E3: A Traveler’s Guide to the Super Bowl of Gaming

One week from now, the gaming industry will pack into the Los Angeles Convention Center for a full week of gaming madness. The hype surrounding this year’s show is unlike any of the previous two shows I’ve gone to, and the potential of the unknown is also higher than ever.

This will be, as I eluded to above, my third time attending the Super Bowl of Gaming. While I’m not as seasoned as other attendees, I’ve certainly learned a thing or two about the week-long odyssey. Here are seven easy tips to remember if you’re venturing to LA for the first time:

1. If you like knowing where all your belongings are during travel, pack accordingly.

If you’re like me, you hate checking bags on flights. I’ve heard too many stories about luggage making to the right destination, problems with dropping it off when it was lost, horrible fees, etc. One story in particular saw a friend of mine arrive safely in Miami…yet his luggage went to Minneapolis. Ouch. As such, I take two bags with me: one suitcase big enough for my clothes yet small enough for the overheard compartment, and my carry-on bag containing everything I want to easily access during the flight. Clothes, toiletries, and other personal items in the suitcase, portable gaming consoles, laptop, and tablet in the carry-on. Everything goes into the main cabin with me, everything comes out. So long, middle-man.

2. Dress comfortably while on the show floor, save the nice duds for later.

Last year, I thought I’d dress nicely for the first full day on the show floor. Button-down collared shirt, nice jeans, black dress shoes, I was stylin’. Problem is, and I don’t know how the hell I did this, I underestimated how much walking I’d be doing. Dress shoes do not lend well to foot support, as I learned the hard way, and my dogs barked for the rest of the week. Do yourself a favor and dress in whatever makes you comfortable while on the show floor, and save the flashy duds for the nightly parties. I’m going with a polo shirt, jeans, and a good pair of comfortable sneakers this year. Or Dr. Scholls in those dress shoes. Either way, comfort before style.

3. Only bring what you need to the show floor each day, not what you want.

Yes, your laptop is an important part of your E3 package. If you’re writing for a site, this is how you’ll post all of your stuff to whatever outlet you belong to. It served you well on the flight to LA, keeping you busy during the entire trip. Unless you have instant deadlines, there is no need to lug that whole laptop with you every day to the show floor. The extra weight will kill your shoulder, it will take up too much space in your bag, and you’ll never have time to stop in the media room and use it anyway. Leave it in the hotel and take notes on your smartphone, tablet, or if nothing else a old-fashioned notepad. Also, unless you truly value the StreetPass or Near experiences, the 3DS and Vita can stay back too. You won’t need to play your own games, there’s a crap-ton to play all over the place.

4. Plan your day.

It’s very easy to walk through the doors of one of the two Convention Center halls and have your mind completely blank. The cacophony of lights and sounds will stun even the most prepared E3 attendee. Make yourself a schedule of what booths you want to go to and when, giving yourself a direct route to follow. You don’t want to be like me at E3 2010, aimlessly walking around South Hall wondering what to play next. Get in, play, get out. Which reminds me…

5. Know what you want to play at each booth.

It’s equally as dangerous to make a plan for what booths you want to visit, walk up to the first one, and not know where to start. When you finally decide on a day’s path, find out what each booth will be showcasing and decide what you want to play. The Big Three’s booths, in particular, are so packed to the gills with games it’s easy to waste ten minutes walking around them trying to find something.If you know what you want to play and what company it belongs to, the game plan will be far easier to follow.

6. Don’t let the lines get you down.

There will be lines. Massive, holy-crap-this-will-never-end lines. Some will move quickly, others will be a total log-jam. When you get to a booth, see where the longest lines are and where they aren’t. Make a note of what games will take less time than others to play, and decide from there what you want to do. At EA’s booth last year, for instance, the Mass Effect 3 line was excruciatingly long, but the line for Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning was a mere five minutes. I walked there, saw Reckoning, and saved ME3 for first thing the next morning. Simple, effective, and complete.

7. Leave extra room for swag.

I can not stress this enough: if you are attending E3, or ANY trade show for that matter, make sure to leave room in your bag for free stuff. Shirts, posters, pictures, more shirts, companies will be throwing anything and everything at you for free. Last year Ubisoft left a huge gift bag on every single chair in the Los Angeles Theatre for conference attendees, making sure there was swag before the show even started. If you want to keep all that cool stuff you’re bound to get, make sure you can pack it away with you on the ride home. You don’t want to leave a Cardboard Tube Samurai statue behind like I did. It doesn’t feel good.

If you follow these steps, your E3 experience will be smooth and seamless, invaluable traits for the madness that ensues. The trip won’t be ruined if you decide to do your own thing, I only offer these as suggestions. E3 is a hell of a time, one you won’t soon forget. No matter what you decide to do, enjoy the insanity.

For those not attending this year’s show, I have only one tip for you: keep it right here at Leviathyn for all of the up-to-the-minute updates from the big show. We’ve got you covered.