By: John Wahl
E3 2020 is officially canceled.
The news that the convention which has been the mecca of the gaming industry since 1995 wasn’t going to happen may have conjured up a lot of different emotions, surprise though was not one of them. This has been anticipated for the past several weeks due to the increasing danger posed by the COVID-19 virus, but even though it doesn’t come as a surprise to most of us there’s still a feeling of shock that it actually happened. The thought of E3 not happening this year, and the uncertainty of the convention moving forward has left me thinking back on my brief experiences with the show and wondering what the future holds.
Since I was a young man, E3 has been a nearly mythical place. A distant gathering of the most brilliant minds in the gaming industry where they would show off their latest amazing creations to the world. I remember scouring the pages of my favorite gaming magazines like EGM and Game Informer every year to see all of the news from the big show. The elaborate booths, the famous celebrities, the never before seen games, it was a spectacle that I would dream about going to.
When Adam and I created Mega Dads nearly 6 years ago it remained something that seemed a million miles away. We were making our rounds at the local conventions and getting a few review codes here and there, but E3 was the big time, and something I joked about going to knowing full well that it was beyond our reach. That changed though when I received a DM on Twitter from somebody at the ESA saying that if we were interested in attending, they could provide us with media badges.
Obviously, this was an offer that was impossible for us to refuse. So in June of 2017, we packed up our recording equipment and our families and flew to Los Angeles. It may seem silly for those in the industry who have been going to shows like E3, PAX, and Gamescom for years, but for the two of us, it was an absolute dream come true. A life-altering experience that I’ll never forget.
As we walked into the L.A. Convention Center for the first time it was an emotional moment. For as much hard work as we put into Mega Dads, I have never really felt that I was a part of this industry. I have never collected a paycheck for the work we do and quite frankly if it all disappeared tomorrow my life wouldn’t be interrupted considerably (other than the crying myself to sleep every night). But for that week in 2017, I truly felt like I belonged. Like I had earned my way there and was a part of the industry that I have loved for nearly four decades. It was the culmination of years of dreaming and hard work. That is why E3 is special to me.
I had already decided not to attend E3 this year for a multitude of reasons. The decreasing relevancy of the show, wanting to attend other conventions instead, saving for a family vacation, and anger over their mishandling of the media’s personal information last year. For all of these reasons I was completely content to not go to the show this year, still the news of it’s cancellation leaves me incredibly sad.
The evolving nature of games media and PR means that even after the threat of the Coronavirus has passed, I don’t know if there is a place for E3 anymore. I certainly don’t believe it can continue in the way that it has existed up until now, and there’s a good chance that I have already been to my last E3. If that turns out to be the case, I’ll be very disappointed, but I’ll never forget the memories that I made while there.
Getting to meet and chat with industry legends like Cory Barlog, Neil Druckmann, Ted Price, and Shuhei Yoshida. Having the opportunity to hang out with friends like Nick Edwards and Bobby Pauls whom I had only ever known through social media. And getting a behind the scenes look at the industry that I fell in love with as a kid in the 80’s sitting on the floor of our living room in front of the Atari 2600. These things will stick with me forever.
Is E3 still relevant in the year 2020? It’s questionable. Do game publishers still need E3 to get their message across? Almost certainly not. Have we seen the final E3 already come and go? I hope not. Deep down, I hope that the show finds a way to reinvent itself and come back stronger than ever. I hope that they can make amends for the mistakes they’ve made and find a way to create a level of excitement around the show that has been missing in recent years. And I hope that one day I get to walk through the doors of E3 once again and create new memories with the industry I love and the friends that I’ve made.