectable ca­reer’ and ‘earn­ing rea­son­able money’. It was only in 2009, af­ter one proper-job re­dun­dancy too many, that I opted to change ca­reer; and so it was only in 2013, with even on­line me­dia strug­gling to stay rel­e­vant against the rise of video, that I first hopped on a plane to Los An­ge­les for the great­est videogame show on Earth. This year’s E3 was my fifth, and ev­ery year it gets weirder and weirder for peo­ple who make mag­a­zines.

It starts as soon as you bowl up to the con­ven­tion cen­tre to reg­is­ter. You’re lined up with peo­ple who are, at best, bear­ing print­outs of their by­lined on­line work, and at worst, just read­ing out the URLs of their video chan­nels. I, mean­while, whip out two copies of an ac­tual mag­a­zine with words and pic­tures in it and ev­ery­thing, then flip be­tween the pages that have my name on, show­ing my pass­port and busi­ness card to back it all up. The lad next to me just had to show the staff a video of him gurn­ing while open­ing FIFA card packs, and off he went with his badge. As some­one who, in the year 2017, still takes vinyl records to DJ gigs, I am com­fort­able enough with this. But the girl on the other side of the counter looked at me like I’d just trav­elled through time from the 1800s. In ret­ro­spect, the mon­o­cle and pocket watch may not have helped.

Then it’s off to the press con­fer­ences, where boys with mad an­gu­lar hair­cuts and girls dressed like new Over­watch skins vlog in the queue while I sweat and tut in the back­ground. In­side, the web­site folk write sto­ries in re­al­time and the video kids Snapchat re­ac­tion GIFs while I scrib­ble dis­con­so­lately in a notebook (se­ri­ously!) with a pen­cil (I know!). Later, when the ex­plo­sions stop and the lights go up, I will ask some­one young and trust­wor­thy to ex­plain Snapchat to me. I still don’t get it. Some­thing to do with cats, I think.

Then the show doors open, and with each pass­ing year the changes be­come more and more ap­par­ent. Most journos at E3 this year were com­plain­ing about the ef­fect that open­ing the doors to the pub­lic was hav­ing on them get­ting to ap­point­ments with any­thing re­motely re­sem­bling punc­tu­al­ity. It was a night­mare, sure, but so was the ex­tent to which I had to weave and duck out of the way of peo­ple speak­ing to cam­era, since ap­par­ently if you make YouTube videos you be­come in­stantly im­mune to the con­cept of in­con­ve­nience. And the flood­ing hordes of the hoi pol­loi would have been much eas­ier to nav­i­gate had they not all been Face­book Live-ing the whole thing on their phones.

When I fi­nally get in to play a game, a handler shows me where to hook up my cap­ture gear. I point to my tem­ples and say, “It’s all in here”; they laugh, then re­alise I’m gen­uine, and look away ner­vously. Later on I’ll ask for a min­i­mum of six screen­shots and head­shots of all speak­ers and they will look at me as if I just rolled up on a penny farthing and asked who won the Great War. Such is the life of the print journo in 2017.

None of this is a com­plaint. I have long since rec­on­ciled my­self to the fact that I am, if only in rel­a­tive terms, an­cient, and will only grow more so. Plus, I find E3’s year-onyear changes oddly fas­ci­nat­ing. Tech­nol­ogy moves fast, so it’s nat­u­ral that the needs and habits of the peo­ple that cover it do the same. And once I get in a room with de­vel­op­ers, it’s all worth it – be­cause while they might not ad­mit it, they love deal­ing with print. They don’t have to fret about how they look or sound, be­cause we’re not point­ing a cam­era at them. They needn’t be too care­ful with what they say, be­cause they know we’re not just look­ing for a quick head­line. There’s a won­der­ful flash on peo­ple’s faces when they see Edge on my badge. We might not have the num­bers, but we still mat­ter more than most.

On the way out, as I swing by the me­dia lounge to bog­art the Wi-Fi, I see panic and ex­haus­tion all around me. Writ­ers bash­ing out news sto­ries. Pro­duc­ers edit­ing footage or star­ing, pained, at static progress bars. I stroll out, head down the es­ca­la­tor, and leave the build­ing; my busi­ness is with a very dif­fer­ent sort of bar. I have three weeks to write ev­ery­thing up, af­ter all.

Tech­nol­ogy moves fast, so it’s nat­u­ral that the needs and habits of the peo­ple that cover it do the same

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