Big Picture Mode
Industry issues given the widescreen treatment
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