Tonight I was certain that I had nowhere to be. I thought perhaps my journey had ended before it began. I had failed you in my attempt at being at the right place at the right time. I hadn’t heard of any parties worth being at and I hadn’t been invited to anything of note. All my hand shaking and networking last night had been for naught. I was a fool to think I could chase parties for five nights in a row. But I was wrong, So very, very wrong. Because if you yell at the universe something as silly as “tell me where the freaks go to dance” the universe emails you back because it such a very small matter to the universe and its secretary can handle that.
I should preface this story by saying that in another life I am very much connected to the world of music, and in doing this I have met many a good person and many a sordid and sad person. One such remarkable person of the former category that I had the great pleasure of becoming close friends with decided that if I were going to be in LA, we simply “HAD TO MEET”. For the sake of anonymity we shall call her Miss Suede (as she is not the kind of person with which I could explain why I needed use her name and why she should care and who she might offend). Miss Suede was going to take me out on the town. She was going to show me the cities ripped back side. She had made it her personal mission to take me on a tour of her hometown in all its ugliness and depravity.
I met them outside the loft that all of us Gaming Trend guys have come to known as home base — “mothers milk” a few of us call it. Miss Suede is a strange and as beautiful as I remember her. She introduces me to her boyfriend, a tall, bearded, messianic figure prone to mood swings and hedonism. We were going to get along famously. Miss Suede asks me one question: “Mind going somewhere strange?” And I responded without hesitation (“Absolutely”) and weird is where we went and weird is what the night became. Before the end of it I would play pool with a one armed local; drink beer with a metal band; shake hands with someone who “couldn’t tell me what company he worked for, only to see him on the floor”
We stopped at a small dive bar, a safe bet. The walls were littered with bits of odd folk art and curios, mannequins in furry helmets, giant Santa heads, things strange enough to see but not interesting enough to care. The bartender asked me what I wanted, I tell her something strong and cheap, the night is escaping me and I have no time for expensive swill, watered down hops or anything of the like. We make small talk but it is only foreplay for what’s to come and we know that. Even on a Monday there is electricity around downtown LA during E3 and at 11:30 there is enough to start a small friction fire.
This is all well and good but I asked for something weird and Miss Suede’s boyfriend is inclined to show me where the wild things are. We walk down the street for what could have been miles or minutes. I chat briefly with a lost soul looking for change; his car had been impounded or some such story. “You become hardened to those types” Miss Suede says. “They all want something.” Don’t we all? I think as I feel the 75 cents in my pocket… I remembered too late, his car will have to stay in “Impound.”
Right now I wanted another drink, because I felt that where I was headed had nothing to do with why I was here and I had to drown my sorrows and accept tonight’s defeat. I had come here to cover the latest releases. Get the hands on time with the triple-A titles and most promising indies. Instead I was taking part in a glorified pub-crawl, some sort of exercise in pseudo-masochism. That was until I saw the place I had been lead by Miss Suede’s shepard-like boyfriend. After a quick pat down I entered the front door of a plain looking building. I am immediately greeted with a five foot by five foot blown up image of Charlie Sheen’s mug shot, the crowd is a mélange of metal heads and fellow geeks. I had found a strange home to dance in again, and it felt good.
Gamers are infectious; there is a carefree naivety that surrounds us. We are shy, yes, but we are kind and empathetic and our uncanny willingness (or perhaps cluelessness) to be goofy can lighten any mood and make any party. There was a strange chemistry in that bar tonight. I’m sure the local fixtures had probably looked on skeptically upon first of the E3 outsiders to meander in, looking lost and homely in their Ubisoft shirts, some still wearing their lanyards designating them press. But by the end of the night they would all be dancing and laughing in this dive bar near enough to the convention center to warrant the stragglers.
I play pool with someone clearly not local but clearly not a lost lamb; he’s been here before, he knows the routine. I ask him his name, I ask him his job. I’m dismissed with a vague statement but that’s fine, I can be vague too. He doesn’t know that I’m press and maybe I’ll get a lead on something. No luck, but if I see him tomorrow we’ll share a knowing smile that says “we were there, we found another strange place to be, it was undesignated and there was no RSVP, but we know.”
I am not disappointed. I saw tonight that the effect of E3 is so much so that it extends beyond the RSVP parties and into the locality. If you find yourself here next year you look for a bar full of mug shots. You go in and have a drink or six. Who knows? You might be playing pool with a big shot CEO, or you might be getting your wallet stolen. The odds are the same, so roll the 20-sided die.
It hard to believe it’s only night number two and that I continue the journey tomorrow night as the REAL E 3 starts; the showroom opens up, and so do the real parties.
Let me take you down, ’cause I’m going.